Child observation is a critical aspect in understanding child development. Involving children in activities provides a good ground for observing them. During such activities, one is able to connect with a child. Cognitive development is greatly enhanced through active involvement and participation of children in various activities. In order to keep track of children’s intellectual development, learning activities are therefore essential. This paper will be based on child observation exercise made at Kid Care Child Development Centre. The subject of the observation is A.J (4 year old African-American child).
Systematic Observation of A.J
A.J is a four year old African-American boy at Kid Care Child Development Centre. The child is actively involved in an art and craft activity. The boy is busy drawing various shapes including a car, a house and a tree. He does this by cutting letters from an alphabetical letter-box. A. J. then uses a sticker to mount the letters adjacent to every picture he has drawn thus giving the pictures names. For example, he has creatively written the word “Car” from the words he has cut from the letter-box and put it before the picture of a car.
The child uses various materials and equipment in his activities. These include crayons of different colors, alphabetical letter-box, blade, and a pencil. A.J. is drawing his pictures on top of a flat low-sized table. From these activities, the 4-year old boy is learning the shapes of letters, sorting and classifying items into groups, shapes and colors that resemble every picture/item drawn and painted. The child is also developing self-esteem and autonomy out of his creativity demonstrated in the activities which makes the teacher to praise him.
Relating Jean Piaget’s Theory to the Child’s Behavior.
Piaget’s theory of development focuses on the nature and process of cognitive development in children. He posits that as children grow, they gain increased ability and capacity to understand their world. Therefore, the learning approaches must put into consideration the stage of an individual child and create and environment where the child can demonstrate his/her understanding and perception of the world. Children can therefore not learn unless they actively interact with their environment. Piaget believed that children posses the cognitive potential and mechanisms to learn on their own through exposure to supportive environments.
According to Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, A.J. is at the concrete operational stage. In this stage, “the child is capable of using materials and objects to represent their understanding of the environment”. For example, A. J. has learnt the shape of a car from his interaction with the environment. This is perhaps why he has drawn a car and even named it. The boy has also creatively drawn a tree and painted it green. A.J. has drawn these pictures without the active participation or involvement of the teacher. This is a confirmation of Piaget’s presentation of mental maturation.
The child at the preoperational stage develops “preoperational thoughts”. This makes the child to focus more on the appearance of an object or image. This explains why A.J. is perhaps very keen on the colors of the car, the tree and the house than their actual shapes. He believes that the car represents their family car. Although their car may not actually be the same shape or even color, the “static reasoning,” “egocentrism” and “focus of appearance” that dominates a child’s perception at this stage overrides their logical reasoning.
In his construction of the cognitive theory of development, Piaget emphasized the role of “assimilation” in the learning activities of children. Assimilation enables a child to process information and develops a mental representation of materials from personal interaction with the environment. This may imply an alteration of the child’s sensual evidence to accommodate the mental perception. The boy in this case has managed to successfully develop a mental representation of what a house is through assimilation. With this sensual perception, A. J. is able to develop a pictorial representation of his perception. He has painted the house brown, perhaps because he was attempting to come up with the paint of the buildings at Kid Care Child Development Centre.
Piaget developed the concept of egocentrism. With this concept, he attempted to explain the fact that as children gain psychological and cognitive maturity, there tends to be a belief in them that the entire universe revolves around them. The child therefore responds to his environment in his own unique way and does not see the world as someone else may perceive and adapt to it. This is reflected in the way the boy, A.J. responds and relates uniquely to his environment. It is this egocentric perception that makes him draw the pictures, paint and even name them in his own way without much involvement of the teacher.
Children are capable of learning through their own constructions. This is made possible through the use of symbols. For example, A.J. uses colors to depict the looks of objects in his environment. He has painted the car in a color that, according to him, represents their family car. When asked, he actually stresses that the car is “daddy’s car”. This is what Berger referred to as “egocentrism” in his writing. Although he may not be very accurate in his decoration of objects, this is a clear indication of advancement in cognitive skills development.
Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory remains very relevant in early childhood education. This theory helps in the observation of children and consequently enables the teachers, care-givers and parents to learn how to create an environment that supports a child’s own cognitive development through interaction with the environment.