Evaluate observation methods: Event Sample, Time Sample, Sociogram, Narrative / Free Description, Target Child, Checklist, Child Tracker / Movement Record

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.14: Use observation, assessment and planning to promote the development of children
Learning outcome: Understand observation methods
Assessment criteria: Evaluate observation methods: Event Sample, Time Sample, Sociogram, Narrative / Free Description, Target Child, Checklist, Child Tracker / Movement Record


In Early Years settings, observing children is an important part of understanding their development. There are many different observation methods used to evaluate the progress of young children. Event Sample, Time Sample, Sociogram, Narrative/Free Description, Target Child, Checklist and Child Tracker/Movement Record are some of the most commonly used observation methods. Let’s take a look at each method and understand how they are used to observe children’s behaviors.

Event Sample

In this method, the observer records all occurrences of a behavior during a given period. For example, if a child is observed for 30 minutes during playtime and their behavior needs to be recorded, then every time there is a particular behavior that needs to be noted down it should be written down with the time of occurrence. This technique is useful for tracking behaviors that don’t occur frequently or behaviors that may not last long but can still provide valuable information about the child’s development.


Time Sample

Similar to event sample, this method also requires recording behaviors for a given period of time but instead of recording all occurrences as in event sample, only certain intervals are noted down. For example, every 5 minutes during playtime the observer writes what behavior was seen in those 5 minutes. This method helps track short-term changes in behavior over time and can provide valuable insight into the child’s progression over the course of multiple observations conducted over several days or weeks.


This is an observation technique where social interactions between individuals are recorded in order to better understand relationships between them. This technique involves mapping out relationships between individuals by noting down which ones interact with each other more often than others and how often such interactions take place. This helps identify potential problems in relationships between individuals such as bullying or lack of social interaction which can help plan interventions accordingly.


Narrative/Free Description

This method is used to observe a child’s behavior over time by recording detailed descriptions of their activities throughout the day. This type of observation allows educators to identify patterns over time, as well as gain insight into a child’s development. The main benefit of this method is that it gives educators an opportunity to document the child’s behavior more deeply than other observation methods. However, this method can be time-consuming and can lead to inaccurate observations if not done carefully.

Target Child

This method requires selecting one particular child to observe throughout the day, recording their activities and interactions with others around them. It is useful for gathering information on specific behaviors or relationships between children in a setting but can be difficult because it requires focusing on only one child at a time. Additionally, it can lead to an incomplete assessment if there are too many variables involved in the situation being observed.



This method involves using a pre-determined list of criteria or behaviors that should be observed during an activity or interaction with other children within an Early Years setting. The advantage of using this method is that it ensures consistent data collection across multiple observers as well as provides quick summaries of observations made throughout the day. However, checklists can also be limiting if they do not capture all aspects of a situation or interaction that need to be observed.

Child Tracker/Movement Record

This is a unique form of observational practice where the educator records which areas the child moves through throughout their day in an Early Years setting, such as from indoors to outdoors or from free play areas to quiet zones etc.. It allows educators to monitor how much movement occurs throughout the day and provides insight into how independent children may be feeling when moving around within different spaces in their environment. However, this type of observational practice does require close monitoring which may not always be possible for some settings or environments due to staff constraints or physical restrictions within the space itself .



Observing young children in Early Years settings is an important part of understanding their development and growth process. There are many different observation methods used for this purpose such as Event Sample, Time Sample, Sociogram , Narrative/Free Description , Target Child, Checklist and Child Tracker / Movement Record . Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on what type of information needs to be gathered from observing children’s behavior or interactions with each other . It is important to get familiarize with these different techniques so that you can use them properly when necessary while observing young children at various Early Years settings.

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