Child Health, Attachment, & Wellbeing

Supervision Skills Adults Must Have

supervisionDr Sarah Alexander
10 June 2021


Definition of active supervision

At all times when your child is at the ECE service your child must be actively supervised by an adult. Active supervision is key to providing a circle of safety for children.

When a child is injured, at least one adult who is responsible for children will be able to tell you how it happened.  If no one knows then your child was not being actively supervised and the service was not meeting its duty of care to your child.

When children are actively supervised, 'accidents' are much less likely to occur because adults will/should step in to provide a hand, or provide ideas to a child for an alternative activity, or make the situation safe. 

Active supervision means that no child is overlooked.  For example, no child is left in the sleep room and forgotten about.  It also means no child will leave the service on their own and not be noticed to be climbing the fence, walking out the door, or leaving.  Adults know where each child is at the service at all times.

Early childhood service managers/ employers are responsible for providing each adult who is responsible for children with the proper induction and making sure each adult has the skills and performs the skills necessary for the active supervision of children. 


There are three basic supervision skills that every adult working with children must know and be able to demonstrate  


1. Positioning

If the adult is sitting or standing facing a wall and there is a child behind them or there is potential for children to be moving or playing behind their back - then the adult is not providing good supervision.

When staying still and when moving around the early childhood environment the adult should be consciously thinking about “where is the best place to sit, stand, or be in relation to the children so I can see them all easily or know what they are doing”.

Where the adult is positioned affects the line of sight. When supervising a group of children the adult needs to be positioned to see each and not be facing away. For example, sitting at the end of the table gives a better view of all children at the table than sitting at the side. Standing with back facing the wall is likely to allow the adult to see more children in the room and what they are doing than standing sideways.


2. Shadowing

Shadowing is when the adult moves into the same area that the child has moved into. So for example, if a child goes to play in a different area of the playground that the adult cannot currently see from where he/she is then the adult will move into the same area of the playground as the child.

With younger children in particular, shadowing can also involve staying just behind and being ready to step in if needed but not interfering or preventing the child’s activity. Typical situations are when a child is learning to walk the adult will shadow the child to support the child and also protect the child from harm.

The child will know he/she is not alone and trust that the adult can be counted on if needed.


supervision3. Attentiveness

Alertness to a child reduces when the adults’ attention is drawn to something else, such as talking on the phone, talking to another adult(s), or doing cleaning or other maintenance tasks.

When an adult’s attention to the children in his/her group is reduced the adult has a responsibility to let another adult know to watch the children. Alternatively the adult could/ should end the distraction, e.g. “sorry I can’t talk now because I need to be with the children, but we can talk later”, or quickly think of a way to keep an eye on the children while responding to the distraction, for example by involving children in say helping with cleaning the tables, or calling the children over to do some drawings on the board beside the telephone while he/she takes the phone call.


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