The most important responsibility of any early education caregiver is the proper supervision of the children in their care. Child care licensing requires children to be supervised at all times.
Supervising children at all times means that the assigned caregiver is accountable for each child's care. This includes responsibility for the ongoing activity of each child, appropriate visual and/or auditory awareness, physical proximity, and knowledge of activity requirements and each child's needs. The caregiver must intervene when necessary to ensure children's safety. In deciding how closely to supervise children, the caregiver must take into account:
- Ages of the children. Each age group has a different child/staff ratio that must be taken into consideration. The balance of visual and auditory supervision will also be determined by the child's age. Younger children will require more visual supervision, while older children will require the caregiver to be aware of their activities, intentions and temperament.
- Individual differences and abilities. Being aware of what each child is capable of will also help with proper supervision. Knowing each child's intentions will guide caregivers on how and where they position themselves within the classroom. When children have the ability to use classroom equipment properly, they are less likely to be involved in a significant event. Inability to use equipment due to a lack of skills or lack of knowledge of proper use can not only lead to accidents, but also children could lose a lack of self-confidence. Children who are lacking in self-confidence are more likely to engage in disruptive or negative behavior, creating supervision issues.
- Indoor and outdoor layout of the child-care center. Before taking on the responsibility of supervising young children, caregivers must be given the opportunity to become familiar with the layout of the program. Understanding where and why equipment is placed in the classroom will help caregivers discover blind spots that would prevent visual supervision. When children become upset or discouraged, they may decide to hide from their caregiver. Knowing the indoor and outdoor layout of the program will help caregivers know where to find these children who are in need.
- Neighborhood circumstances, hazards, and risks. Caregivers must also be aware of what is going on around the program in order to maintain a safe environment. Being aware of neighborhood circumstances will signal the caregiver to lock down their classroom and/or program in order to keep the children safe.
Supervision is basic to the prevention of harm. Parents have an understanding that caregivers will supervise their children in their absence. Adults who are attentive and who understand young children's behaviors are in the best position to safeguard their well-being.
Other responsibilities when supervising young children.
Know which children they are responsible for. Proper attendance tracking is critical in all risk management situations. Best Practices recommend centers to have at least three forms of attendance tracking. Caregivers must know exactly how many children they have in their care at any point in time. The must know each child's name and have information showing each child's age in order to determine the oldest and youngest child in the group. Listed below are common and proven techniques programs can initiate to engage all responsible parties in the attendance tracking process:
- Caregivers should take roll call each day to mark down who is present and be aware of children who are not in care. When a child is expected and has not arrived, caregivers should notify their center director of the absence. It is recommended that the center director contact the parent to verify the absence and check on the child's well-being. Not only do caregivers take roll call in morning circle time, but it is also suggested that caregivers take roll each time there is a transition in the classroom. Example: Take roll before going outside to the playground. Take roll when you arrive to the playground. Take roll before leaving the playground. Take roll once you arrive back into the classroom. Each time the caregiver takes roll, they document this on a roll call or transition sheet. (Sample copy of this document is located at www.tymthetrainer.com and click on Documents). Name to face should be done each time the caregiver takes roll. When calling out the child's name, the caregiver is to look directly into the child's eyes gaining the child's attention. This not only visually acknowledges the child's presence, but is also reminds the child that the caregiver is aware of their on-gong activities.
- Directors should also monitor attendance tracking through out the day. Just like classroom teachers, directors and other members of management must be aware of the total number of children and adults present in the building at any point in time. In the event of a significant event, emergency personnel will need to know this information. It is recommended that every half hour (or as often as possible), directors walk around the building and document how many children and how many adults are present in each classroom. This will help to maintain child/staff ratio, help remind teachers of attendance tracking, make directors aware of classroom activities, and provide opportunities for the director to supervise their staff and provide feedback to staff when needed.
- Encourage parents to sign children in and out of the classroom each day. Child care licensing requires documentation showing when a child's day begins and when it ends. Proper documentation must also be kept on who drops off a child and who they are released to. The sign-in and out sheet also documents when the actual responsibility of the child is passed from parent to caregiver and caregiver to parent. Parents must understand this responsibility and it should be outlined in your parent policies. Programs are encouraged to strictly enforce this practice. Parents who fail to cooperate in this policy place the children and the program at risk and should not be allowed to continue care.
- Children can also take part in attendance tracking. Home/School boards are not only great for attendance tracking, but they also help with those difficult transitions in the mornings when parents are dropping off. Create a board near the front of the classroom with a picture of your school and a picture of a house. Using real life photographs of each child, children will move their card from home to school when they arrive, and from school to home when they are leaving. Velcro, safety clips or magnets can be used when creating your home/school board. This not only gives the child a job and responsibility, but is also a great visual reminder of who is present and who is absent from the classroom. Caregivers will see that children will become more aware of the presence of other children when using the home/school board.
Ensure that children are not out of control
Supervision is more than the visual and auditory awareness of the children. It is also about maintaining a safe and stimulating environment. Creating routines and rituals is the best way to maintain control of a classroom. Children do not like the unknown. They need to know their schedule and what events will take place through out the day. Caregivers must keep children engaged in activities that keep their interest. When children become disengaged, they will find entertainment on their own, often leading to a significant event.
Be free from activities not directly involving the teaching, care and supervision of the children
Caregivers who are distracted create multiple risks for the children in their care. Personal and program related distractions can occur everyday. Caregivers must be aware of these distractions and avoid them. Administrative and clerical functions take the caregiver's attention away form the children. They become more engaged in the clerical duties rather than the on-going activities of the child. Meal preparation areas should be inaccessible to children due to the number of harmful items within the child's reach. It would be near impossible for an individual to prepare meals for the program while also meeting all supervision requirements. The same is true with janitorial duties that take the caregiver's attention away from the children and placed it on the details of the task. Personal use of electronic devices, such as cell phones, MP3 players, video games, and tablets are strictly prohibited while supervising children.
Caregivers must interact with children in a positive manner
Body language and tone of voice make up 93% of communication. The caregiver's positive composure is imperative for maintaining a safe and supervised classroom. Interactions are both verbal and non-verbal. Children are more likely to comply with caregivers request when the interaction is positive and productive.
Foster developmentally appropriate independence in children through planned but flexible program activities.
As mentioned earlier, routines are critical to the success of the classroom. Caregivers must plan developmentally appropriate activities that engage children, keep their interest and teach valuable skills. Even though a well-planned day is required, caregivers must also be flexible and willing to change the daily plans when needed to maintain the children's interest. Many times, the children have different plans than what you posted on your lesson plan!
Foster a cooperative rather than a competitive atmosphere
Children are typically not developmentally ready for competitive games until the average age of seven years old. Playing competitive games can discourage and frustrate young children who do not have these skills, creating supervision issues for not only this child, but the whole class. Cooperative games and activities will help teach the children trust and respect. Trust and respect will help guarantee a supervised and safe classroom environment.
Show appreciation for children's efforts and accomplishments
Children need to know that they have a belonging in the classroom and that their caregiver is aware of their on-going activities. When a caregiver notices a child who has accomplished a milestone, show appreciation and excitement. Children who have a belonging are less likely to create a supervision obstacle. Young children require lots of encouragement through out the day. The caregiver's constant belief in the child will boost self confidence.
Communication between caregivers
Along with the visual and auditory awareness of the child, proper communication between caregivers is also imperative in order to maintain a safe environment. Communication must be discreet and free of opinions. Caregivers are to communicate facts and facts only. Remember, the children listen to every word spoken, so when caregivers are communicating with each other, be mindful of what is said and how the child may be affected by the information overheard.