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Child Observation to Understand PILES Development

This observational study was conducted to observe a child with regard to their physical, intellectual or cognitive, language, emotional and social development referred to collectively as PILES.
The aim of the study was to adequately observe and identify that a child is developing in the aforementioned areas and meeting the normative developmental milestones for their age group.
The rationale for this study is to benefit the child in question and highlight anything that can be addressed or augmented to enhance and facilitate the development of their physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social needs.
Additionally, the study has been conducted in accordance with Aistear guidelines on good practice (NCCA, 2009) and is required in accordance with the Children’s Centre’s policy and also with Siolta Quality frameworks (CECDE, 2006).
To conduct this observational study, it was necessary to liaise with both my superiors, colleagues and the parents of the child in question to ensure consent and confidentiality of collated data. Initially I spoke with the Children’s Centre manager and provided her with details of the project. We then discussed the availability of doing so in the Garden Room and informed both the Room Leader and my colleague who run the room. The wellbeing of the target child was also taken into consideration when discussing the onset of the study.
The target child was chosen as my supervisors felt it would be beneficial to me for me to get to know the child better as I am new to the room in question and also to enhance personal learning by providing an overall sense of where he is in relation to each of aspect of the developmental milestones. Once the target child had been selected, I drafted a parental consent form (Appendix A) and informally discussed the observation outline with the parent in question and she signed the consent form.
Upon receiving the necessary permissions and consent, my Room Leader and I conferred on what days and times would be appropriate to conduct the observations. It was thought to be beneficial to do an observation every second or third day to provide adequate time to reflect and evaluate the observation just completed. It was also necessary to evaluate the various observation methods and select the appropriate method for each aspect of child development to maximise the efficacy of the observation itself. See Table 1 for an outline of the observation schedule.
Table 1: Observation Schedule

Obs# Type Area Date Time Duration Complete?
1 Checklist Physical 24.09.2018 10:00 15 mins Y
2 Narrative Intellectual 26.09.2018 10:50 15 mins Y
3 Pre-Coded Language 29.09.2018 12:00 – 12:05 5 mins Y
4 Event Sample Emotional 02.09.2018 10:15-12:40 15 mins intervals Y
5 Time Sample Social 05.09.2018 10:15-12:40 10 mins intervals Y

Child Profile
The target child (TC) is a two-year old boy who attends the Garden Room in the setting from 9:00 to 12:45, four days a week. He is an only child and is pleasant and well-tempered. He enjoys playing on scooters and tricycles outside and playing with colours in the sensory room. He likes raisins and brioche rolls and dislikes cereal.
#1: Physical Observation

  • Physical Observation

Date of Observation: 24 September 2018
Start Time: 10:00  Finish Time: 10:15
Persons Present: 2 supervisors, 1 student, 6 children.
Permission Sought From: Children’s Centre Manager, Room Leader and supervisor, TC’s parent/guardian.
Description of Child: The target child (TC) is a two-year old boy who attends the Garden Room in the setting from 9:00 to 12:45, four days a week. He is an only child and is pleasant and well-tempered. He enjoys playing on scooters and tricycles outside and playing with colours in the sensory room. He likes raisins and brioche rolls and dislikes cereal.
Immediate Context: It was decided to complete the observation at 10:15 as the children were engaging in free play in the classroom and TC had access to toys and space to move freely thus ensuring ample variance in TC’s interactions with his environment and actions to access his physical development.
Observation Method: Checklist Observation
Aim of Observation: The aim of this observation is to assess TC’s physical development, specifically fine and gross motor skills with regard to developmental milestones normal for two-year olds. A checklist was used to complete the physical observation as it seemed the most convenient for recording TC’s physical activity while the other children were being supervised as well.
Physical Observation

  Present Not Present Unavailable
Gross Motor      
Walks or runs in full feet.    
Catches a rolled ball and rolls it forward.    
Jumps with two feet.    
Claps with music.    
Walks upstairs (both feet on each step).    
Walks downstairs (both feet on each step).    
Assists in dressing.    
Fine Motor      
Pulls toys with strings    
Builds tower of 6 blocks.    
Appearance of dominant hand.    
Fills and dumps containers with sand.    
Paints with a large brush.    
Colours with a large crayon.    
Rolls, pounds and squeeze playdoh.    
Draws a horizontal line.    
Uses a spoon well.    

The aim of this observation was to observe TC briefly over the course of fifteen minutes to assess the development of his fine and gross motor skills appropriate for his age group of two years old. The observation took place during free play as this is when the children are most active and enabled observation during physical activity.
Arnold Gessell (as cited in Flood, 2013) observed that children develop physically in a natural sequential order and developed the concept of normative milestones. With this is in mind, it is apparent from the observation that TC is advancing from the infant stage to the toddler stage. This is exhibited in his capabilities in some tasks that are concurrent with his age group and his perfectly natural inability with others that one can expect as he goes through the next 12 months. For example, at present TC does not exhibit a dominant hand while painting but rather switches from hand to hand. Esther Thelen (as cited in Flood, 2013) suggested that children develop motor skills through manipulating the environment around them and it can be expected that through continued exposure to writing tools and other small objects will enhance TC’s motor development and also allow him to become familiar with his dominant hand.
TC is physically well developed and is very strong for his age. He has taller than his classmates, is well-balanced and steady on his feet and appears deliberate in his movements. He exhibits advanced gross motor skills as evidenced by his ability to hold himself upright and propel himself on a two-wheel scooter. He is not particularly precise in terms of grapho-motor skills as when painting he has trouble staying on the page itself, but this is to be expected with his age group and will develop in time. However, he is adept in manipulating small objects and I observed him rolling a cylinder block with one finger and his hand-eye coordination appears well within the normative milestones (Flood, 2013)
While it must be acknowledged that as TC is two years old and will not sit for prolonged activities for long, it can be said that more activity geared towards developing fine motor skills would be beneficial to TC. Bearing this in mind, the following recommendations can be made:

  1. Incorporate more toys such as Magna Doodle boards into the Garden room that target fine motor skill development, specifically grapho-motor skills.
  2. Leaving the large crayons and paper at an accessible level would invite TC and the other children to colour/scribble if they wish during free play and not just during adult-led activity.

During this observation, TC and the other children were engaged in free play in the classroom while being supervised by the room leader and other supervisor. I sat in a corner of the room where I could easily observe without disrupting the children’s flow of play. He flitted around the room and played with and utilised various toys and tools. As he interacted in the room, I ticked off the corresponding items in the checklist until fifteen minutes had passed.
I felt it was difficult to solely observe TC as the other children in the class were interested in what I was doing and came over to try and sit on my lap. I found it enjoyable to conduct the observation but felt restricted in that I couldn’t expand on any of the information that I was observing, rather reducing it to if it’s simply present or not. I also felt limited in what I could write down as when I was writing I felt like I was probably losing out on more information that could be pertinent.
Upon evaluation, the classroom appears appropriately stocked with various toys and books for the children to enjoy and has been designed to promote the Aistear curriculum (NCCA, 2009). It can be deemed a safe, pleasant and supportive environment that provides opportunity for play, exploration and physical development. As noted in the observation, I did not assess TC’s ability to ascend or descend stairs as the building itself is on one level however this does not necessarily mean he is unable to do so. The checklist mode of observation is time-efficient and convenient to conduct however one could argue that only the most basic of information is collated. It is arguably limited in that one cannot provide additional information that is not already on the checklist itself and also infers that because an action is not ticked that the child cannot complete the action as opposed to the action not being present at that specific time
I feel it was beneficial to conduct this study so to further develop my observational skills and also enable me to put the theory that I have learned into professional practice in a supported, safe environment. It was interesting and educational to see how the two-year old develops physically and also how this concurs with the current theory on child development. I am still coming to grips with conducting observations and found the narrative mode straight-forward and beneficial. It seemed quite easy to observe gross motor skills yet to observe fine-motor development was more intermittent.
Overall, I was pleased with how the observation went. It was pleasant to conduct, and I was satisfied with the observation approach and the information I received from doing so. If I were to conduct this observation again, I would consider conducting it outside to see how TC engages in a different environment or potentially engage in observation during an activity aimed at enhancing fine motor development like painting or colouring with large crayons.
#2: Intellectual Observation

  • Intellectual/Cognitive Observation

Date of Observation: 26 September 2018
Start Time: 10:50  Finish Time: 11:05
Persons Present: 2 supervisors, 1 student, 6 children.
Permission Sought From: Children’s Centre Manager, Room Leader and supervisor, TC’s parent/guardian.
Description of Child: The target child (TC) is a two-year old boy who attends the Garden Room in the setting from 9:00 to 12:45, four days a week. He is an only child and is pleasant and well-tempered. He enjoys playing on scooters and tricycles outside and playing with colours in the sensory room. He likes raisins and brioche rolls and dislikes cereal.
Immediate Context: The observation took place in the Garden Room while TC and five others were seated at the table eating snack. This time period was chosen as Circle Time follows snack in the Centre’s curriculum and I thought it would be beneficial to observe TC during story time and singing activities to gauge his cognitive development.
Observation Method: Narrative Observation
Aim of Observation: The aim of this observation is to assess TC’s cognitive development specifically within the areas of attention, memory, reasoning and learning, and to determine if he is developing at the normative rate for a two-year old. The narrative mode of observation was chosen as it was easy to conduct and detail-orientated.
Intellectual Observation
The children were finishing their morning snack and TC appeared finished and moved from his seat to the construction corner and began playing with the trains. He began assembling three pieces of the track together and selected two trains to play with. He was babbling incoherently and making train noises until the supervisor advised him to tidy the trains and come and bring his chair in for Circle Time as is routine for the time of day.
TC came back and moved his chair to be with the group but didn’t seem to acknowledge the command to tidy up. He readied himself in his chair while the supervisor read the story we were reading last week, and TC sat appearing engaged and listened as the story was read. He laughed and mimicked words from the story. He waited his turn when the book was passed around to look at and feel.
After the story, they began singing songs and TC appeared to enjoy this as he was smiling, clapping and laughing along with the songs. He appeared excited and kept standing up and was reminded to sit which he did without fuss. During the fourth song “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”, he appeared to lose interest in the activity as he returned to the construction area and recommenced his game with the trainset. The rest of the class finished circle time and began free play in the room. TC stayed on his own and appeared concentrated on expanding the track he was building before. Another child picked up a train and TC snatched it back and said “mine” while pushing the other child away. The supervisor explained that we don’t push and that we share in the class. TC went back to solitary play.
This observation was completed to evaluate TC’s cognitive development with respect to the normative milestones of his age group. The observation was conducted as snack time was ending and circle time was to begin, as story time and singing can readily indicate where TC is with regards to developing his attentive, memory and learning skills. Upon finishing his snack, TC left the table and engaged in solitary, imaginative play. This is exhibited through how TC manipulated the trains and vocalised train noises and other babble. This also indicates basic concept formation as he appeared aware and in control of what he was playing with. When he was asked to join in circle time, he showed understanding of what was being asked of him. During circle time he appeared actively engaged in the story that was being read and also appeared to anticipate certain parts of the story e.g., knowing a giraffe is under a flap. As the group were engaged in singing songs, TC appeared happy as he was singing and doing the actions of the songs. He appeared proficient in conducting basic rule-orientated tasks, e.g., if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands. When he lost interest in singing, TC returned to playing with the trains. This could suggest object permanence has been achieved, as he appeared aware that the trains were still available although he couldn’t see them.
Cognitive development refers to the processes of attention, memory, problem-solving, reasoning and learning and how they advance as we mature. According to Piaget (Santrock, 2007, p.128), “children actively construct their cognitive world, using schemas to make sense of what they experience.” Piaget put forward his theory of cognitive development and believed that children progress through a series of age-related developmental stages that are necessary for enhancing cognitive development through to adulthood.
TC has recently turned two-years old therefore it can be suggested that he is in the process of transitioning from the sensorimotor stage to the preoperational stage. The sensorimotor stage is defined by Santrock (2007, p.129) as the stage where a child “constructs understanding of the world by coordinating sensory experience with physical activity.” The preoperational stage is where cognition becomes “more symbolic, egocentric and intuitive rather than logical” (Santrock, 2007, p.130). His behaviour when the other child picked up the train can be described as egocentric as he does not yet understand the concept of ownership and sharing.
In contrast, social cognitivist theory was developed by Alfred Bandura which “stresses that behaviour is determined not only by environmental conditions but also by how thoughts modify the impact of environment on behaviour” (Santrock, 2007, p.10). This essentially means that children learn by observing and interacting with others to construct their cognitive world. During the observation it was evident the TC was engaged mentally with the group during the story and the singing and he appears to have learned and remember what is expected of him during this routine. It can be said that this is due to daily repetition of these songs and actions and enables him to build a view of his environment through watching his peers and key workers. From the observation one can conclude that TC is developing intellectually at the normative rate for his age.
It can be said that circle time seems to be greatly beneficial in enhancing a child’s cognitive development. This is supported through the Aistear themes of communication, well-being and exploring and thinking (NCCA, 2009). The following recommendations can be made with respect to the observation conducted.

  1. TC greatly enjoyed listening to the story and feeling the book in his hands. I suggest adding more hardback books to the reading corner, so he and the other children can independently enjoy perusing the books. This will assist in TC’s cognitive development.
  2. It would also be beneficial to incorporate new songs into the circle time routine as TC appeared familiar with the songs and appeared to lose interest. It can be said that variance in the song lyrics and respective actions would enhance TC’s memory and learning development.

For this observation I took a seat in the corner of the classroom to observe TC. The children were finishing up snack and TC left the table to go play with the trains in the construction corner. The children then collectively participated in circle time activities while I observed and tried to write as quickly and descriptively as possible. Before circle time ended, TC appeared to lose interest and returned to the construction corner. When another child picked up a train TC got possessive of the toy, told the other child “mine” and pushed them away. A supervisor intervened, and the children carried on their independent play.
I felt confident in my ability to carry out the observation but found it challenging to write sufficiently on every detail I wanted to record. It appears that the classroom is very well equipped to support and enhance the cognitive development of the toddlers as there are ample toys and books to play with and the room is large enough for them to explore. The adherence to the Aistear curriculum ensures that the centre is proficient in meeting the developmental needs of the children. I found it beneficial to my personal and professional learning to conduct this study as it allowed for hands-on experience conducting observations and also enabled me to get a sense of how toddlers develop intellectually and observe Piaget and Bandura’s theories in practice.
Upon reflection, I feel the observation went successfully but I don’t think I got to write as much as I would have liked to during the observation itself. I feel my own shorthand skills hindered my ability to get the most out of a narrative observation and in future I would hope to hone my shorthand skills. I can appreciate how this mode of observation provides ample data to examine which is beneficial for the observer themselves and the child in question. This observation also highlights the importance of story time and singing activities with toddlers to enhance cognitive development in a safe, nurturing environment. I am pleased with the observation and if doing so in future I would do more observations during different activities to target specific areas of cognitive development independently.
#3: Language Observation

  • Language Observation

Date of Observation: 28 September 2018
Start Time: 12:00  Finish Time: 12:05
Persons Present: 2 supervisors, 1 student, 6 children.
Permission Sought From: Children’s Centre Manager, Room Leader and supervisor, TC’s parent/guardian.
Description of Child: The target child (TC) is a two-year old boy who attends the Garden Room in the setting from 9:00 to 12:45, four days a week. He is an only child and is pleasant and well-tempered. He enjoys playing on scooters and tricycles outside and playing with colours in the sensory room. He likes raisins and brioche rolls and dislikes cereal.
Immediate Context: The observation took place in the atrium/main hall of the centre where there is ample space to run around and access to various pop up tents, ride-on tricycles and cars, books and building blocks for the children to play with.
Observation Method: Pre-coded Observation
Aim of Observation: The aim of this observation is to assess where the TC is in relation to linguistic development for his age group and determine that his language acquisition is occurring in conjunction with normative milestones. A pre-coded observation was viewed as the best method to assess language development as it focuses on recording everything that is being said with the aim of evaluating it later.
Language Observation
Code: TC: Target Child
A1: Adult 1
A2: Adult 2
[] denotes name retracted.

Code Narrative
TC-A1 Where [parent’s name]?
A1-TC She’ll be back soon.
TC-A2 Hi A2.
A2-TC Hello TC, how are you?
TC-A2 Good. Look car. (gesturing to car he’s sitting in)
A2-TC Oh wow, it’s a lovely red car. Are you driving?
TC-A2 (nods) Blue car.
A2-TC It’s a red car, isn’t it TC?
TC-A2 Red car.
A2-TC Where are you going in your red car?
TC-A1 There.
A1-TC Come on TC, let’s go in for snack.
TC-A1 No.
A1-TC Come on, it’s snack time.
TC-A1 No, TC stay.
A1-TC It’s time for snack now, let’s go inside. (gestures for him to hold her hand)
TC-A1 Ok. (takes hand and goes into classroom)
TC-A1 Biscuit?
A1-TC One second and we wash your hands.
TC-A1 Juice?
A1-TC In a moment, you have to sit down first.
TC Non-verbal here but takes a seat at the table.
A1-TC Here you go TC.
TC-A1 Dank you.
A1-TC Thank you. You’re welcome.

The aim of this observation was to observe TC while he engaged in conversation with his key workers and assess how well he is developing regarding the stages of normative linguistic development for his age group. It took place as the children played indoors and as discussed, my supervisors were to strike up conversation with TC if needed. Thankfully this was not the case as TC spoke of his own accord (see observation #3).
One could define language development as building communication skills through verbal and non-verbal means i.e. vocalisation, gestures and body language. According to Egerton (2018) there are two stages of linguistic development regarding early childhood; the pre-linguistic stage from and the linguistic stage TC appears to be again transitioning from the earlier stage to the latter. Referring to the sequences of language development, outlined in Barrow Training (2016, p.47) by the age of two-years old, a child can be expected to point and use single words, echo the end of words, ask questions, over generalise, and use telegraphic speech. TC’s use of labelling, telegraphic speech and his ability to communicate his needs effectively through gestures and vocalisation indicates linguistic development. This potentially reflects the theory of Jerome Bruner who constructed the Language Acquisition Support System (LASS). This theory suggests that children acquire language skills upon learning supported by more abled peers and adults within the environment. Through recasting, expanding and labelling children can build knowledge of the rules of language such as phonology, semantics, syntax and morphology (Santrock, 2007, p.368).
Noam Chomsky suggests that language is an innate skill that children develop at certain times, in certain ways, as they mature, and he refers to this as the Language Acquisition Device or LAD (Santrock, 2007 p.373). TC did not exhibit any virtuous errors as posited by Chomsky however he is in the early linguistic stage and it is expected these errors will emerge in time.  Upon evaluating the observation, it can be said that TC is presently and will continue to develop linguistically in line with the milestones for two-year olds.
TC is as mentioned appearing to develop within the normative range of linguistic development, as is natural he mispronounces words as he broadens his vocabulary. The following recommendations can be made with respect to enhancing TC’s linguistic development:

  1. Supervisors in the room observe and emphasise recasting to TC and his classmates as required in keeping with the Aistear theme of communication (NCCA, 2007).
  2. It would be beneficial to source more posters with images and words for the room to promote curiosity and expand on the children’s linguistic development.

TC and the other children were playing in the main hall of the centre where they have access to cars, tricycles and balls to play with. I sat close to where TC was sitting in a toy car so to adequately hear and record as much as possible where he engaged in brief conversation with both supervisors. During the observation, the group moved from the hall to the class room which disrupted the observation a little.
I felt apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to record everything verbatim and that this would limit my findings. I was aware that the children generally play independent of adult interaction bar supervision at this time which limits how much language TC might use during the observation. To combat this, my colleagues were ready to initiate conversation if the need arose. As I conducted the observation I realised I was probably missing important non-verbal gestures and cues conducive to the conversation that could not be adequately recorded through a pre-coded observation. I felt this was unfortunate. The pre-coded method is practical for the observation of language development however as conversation moves quite quickly, it is difficult to write quickly enough. However, it must be said this mode of observation provides ample data for observation and is objective and detail-orientated in its approach.
In consideration of the early years environment, it can be said that the setting has access to ample resources to enhance the children’s linguistic development, yet the children rarely look at the books outside circle time. The curriculum set out by Aistear enables colleagues to explore and acquire language. It was interesting to see how applicable Bruner’s theory of language acquisition is reflected in practice in terms of how the adults interact with the toddlers recasting and using descriptive language to broaden their vocabulary.
Personally, I feel the observation could have been more successful at observing language development if it occurred while TC was actively engaged in group time and free from distraction to potential conversation. Going forward, I would aim to conduct the observation during circle time or when children are having snack to limit personal distraction and distraction for TC.
#4: Emotional Observation

  • Emotional Observation

Date of Observation: 2 October 2018
Start Time: 10:15 Finish Time: 12:30 (at 15-30 mins intervals.)
Persons Present: 2 supervisors, 1 student, 6 children.
Permission Sought From: Children’s Centre Manager, Room Leader and supervisor, TC’s parent/guardian.
Description of Child: The target child (TC) is a two-year old boy who attends the Garden Room in the setting from 9:00 to 12:45, four days a week. He is an only child and is pleasant and well-tempered. He enjoys playing on scooters and tricycles outside and playing with colours in the sensory room. He likes raisins and brioche rolls and dislikes cereal.
Observation Method: Event Sample
Aim of Observation: The aim of this observation is to assess TC in relation to his emotional development, through observing his behaviour and emerging personality. This observation also aims to determine if he is developing within the anticipated milestones for his age group bearing in mind that some aspects of emotional development will happen later.
Emotional Observation
Code: TC: Target Child A1: Adult 1 P: Provoked
Child A-E: other children. A2: Adult 2 UP: Unprovoked.

P/UP Time Antecedent Behaviour Consequence
UP 10:15-10:30 TC and other children free-playing in classroom. Child A arrived for the day and as mother was leaving she got upset and cried for her. TC stared at Child A looking confused and said “Child A sad” while A1 agreed.  Looked at Child A crying and went over to the family tree area where the family photographs are. Child A was eventually comforted by Adult 2 and TC began asking for his own mother.
P 10:45-11:00 TC and the others are seated having snack in the classroom. Child B begins climbing upon the table and the others are copying him. TC began to get on the table and is told to sit down, which he does but he then played with his raisins and threw them on the floor instead of eating.1 Adult 1 asked if he was finished and he nodded and left the table. He brought his plate over when prompted to do so.
UP 11:15-11:30 The children are playing in the sensory room. TC and the others are climbing on the “obstacle course”. TC repeatedly pushed Child C in the chest and laughed as he saw she was falling over. Adult 2 explained that we don’t push our friends and TC said sorry to Child C. He then pushed her again and laughed.
P 11:45-12:00 The children are still playing in the sensory room with two supervisors present. They are climbing, looking at the fibre optic lights and installations and crawling through the tunnels. Adult 2 begins to take the children one by one to change their nappy. When TC is called to be changed, he said “no”, stamped his foot and ran to hide in a tunnel. After 2-3 prompts, he went with Adult 2. TC had his nappy changed and ran enthusiastically back into the sensory room. He again began climbing on the obstacles alongside his peers.
P 12:15-12:30 The children are playing with the musical instruments. They are sitting in a circle with Adult 1 singing songs. Child D was shaking a tambourine and accidently hit TC in the side of the head with it. TC said, “oh boy” and holds his head where he was struck. Adult 2 applied an ice-pack and had Child D apologise to TC.

The aim of this observation was to evaluate TC’s emotional development and see if he is hitting the milestones for a two-year old. I feel this was achieved through the event sample as I was able to observe TC eliciting several emotions and behaviours. Emotional development broadly refers to learning what feelings and emotions are, the concept of the self and the self in relation to others and learning how to express and manage these emotions appropriately. Children evolve their emotional understanding through genetic traits, interacting with their environment and observing social interactions of peers and care givers.
The theory of attachment was constructed by John Bowlby and expanded upon by the psychologist Mary Ainsworth. The theory refers to the close emotional bond between an infant and his or her caregiver (Santrock, 2007, p.136). As TC called for his mother over the course of the observation it can be suggested that he has achieved secure attachment with her and as he matures through early childhood this attachment should reduce. From psychosocial perspective, emotional development occurs in tandem with social development. During the observation, TC exhibited self-awareness and awareness of the emotions of his peers through acknowledging and commenting that Child A was sad when he saw her crying. TC also appears to be exhibiting a healthy parental bond and plays securely when she is not present until he is reminded of the fact when other parents arrive.
According to Erikson there are stages of socioemotional development that enable personality to develop in early childhood. From birth to two-years old, infants that are well cared for develop a sense of security, trust and optimism. From the ages of two to four, toddlers begin to assert their own control over the environment and peers (Barrow Consultancy and Training, 2016). It can be said that TC exhibits behaviour reflecting both the basic trust versus mistrust phase as well as the emerging behaviours that are associated with the stage of autonomy versus shame. As with instance two in the observation TC was quick to climb on the table but appeared away it was the wrong this to do by coming down when told by an adult. He appears self-confident and well-tempered. TC appears to be developing emotional regulation well as when he was struck with the tambourine, he didn’t cry and exclaimed “oh boy” instead. By the age of two, toddlers should be:

  • aware of what they want however are not proficient in expressing it,
  • dependent on their care giver,
  • lovable, engaging and enthusiastic,
  • and sometimes emotionally tense and rigid (Barrow Consultancy and Training, 2016).

Temperament also plays a role in gauging a child’s emotional development. This is defined as a characteristic aspect of personality that relates to how we feel and act relative to our emotions. The studies by Thomas and Chess (1987,1991) concluded that infants and babies can usually be categorised as the easy child, the difficult child and the slow to warm up child (as cited in Flood, 2013). From such preliminary observation it would be hard to assign TC to any category but anecdotally one could argue he is an easy child as he appears to be adapting to the routine of the curriculum well, is very even-tempered and although he expresses vocally when he is upset, he rarely cries.
TC appears to find it funny when people fall over, while this is harmless in itself, he is still very young and doesn’t know his physical strength which could lead to injury for himself or another child in the setting. Based on the above observation, the following recommendations can be made with respect to enhancing TC’s emotional development.

  1. TC should be reminded regularly that you can hurt someone when you push them over and that it is not appropriate. There should be a focus on helping TC understand that the others experience different emotions and may not respond as he thinks they should.
  2. As the term progresses it would be beneficial to monitor TC with regard to his attachment and determine if any issues may arise.

The observation took place over the course of TC’s time in the setting in one day. As the observation progressed, we moved to various rooms within the centre for different activities. Immediately I felt anxious that there would be no negative behaviour to record and while this impacts the efficacy of the observation it also conveys positive behaviour on TC’s part. I feel I got a real sense of TC’s temperament and personality and was able to see how he interacts with his peers. An event sample was chosen for this observation as it easy to identify negative behaviours that are easily recorded. As it is predominately used for negative behaviour, I found that TC doesn’t exhibit that much and as a result the event sample felt insufficient.
Upon analysis, I found that the environment itself appears appropriate for enhancing TC’s emotional development. The family tree and the birthday wall provide a sense of identity and belonging for the children and they are free to look at and handle their pictures whenever they like. It is beneficial when they miss their caregivers for them to look at the photos. I was pleased for the opportunity to conduct the study but found it difficult to adequately record everything as we moved around the centre. It also disrupted the flow of the observation and I feel TC was aware that I was watching him. It was beneficial for me to see how influential temperament is regarding behaviour and how social and emotional development appear to be interlinked. If I were to complete an event sample observation in future, I would hope to do so on an older child so to gain more insight into the stages of emotional development and how much language is indicative of that.
#5: Social Observation

  • Social Observation

Date of Observation: 2 October 2018
Start Time: 10:15  Finish Time: 12:40 (at intervals throughout the day)
Persons Present: 2 supervisors, 1 student, 6 children.
Permission Sought From: Children’s Centre Manager, Room Leader and supervisor, TC’s parent/guardian.
Description of Child: The target child (TC) is a two-year old boy who attends the Garden Room in the setting from 9:00 to 12:45, four days a week. He is an only child and is pleasant and well-tempered. He enjoys playing on scooters and tricycles outside and playing with colours in the sensory room. He likes raisins and brioche rolls and dislikes cereal.
Observation Method: Time Sample
Aim of Observation: The aim of this observation is to evaluate TC’s social development in relation to normative milestones and to assess the observed behaviours that reflect his interpersonal skills and social awareness.
Social Observation

No. Time Location Actions and Reactions What was said Others present
1 10:20-10:30 Main Hall TC takes hold of scooter and pushes it along as he walks. Approaches other children and continues to grasp the scooter as he looks around. N/a 2 supervisors, 
5 other children,
1 student.
2 11:00-11:10 Classroom TC is watching supervisor pick up toy phone and pretend to talk on it. He takes another toy phone, begins pushing the buttons and chattering into the receiver. Hello [mother’s name], incoherent babble. 2 supervisors, 
5 other children,
1 student.
3 11:30-11:40 Sensory Room TC is holding the remote for the colour changer up to his ear and talking into it like it’s a phone. He is making chatter sounds that I can’t make out. 2 supervisors, 
5 other children,
1 student.
4 12:00-12:10 Classroom TC and other child are rolling cars along the ground together, they are side by side but do not interact with one another n/a 2 supervisors, 
5 other children,
1 student.
5 12:30-12:40 Outside play area TC is playing independently on a tricycle with a trailer on the back. Another child tries to get in the back and TC stops moving to allow her to get in before continuing along the path. TC engages in non-verbal communication as the supervisor explains that he needs to play taxi if on that tricycle. 2 supervisors, 
3 other children,
1 student.

The aim of this observation was to observe and evaluate TC’s social development and compare the findings with the literature on developmental milestones. A time sample observation was conducted as it was deemed appropriate in giving a broad sense of TC’s interactions and behaviours while in the setting. As aforementioned social development is closely linked to emotional development and this can be seen through how children react to their peers in the social environment. As we have seen with social constructivist theory, children learn about emotions and behaviour by observing and interacting with others to construct their cognitive world. This is also the case with their social development and children learn how to relate and interact with others, and also how to behave in line with societal norms (Bandura, as cited in Santrock, 2007).
Social Learning Theory as posited by Lev Vygotsky (as cited in Barrow Consultancy and Training, 2016, p.51) argues that socialisation plays a fundamental role in cognitive development and thus is necessary to social and emotional learning. Through the zone of proximal distance, TC sees the caregiver or more knowledgeable other (MKO) appropriately use the toy phone and immediately mimics this behaviour. By the age of two, toddlers are still expected to engage in solitary play but will begin to participate in parallel play with the peers. TC has exhibited this in the observation by playing alongside his peers with the toy cars and as such appears to be developing at the normative rate. TC is sufficient at expressing himself vocally and physically and appears to be sociable and eager to communicate with his peers and caregivers.
In order to promote social development, one could suggest that good role modelling, routine and continuous socialisation is paramount. The following recommendations can be made:

  1. Asking the toddlers basic questions during circle time to allow them to socialise as a group as their skills become more advanced. This will enhance linguistic and communication skills.
  2. Involve the toddlers in more group activities that promote socialisation e.g. incorporate simple games and group dances that require the children to hold hands or otherwise interact as a group.

I observed the target child throughout the day paying close attention to how he communicated and behaved towards the other children. We moved around the centre as we worked through the daily curriculum as I tried to record as acutely as possible at different intervals throughout the day.
I felt the observation mode was not that dissimilar to an event sample but was more confident in my ability to successfully complete this one as I had already completed the other observations at this stage. I was pleased to be gaining more experience with doing observations as it is necessary for me to continue to improve my observation and reflective skills.
The size of the class and the level of support available is more than adequate at promoting the social development of the children in the centre. However, there is always room to improve. The curriculum set out enables the children to engage both one-on-one with caregivers but also to interact freely with their peers and there are plenty of resources available for the children to explore and create with.
Overall, I felt the observation was a success as I was able to observe TC in a range of social situations and saw that he is competent in expressing him and communicating with others respective of his developmental milestones. I am confident that TC is developing at the normative rate.
Barrow Consultancy and Training. (2016). Learner Resource Pack: Child Development. Carlow: Barrow Training and Consultancy.
Egerton, Z. (2018). Child Development Level 6: Week Two. Lecture notes delivered 26 September 2018.
Egerton, Z. (2018). Child Development Level 6: Week Three. Lecture notes delivered 3 October 2018.
Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education. (2006). Síolta: The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education. Dublin: Centre for Early Childhood.
Flood, E. (2013). Child Development. 2nd edn, Dublin: Gill Education.
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. (2009). Aistear: Guidelines for good practice. Dublin: The Stationary Office.
Santrock, J. W. (2007). Psychology 7th edn, New York: McGraw-Hill.
Appendix A: Parental Consent Form
Dear parent/guardian,
As part of my level 6 childcare award, I am studying Child Development and am required to carry out a set of observations on a child in the garden room to complete my course content. These observations are to assess the child’s physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social development with regard to normative milestones. The purpose of this is to aid my personal understanding in child development.
All information will be confidential, and I will be supervised by my Room Leader at all times.
Please sign below if you wish to give consent.
Kind Regards,
Rebecca Ryan

I, the undersigned, give consent for my child to be observed by Rebecca as part of her course work.

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