Judy Kynaston, National Project Manager KidsMatter Early Childhood Australia


If you’re concerned about a child, the first step is to observe the child’s behaviour and the events around it. But how do you do that, and what do you look for?


KidsMatter has created an easy-to-use tool to help you record what you are seeing and find patterns that will assist you in understanding what’s going on for the child.  It’s called BETLS.


BETLS is an acronym for behaviour, emotions, thoughts, learning and social relationships. These are important things to observe in a child you’re worried about.


BETLS is a template for gathering and documenting information and observations about a child and the particular concerns. When observing children’s behaviour, it is helpful to include details such as

·         Pervasiveness (Who is impacted by the behaviour? Where does it happen? When does it happen?)

·         Persistence (How long has it been going on for?)

·         Frequency (How often do you see this behaviour?), and

·         Severity (How much does the behaviour impact on the child and others?)


The Staff Self-Reflections section of the template provides a space to reflect on a child’s experiences. It allows educators to note their thoughts about a situation, and any other additional information that could be playing a role in the child’s behaviour.



This video follows a child at their early childhood service. The child’s story represents some issues of concern that may benefit from some guided observation. Though it is a fictional account, it provides an example of common difficulties experienced by children which can be observed using the BETLS Tool.


As you are watching the video, use the BETLS chart to note down what you notice in the child’s actions and what the educator and parents are reporting. You may also like to note any questions that you have for discussion later.  


Kate, Educator

Over the last few weeks I have noticed that Eliza has become a lot quieter. She was usually very happy, and always the first to get stuck into things, but lately she just hasn’t been herself.  She tends to keep to herself for a lot of the day, and is reluctant to get involved with new activities or experiences offered at the service. She stands back and watches, rather than joining in and getting involved with the other children.


She has also started to become easily upset, like last week when I asked her to do something in a group activity. She is always upset when she is being dropped off in the morning, and this wasn’t happening before.  She tends to look out for her parents in the hour or so before pick up time, and is a lot more clingy to me throughout the day.


Jordan, another educator that has recently started at the centre, has also noticed these changes in Eliza during his shifts. He was especially surprised when she didn’t want to be a part of their cooking session yesterday. She usually loves to get involved with cooking and group activities.


I’m a bit worried because there has been such a great change in her behaviour, especially as she is getting upset by a lot of things. I haven’t had a chance to speak to Eliza’s family as they have started dropping her off a lot earlier in the day now, before my shift has started. Jordan is on the early shift and was able to briefly catch up with Eliza’s mother, Jane. Jane mentioned that Eliza has not been as excited to go to day care lately as she normally would be and that she is more irritable the night before day care. She was unsure what was behind these changes.  Jane reported that she did start a new job a few weeks ago with longer days, which might have thrown out the routine a bit at home, especially as now they have to leave home much earlier.


It may be that there is something going on for Eliza that I don’t know about. Could it be the changes at home or perhaps something has happened at the service? It’s a bit hard to tell.


I have tried to do some more one-on-one things with Eliza, and she is generally responding well. I have also done a bit of extra encouraging to get her involved into groups, but sometimes it’s hard to know just how hard to push.


I think I just need some time watching her more, and seeing what may be the reason for this change. I also have to arrange a time to talk with her family to discuss what might be behind these changes.