Child Observation


1) Choose a child that you would like to study between the ages of 3 months and 6 years. This should be
someone outside your immediate family (do not use your own children or sibling as the subject of study).
Secure the parent’s written consent. Explain to them that you are doing this research for a course in child and
adolescent development, that the child’s name will not be used in the report, and that the main purpose of the
report is a learning experience, to help you see the relationship between textbook knowledge of child
development and real children.
2) Read the text chapters pertaining to the age group to which your subject belongs prior to actually studying
the child, with emphasis on the concepts of Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson.
3) Collect information for your paper by using the following research methods:
Part I.
a. Naturalistic Observation:
• Talk with the parent to determine the best time to observe the child (the period in which they are most likely to
be awake and active). Arrange to observe the child during this time.
• Be as unobtrusive as possible while watching the child—you are not there to care for the child or play with
o If a child is not old enough to be left alone, then their caregiver should remain present.
o If the child wants to play or interact with you, then you could do your “informal interaction” first and later
observe the child.
• Write down, minute by minute, everything the child does and what others do with the child during this time
period (as an actual child researcher would do).
o Focus on the actual behaviors that are occurring, rather than your interpretations of the events. For example,
instead of writing “Johnny was mad when his mother refused to give him a cookie before dinner,” write “5:00
pm.: Johnny asked his mother for a cookie. She said no. He threw his toy car.”
o Also be sure to note the behavior of others in the environment with relation to


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