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Planning and observation

As a practitioner, your role is to support each individual child’s learning and development by closely matching what they provide to a child’s current needs and / or interests.

It is crucial to gather knowledge of the child right from the start:

  • The 'All About Me' template series in the relevant resources below will help you get to know the children in your care, right from the start.
  • The All About Me Home Language Profile document is an addition to the All About Me booklets to enable you to capture important information regarding the child’s exposure to languages other than English.

Observing, assessing and planning is a continuous cyclical process, it doesn’t have to take long periods of time, it can happen in a moment.


Observation is an umbrella term and includes:

  • your written observations both planned and spontaneous
  • comments from other colleagues in the setting
  • parents’ comments
  • children’s comments
  • samples or photos of their 'work'
  • photographs / videos that depict children’s learning
  • other professionals’ and / or other family members’ comments.

To build a true picture of a child’s achievements, you must tap into other people’s knowledge of the child as well. Spontaneous observations can be recorded in any way you choose to do so, for example, post-it notes / blank pieces of paper / electronically, and so on. See our tips on what makes a good observation.


For assessments please visit our Assessments and tracking progress page.


Effective planning allows you to provide carefully balanced, engaging and challenging opportunities for learning throughout early years provision. Planning for a rich continuous environment ensures children are able to explore all areas of learning and access stimulating adult-led activities. Good and outstanding practitioners will use observations and assessments to inform planning. Planning should be flexible and appropriate to the individual’s needs, interests and developmental stage. It is a guideline for practitioners which can be added to and adapted at anytime.

The planning cycle

The Planning cycle starts with your observations of what children can do and are interested in. See the diagram on page 3 of Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage  (opens in a new window) by the Department for Education. 

Relevant resources

The documents below all open in new windows.