Child Observation Project
In order to conduct my assigned child observation project, I chose a small child at the age of 9 years old. It is my neighbor’s youngest child, and she moved into the area about five years ago, from Spain. I picked her playtime to observe her behavior and reactions when she played with her mother at the premises of her own playroom. The mother is well educated, very fond of numeric problems and she has always favored educational games, which is why at the time of my observation they were performing “games” that had to do with measuring and mathematical processes. Although it was completely different from what I am used to have as an image of a child playing, watching the two of them was certainly interesting. At this point, it should be noted that the girl is dyslectic and has difficulties in performing mathematical procedures that would be easy for other children her age.
The child and the mother sat on the floor and had about two dozens of colorful candies on a round plate. The mother then counted the M&M’s aloud, up to number six and lined them up for the little girl to see. That row was the girl’s. Then, the mother did the exact same thing, meaning counting 6 candies aloud and lined up in front of the girl and lined them up in front of her, but this time the line was considerably longer than the previous one. When she asked her daughter to tell her which line had more candies, the little girl rushed to answer; yet she paused. She kept starring at the two rows of candies and I could hear her think aloud. Her thoughts were logical, she used her fingers to replicate the game in her mind and followed a pattern that eventually led her to stop and give a playful smile to her mother. What she did was unexpected. She actually took the candies on her side and lined up in a way to form a longer line than the candies on her mother’s side! The mother was fully supportive all the way and encouraged the child to analyze and reach out for solutions, based on what they had previously worked on.
After both mother and child ate some of the candies, the mother turned into a different game. She took two glasses of the same size and poured water to fill half of them. She asked the girl if the glasses had the same amount of water. Upon the girl’s positive response, the mother took a glass of completely different size and shape and poured the water from one of the first glasses in it. When she asked her daughter if the two full glasses still had the same amount of water, the girl frowned. The mother had to repeat the question and redevelop the experiment. The girl was used to her mother playing hard tricks on her, so it was obvious that she knew that she had to think well. She made gestures during her mental procedures and seems stressed. Suddenly, she paused and said that the two glasses had indeed the same amount of water! Again, the mother was supportive and gave the young girl a big hug for her “remarkable notice”, as she said.
Theories applied to the observed behaviors
Based on Piaget’s developmental theory, a child between the ages of seven and eleven has reached a specific cognitive stage that allows him/her to conserve number (Piaget, 1968). Also, in Piaget’s cognitive stages of development a children enters the stage called Concrete Operational Stage, where they can conserve liquid, number, volume and orientation and also gain the ability of reversibility (Piaget, 1968 p.976). When talking about conservation we mean the ability to understand that something stays the same in quantity, even if it changes its appearance (Piaget, 1968 p.978).Piaget also claimed that a child reaches the concrete operational stage at around the ages seven to eleven and that children usually first manage to conserve liquid and conserving number comes right after (Piaget, 1968 p.979).The particular 9-year-old has indeed entered the concrete operational stage, as she managed to provide her mother with the right answers to both her questions, yet, it is interesting to note that although Piaget put liquid conservation prior to number conservation ability, this girl performed the exact opposite. She was obviously more comfortable solving the first test that dealt with numbers and was obviously more puzzled when she had to solve the second test that included liquid and that is why she asked her mother to repeat the question of the second game.
Based on Erikson’s stages of human psychological development, a child’s mother, or any other maternal figure, plays a significant role in the child’s psychological development, since she is the first most important person in the infant’s world that will not only provide and cover the child’s need for food, but also for nurture. Being a rejected mother means that the infant will end up developing feelings of mistrust (Slavin, 2012, p. 56), given the fact that his/her world is based on unsolid grounds that fail to give a sense of pleasure and affection, therefore does not nurture trust. In our case, we have a demonstration of the exact opposite, as I witnesses a caring mother that had done a great hob with her child, devoting significant time to both play with her and help her develop psychologically and emotionally, by being tender, supportive and nurturing on her daughter.
As one can understand, childhood is very important for setting the basis of a balanced individual and adult later on. Parents play the most fundamental role in a child’s psychological development, since they are held responsible for raising a child in a trustworthy, loving family environment, which is the first social community in one’s life, and also give the child enough autonomy to explore the world and do things on their own, which will help them build a strong personality as they grow older and enter adolescence. Erikson strongly supports the concept that each child should be able to find out “what kind of person he may become” (Erikson, 1968, p.115), which gives us a clear picture of the family’s core role in a child’s upbringing and psychological development. In the case of this 9-year-old dyslectic girl, the family had indeed helped her a great deal as they have managed to give the girl enough autonomy, as observed via her games with the mother, where the girl was encouraged to find the solution on their own, with no stress or pressure to find the right answer at all costs. In fact, the mother gave her another chance in the second game and reproduced the experiment with the glasses to make it easier for the child to perceive it. Had I not known that the child was dyslectic, there was no way I could tell, which clearly shows the great work done by the family on that little, happy and smart young lady.
Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. NewYork: Norton p.115
Piaget, J. (1968). Quantification, conservation, and nativism. Science, 162, 976-979.
Slavin, R. (2012), Education Psychology: Theory and Practice, 10th Edition. Boston, Mass. Pearson