Child Observation


Developmentrefers to subsequent and age-associated changes that occur inthroughout human being’s life. Numerous renowned psychologists suchas Lawrence Kohlberg, Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget and Erik Eriksonconcurred that the development occurs in different stages over a longperiod. Furthermore, the experts asserted that humans exhibitparticular characteristics of each development. Although differentpsychologists developed varied development theories, the philosophiesclaim that the development occurs in a given order, and the nextstate enhances the strengths that an individual learned on theprevious phase. Second, the characteristics of each stage aredetermined by the child’s age. Finally, development occursintermittently since children display distinct capabilities at eachphase. This makes it essential for parents, teachers and other peopleinvolved in providing services associated with children developmentto create a program tailored to the capability of individual kidsunder their care. Gathering development information is essential ascaretakers can enjoyable and challenging experiences that childrenneed in the entire sector of development and learning. In order toevaluate children’s requirements during development, the essayinformation is based on observational data from two eighteen months’children that are working on trays. Both babies are given dishes in aseparate room from the rest of the classroom. The aim of conductingthis observational case study is determining physical, psychologicaland emotional development of the children the video using establisheddevelopment theory.

AMontessori teacher recorded the video used in the case study. She isactively involved in teaching infants ranging between one and threeyears. In order to avoid being biased, the teacher recorded remaineddistant from the children’s activities, with the exception ofcertain instances when John, the boy wearing a green sweatshirt criesseeking for assistance. However, the teacher remains aloof until thechild receives support from his colleague. The observer has insiderskills in handling children, as well as making them feel comfortable(Stanley, 1996, p. 11). The primary benefit of this study is enablingthe investigator to collect firsthand raw data from situationsoccurring in a natural environment. Since the researcher uses eitherdirect cognition or immediate awareness as the primary researchmethod, authenticity and validity of data collected through thisprocess is higher compared to data sources acquired throughinferential or mediated process (Oliver, 2010, p. 17).The research isstructured as the investigator has already identified specific tasksthat children are supposed to do. They are expected to pick traysfrom a cupboard attached to the wall and then sit at their respectiveworkstations. One tray has two owls (Elliott et al., 1997, p. 19).The child is supposed to use a serving spoon to empty the contents ofone bowl into the other. The second task is inserting some plasticson a pole. Once a child completes his work, he is supposed to returnhis tray in the cupboards and take the other experiment toolsprovided (Elliott et al., 1997, p. 24).

Thefilm features two eighteen months’ old boys. For the sake of easyidentification, the boy sitting on the right-hand side and wearing agreen t-shirt will be identified as John. On the contrary, the boysitting on the left-hand side, and wearing a blue t-shirt is Peter.Both boys are eighteen years old and have been given theresponsibility of taking turns in emptying contents from one tray andfixing some plastic containers on a pole. Besides, the boyunderstands that they are supposed to pick the trays, sit at thetable, complete the assigned tasks and then return them to thecupboard. However, John occasionally cries when his tray cannot stayas he wishes. He begins searching for assistance from because insteadof engaging in critical thinking that can help him solve hisproblems. Fortunately, Peter assists him to place his tray well(Rethom 2009).

WhenPeter makes a mistake or faces a challenging situation in the middleof conducting his assignment, he exclaims, “Ohh! Ooh!” and thenlooks for a solution to the issue without crying or attempting tosearch third party assistance. For example, when some of the plasticshe is fixing on a pole cannot pass through because it had only onehole, he exclaims without getting upset. He then puts the plasticdown and continues searching for other plastics that can fit (Rethom2009).

Peteralso displays independent thinking and high knowledge because hebegins scooping the contents of the first plate to the second oneafter he realized that the first after realizing the spoon was notworking effectively. At some point, he even took the e contents inplate one and drained the entire contents in the second plate. Johnstruggles to transfer contents of plate ne to plate two because he isunable to scoop large contents from the first bowl into the emptyingcontainer. Peter is exploratory as he even attempts using one bowl toscoop the contents of the other bowl. When he realizes that his planis impossible, he decides to scoop the contents using his bare palmsas the hands could collect larger amounts of contents at a go than aspoon. Throughout the test, Peter appears composed and self-confidentin everything he is doing. He works at a slower pace than John does,but he ensures that he has done his work perfectly. He does not carewhether someone is watching or if his colleague has completed thesearch for time (Rethom 2009).

Observationdata collection method has substantial drawbacks such as inability togeneralize findings, lack of control over significant variables andinability to duplicate similar research because of lack of evidence(Mertens &amp Ginsberg, 2009, p. 16). To enhance data collectionaccuracy, this essay will utilize a various literature sourcesoffering detailed description of the research method. Each source isvalid because it is peer-reviewed and conducted within less than tenyears. Besides, the authors of the literature reviews have combinedqualitative and quantitative research techniques.

Centerfor Learning Innovation (2006) summarizes a variety of developmenttheories invented by renowned researchers. The main fields addressedin the research include psychological and emotional development,cognitive development, language development, physical and socialdevelopment. The outlined information from the books makes it easy tocompare and understand children’s psychological and physicaldevelopment at given ages.

SurreyCounty Council (2012) is an analysis of the requirements of a childdevelopment. The literature advocates that individual childrenrequire unique care tailored to suit their needs. The targetpopulation for the book include parents and other caretakers byproviding them with detailed information they can use when takingcare of children. The document contains observation records of childdevelopment from infancy to adolescents. Furthermore, the literaturecontains detailed planning and summary sheet for guiding caretakers

Halland Forman (2005) claims that the interpretation, observation anddocumentation of children’s strategies, theories and goals,instructors can have excellent understanding of the way childrenthink. The book’s information is valuable as it enables teachers toincorporate investigations and conversations that have feasibility toenhance students’ breadth and depth. To improve the researchfindings, the paper uses short video excerpts that feature bothadults and children. The objective of the authors is discussing andoutlining relevant observation aspects for introducing andunderstanding the videative concept as an efficient source foranalyzing and revisiting documented observations.

DevelopmentMatters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) (2012) focuses onstrategies that practitioners involved in handling children can useto provide them with the right foundation. The United NationsConvention stipulates that every child have a right to accesseducation that enhances their abilities, personalities and talents inspite of their family background, ethnicity, home language, religionand culture, gender, disabilities and learning difficulties. Theliterature analyzes an efficient approach that teachers can use todevelop an appropriate approach to designing a suitable educationcurriculum to suit the needs of every student.

ScottishGovernment (2009) offers an efficient approach to investigatecharacteristics of young children and babies with the intention ofenhancing their learning capability. The literature asserts thatobservation method enhances learning activities, experiences androutine training as teachers have better understanding of thestudents’ requirements. According to the research, teachers canonly offer quality education when they understand the needs ofstudents. In addition, the study claims that educators can understandacademic requirements of their students through observing childrenwithout their knowledge. The process can be attained through settinga video cameras or just direct observation from a concealed positionin order to let a child explore his or her reasoning unhindered. Theresearch outlines specific methods that educators can use wheninvestigating a given issues, as well as a general observation thatmay apply when studying general conditions.

Inorder to understand the characteristics of the babies in the casestudy better, this essay will use child development theory to explainthe development process. The theories are philosophies developed bynumerous psychologists. Each theory is significant as it provides aplatform for understanding concepts that caretakers can use toenhance children’s learning or development convenience. Theprinciples are also applicable to hospitals and counseling sessionsas they assist professionals to understand psychological developmentof individual children (Center for Learning Innovation, 2006, pp.61). The following is an outline of the classes and premise ofvarious child development theories.

Inorder to understand the behaviors of the children comprehensively,the researcher applied research theories that offers information forunderstanding given children’s behaviors. One of the valuabletheories that can assist to understand the case study above includeAlbert Bandura’s social learning or observational theory. Heconducted a series of experiments from 1961 to 1963 using a Bobo dollthat he used in evaluating children’s behavior. He observedchildren’s reaction after punishing, rewarding or after thechildren faced no consequence after beating the doll. He concludedthat children learn through both watching others being punished andrewarded (behaviorism), as well as when they are punished or rewarded(observational learning) (Center for Learning Innovation, 2006, pp.61). In the case study video, the boy wearing a green shirtoccasionally gets upset, when he cannot set his workstationeffectively, and then begins crying. However, he is suddenlyencouraged to focus on his work after realizing that the other boy iscomposed and focused on his duties. In my view, if the boy in greenshirt were doing that task on the table on his own, he would not havedone the task. In addition, the teacher’s applause after the boyscompletes the first tasks motivates them to complete the secondassignment. Furthermore, the boy in the green shirt continues withthe assignment after the teacher encourages him to be patient.Similarly, they stop working on their projects only after the teachercongratulates them for completing their assignments. The complementsfunction like a form of reward to the children (Development Mattersin the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), 2012, p. 48).

ErikErikson’s emotional and psychological development theory is basedon Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic study. It asserts that life isbased on a series of biological and psychological development thatoccurs in a defined series. However, each development phase has bothnegative and positive outcomes depending on a child’s caregivingexperiences and environment that children undergo (Center forLearning Innovation, 2006, p. 4). Erikson observed that theacquisition of given functions at certain phases is not compulsory toproceed to the subsequent stage, but the skipped characteristic couldreappear in the future as a form of compensation. Erikson classifiedpsychosocial development into eight different stages. The developmentphases extend from birth to an individual’s death at old age. Thechildren in the case study video are in the first psychosocialdevelopment phase as it begins at birth and ends at about two years.This phase is significant because infants are mainly contestingbetween trust and mistrust. If the primary caregiver, the mother,exposes the child to desirable comfort, affection, warmth andregularity, a baby develops confidence towards the world. Observablecharacteristics of children that have successfully passed throughthis stage include happiness and desire to explore new things.Besides, children are playful, even with strangers (Erikson, 1994, p.11). In the Montessori tray work case study video, both childrenunder observation portrays positive psychological development. Forexample, the blue in a blue t-shirt confidently completes hisassignment without seeking assistance from neither the teacher norhis fellow pupil. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial developmentasserts that infants that have acquired trust as a result of beingexposed in the desired environment at early stages are inquisitiveand confident. Both children in this study portrays assertive andinquisitive characteristics. For example, the boy in blue t-shirtstops using his spoon to empty the contents of the first bowl intothe second container as instructed, and resolves to use his bare palmto empty the content into the other bowl. Erikson’s psychosocialdevelopment theory also noted that encouraging children instead ofridiculing them at early ages make them bold and intelligent, justlike the boys in the case study video (Welchman, 2000, p. 31).

JohnBowlby’s attachment theory associates emotional and psychologicaldevelopment of children and parents’ relationship to their abilityto develop social behaviors. He claimed that children have naturalbehaviors that encourage both parents and significant others tomaintain close ties with them. Some of the proximity-seekingcharacteristics included crying, laughing and gurgling. The theoryclaims that the parent-child attachment develops gradually, and theregular caregiving responsibilities children and parents experiencedetermine that rate of growth of the relationship (Center forLearning Innovation, 2006, p. 4).Attachment theory concludes thatchildren that have developed close ties with their caregivers tend toseek assistance for doing almost everything. For example, the boy ina green shirt wails loudly to attract the teacher’s attentionwhenever he needs assistance for simple tasks such as placing histray correctly. In addition, both boys blend excellently at theirworkstation. Both boys in the video are composed and focused on theirrespective tasks. For example, the boy in green t-shirt appears thathe is attached to the teacher because he begins wailing immediatelyhe experiences little challenges. He looks towards the teacherexpecting assistance. On the contrary, boy Peter seems indifferent.He appears disconnected to the teacher and any other person. Hemainly depends on his personal knowledge to solve his challenges(Haggerty et al., 1997, p.110).

Additionalproof, that the boy wearing a blue t-shirt, has high self-esteem ishis determination to try out new techniques of conducting theassigned tasks of emptying the content of one bowl to the other. Infact, he tries three new approaches that include emptying thecontents using his bare hand, using the other bowl to scoop theentire contents in the second bowl and draining the stuff in thesecond bowl into the first one. Erikson claimed that infants that areexposed to desirable growth environment during the first two years,they are exploratory and shows high critical thinking capability(Fedrizzi et al., 1994, p. 89). In my opinion, caregiver in charge ofbaby Peter is supposed to be vigilant because he is likely to touchor do something that may put his life in danger. For instance, he maytouch poisonous things or engage in actions that may cause severeinjury while attempting to remain creative (Haith, 1994, p. 67). Ialso observed that children that are not emotionally attached totheir caregivers often engage in critical thinking more occasionallythan their colleagues who desperately wait upon their caregivers tosolve their problems. For instance, boy Peter remains composed,confident and capable of solving even simple tricky situation such asarranging trays that his colleague appeared incapable ofaccomplishing (Light &amp Littleton, 1999, p.44).

MaryAinsworth’s attachment theory focuses on emotional andpsychological development on positive association between childrenand mothers. The characteristics of children determine if they areemotionally attached or detached. For example, children with stableemotional development can freely associate with strangers and explorefurther world than their parents explore. Conversely, emotionallyunstable children are reluctant to explore the outside world or eveninteract with strangers in a social environment (Center for LearningInnovation, 2006, p. 4). She concluded that observable behaviors andreaction of a child in the presence of a stranger is adequate todetermine a child’s relationship with his or her parent (Isaacson,2006, p. 6). For example, both boys in the case study appear theyhave secure attachment since they explore the given responsibility inthe absence of their caregivers. None of them appears upset becausethey are in a location where only two of them are doing a given task(Isaacson, 2006, p. 7).

Accordingto Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, children developthrough four stages. The first phase is “sensorimotor” wherebabies explore the world using their five senses and movement. Duringthis development phase, children are so egocentric such that theycannot perceive the world from another individual’s perspective.Infants aged between zero and eighteen months are classified in thisclass, which in turn contains six sub stages (Piaget &amp Warden,2009, p. 49). Piaget’s assertion is evident in the case study videobecause each child focuses on his work. Each is assigned a differenttask – one is emptying contents of a bowl into another while thesecond child is inserting plastics in a small pole however, everyoneaccomplishes the assigned duty independently (Piaget &amp Inhelder,1969, p. 21). For example, John used a spoon as the instructor haddirected them to empty the contents in the bowl to the second onewhile Peter picks up the bowl and empties the entire content into theother at once. In my perception, Peter and John are at differentcognitive development stages despite that both of them are eighteenmonths. At Piaget’s “Sensorimotor” fifth developmental phase,he claimed that babies portray curiosity, circular reactions andnovelty (Calloway, 2001, p. 66). For instance, Peter resolves toscoop the content of the bowl with the other instead of emptying thecontents using the provided spoon. In addition, he beginstransferring the substance of the bowl to the other using his barepalm after he discovered that it was impossible to use another bowlto transfer the contents of one container into the other. On theother hand, John cognitive development appears to be still inSensorimotor stage four (Bringuier &amp Piaget, 1980, p. 114). Atthis phase, children can are able to coordinate secondary routineactions effectively. Besides, individuals have the capacity forcombining and recombining schemata effectively in order to accomplisha given objective. This implies that they understand how to use givenobjects, but originality of ideas is still small (Piaget, 2007, p.16). John understands that he is supposed to empty the contents ofthe bowl into the other, but his mind is restricted to using theprovided spoon despite that it is challenging him. This contradictswith Peter who realizes that using a spoon is quite challenging, andhe resolves to use his hand and even emptying the whole content intothe other bowl (Piaget, 2001, p. 8).

Onthe other hand, Lev Vygotsky sociocultural theory claims that thecognitive development and knowledge of children mainly depends ontheir association with the adults. He stressed that children’scognitive knowledge developed quickly when they associate with peersthat are more knowledgeable and adults. This theory is mainly commonin education environment where bright students are placed in the samework groups with the academically challenged students so that theycan acquire the desired learning support (Lloyd &amp Fernyhough,1999, p. 47). I support Vygotsky’s observation theory because hereceived Peter occasionally assists John in placing his traycorrectly (Rethom, 2009, p. 1). Vygotsky’s theory concludes thatthe cognitive development of children is enhanced when they interactwith adults and peers that are more knowledgeable than they are.However, I refute the premise of the philosophy because I believethat children are explorative in nature. Their curiosity encouragesthem to explore new various things in their environment usingdifferent approaches. Provided a child is in a positive environment,where they are free to explore their novelty, their knowledge cangrow substantially (Lloyd &amp Fernyhough, 1999, p. 29).

Inconclusion, observing children is significant assist providescaregivers and educators in developing curriculum tailored to suitdevelopment of given children. Besides, caregivers can understandchallenges that they should provide to children in order to enhancetheir knowledge development. Many researchers recommend that childrenobservation should be conducted from a concealed position such thatthey would not realize that someone is following up with theirbehaviors. Observation research method requires an investigator tobegin by analyzing behaviors patterns of their children, and thendelve deeper into understanding possible reasons children could bebehaving as they are. Each conclusive statement from the observationshould be objective so that the content is entirely facts.Furthermore, investigators have a responsibility of keeping thediagnosis of observed children confidential. It would be unethical toexpose the information to the public or other unwarranted persons.The reflective review section contains critical opinions ofindividuals regarding the development theories. The objective ofreflective theory is provide the author with an opportunity of addingpersonal comment, refuting or even supporting the informationanalyzed.


Centerfor Learning Innovation, (2006). Abasic introduction to child development theories.Department of Education and Training, State of New South Wales. Web,retrieved on December 20, 2014 from

SurreyCounty Council, (2012). Guidance for planning, observing anddocumenting. Web, retrieved on December 20, 2014 from,-observing-and-documenting-individual-v2.pdf

Hall,E. &amp Forman, G. (2005). Wondering with Children: The Importanceof Observation in Early Education. EarlyChildhood Research and Practice.7(2). Retrieved from

DevelopmentMatters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) (2012). TheBritish Childhood for Early Childhood Education. Web, retrieved onDecember 20, 2014 from

ScottishGovernment, (2009). Observation, Assessment and Planning. PositiveOutcomes for Scotland’s Children and Families. Web,retrieved on December 20, 2014 from

Newman,B. M., &amp Newman, P. R. (2007). Theoriesof human development.Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Rethom(2009, April 13). Montessori Observation number 2 tray work. Web Log.Retrieved on 23 December, 2014 from

Holmes,J. (2006). JohnBowlby and Attachment Theory.Routledge.

Angrosino,M. V. (2007). Naturalisticobservation.Walnut Creek, Calif: Left Coast Press.

Oliver,P. (2010). Thestudent`s guide to research ethics.Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.

Isaacson,K.L. (2006). MaryAinsworth and John Bowlby: The Development of Attachment Theory.Davis, University of California Press.

Lloyd,P. &amp Fernyhough, C. (1999). LevVygotsky: Critical Assessments, Volume 1.Taylor &amp Francis.

Piaget,J., &amp Inhelder, B. (1969). Thepsychology of the child.New York: Basic Books.

Calloway,W. R. (2001). JeanPiaget: A most outrageous deception.Huntington, N.Y: Nova Science Publishers.

Bringuier,J. C., &amp Piaget, J. (1980). Conversationswith Jean Piaget.Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Piaget,J. (2007). Thechild`s conception of the world.Lanham, Md: Rowman &amp Littlefield.

Piaget,J., &amp Warden, M. (2009). Thelanguage and thought of the child.United States?: Goldberg Press.

Piaget,J. (2001). Thepsychology of intelligence.London [u.a.]: Routledge.

Stanley,B. (1996). Researchethics: A psychological approach.Lincoln [u.a.: Univ. of Nebraska Press.

Oliver,P. (2010). Thestudent`s guide to research ethics.Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.

Miller,T. (2012). Ethicsin qualitative research.London: SAGE.

Elliott,D., Stern, J. E., &amp Institute for the Study of Applied andProfessional Ethics. (1997). Researchethics: A reader.Hanover, NH: Published by University Press of New England for theInstitute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics atDartmouth College.

Gregory,I. (2003). Ethicsin research.London: Continuum.

Mertens,D. M., &amp Ginsberg, P. E. (2009). Thehandbook of social research ethics.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Cohen,S. (1971). Childdevelopment: A study of growth processes.Itasca, Ill: F.E. Peacock Publishers.

Light,P., &amp Littleton, K. (1999). Socialprocesses in children`s learning.Cambridge, UK [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.

FondazionePierfranco e Luisa Mariani., Fedrizzi, E., Avanzini, G., Crenna, P.,&amp Fondazione Pierfranco e Luisa Mariani. (1994). Motordevelopment in children: Postgraduate course of the Pierfranco eLuisa Mariani Foundation, Milan State University, 10-12 March 1993.London: John Libbey.

Haith,M. M. (1994). Thedevelopment of future-oriented processes.Chicago, IL [etc.: University of Chicago press.

Haggerty,R. J., Garmezy, N., Sherrod, L. R., &amp Rutter, M. (1997). Stress,risk, and resilience in children and adolescents: Processes,mechanisms, and interventions.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Erikson,E. H. (1994). Identity:Youth and crisis.New York: W.W. Norton &amp Co.

Welchman,K. (2000). ErikErikson: His life, work, and significance.Buckingham [u.a.: Open Univ. Press.