- Describe what matters most when supervising children and youth.
- Identify management practices to ensure staff members appropriately supervise children and youth.
- Apply content of this lesson to ensure that staff members supervise children and youth appropriately.
Your Role in the Supervision of Children and Youth
The single most important way to mitigate risk of harm is for you to make sure staff are vigilant when it comes to the supervision of children and youth. When children and youth aren’t adequately supervised, the risks increase. For example, if a teacher has his or her back to children while talking with another teacher, he or she may not notice that a child has climbed up on a shelf to reach a toy. If furnishings are placed in such a way that visual supervision is obstructed, a teacher may not notice that there is a child on a child. If it's meal time and a teacher forgets the cups for milk and goes to the cabinet to get them, he or she may not see that a child is choking. As the manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that staff adhere to supervision protocols and policies at all times.
All of these children are at greater risk of getting hurt because the child’s behavior wasn’t redirected (child reaching for a toy), the environment isn’t conducive for visual supervision (furnishings), or the teacher wasn’t in close proximity to intervene in an emergency situation (choking). Children and youth are naturally active, curious, and inconsistent when it comes to remembering and applying safety rules. Therefore it’s up to the adults to be vigilant when it comes to their safety.
When it comes to supervising children and youth, surveillance is the only approach. Your staff need to think of their role in the supervision of children and youth as being like security cameras: always monitoring and scanning in order to protect. Supervising children and youth is not a sometimes job, it's an all-the-time job.
As the manager, you are accountable for making sure that effective supervision strategies are utilized by all staff. These strategies include: making direct visual contact with children and youth, conducting frequent head counts throughout the day, arranging the classroom environment to support visual supervision, and adjusting supervision based on the age of the child and the space occupied. For example, school-agers require different levels of supervision than preschoolers to balance safety with their need for independence, and gross motor rooms require different levels of supervision than classrooms. To ensure that staff are supervising appropriately, you need to manage from your feet and not your seat. Is your program’s policy clear about enforcing no personal cell phone use when staff are counted in ratio? When you bring in a new employee, be sure they have a chance to understand and ask questions about your program’s policy for personal cell phone use. Make sure they understand where personal cell phones should be stored during working hours and why your center can be out of ratio when staff engage with their personal cell phones at work. Review the following article from NAEYC by Feeney and Freeman about Smartphones and Social Media: https://www.naeyc.org/system/files/YC0315_Focus_on_Ethics.pdf
The chart below summarizes your key responsibilities when it comes to ensuring that the children and youth in your program are supervised adequately at all times.
Areas that are used by multiple classrooms of varying ages are particularly troublesome for supervision. These areas may include indoor gross motor rooms, bathrooms, eating areas, outdoor environments, and hallways. The physical layout of many shared spaces can make supervision more difficult, particularly if more than one classroom can utilize the space at the same time.
The chart below summarizes your key responsibilities when it comes to ensuring that shared spaces are supervised appropriately.
Knowing that there are increased risks when children and youth play outdoors, staff must be vigilant in their supervision of children and youth. This means they are constantly moving around so they can intervene quickly if the need arises and redirect unsafe choices before injuries occur. This is even more critical when there are multiple groups using the same play space at the same time.
The chart below summarizes your key responsibilities when it comes to ensuring that playgrounds are supervised appropriately.
This will be covered in more depth in Lesson Seven, but it's worth mentioning here that children and youth are particularly vulnerable when they are in new environments.
The chart below summarizes your key responsibilities when it comes to ensuring that field trips are supervised appropriately.
Caring for Infants
Infants completely rely on the adults around them to keep them safe. They can't communicate in words if something is wrong. Their bodies are still developing, so a fall can be life threatening. And they don't understand that dangers lurk all around them. It should go without saying that the younger the child, the greater the risk.
You need to ensure that teachers who care for infants are constantly engaged in surveillance to mitigate risks—surveillance of the physical environment, classroom furnishings, materials, and the behaviors of infants themselves.
Your teachers must always be on guard when it comes to the sleep position of infants. It is your responsibility to ensure that teachers are in compliance with American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines. How babies are put to sleep is not about preferences, it's about life and death. Babies die every day as a result of unsafe sleep practices.
Infants are the most vulnerable children in your care. They are dependent on the adults around them to be vigilant in keeping them safe. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among infants 1-month to 12-months old and is the third-leading cause overall of infant mortality in the United States.
About one in five SIDS deaths occur while an infant is being cared for by someone other than a parent. Many of these deaths occur when infants who are used to sleeping on their backs at home are then placed to sleep on their tummies by another caregiver. Infants who are used to sleeping on their backs and placed to sleep on their tummies are 18 times more likely to die from SIDS, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
According to the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, a majority of SIDS-related deaths at child-care facilities occur in the first day or first week that an infant starts attending a child care program. (Caring for Our Children, 3rd edition, http://nrckids.org.)
You need to do the following to ensure staff are adhering safe sleep practices:
- Train staff during their orientation on yourPUBLIC program's safe sleep policy.
- Include yourPUBLIC program's safe sleep policies with families at enrollment as well as in the family handbook.
- Observe that infants are placed on their backs to sleep every time.
- Provide Consumer Product Safety Commission-approved crib mattresses.
- Ensure that soft objects and materials (toys, stuffed animals, quilts, blankets, comforters, sheepskins, and pillows) are not in cribs or near sleep areas.
- Ensure that staff provide daily, supervised tummy time while infants are awake.
The chart below summarizes your key responsibilities when it comes to ensuring that infants are supervised appropriately.
Supervision of Internet and Technology Use
While the internet, tablets, and applications or “apps” provide children and staff with new and exciting learning opportunities, they also come with safety and supervision challenges. It is essential that you lead your program in creating, updating, and implementing guidelines for the supervision and use of technology by children. Your program may have protections such as software that limits access to explicit materials on the internet, but know that this should not provide a false sense of safety. While such programs are useful, and a good starting point, work with your coach or trainer to ensure that staff know how to engage and supervise during children’s internet and technology use.
The chart below summarizes your key responsibilities when it comes to the supervision of children's internet and technology use.
The Importance of Planning
Effective managers possess a balance of leadership and administrative skills: leadership skills to identify what to do and administrative skills to get things done. Managers with good administrative skills create plans, develop systems and processes, manage execution and work efficiently.
Plans help you manage. They help you be proactive as well as prepared. Plans begin with a goal. They identify systems and processes to achieve the goal. This aspect of the planning process helps you critically analyze inefficient procedures and systems. This process is richer when you enlist the ideas of your staff as it often leads to breakthrough improvements as well as their buy in when it comes to implementation.
One of the most important plans for ensuring children and youth are appropriately supervised is your staff schedule. As with all plans, this plan is not static but rather ever changing based on the needs of the program. Staff members aren't scheduled because they want to work a certain shift, they are scheduled because that is when they are needed for the supervision of children.
As you know, you can't be everything to everyone, nor can you please everyone all of the time. You need to manage the execution of tasks by delegating and coordinating the work of your staff. The goal is to empower your staff members to manage their responsibilities and to continuously look for ways to meet those responsibilities as efficiently as possible. A well-thought-out plan will get you there.
Watch this video about why supervision matters.
Observing staff supervising children and youth on a regular basis provides you with valuable information. This information can be used to identify current safety issues. Download and print the attached chart to record observations for the locations and situations identified.
Observations should be similar to running records. Write down everything you observe for a minimum of 20 minutes for each item.
Use the attached action plan based on your observations from the activity above to identify continuous improvement opportunities when it comes to the supervision of children and youth.
American Academy of Pediatrics www.aap.org
Cryer, D., Harms, T., Riley, C. (2004). All About The ITERS-R.
Feeney, S., and Freeman, N.K. (2015). Smartphones and social media: ethical implications for educators. Young Children. NAEYC Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/system/files/YC0315_Focus_on_Ethics.pdf
Harms, T., Clifford, R. M., Cryer, D. (2005) Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised Edition.
NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center (2012). Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Joint Position Statement. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/topics/PS_technology_WEB.pdf
Sciarra, J., Dorsey, A., Lynch, E.(2009). 7th edition, Developing and Administering A Child Care Center.