Today I am going to talk about documenting at home, how and why. In a school setting you can see how documentation can drive the curriculum forward but what if it is just you and one or two children at home.
Documenting at home, I would say is more observing. Of course you can take pictures and print them or make a digital record of their work (I have a private Instagram account for my little one so I can easily post pics there, it is easy to access and holds all memories I want to keep).
I took some pictures of my 3 year old building so I can show you what I observed. It is mostly for my own record, I usually don’t take pictures but I should take notes because I forget easily.
What am I documenting?
My newly 3 year old was playing with blocks. I had set out some blocks and plastic animals and I invited her to come play with me. I was sitting on the floor with her, watching her and supporting her.
I thought perhaps she would be interested in playing with the blocks and animals. But no, in true 3 year old style she immediately grabbed blocks to make a tower. I didn’t stop her, I wanted to see what she could do. She started with cylindrical blocks and stacked them and then knocked them over.
She then looked for all the small square blocks and started stacking them. I listened to her vocab and what she was saying. For example, she said, “Here a green block and another green one and another green one”. Listening to her I can tell she knows her basic colors and can identify all the square shapes and collect them. I also noticed she used her right hand 90% of the time. Every now and again she would pick up a block on her left hand side and use her left hand to put it on the tower, which is totally age-appropriate for her.
Her tower kept falling over and she was getting frustrated yet, she kept building. She built her tower 4 times until she was over it. Each time she built it she would do the same thing but it did get higher before building. She then asked me to help her. I helped very little, and I asked her, is there a different way you can build the tower so it doesn’t fall over? But by that point she had had enough. From this I can observe that she is very persistent as she kept trying to build the tower again, which is a good quality to have in life. I also observed she did not know any other way to build a tower to make it more stable.
After the last tower fell down she built the tower flat. And I asked, “Are towers flat?” She said “no”. Then she said it was now train tracks and she had an imaginary train and she said “choo choo” and the green flat block on the end was to end the track. And she said, “These are my train tracks”. I enjoyed watching her use her imagination as she changed the tower’s building into a train track where it could not fall over which was a smart move.
She eventually got tired of the blocks all together and got distracted by something else and so we cleaned up the blocks and moved on. So, if I wanted to, I could keep these pictures and a description of what she was doing and saying and compare it to how she can build a tower in a few months time.
So what did I observe?
To recap the things I could observe just from this small 10 minute block play.
- Which hand she prefers (hand dominance)
- Crossing the midline (picking up blocks from her left side using her right hand)
- Vocab- what kind of words is she using, is she speaking in full sentences
- The colors she knows
- The shapes she knows
- How coordinated she was while stacking blocks
So now what?
I am thinking how interested is she in building towers really? What could I put with the blocks next time to keep her interest in building towers. She often talks about fire engines and in her one book it mentions a lighthouse. Block play is so great because it is so open ended, children can build literally anything!
I could print out a picture or two of a lighthouse and fire station and put that out with the blocks and even a fire engine car that I have. Then see what happens. She may love it and be super interested in it or not. The point is to follow her interests and try to extend and deepen her play in those areas. Depending on a child’s age and interest they could play for 10 minutes or 60 minutes depending on how invested they are. To be honest as a mom, to get them excited about something is not always easy, they are more inclined to listen to their teacher and play with their friends. But we can only try, sometimes it is a hit, sometimes a miss. And that is okay, they also sometimes want to play with you, sometimes without you but have you around watching.
Things I do like to document are her drawings. I find the development of children’s drawings fascinating. So in my portfolio I will keep her drawings and I can add in pictures to make it like a scrap book documenting her progress.