Observation, Screening, Assessment, and Documentation:

Consider the Child's Point of View

Breadcrumb trail:

Gain valuable insights through the child's perspective.

Children see the world quite differently than we do. The world is new to them. They are experiencing so many "firsts" and trying to make sense of them. When we seek out their points of view, we gain valuable insights into their thinking, their questions, their fears, and the things that tickle their fancy and delight them. Take time to listen and watch closely. Let their perspectives inform everything you do in your day-to-day practice.

A young boy looking through a toy magnifying glass while the teacher looks on.
Children painting around a table.
"The key is curiosity, and it is curiosity, not answers, that we model. As we seek to learn more about a child, we demonstrate the acts of observing, listening, questioning, and wondering. When we are curious about a child's words and our responses to those words, the child feels respected. The child is respected."

— Vivian Gussin Paley (1986)

Try This!

The New Zealand approach to assessment asks teachers to consider questions from the child's voice as programs begin their journey of ensuring accountability through evaluation and assessment. These questions are built on the principles of their Te Whariki curriculum, which provides the framework for defining learning and what is to be learned. Their goals are based on clearly defined values and reflect the following strands.

Assessment from the Child's Perspective
Values Questions Goals
Belonging Do you appreciate and understand my interests and abilities and those of my family? Do you know me?
Well-being Do you meet my daily needs with care and sensitive consideration? Can I trust you?
Exploration Do you engage my mind, offer challenges, and extend my world? Do you let me fly?
Communication Do you invite me to communicate and respond to my own particular efforts? Do you hear me?
Contribution Do you encourage and facilitate my endeavors to be part of the wider group? Is this place fair for us?

New Zealand Ministry of Education, cited in Curtis and Carter (2008) Learning together with Young Children.  Download this chart.


  • In what ways have you considered the child’s ideas and thinking about his or her own capabilities, growth, and learning?
  • What would a child communicate about her own learning were she able? 
  • What would she say that she wants to learn about, know how to do, and hopes to understand?
  • How do you help her meet her expressed needs?
  • Using your program's child assessment instrument or rating tools, re-create the chart Assessment From the Child's Perspective, inserting the performance areas and desired outcomes. (Example: DRDP, Teaching Strategies Gold, or others).
  • Restate them as questions from the child's point of view.

Use this template to record your observations, thoughts, and feelings.  Download the Template

Deepen Your Understanding

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

Review Performance Area 5 to deepen your understanding of these topics: Interpretation of documentation, Planning and Implementation in the CA ECE Competencies. Scroll to pages 57 and 58.

Can you find other places in this competency area that address your interests and needs?

Download the California ECE Competencies

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

Extend Your Learning

Read "Te Whàriki, Early Childhood Curriculum in New Zealand."

View this video of Tom Hunter's "As Human As They Can Be."