What is Critical Reflection in Childcare?

What is Critical Reflection in Childcare?

What is critical reflection and how does it relate to childcare? Although it may sound like a complicated concept, critical reflection is something most of us practise each day. It is the process of learning from everyday problems and situations. Similar to meaningful reflection, which focuses on the ability to thoughtfully reflect on our actions, critical reflection in early childhood allows us time to ask deeper questions of ourselves. In searching for answers, we aim to better ourselves as educators.

Taking the time to use critical reflection can seem like a luxury during endlessly active days, but it is an important tool that can be used to help improve confidence and make lasting, positive changes to the delivery of care. From analysing learning story examples to planned activities, here’s how you can make the most of critical reflection.

The Process of Critical Reflection in Childcare

Critical reflection doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. It can actually help make day-to-day life as an educator easier by equipping you with a host of useful tools. This simple process provides regular opportunities to gain greater understanding and awareness. When early learning staff participate in critical reflection, it can help enhance a child’s learning pathways by offering greater insight into each child’s EQ. The process of critical reflection is broken down into four parts:

  1. Experience
  • What was the learning experience?
  • Who was involved?
  • What happened during the activity?
  •  What was the response from the children that took part?
  1. Reflect
  • What was successful about the activity?
  • Was there anything that didn’t work?
  • How did you feel about the experience?
  • Was there anything that impacted you personally on the day?
  1. Plan
  • Is there an opportunity to extend on the activity?
  • How will this experience influence future activities?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  1. Action
  • How will you implement what you’ve learned?
  • Create a plan of action and set goals for future activities.
  • Continue to reflect and keep track of goals.

How Often is Critical Reflection in Childcare Practised? 


Critical reflection in early childhood education means frequently asking questions of yourself and analysing your actions. Each day, you will review both planned and unplanned teaching moments, ensuring you are equipped to extend on or change what worked and what didn’t in order to implement changes where necessary.


Critical reflection focused on the bigger picture of the week allows analysis of how weekly planning is being executed and acknowledges both successes and failures, with the intention of taking learnings and implementing them into the week ahead.  


To ensure we are delivering exceptional care in line with our quality assurances, we hold monthly critical reflection meetings with the Centre Director and team leaders to gauge how we’re tracking against our company goals.

Questions To Ask as a Childcare Provider When Practising Critical Reflection in Childcare

When practising critical reflection around a planned or unplanned learning activity, team leaders and educators may explore a range of questions to get a clear picture of the activity and what was observed throughout the exercise. Encouraging conversation and challenging our perceptions helps foster a healthy learning environment. Some common questions used during critical reflection are:

Describe The Childcare Experience

Educators will recount the experience or learning event in detail to establish a strong basis for the reflection. This can be a planned learning activity, a spontaneous learning activity or a stand-alone situation.

What is Happening? Why? What is The Significance And How?

Educators will discuss how the children engaged with the activity, what particular observations were made during the learning experience and whether or not the activity achieved its objective.

When? Who Benefited?

Being specific about when the activity occurred and which children gained the most from the experience can be used to plan, extend or adjust future learning opportunities.

How Does Your Child Feel About It?

Noting and recording any thoughts or feelings the children express during the experience can help assess the success of the activity and whether there is opportunity to extend on this learning in future sessions.

What Will You Do From This Experience? Is Change Necessary?

Educators will analyse and discuss how they will implement their learnings based on what they’ve observed. This will inform how they will approach future learning opportunities.

Methods for Critical Reflection in Early Childhood

Critical reflection can be practised alone but is particularly effective when undertaken as a team. If you’re wondering how to write observations in childcare, different ways you can reflect each day include:

Journaling (for self)

Journaling is an ideal way to reflect in an immediate and honest way. The process of writing reflections around situations and activities that occur throughout the day can help provide clarity of thought and allow the opportunity to record and express learnings in a personal way.


Online video calls between team members can be a convenient and focused time where reflections can be made and an action plan devised. The online host can allocate time so each team member can contribute, including break-out rooms within the call.


Reflecting as a company or team unit can be a powerful way to implement immediate change. Contributing and listening to reflections of the wider group helps create a more cohesive team by outlining and working towards common goals.


​​Gaining insight from the guidance of a mentor or the Centre Director can help navigate new situations in a supportive and nurturing environment. Mentors can offer the benefit of wisdom born from experience. They may be able to help provide insight and enhance your reflections by offering an alternative perspective.  

Learn More About Critical Reflection for Children in Childcare

Critical reflection provides educators with the tools to deliver meaningful, personalised care to each child. It requires teamwork and a willingness to debate ideas, share opinions and consider alternatives. With courage and curiosity, the rewards gained from continuous adaptation and learning through critical reflection include improved professional and personal wellbeing and the ability to deliver world-class childcare. To learn more about childcare that prioritises growth, learning, and development, contact us  today.