When you walk into any one of our child care programs, whether it be a centre, a home or a before and after school program, it’s likely that you’ll see photo collages of children discovering, learning and playing. You may also receive photos and stories via our app, the Today’s Family Fridge. Photos of children are great, but everything at Today’s Family is done with purpose. What, then, is the purpose of these photos?
It’s called documentation, and it’s a practise that our placement consultant, Nikki Kennedy, is well versed in. In addition to being our placement consultant, Nikki also teaches in the early childhood education program at Mohawk College. She says, “I’m really passionate about (documentation) and have had a lot of experience, over time, practising with it.”
The style of documentation that we use, Pedagogical Documentation, is the practise of not only recording what a child does in a day, but of providing insight. “It doesn’t just focus on interests,” Nikki says, “it also focuses on the ‘why?’”
Documentation is how we analyze children’s thinking, motivation and learning. “We use photographs” Nikki continues, “sometimes those photographs tell the whole story. Sometimes they need to be accompanied by a written story… Hopefully, it helps you (the parent) understand how your child is making sense of the world.”
So, with the help of Nikki, we’re going to walk you through why documentation is so important for children, educators and parents alike.
Documentation connects you and your child
We know how difficult it can be to be away from your child during the day. It’s easy to feel as though you’re missing out on important moments in their development. Documentation helps you to stay connected to your child – even if you can’t be side-by-side. Nikki says, “It’s a benefit that parents are able to see how the (Registered Early Childhood Educators)…interpret how their child is making sense of the world. We give you more insight into the life of your child. What parent doesn’t want that?”
Documentation connects us to your child
Every single child is different. They each bring a backpack full of their own experiences, thoughts, ideas, strengths and creativity with them to Today’s Family every day. “Documentation is about trying to understand the individuality of children” Nikki says. Each child has a completely different set of interests, and it is up to us to identify those interests and provide experiences which are a good fit.
Documentation helps us learn from your child
“It’s our job as educators to observe, to reflect, to document” Nikki says, “we just keep doing it over and over again until we have better insights and understandings.” Documentation is about asking questions constantly. While your child is busy learning, doing, playing, and growing, we’re asking questions like, “Why did you do that? Why does this interest you? What do you think?” It’s these questions, and the documentation of the answers in the form of quotes and short stories, which help us learn from your child. Child development is a fluid subject – but watching and listening to your child helps us to build an optimal learning environment around them.
It helps us provide meaningful experiences
The emergent curriculum isn’t about providing lessons. Scientific research suggests that, in the early years, it’s best to let nature take its course. Children are wired to learn from experiences, and so it’s up to us to provide opportunities for experiences that fit the needs, interests, and skills of each child. “As educators,” Nikki continues, “we look at our role as understanding and seeing what (the child’s) skills are…We’re giving opportunities, we’re listening, we’re problem solving, we’re getting on their level with them.” In order to make sure that each child gets the opportunity to learn through living, Nikki says, “We need to be listening.”
It connects us to you (the parents!)
We see our relationship with parents as a partnership. We can’t go about our day-to-day practises if we entirely discount the experiences your child has while at home. “The child that comes to us on Tuesday is a very different child than they were on Monday” Nikki says, “because of everything they’ve lived through and everything they’ve experienced (at home).”
We hope that the moments that we put on display start a conversation with you about all of the things your child does while they’re at home with you. We can incorporate these experiences into our curriculum and provide a more seamless childhood experience for your child. We can also help you to have a deeper understanding of these experiences and lessons. “The RECE’s within our classrooms have a background in child development” Nikki says, “They might have different insight as to what the children are doing each day – their learning, their skills, their interests.”
In short, we use documentation as a tool to provide the very best learning environment for your child. A child’s environment involves them, their parents, their caregivers and their community in general. Documentation helps us to provide a meaningful connection between these pieces.
If your child is cared for through Today’s Family, make sure you download The Today’s Family Fridge App! You can stay in touch with your child and their educators and caregivers throughout your busy day. It’s available for free on the App Store and Google Play!
We’ll see you next week!