Why Observe Children?
Insight into Children’s Behavior
Observation can provide insight into children’s behavior, whether pos-
itive or negative. Many children, like Ansen in the following observa-
tion note, are trying hard to learn appropriate ways to get their needs
met. But often they become frustrated and communicate through hit-
ting or other physical means and need an adult’s help to negotiate with
other children. Read the following observation note about Ansen, and
write down what you are learning about his behavior.
Ansen (4 years, 10 months)
Ansen is playing on the hanging bars. A child is hanging
upside down. Ansen asks, “When will you be done? I have
been waiting a long time.” The child does not respond. Ansen
waits a few more minutes and then raises his fist. A teacher
walks over and asks why he has a fist. Ansen replies, “I want
a turn, and Kristen won’t get down. She stuck her tongue out
at me.” “Is there a better way to get a turn?” asks the teacher.
Ansen says, “I used my words, and she won’t listen. She
wants it all to herself.” The teacher asks the child to listen to
Ansen. Ansen says, “I want a turn when you’re done. I won’t
hit you. But you listen.” The teacher talks to both children, and
they continue playing on the bars.
Using information for assessment Ansen does not quite have the
self-control to stop himself from raising a fist at another child when
frustrated. Yet he does use words to express his feelings and is suc-
cessful in resolving the problem once an adult helps him talk with
the other child. According to developmental checklists, resolving
such disagreements with adult help is common for children his age.
Using information for planning Ansen will likely still need adults
nearby and ready to step in and prevent him from harming other chil-
dren and to help him work out disagreements more appropriately. You
and your colleagues might decide to always have someone keeping an
eye on him to be ready to provide that support. When he does resolve
disagreements peacefully, acknowledge his use of words and perhaps
give him pats on the back or high fives to reward his hard work.