CHS Blog

Supervision in a Child Care Setting

Supervision in a Child Care Setting
Posted on February 21, 2018 by CHS

The most important thing that teachers and child care providers can do is keep children safe. This means that in addition to maintaining a clean and safe environment, early educators also need to supervise children closely at all times. Quality supervision and thoughtful planning can reduce the risk of injuries in child care programs. In California, licensed child care facilities are monitored by Community Care Licensing (CCL), which is a division of the Department of Social Services (DSS).

Licensed child care providers are required to follow the California Code of Regulations: Title 22, Division 12. Chapter 1 of Title 22 reviews the regulations for Child Care Centers, and chapter 3 of Title 22 refers to Family Child Care Homes. You can find information about staff requirements, ratios of adults to children, supervision, equipment guidelines, cleaning standards, and more in Title 22. Community Care Licensing also has information, resources, and videos for both parents and child care providers on their website.

Child care providers can stay in compliance with CCL and reduce the risk of injuries in their program by developing a plan for supervision. There are three important pieces to a quality plan for supervision: the environment, monitoring of children, and interactions with children. The following sections provide resources and tips that will help providers develop a plan that is appropriate to their style of program. This information can also act as a guide for parents who want to learn how to select a child care program that is appropriate for their child. It is important to mention that if anyone sees something they believe to be unsafe at a child care facility, it can be reported to the Community Care Licensing Complaint Hotline at 1-844-538-8766.

A Safe Environment
The main goal of supervision is to prevent accidents and injuries. Taking the time to create a safe environment and conducting regular safety checks are the first steps to providing quality supervision. Here are some tips for a safe environment:

  • All materials and surfaces need to be kept clean, disinfected, and sanitized as appropriate. For more detailed information, refer to Title 22 and chapter three of Caring for Our Children. To view a cleaning schedule, click here.
  • All toys, furniture, play equipment, and other materials need to be in good condition, and appropriate to the sizes and abilities of the children present. Remove any broken items that are waiting for repair.
  • Choose safe toys. When working with infants and toddlers, be mindful that some toys can be choking hazards. Learn how to check if a toy is dangerous for children under three by watching this video.
  • Use safety equipment, such as plug covers, baby gates, plastic cupboard locks, locks that require a combination or key, and portable fences to make items or areas that could cause injuries inaccessible. As defined by CCL, inaccessible means that “children can’t reach, obtain, or have access to potentially dangerous items, such as cleaning fluids, or potentially dangerous areas of the child care facility, such as swimming pools.”
    • Medications, sharp tools, alcohol, and any other poisonous or hazardous objects should be kept in a cupboard that is out of reach and locked with a key or combination lock. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately under lock and key in gun safes or similar containers.
    • Non-toxic cleaning supplies, soap, adult scissors, cutlery, and other potentially harmful objects should be kept inaccessible, but typically do not require a key or combination lock.
    • Areas that should be made inaccessible can include stairs, fireplaces, garages, storage sheds, and swimming pools (or any other unsupervised bodies of water). If window blinds have cords, they should be tied up and inaccessible to children.
    • Watch this video on Locks and Inaccessibility Requirements for Child Care by CCL. For more information on basic safety strategies, read the CHS blog Tips for Keeping Children Safe.
  • Do not use play equipment that can easily tip over or become tangled such as walkers, baby swings, bouncy seats, unsecured swing sets, etc. Follow the equipment guidelines in Title 22 and be aware of any product recalls by signing up for alerts from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
  • Play equipment for climbing, sliding, or swinging should be properly anchored to provide a stable base for use. Outdoor equipment also needs to provide a safe fall space. Click here for a guide on materials that can reduce fall injuries.
  • Conducting daily safety checks can stop problems before they occur. Here are some samples of safety checklists:
  • All adults working with children should be aware of emergency and evacuation procedures, where fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and medications are kept, and have knowledge of any existing allergies children may have. Adults left alone with children should have pediatric CPR and First Aid training from a trainer approved by the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA).

Monitoring Children
Establish a routine for monitoring children. Child care providers should be aware of where children are and what they are doing at all times. This means that it is important to stand in places where you can easily see all children and activities. If more than one adult is supervising, make sure you spread out, or assign each adult a particular area to monitor. CCL has created videos to help people understand what it means to supervise children in a Family Child Care Home or Child Care Center.

According to the article “Lessons from NAEYC Accreditation: Avoiding Lapses in Supervision That Place Children at Risk” by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (Young Children, 2010), lapses in supervision most likely occur during transitions, or when there is a change in the normal routine. There are several steps that can be taken in order to prevent these oversights in supervision.

The first step is to always be aware of the ratio (number of adults present to the number of children present). For example, in a typical preschool classroom there may be one adult teaching a class of twelve children, so the ratio is one to twelve. To learn about the ratio requirements in a Family Child Care Home, click here. You can learn about the ratio requirements for Child Care Centers here. Develop the routine of counting children before and after transitions to make sure everyone is accounted for. For example, count children before going outside, before taking a break, after going back inside, at lunch, before nap time, and after nap time. Document your count by creating a daily schedule and jotting down the number of children next to each transition in the schedule.

The second step is to develop effective communication. Make sure parents know that they need to say hello and make eye contact with you whenever they are dropping off or picking up their child. Ask parents to call, or tell you the day before, if there will be a change in their schedule. If you work with other staff, maintain consistent communication with each other about the ratio. For example if you are going on a break you might say, “I’m going to take my break. There are twelve children in the room.” When you come back from your break, ask how many children are present, and then do a head count for yourself to double-check.

Finally, keep accurate attendance sheets and update the emergency contact information for children on a quarterly basis. If you are a center with several classrooms, use cell phones or walkie-talkies to communicate with each other when you need assistance. On days when the daily routine is different due to field trips or special events, count children frequently and keep the attendance sheet with you to ensure you make contact with parents.

Interactions with Children
Develop activities and play spaces that engage children and create opportunities for quality interactions. Creating an environment that inspires children to be curious and challenge themselves will keep them focused and help prevent negative behaviors that can lead to injuries. As you develop learning areas and activities, be aware of each child’s abilities and try to anticipate any behavior issues that might occur.  

Move around the room or outside area to engage each individual child. Make eye contact and ask them open-ended questions about what they are doing. The article “Who Should Supervise the Children” by Donna Thompson, Susan Hudson, and Mick Mack (Child Care Information Exchange, May 1999) describes this as “Proximity Control.” This type of supervision is effective because as children become accustomed to adults frequently being near them, they begin to understand that they are being watched and cared for by someone. This knowledge is often a deterrent for negative behaviors, and the positive interactions children receive from adults supervising them lead to positive behaviors.

Establish clear and simple safety rules. If appropriate, allow children to help you develop safety rules so that they can begin to develop their own knowledge of safety. You can extend children’s learning by developing a curriculum that teaches them how to take care of themselves and be safe. Visit the Scholastic website for activity ideas.

When child care providers supervise children in a direct, active, and positive way, they can reduce the risk of injuries. To learn more about the importance of supervision in child care, view the resources and references below. You can also contact your local Resource and Referral Program or visit the California Early Care and Education Workforce registry website to learn about trainings and workshops on supervision.



Sign up for CHS updates
Areas of Interest


Children’s Home Society of California’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service have changed. Click here to learn more.