Child Observing

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

People of all walks of life strive to meet their goal for independence. For a toddler, independence is a whole new world opening up. Toddlers usually show first signs of true independence around a year and a half in age. For parents, their toddler's newfound independence may be a mixed blessing. Limits will be tested, tantrums will be thrown and new fears will emerge.

Temper tantrums are very common in children beginning around the age of two. This is why they call it the "terrible twos". A tantrum can occur for any number of reasons. Some of the more common reasons are the child did not get what he or she desired, and secondly the child may be hungry or tired. Parents need to remember to keep their cool in tantrum situations.

There are two ways to observe the child. The level of informal observation is the first. In this level, an adult may observe a child in the classroom, out on the playground, in group activities, etc. These are so called informal, natural conditions. To observe a child in an informal way an adult can determine if he is well coordinated, is talking reasonably sensibly, and also if he is alert when asked questions.

The way that a child relates to others can be observed to determine considerable information. A child's behavior might be observed at lunchtime, at school, in the lunchroom, or perhaps out on the playground. At home a parent can observe the child interacting with others in the home, as well as his/her actions and reactions to different situations. Issues that should be considered are emotional behavior, problem-solving, social behavior, and physical and motor developments.

The second level of observation of a child is the scientific evaluation. This is usually done by a teacher, psychologist or social worker. They may need to use statistical tools to evaluate a child within a group of children.

Around the age of 18 months, a child starts scribbling. A careful look at children's drawings can reveal much about their development, and can even provide us with clues to their well-being. When children begin to "name" their scribbles, usually between ages three and a half and four and a half, parents should take note. As they gain a broader understanding of the world around them, the elements in children's drawings will solidify and take on clearer forms. The language used when talking to children about their artwork is crucial. Never put words in the child's mouth. Instead of interpreting their drawings - "Oh, look, this is a flower, right?" - parents should ask their children, "Can you tell me about your drawing?"

Children communicate with others through their eyes, the quality of their voices, their body postures, their gestures, their mannerisms, their smiles, and even their listlessness. By observing children's behavior, you can learn what children prefer and what yields positive feelings. Helping children to discover what they are good at promotes healthy self esteem and is essential to their future success.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,