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Keeping Children Safe with Active Supervision

Supervision is key to keeping children safe in an early learning setting with lots of activity. Active supervision means watching, listening and observing children at all times throughout the day. Read on for five strategies for active supervision.

  • Set up your space for supervision – Is your space arranged so you can easily see and hear all children? Replace high shelves or room dividers with low, open shelves. Rearrange shelves and tables to eliminate blind areas or hard-to-see corners. Bells or chimes on doors offer an extra safety measure by alerting you when a door opens or closes.  
  • Use your roster as a tool – Keep your roster with you at all times. Update your roster as soon as a child arrives or leaves so you always have an accurate count. Check your roster frequently throughout the day and anytime your group moves from one space to another, such as going to the playground. When referring to your roster, check for individual children rather than a simple head count. That way, you’ll know each child is with you and that your roster is always accurate.
  • Coordinate with other staff – If you work with another teacher, plan how you will supervise together. Supervising will look different depending on your space and the activities going on. Here are a few examples:
    • During diaper changing routines: one teacher focuses on diapering while the other supervises the rest of the children at play.
    • During centers: one teacher leads a small group activity at the math center while another moves around the classroom, observing and interacting with children at other centers.
    • During drop-off and pick-up times: one teacher greets families while another supervises classroom activities.
    • During outdoor play: teachers position themselves in zones around the space to see all areas where children play.
  • Scan frequently – Even when working with an individual child or a small group, take a visual scan of the space often. Position your body to see the remaining children in your care, so you can step in if needed. Observation is critical if you’re the sole caregiver for your group. 
  • Adjust for individual children – You know the children in your group best, including which children need closer supervision. Younger children and children who are more curious or impulsive need an extra close eye to ensure their safety. If you have a child who has difficulty transitioning between activities, give them a job during the transition, such as holding the door, helping carry items or leading the line. Assigning activities helps focus their attention and reduces the chance of them slipping out of view during a busy transition. 

For more information and resources on active supervision, visit Head Start’s Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center.

At Quality First, we love to hear from you! Share your ideas so others can be inspired. Send an email to QualityFirst@FirstThingsFirst.org.