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Narrative Observation of a Child Essay

Mother enters the room with takeaway from KFC and places it on the dining table. Subhaan (3:5) is the first child to approach the table and sit down on the seat. While aunt takes out food from the carrier bags, she asks Subhaan, “Is that your plate?” Subhaan replies “Yeah” and right before the aunt is about to put the food on his plate he immediately says”No, is that mine?. Aunt replies, “Yes” and places his meal on the plate. Subhaan sat on his knees and started bouncing on them as he picked two french fries to eat. While the aunt is emptying the bags, Subhaan stands on his knees and peeks into the carrier bags then sits back down to eat his food. Aunt ignores him as she continues talking to Subhaan’s mother.

Subhaan attempts to pull out a paper cup from the stack and then hold it in both his hands. Ayesha (5:0) asks Subhaan, “Do you want water?” to which Subhaan holds up his empty paper cup and replies, “No, this is mine”. He starts playing with his cup as he tries to hold it to his mouth and then placed it on his eye, pretending it was a telescope, Subhaan started scanning the room from side to side. Subhaan puts his empty cup down and grabs another bite. He then makes a cranky high pitched noise that grabbed his aunt’s attention who noticed he was pointing at his empty cup. The aunt poured the drink half full in the cup. He takes a sip and watches Ayesha eat her meal happily. Subhaan continues his meal bouncing while sitting on his knees and then swaying from side to side as he eats.

Subhaan notices a sealed straw on the table, picks it and points it at his mother loudly saying, ” Mama.. mama, please open”. During the period the mother and aunt are continuously involved in a table conversation. His mother takes the straw and starts unwrapping when Ayesha asks, “Mama, what does he need that for?”. Mother ignores Ayesha as she continues the conversation with the aunt.

Subhaan starts chewing his food slowly and sits back in a lazy manner. He then sits up and starts reading the children’s meal box in front of him. He sits up on his knees again to be able to drink directly from the straw fixed in his cup to his mouth using just the index finger and thumb of his dominant hand (right-hand). He sits back down, shakes his head a few times then starts looking under the table. He sits back up and starts slapping the wall on his left.

He pauses to look at everyone else at the table still busy with their conversation, then returns back to his meal box and peaks inside it. He pushes away the meal box and looks at his mother to see if she noticed. However the mother is still occupied socially with his aunt. Subhaan makes a random loud noise, “Tadaaaaaa!” which made his aunt notice him and puts his meal box infront of him again saying, “Subhaan, you haven’t finished”. Subhaan does not reply instead he sinks back in his chair. After a few seconds he sits back up and drinks directly from the straw without using his hands or fingers to touch the cup.

Subhaan rotates on the chair turning his back towards the table and facing towards the tv lounge. Soon he starts to rock the chair slightly from side to side. He turns back around and get off his seat to approach his mother and say,” Mama, mama” Mother replied,” Yes, son?”

Subhaan answered shyly, “Toilet” and ran off towards the door and takes a glance back to see if his mother is following him or not.

Meanwhile everyone has finished their dinner and settle down in the tv lounge. Subhaan enters the room followed by his mother. He quickly runs up to the sofa to join Ayesha who is running up and down the two joined sofas while singing, “I like you- I like you- I love you-I like you”. Subhaan follows Ayesha jumping behind her while repeating what Ayesha is singing. Ayesha comes down from the sofa and starts dancing and singing on the floor. Subhaan stands on the sofa leaning slightly on the wall behind to watch what ayesha was doing next and then runs off to his mother sitting on the chair. Mother looks up at ayesha and says, ” Ayesha take him up and change, I’m coming”. Subhaan walks towards the door and waits there for Ayesha but notices ayesha avoid her mothers orders, instead shows off a paper sailboat to her aunt. Aunt smiles and replies, “Thats nice! come on lets go upstairs now.” Subhaan watches as ayesha ends her play by bowing down to the audience and says, ” Thank you for listening to my song”. Subhaan grabs their attention by walking up to his aunt and saying, ” I want something from upstairs, come”. He then open the door and runs off towards the stairs as his Aunt and Ayesha followed him. Subhaan stopped at the entrance of the room to look upto the light switch but Ayesha pushes him gently to push the button on herself. At the same moment he says, “Put the lights on” and when the light switches on he expresses by saying, “Ahhhh, yes”. He then walks towards the end of his bed while Ayesha invites their aunt in bowing down once again to say, ” Happy…..umm happy gentlemen and, and ladies. Subhaan stands in the corner and looks at her carefully. At this time the observation came to its end at 8:25 pm.


During the 25 minute observation Subhaan (3:6) showed almost continuous play activity demonstrating his physical development and fine motor skills like a typical child of his age.

For the most part Subhaan was happy playing by himself showing both physical and imaginative skills in solitary play. According to Parten ‘Solitary Play’ (Hughes, 1991) is when a child plays by himself. Often in this form of play children develop play and activities generating from their imagination as children in the pre-operational stage have vast imagination that helps them revise, repeat or practise their knowledge and skills into a playful activity (Sheridan, 1997).

As I observe Subhaan invest time and energy in play I can see him learn and develop concepts about movement, noises and skills. Most of the time Subhaan was involved in ‘Locomotor Play’, including exercise play (e.g bouncing, running, etc) (Hughes, 1991). His ability to be engaged in continous exercise play supports the muscular and motor development of children his age as they are able to move freely with pleasure and confidence in a range of ways ( L.Dryden et al, 2007).For example, Subhaan sits with his feet up on the seat and elevates himself by sitting on his knees and bouncing up and down and moving from side to side during his meal.

“The rocking, bouncing, hanging upside-down, skipping and hopping with which young children often express their excitement and enthusiasm- stimulates the brain and has a role to play in its development” ( Elliot(1991) in L.Dryden, 2007).

For children 2 to 4 years of age, Field (1994) reports physical activity play accounting for 10% of all day-care behaviour.

Children his age also run skilfully and negotiate space successfully adjusting their speed or direction to avoid obstacles (L.Dryden et al, 2007). This was identified when in later part of the observation Subhaan followed his sister running up and down the sofa. He was seen carefully balancing himself and slowing down while negotiating space to pass by when he would face an intersection from his sister coming from the opposite direction in a narrow space to cross. At an another occasion I observed Subhaan’s the moving and handling skills similar to children his age when he jumps of the chair and land appropriately balanced on his two feet.

Subhaan attempts to sit on the chair with his back towards the dining table folding his legs against the back of the chair. At this time he attempts to rock the chair and succeeds to balance the chair while sitting backwards. Once he has attempted and achieved the action two to three times,he no longer felt the need or urge to perform it again. Bateson’s (1976) view of such play is “scaffolding”: Play functions in skill assembly, and then is disassembled when the skill is mastered.

This could also be relevant to the observation. In the initial part of the meal Subhaan used his right hand fingers to stabilise the straw so that he could put it in his mouth; however towards the end of the meal he manages to place the straw in his mouth and drink without using his hand and fingers to touch the cup or straw. Therefore the initial play helped Subhaan gain more control of his activity and action once its assembled.

I also observed exercise play affect Subhaan’s cognitive performance as it lead to heightened arousal and hyper-activity as he experiments with different ways of moving. Without a break Subhaan was rocking, bouncing, looking under the table, peeking into the boxes. According to the “In-verted-U hypothesis (Easterbrook, 1959) moderate levels of arousal lead to better performance than highly increased arousals that may lead to narrowing of attention to the core tasks. In Subhaan’s case this can be eating and finishing his meal.

However I observed that by breaking up cognitive tasks while exercise play, Subhaan found the specifically playfully nature of the break to be considered more important than the meal, table conversation or any other activity that was taking place around him. The effects on his cognitive behaviour mediated by breaks and enhanced attention seemed to depend on enhanced feelings of mastery, well-being, after exercise play. This was noticed when every time Subhaan would master a movement he would return to his meal and find satisfaction and interest in eating once again.

On the other hand Subhaan also showed interest in play with sounds as he slaps the walls beside him a few times to register the noise/sound it made (L.Dryden, 2007). There was some evidence of ‘Symbolic Play’ (Piaget in Macleod-Brudenell & Kay, 2008) when Subhaan uses the paper cup as a microphone when he puts it over his mouth and then later as a pretend telescope when he places it on on of his eyes and scans the room around him from left to right.

Apart from these observation I also noticed another very common attribute in Subhaan of children his age. He likes to get attention and often he made a loud sound or noise to attract an adult’s attention when he feels neglected. For example when he shouts, “Tadaaaa” or at other occasion he would resort to calling his mother a few times until she listens or approach an adult physically to grab their attention by touch; such as Subhaan approaching his aunt to convince her to go upstairs by saying, “I want something from upstairs”.However in a different time and setting , for example at the dining table during the meal, Subhaan showed the ability to distract himself when neglected or upset by engaing in new play activity (Lindon, 1996)

I would conclude by saying that Subhaan is showing typical normative motor skills and level of play even if some behaviour towards the adults can be interruptive, it might be a way to seek attention or an attempt to engage in interactive form of play.

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