Psychology Child Observation

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  • Topic: Snowball, Snowball fight, Snow
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Project #2: Child Observation

February 24, 2011

Observation Write-up:

For this project I observed a 6 year old boy named Michael. Michael is a good

friend of my son Dylan and our families are somewhat close, it had been

sometime since our last visit together when we arranged a play date for the purpose of

this project.

We chose to go up to the mountains to play in the snow. Our two families drove

in separate cars and upon arriving at our destination we greeted each other. The two boys

went right into playing. I remained near the cars and observed as their fathers joined

them in their play.

Michael initiated play by throwing a snowball at Dylan. A snowball fight ensued

and Michael laughed and yelled and ran as he attempted to launch and dodge the balls of

snow. Michael’s father used a trick to get closer to Michael. He casually held a snow ball

and looked off into the distance behind Michael and said, “whoa, is that a bear over

there?” Which then caused Michael to turn his head, giving his dad the perfect

opportunity to strike him with a snowball. Michael then modeled this behavior and used

deception to manipulate Dylan during the fight. He said: “look behind you, a squirrel!”

When Dylan turned his head, he threw the snowball at him.

Then the two dads began to throw snow balls at the boys more intensely. At one

point Michael retreated behind a stump on the perimeter of the field and I observed him

saying to himself, “How did he do that? He got me!” There were a few more times like

this when I observed Michael engaging in a dialogue with himself as well as moments

within the group play where he would entertain himself.

After the parents petered out a bit Michael suggested that he and Dylan play

batman and joker. There were many displays of rough-and-tumble play throughout the

observation period as well. This was observed between the two children, as well as

between the children and the adults.

Course content:

The themes that I want to focus on regarding Michael’s behavior are his

collaborative pretend play, his modeling behavior, his non-social play and his language


During the play when Michael wanted to play batman and joker he wanted Dylan

to stop what he was doing and listen to the plan which he explained in great detail. Dylan

agreed but they both wanted to be batman. A struggle for power ensued which is a typical

behavior exhibited by boys at play in middle childhood. Eventually they came to a

compromise that Michael would be batman first and then they would switch. Both boys

wanted to be batman, the good guy, the leader. Though they displayed patterns of a

power struggle during the negotiations, once they began the game they collaborated

wonderfully in this pretend play. Collaboration in play demonstrates a theory of mind in

both boys. They understood that the other had a different point of view about the game

and they both accommodated each other regarding each ones desires within the

boundaries of the game. They were able to maintain this pretend scenario for quiet

sometime. The snowballs were the weapons which were used in the fight between hero

and villain. As Vygotsky’s insights suggest this play allowed the boys to practice adult

roles. Boys play these roles to “train” for life as adult males who are aggressive and in

control. These are of course examples of cultural gender stereotyping but nonetheless

they are modeled behaviors.

Modeling also occurred during the snowball fight when Michael exemplified his

father’s behavior almost immediately after witnessing it such as when he copied his

sneaky snowball trick. This was a display of another of Vygotsky’s main ideas that

learning occurs through social interaction; that we learn from our experiences and then

recreate new experiences based on the information...
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