Child Observation Study
By the age of six, children are moving out of what Erikson called the initiative vs Guilt-purpose period and are moving into the industry vs inferiority-competence stage of their lives. This is a main developmental stage in the life of a child where many milestones are hoped to be achieved by. To demonstrate the developmental stage of a six year old child I have conducted this child observation study. The setting of this child observation takes place in what appears to be a computer room in a primary school. There are three students present in the room, two girls, Mackenzie and Isabella aged six and one boy, Noah who is also six years old. There is one female adult present in the observation, the children’s teacher. There are a small number of adults present in the background, this is because it is a communal computer room and these other adults are not part of the observation study. The activity that’s taking place is a teaching lesson in which the teacher is demonstrating patterns to the children and asking the children, at first to work together to complete the pattern and then to individually finish the patterns themselves. The child who is the focus of this observation study is Noah, the six year old boy.
Teacher explaining lesson to students. All three students are listening
T > S “Okay, I want everyone to look at the camera and wave”
M + I +N wave at the Camera
T > S “and say Hi!”
M + I “Hi”
N playing with name tag around neck and not paying attention
T > S “Does anyone remember what the class rules are?”
N takes Name tag off and places it on the table”
T > N “Do you want me to hold that for you?”
N > T “um huh”
N fidgeting with hands – lack of concentration again
T > S “Does anyone remember what we done on Monday with the frogs?”
N messing with hands and arms as teacher is explaining exercise
T > S “I’m going to put some shapes in front of you and I want you to think what comes next?”
N stretches over table and taps teachers arm
N > T “I thought….” Speech is slightly slurred hard to understand
T > N “I’m talking to Isabella, one minute please”
T demonstrates more pattern, N rocking head in arms on table, looking around the room
T > N “Noah, look, I’m gonna think about it and I’m gonna say, red trapezoid, green triangle, red trapezoid, and I’m gonna think, what comes next?”
N leans over table and touches orange square while I is pointing to it
T > S “wait wait wait, it’s teachers turn, it will be our turn in a minute”
N takes orange square
T > N “ Noah can you please put that back”
N puts square at the start of the pattern, before putting it back
T > N “Thank you”
N uneasy and looking around room
T > N “Noah I need all of our help”
N places finger on red shape
T > N “stop”
T has to take red shape off N
“ Can everyone point to the shape that comes first in the pattern”
N not concentrating, looking around, fidgeting
Noah takes shape
T > N “Can you please put the shape back”
N first to point to next shape, takes shape again
T > N “Noah”
N completes his turn with ease, takes shape and laughs
N > T “Look, I’m faster, Look”
N looking around room, not sitting easy on chair, not paying attention, twisting and turning on seat, places head on table
T > N “Noah, are you ready to do a pattern?”
N > T “Yep”
N Takes shape and taps it off the table
T > N “Okay can you lay it flat for me?”
T > N “Please lay it flat”
N Places shapes together and completes pattern
N > T “Look, haha, see, look, watch, watch how fast I am”
N Slides shape across table
N fidgeting and making noises during I turn and places head on table during M turn
T > N “Noah are you ready for another pattern”
N > T “Yeah”
T > N “Do you want to pick a colour”
Noah stand and leans across table and takes red shape
N > T “Yeah I want to pick a, red”
N making noises and messing with hands
N completes pattern with 5 pieces and turns pattern into a house
N > T “Look it’s a house and this one is a tree”
Teacher asks N to put shapes away
T > N “Can you hand me the shapes so Mackenzie can have a turn”
N > T “Look see, watch”
N pushes shapes across the table
N places head on table again when it’s not his turn, yawning
N Follows teacher’s instruction
T > N “Hands on your lap”
N takes yellow shape
N > T “I’ve an idea, the yellow” speech slightly slurred here
N completes pattern and plays with shapes
Shoots shapes across the table
T > N “Noah, we’re doing a lesson, we can do this afterwards, I need you to listen to teacher directions”
N > T “Watch, watch .. fastest” Speech slurred
N messing with arms and hands during I turn
Places head on table, showing impatience
N > T “Look see, look I’m fast, it’s for, a bird…” Speech not very clear
N still has head on table
T > S “This is the last one, okay”
T > N “Noah, this is your last pattern so I want you to think extra hard”
N places shape at end of pattern, corrects himself with the assistance of the teacher and puts it at the beginning
Shoots shapes into pattern
N > T “Watch, I’m gonna hit them” Speech slightly unclear T > N “Please don’t shoot them”
T tells students to say bye to the camera
M + N “Bye Camera”
From observing Noah in his school environment, it is easier to see the developmental stage that he is at, the milestones that he has reached are quite evident and his developmental stage is quite clear and progressing well, however there are a few milestones which Noah should have reached by the age of six which it seems he has failed to reach, here I will discuss Noah’s Physical, Emotional and Cognitive development and I will link it in with developmental psychology to illustrate where Noah is at in his Development and where he should be.
Noah’s physical development seems to be normal for his age, in comparison to Isabella and Mackenzie he seems to be the same height and slightly broader which is normal for a boy of his age. By the age of six years old, children usually reach an average height of about three foot ten inches and they normally weigh about forty-six pounds. These are just average figures but from observing Noah he seems to fit into this profile, although it is hard to judge his weight from the observation, he appears a healthy weight for his height and age.
At the age of six years old, children have a lot of energy and they enjoy engaging in activities which involve a lot of movement. In order to achieve these movements, children require the use of Gross motor skills (Clarke & McDowel, 2006). It is evident that Noah has a lot of energy and that his gross motor skills are developing at an appropriate rate. Noah can’t sit easy, is constantly moving his arms and hands, he makes shapes with his hands and at one stage imitates a bird using hand movements. It can be seen that Noah has good muscle control and good co-ordination.
Noah’s fine motor skills can also be seen. Fine motor skills require dexterity, which is the good use of hands and fingers. By six years of age children have reached the stage of being able to use many fine motor skills, such as tying their shoe laces, good hand control and good use of both of their hands (Clarke & McDowel, 2006). Noah’s fine motor skills can be seen little by little throughout the observation, Noah uses both of his hands consistently to complete the puzzles and he has the ability to turn the shapes into objects, Noah does this when he makes the shape of a house out of the shapes on the table.
Noah’s communication does not seem to be at the level that it should be at for a six year old child. By the age of six most children can maintain attention, concentrate and can sit quietly during activities. Noah however, lacked concentration and only paid attention when he was being giving attention for his turn; he was unable to hold his concentration during the other students turns.
At times Noah’s speech was quite hard to understand, it was sometimes slightly slurred. A child of Noah’s age should have an extended vocabulary and should be able to explore the meaning and sounds of new words, their speech should be precise and clear by this age. Children tend to express themselves by using new words, making up stories and developing their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas together (Clarke & McDowel, 2006). Noah did not seem to have an extended vocabulary and his speech seemed very limited at times, he only spoke when he was seeking attention or when he wanted acknowledgement or praise for completing a task.
Emotional and Social Development:
At six years of age children should be able to identify and convey feelings and interact with adults and other children. As children develop they learn how to show affection, manage aggravation and irritation and understand jealousy and sadness (Clarke & McDowel, 2006). While Noah has reached most of this developmental stage there are a few points within this stage which Noah has not completely met yet.
The milestones which Noah has achieved at this developmental stage in his emotional and social development are co-operation, solving problems, seeking attention and becoming competitive.
Although he co-operated, most of the time, Noah was quite fidgety while awaiting his turn. Noah was quite competitive, which is normal for a child of his age, and he likes the attention to be focused on him. Noah asked the teacher to “look” at him a number of times and at one stage said “see, look, watch how fast I am” as he was seeking attention and praise from the teacher. His sense of security seems to be reliant on praise from adults that he trusts; in this case that was his teacher.
However, Noah was also quite irritated when it was not his turn to complete the puzzle, he had to be asked a number of times to wait his turn, by this age Noah should have a sense of controlling irritation and following instructions set out by his teacher.
Children play an enormous role in their own cognitive development. They do this by trying to understand what’s going on around them by organising, explaining, constructing, manipulating and predicting. We can see that Noah plays an active role in his cognitive development, he understands what is being asked of him, he knows what he is meant to do and constructs shapes and patterns with the pieces supplied by his teacher. At the age of six, children also see patterns in objects and actions of the world and they can often attempt to organize these patterns to try and explain the world.
Noah demonstrates this when he sees a house in the shapes that are on the table, he then constructs a tree to go along with the house because in Noah’s perception of the world this is what is normal, houses, gardens, maybe trees in the garden or outside on the road.
However, Noah also demonstrates some limitations in his cognitive development. Noah has trouble controlling his own attention, when the attention is on him Noah behaves and does what he is asked to do, he displays an intense interest in learning and takes pride in completing the patterns, but when it is Mackenzie or Isabella’s turn, Noah lacks attention, he is twisting and turning in his chair, fidgeting with his hands and looking around the room. Noah becomes slightly frustrated that he has to take turns, the attention isn’t on him and the learning does not come about as quickly as he would like because he has to wait.
During the Initiative vs Guilt-purpose stage children desire to copy the actions of the people around them and they take initiative in creating a play situation. Noah has reached this developmental stage as he shows that he can take instructions and copy what the teacher does, the teacher demonstrates how to do the patterns and Noah is quick to copy what she does, he is able to complete the pattern and he is able to turn the task into a play situation, he illustrates this by building a house out of the shapes that he is working with.
Noah has accomplished this milestone and is moving into the Industry vs Inferiority-competence stage, which is often referred to as the latency stage. This stage allows children to learn, create and accomplish a number of new skills and Knowledge and helps them to develop a sense of industry. Noah shows that he is competent in this stage by completing the patterns that the teacher gives him with ease and he takes pride in completing these tasks.
However, this is also an incredibly social stage of development, where experiences of unresolved feelings of inferiority and inadequacy among other children can have problems in relation to competence and self-esteem. Noah seems to be constantly looking for attention, he can’t sit easy if it’s not his turn and if he is not been giving attention. He is constantly looking for acknowledgement and praise for completing his tasks, it’s as if he is trying to prove that he is capable and better than the other students at completing the task., he says “See, look, watch, watch how fast I am”.
Freud says that during the Latency stage sexual urges remain subdued and that children tend to play and interact with the same sex peers. In this observation Noah is with the opposite sex, however, there is no indication as to whether Noah chooses to be in this group or whether the teacher specifically put him in this group for observational purposes. If Noah was placed in this group it could account for why he felt the need to prove his capability over the girls, it is hard to tell whether Noah would have acted the same if he was in a group with boys.
Piaget’s preoperational stage is just coming to an end by the time a child is six years old. Piaget states that a child should have reached the milestone of being able to use basic logic but may still not be able to understand how other people perceive the environment (Crawford and Walker, 2003).
Attachment is the close, continuous relationship with at least one other person that children need in order to develop a confident, stable, integrated personality (Fawcett, 2009). Mary Ainsworth came up with the three different types of attachment that a child could experience; Securely attached being the usual, standard attachment where children explore by themselves and can sometimes show some signs of concern when they are separated from their parents but usually settle and continue to play. , Insecure Avoidant, where children seem indifferent on whether or not the parent is there and insecure ambivalent, where children experience great upset when the parent leaves and opposing reactions when the parent returns (Ainsworth et al, 1978).
Children tend to view the person that they are attached to as a secure foundation, a source of reassurance and someone who encourages them and offers them guidance (Crawford and Walker, 2003). Noah shows this attachment with his teacher. He looks to his teacher for guidance when completing the patterns, and he seeks praise and encouragement from her upon completing the task, he asks her to “look” and “see” what he has done.
It is difficult to determine Noah’s attachment with his teacher in such a short amount of time, he does not ignore the presence of his teacher, nor does he cling to his teacher, although Noah does seem to constantly be looking for the teachers attention, this could indicate a lack of attention at home, or having to seek attention at home.
From observing Noah it is clear that his development is on the right track. Noah’s physical development is normal for his age and he has accomplished many of the physical milestones that a six year old should have accomplished. His intellectual development is at a slower development rate than the average child of Noah’s age. Speech and language therapy could be used in order to help Noah develop his speech and language to an appropriate level. Noah does not seem to engage in conversation much and with the help of a speech and language therapist this could encourage Noah to engage more in conversation with his peers and his teacher.
Noah seems to enjoy play and he enjoys praise for completing tasks, Play Therapy could be a useful resource to help Noah understand how to control his irritations and to help him concentrate. Noah’s development is on the right track but with a little help from the likes of a speech and language therapist or a play therapy specialist, Noah’s development could be improved to an appropriate level for a six year old child.
When beginning this observation, I had my own idea of what a six year old child should be doing and how far along a six year olds development should be. I thought back to what I was like when I was six years old, I could remember being in school and doing well in school, but other than that my memory of being six was not great. However, I myself have two younger brothers, one who has just turned seven years old and one who is turning six this year. From my own experience of my younger brother’s developmental stages, I had a preconception that all six year olds behaved in a similar way and that most six year olds had met the same developmental markers.
Some of my own professional experience also influenced me in the completion of this assignment. I had previously done a placement in The National Children’s Hospital and I worked alongside Play Specialists. The children I worked with were from infants to teenagers, but the majority of the children who were involved in the play therapy sessions were aged between four years old and nine years old. From working with those children the same age as Noah I could really see what Noah was excelling in and where Noah was lacking in some developmental stages. I had previously worked with a family whose child was at a slower developing rate than his peers and the work that I participated in with that family influenced my ideas of what could help Noah. This child was also six years of age but had not reached all of the milestones expected by the age of six; similarly, Noah had not reached some of the milestones that you would expect him to have reached.
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Fawcett, M., 2009. Learning Through Child Observation. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Ingleby, E., 2006. Applied Psychology for Social Work. Glasgow: Learning Matters.