Active supervision is an essential tool that childcare providers use to keep children safe. This strategy tracks children's whereabouts and activities, preventing accidents and injuries. It also enhances learning opportunities and encourages positive behaviors. Closely monitoring children's activities helps you provide guidance and identify teachable moments, creating a safe and positive learning environment.
This article shares critical strategies for active supervision and how to implement them at your childcare center.
What is active supervision?
Active supervision is a child safety strategy in which staff constantly monitor children's whereabouts and activities. It differs from passive supervision, where adults are present but not paying close attention to what children are doing. With passive supervision, adults may be talking to each other or working on something else, and as a result, they may be unaware of what is happening around them.
Active supervision requires childcare providers to be constantly alert and attentive to what is going on in the environment. This means scanning the room or playground regularly to ensure that all children are accounted for and that no one is engaging in unsafe behaviors that might harm them.
The key to adequate active supervision is to remain focused and aware. This can be difficult, especially for childcare providers supervising a large group of children. However, it is essential to remember that even a few seconds of inattention can lead to an accident or injury, so childcare providers should always be alert.
Six strategies of active supervision
Effective active supervision strategies will vary, depending on the age of the children, group size, and the childcare environment. Also, remember that you may need to use different strategies at different times, as the needs of children and the environment can change quickly.
Here are six common active supervision strategies that childcare providers can use to keep children safe:
Set up the environment
Before children arrive, take a few minutes to set up the space in a way that promotes safety. For example, move furniture to create a clear line of sight, remove any clutter from the area, and set up any necessary safety equipment.
When setting up the environment, create defined boundaries for children. For example, use furniture or tape on the floor to create a safe play area. This will help children understand where they can play.
When children are present, position staff to monitor the group effectively. This may mean having one staff member at the front of the room and another at the back, or stationing staff members near groups of children.
Ensure all staff members know their roles and responsibilities to help children stay safe. For example, if you have a staff member who is specifically responsible for monitoring the bathroom, make sure they know to check the bathroom regularly and to report any hazards they find.
Scan and count
Scanning and counting helps childcare providers keep track of all the children in their care. This strategy involves quickly scanning the area for dangerous items or situations and counting each child to ensure all are present.
Scanning should be done regularly throughout the day, at least every 10–15 minutes. It's also essential to count children after transitions, such as when moving from one room to another, to make sure all are accounted for.
Children often give clues or signals that something is wrong, even when quiet. Be attuned to these cues and listen carefully to what children are saying.
Sometimes, children may not be able or willing to speak up when in danger. Pay attention to their body language and listen for any changes in their tone. If you notice anything that seems off, investigate the situation further.
Immediately respond to any concerns that children express. For example, if a child tells you that someone is misbehaving, take action immediately.
Anticipate children's behavior
One of the best ways to prevent accidents is by anticipating children's behavior. Be aware of what children are likely to do in any given situation and take steps to prevent them from doing anything unsafe.
For example, if you know that children tend to run in the hallway, position yourself near the door to redirect them. Or, if you know that children like to climb on furniture, provide a safe alternative where they can play and explore.
Always anticipate everything that children will do, as being aware of common risks will help you keep them safe.
Engage and redirect
When you’re engaged with your children, they’re less likely to misbehave or get into accidents because they know you’re paying attention to them.
However, if children are engaging in unsafe behaviors, quickly intervene and redirect their behavior. This may involve verbally correcting a child or providing a physical cue, such as placing a hand on their shoulder and guiding them to another activity.
Active supervision also allows teachers to easily observe milestones for each child. Download our preschool daily report template to keep track of each child's meals, nap time, and learning highlights.
Active supervision checklist
Daycares are required to follow state licensing regulations, which include active supervision requirements. These requirements ensure that all children in the daycare are safe at all times. An active supervision checklist is a tool that outlines the actions a provider must take to ensure that they are providing adequate supervision.
A checklist helps providers stay organized, meet state regulations, and develop safe procedures. For example, this checklist for Virtual Lab School and the Active Supervision Procedure at OESD 114 include best practices that help providers consider the adult-child ratio, group size, and space arrangement. They also contain recommendations on how to set up a safe environment and establish clear boundaries for children.
Active supervision is just as important in outdoor play areas as it is in the classroom. Here are more useful tips for educators to apply on the playground to prevent injuries.
Establish clear rules and expectations
Clearly state the playground rules and expectations before children enter the area. Make sure children understand the importance of following these guidelines and explain they are in place to keep them safe. For example, include rules like using the playground equipment in the right way such as, sliding down slides and not climbing up them.
Pay close attention to how children behave on the playground. While monitoring, be sure to also look out for any signs of unsafe behavior. If necessary, intervene to ensure every child stays safe.
Have an adult present at all times
Have at least one adult supervising the playground at all times. This ensures that children are safe and that potential risks are quickly identified and addressed. This can be done by a teacher, teacher’s aid, or parent volunteer.
Designate a play area
Establish a designated play area and mark it off with cones or tape. This will help children stay within the designated area and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries. When setting up the play area, ensure it is large enough to accommodate all the children playing.
Set up boundaries to designate “off-limit” areas, such as parking or other hazardous areas. Make sure all children understand these boundaries and supervise them closely when near these areas.
Keep the playground safe and organized
Keep the playground clutter-free and ensure there are no hazards on the ground, such as broken glass or sharp objects. Ensure all equipment is in good working order, with no loose parts or sharp edges.
Provide simple equipment
Use simple outdoor equipment such as balls, hula-hoops, and jump ropes that are age appropriate. These items are fun and can also help children develop physical skills such as hand-eye coordination, balance, and agility.
Rotating activities keep children engaged and can help prevent boredom. Consider setting up several activity stations around the playground so children can move from one station to another throughout the day.
Active supervision is especially important during transitions when children are moving from one location to another or between activities. Consider having one designated area where children can line up before going outside to allow you the time to quickly scan and count all children.
Active supervision FAQs
Here are frequently asked questions about active supervision and child safety.
How can I use active supervision to prevent challenging behavior?
One of the best ways to prevent behavioral problems is by proactively engaging children in positive activities. Keeping children busy with age-appropriate activities minimizes their chances of engaging in negative behaviors. In addition, if a child starts to exhibit challenging behavior, active supervision techniques can help teachers immediately respond and redirect the behavior to a more acceptable one.
How can I prevent accidents or injuries in a childcare setting?
You can prevent accidents or injuries in a childcare setting by training your staff on active supervision techniques such as scanning and counting, setting up the learning environment in a way that promotes safety, and positioning staff so they can see and hear all children in their care. Consider incorporating an active supervision checklist so that staff members always know how many children are in their group and that the appropriate staff-to-child ratios are being met.
How do we arrange the classroom space to create a safe environment?
Place furniture away from windows and doors, remove any clutter or hazardous objects, and make sure all staff have a clear line of vision to the children they are supervising. Additionally, use rugs or mats to designate different areas of the room for different activities such as art, reading, or dramatic play.
What is the best way to supervise children during transition time?
Use scan-and-count procedures to locate children quickly and ensure they are all present. Establish a transition routine to help them move between activities more smoothly, such as ringing a bell, clapping hands, or singing a song. Additionally, assign staff members to monitor different areas of the room and have an adult stand at each doorway to ensure children don’t wander off.
How can I encourage safe behavior during playground time?
Explain the rules and behavior expectations of the playground to children and remind them often. Supervise closely and don’t allow unsafe activities such as pushing or running around the equipment area.
Active supervision promotes a safe learning environment for children and staff. Focused attention from staff can help prevent injuries and accidents and allow children to safely play, explore, and learn.
While active supervision requires effort and vigilance, the benefits far outweigh the costs. By implementing the strategies above, you can make active supervision a part of your daily routine, keeping children safe and fostering their love of learning.
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