Guidelines for Observing Children

Chapter 1 Handouts: Guidelines for Observing Children

The observation of children allows us the chance to better understand children and ourselves. The first example we took a look at was The Marshmallow Test.

“In this popular test, several kids wrestle with waiting to eat a marshmallow in hopes of a bigger prize. This video is a good illustration of temptation and the hope in future rewards. This experiment is based on many previous and similar scientific tests.” (YouTube description; Oct 6th, 2014)

This test shows us not only the behaviours of children when faced with a tempting treat but is also an observation piece that can look at delayed vs instant gratification.

The second video we viewed was The Mature Marshmallow Test.

This video is performed by actors; each assigned one of the children-characters from the first video. It is meant to be funny, but is also us the opportunity to observe (subjectively) how adults interpret childhood behaviours. This gives us an insight into adults and their relationship with children, but also reminds us that when we are working with young children, we need to stay current on what is important to them. [Example: as a parent I’ve watched more Max and Ruby episodes than I ever care to, but my son loved them, so I watched them too.]

Today, we also took a look at subjective versus objective observations. “Subjective information or writing is based on personal opinions, interpretations, points of view, emotions and judgment. It is often considered ill-suited for scenarios like news reporting or decision making in business or politics. Objective information or analysis is fact-based, measurable and observable.” While both are useful, it is important to know the difference because there are times when one is more appropriate than the other.


Overall, you need to consider what is the purpose of your observation and what is your role as the observer. If you are conducting research, for example, you’ll probably need to make objective observations. If you are evaluating learning outcomes as a teacher does, subjective may be more appropriate (but not always). Know your purpose before you begin your observation, and you’ll be more likely to choose the correct method. If in doubt, make objective observations.

The final video we took a look at was of children playing on a slide (1 minute long):

Think about how you can make observations that are objective vs subjective.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s