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A holistic approach to child development

Understanding how children develop is an important obligation for all those who work in early years practise. Practitioners need to develop an understanding of the implications of children’s developmental processes in order to meet individual needs. The key to this understanding is the development of skills in observing children and of interpreting those observations.

Throughout the observations the aim is to compare their abilities to the norms of a child their age and to compare and analyse the results against what child development theorists have understood through relevant reading and understanding gained from experiences, also to explain how the characteristics of the child and features of his/her environment may interact to influence growth and development.

A holistic approach to child development seeks to simultaneously address the physical, emotional, relational, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a child’s life. The importance of the Holistic Approach is that it Children learn different things at different stages, e.g. walking, talking, fine motor skills etc. Holistic development is the overall development of all areas of development in children.

There are many proven techniques used in observing children. Depending on the reason for the observation some methods will relay the information more clearly, the observation that have been taken have been done in the free description written record method, checklists, web diagram. The free description is observed when a specific task is set, appropriate to the age and stage of development of the child. It is a description of an event unfolding face on, written in the present tense so that the reader can appreciate what has happened. The disadvantages are that may not be able to convey everything you see as it happens and sometimes it is difficult to keep up with what is happening and it may produce an unwieldy amount of information this can be seen in Appendix 1. Checklist or developmental guides are often used for assessing a child on one particular day, but can be used over a long period of time. Checklists often highlight areas of a child’s development that have previously gone unnoticed. For example in Appendix 5, I was able to concentrate closely on what the children were doing and could observe things as they unfolded as I was looking for them. The advantages of the checklist method are that it is a quick way of presenting a great deal of information. The disadvantages are that care must be taken to maintain objectivity.

The role of the childcare and educational practitioner in a home placement stays the same as it would in a school or nursery and we still have to abide by the confidentiality policies.

The 1989 United Nations Convention on the rights of the child sets out 54 Articles. The Articles that relate particularly to observing children are:

“Article 12: Children have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them, and to have their opinion taken into account.

Article 13: Children have the right to receive and to share information, as long as the information is not damaging to them or to others.

Article 16: Children have the right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their families and their homes”

Under the Data protection act 1988 the observations taken will require to comply with the eight data protection principles: to be fairly and lawfully processed, to be processed for limited purposes, to be adequate and relevant and not excessive, to be accurate and finally not kept longer than necessary.

The placement setting is in a loving family with both parents present. The mother aged 32 is not working as she is still on maternity leave; the father age 33 works full time Monday to Friday. There are four children in the placement family. Child D the oldest female age 5 attains reception in the school down the road, Child C the middle female child age 3, attains pre-school half a day Monday and Tuesday and stays with a child minder all day Wednesdays. At the end of the placement Child C is attaining pre-school all day Monday and Tuesdays, she also has Hypermobility. The twins Child B and Child A age 6 months on first day of placement. Child B is male and the younger of the twins. Child A is female and also suffers from Hypermobility.

The placement is over a period of 4 months in which I shall being observing Child A and Child B. The mother’s pregnancy was healthy with no problems. Her first child, Child D she was in labor for 26 hours, the second, Child C it only lasted about 30 minutes, she says “I was afraid that I was going to have her down the toilet”! The labor for the twins was also very quick only lasting 1 hour. The mother explains that “during the beginning of the pregnancy you couldn’t even tell I was pregnant and I felt fine but when it came to 28 weeks I got very big and it became very heavy and uncomfortable”. She went full term of 39 weeks. Child A weighed 6lbs 10oz and came out head first with no complications. Child B weighed 5lbs 15oz and tried to come out sideways because of the extra round after Child A left, the midwife had to push the baby back and turn it around inside the mother’s womb. There was 18 minutes between Child A and Child B. When Child B came out he was black and blue but was breathing but the doctors were unsure whether he would survive because his Apgar score was 3. The very first test given to your newborn, the Apgar score occurs right after your baby's birth in the delivery or birthing room. The test was designed to quickly evaluate a newborn's physical condition after delivery and to determine any immediate need for extra medical or emergency care. Although the Apgar score was developed in 1952 by an anaesthesiologist named Virginia Apgar, you may have also heard it referred to as an acronym for: Activity, Pulse, Grimace, Appearance, and Respiration. The Apgar test is usually given to your baby twice: once at 1 minute after birth, and again at 5 minutes after birth. Rarely, if there are concerns about the baby's condition and the first two scores are low, the test may be scored for a third time at 10 minutes after birth. Five factors are used to evaluate the baby's condition and each factor is scored on a scale of 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score:

activity and muscle tone

pulse (heart rate)

grimace response (medically known as "reflex irritability")

appearance (skin coloration)

respiration (breathing rate and effort)

Doctors, midwives, or nurses add these five factors together to calculate the Apgar score. Scores obtainable are between 10 and 0, with 10 being the highest possible score. (www.kidshealth.org/parent/newborn/first_days/apgar.html). Children that have a score under 6 rarely survive.

The mother believes in a constant routine and that her children behave the way they are because she does not smother them and entertain them when they cry, she encourages them to play by themselves as to establish independence from an early age. She says “let the babies cry for a bit and they will sort themselves out”. But obviously if the child has hurt themselves or really needs attention she will give them love and care.

There are not many socio-economic factors within the family as the children were all planned, although the mother obviously didn’t predict twins, she explain that”they are lucky to be in a position to be able to give their children a happy and healthy lifestyle”. During the placement the father got a new job in which he is going to be earning more. The mother explained that they were considering her going back to work but she they want to give stay out of work until the twins are in school. Also during the placement the parents made a very important decision that effects there life forever, they had decided that the father was going to get a vasectomy. They made that decision that they have had the number of children that they want for their family. The mother also gets allot of help from the family as both parent have parent walking distance from the house and the house is always full of family members.

Physical development: The different areas of development that the observations will be focused on are- physical development, this is divided into gross motor development, and how children grow and acquire physical skills, from gaining head control to full agility. Fine motor development linked with vision and hand-eye coordination.

(Frankel, Hobart, 2004)

A child’s physical development depends just as much on nurture as it does on nature. On the one hand a child is born with a genetic map that will guide such matters as height and general muscle development but on the other the child’s environment will influence overall health and activity levels which contribute to physical development. (http://www.kidsdevelopment.co.uk/EncourageChildsPhysicalDevelopment.html)

The developmental norm for a baby aged between Birth to 9 months are:

Birth gross motor reflexes - rooting, sucking and swallowing reflex. Grasp reflex. Walking reflex. Moro reflex

Birth fine motor reflexes – pupils reacting to light, open eyes when held upright, blinks or opens eyes wide to sudden sound, startle reaction to sudden sound, closing eyes to sudden bright light.

1 month gross motor reflexes – In prone, lifts chine. In supine, head moves from side to side. Arm and leg extended on face side. Begins to flex upper and lower limbs.

1 month fine motor reflexes – Hands fisted. Eyes move to dangling objects.

3 months gross motor reflexes – Held sitting, head straight, back and neck firm. Lower back still weak. When lying, pelvis is flat.

3 month fine motor reflexes – Grasps an object when placed in hand. Turns head right round to look at objects. Eye contact firmly established.

6 month gross motor reflexes – In supine, can lift head and shoulders. In prone, can rise up on hands. Sits with support. Kicks strongly. May roll over. When held, enjoys standing and jumping.

6 month fine motor reflexes – Has learned to grasp objects and passes toys from hand to hand. Visual sense well established. (Frankel, Hobart, 2004 p.178-179).

From Appendix 5 we can see that Child A has developed slower in the physical development area. She is able to do all the norms for a baby aged6 months but after 6 months her brother starts to develop quicker and we can see that may be crawling before she does. When observing Child A it seems that she doesn’t seem to understand where her feet are, is could be because of the Hypermobility is when Connective tissue proteins such as collagen give the body its intrinsic toughness. When they are differently formed, the results are mainly felt in the "moving parts" - the joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments - which are laxer and more fragile than is the case for most people. The result is joint laxity with hypermobility and with it comes vulnerability to the effects of injury. These may cause troublesome and persistent problems, but do not affect the vital organs and thus do not pose a serious threat to life. (http://www.hypermobility.org/whatishms.php). Child B is developing physically at a normal rate. Looking at appendix 5 we can see that he is eager to crawl and is progressing well. If I was to return to the placement family in a couple of months I predict that Child B will be crawling and able to sit unaided.

One of the many main theorist that surround child development is Jean Piaget he believed that, “knowledge comes from personal experiences”, he recognised four individual stages. The first two years of a child’s life the sensorimotor stage when babies and toddlers knowledge and understanding are chiefly drawn from physical action and their senses – sight sound taste touch and smell. He suggested that throughout this stage children remain egocentric but become aware of object permanence. (Pound, 2005, p.37) Piaget’s first stage of development (Sensorimotor stage) is only relevant to these observations as it is aimed at children aged from birth to 2 years old. This is the stage where a child does not know that physical objects remain in existence even when out of sight. (http://www.funderstanding.com/content/piaget)

Early on, children are only able to perceive things that are right in front of them, but as they mature, they understand that if a ball rolls under a chair and they can no longer see it, it still exists, under the chair. This is an especially important understanding for children, helping them to have an increased sense of safety and security since they can now grasp the fact that when mum leaves the room, she hasn't disappeared, but will soon return. (http://www.kidsdevelopment.co.uk/EncourageChildsPhysicalDevelopment.html)

Both children seem to understand that when the toy is put behind mums back it’s not there, but they still try and reach for it as they know that mum is hiding it. But when the toys are packed away they understand that it’s gone.

At the beginning of the placement Child B would cry when mum left the round and he continuously looked around for her, towards the end of the placement he stopped doing this. The same thing happened when they were in the buggy, Child A and Child B should start to cry as they were unable to see mum but they both could hear here. Later this stopped.

Their ability to grasp objects is still developing and they are doing a lot of physical movement. They find comfort in playing with objects around them. Child A and Child B are developing an awareness of space from rolling from side to side and distance as they both reach for things. There is one toy that will engage both children’s interest and they seem to be comforted by this particular toy. The children’s mobility is developing as they are aware that reaching and moving will get them what they want and the satisfaction when this is achieved shows on their faces. Child B is able to handle and grasp object while Child A is struggling. The children become rigid, throw their limbs in the air when something has upset them, when they want to be picked up they reach out for the person.

Child A and Child B have been making eye contact with their peers giving them confidence, physical, psychological and emotional comfort. The children observed enjoy the company of others and like to copy facial expressions and sounds that those around them make.

Cognitive and Language development: Language development, which is from the first cry, through the growth of verbal communication skills, to true speech and understanding. Also Intellectual/cognitive development, the development of children’s ability to think and learn through interacting with their senses and experiences (Frankel, Hobart, 2004)

The developmental norm for a baby aged between Birth to 9 months are:

At birth – Cries vigorously with some variation in pitch and duration.

1 month – Cries become more differentiated to indicate needs. Stops and attends to voice, rattle and bell.

3 months – Regards hands with intense interest. Beginning to vocalize.

6 months – Finds feet interesting. Vocalises tunefully. Laughs in play. Screams with annoyance. Understands purpose of rattle. (Frankel, Hobart, 2004 p.178-179).

From Appendix 2 we can see that Child A is developing more in the communication area as she is chatting all the time and has already said “da da” several times. This is encouraged by the family. Child B is not developing as fast in the language norm as his sister as he is only communicating his feelings through crying and giggling, while Child A is able to chat and sing and is now developing coping noises.

Child B likes attention, looking at Appendix 2 we can see that he uses his crying language to gain attention and to be picked up. Burrhus Skinner worked on the Behaviourist theory, which humans act to avoid punishment and gain reward. Skinner emphasised reward. He believed that “punishment was counter-productive”. Skinner also applied behaviourism to language. He believed that all language was learned by reward. – How Children Learn, Linda Pound 2005. So Child B understands that his crying will eventually lead to reward of being picked up which is what he wants. The mother in the placement is trying to stop this as she believes that children should be left to entertain themselves.

Chomsky was so opposed to Skinner’s views that he developed a theory, based on the idea of language development as an innate process. He hypothesised that we are born with a ‘language acquisition device’ which gives us an inbuilt understanding of language structure. Noam Chomsky proposed that all humans have a LAD, (language acquisition device). The LAD contains knowledge of grammatical rules common to all languages. The LAD also allows children to understand the rules of whatever language they are listening to. Chomsky also developed the concepts of transformational grammar, surface structure, and deep structure.

–www.languagedevelopment.tripod.com

Noam Chomsky’s theory that humans are born with a special biological brain mechanism, called a Language Acquisition Device (LAD). His theory supposes that the ability to learn language is inborn, that nature is more important than nurture and that experience using language is only necessary in order to activate the LAD. (Fifty Major Thinkers on Education from Confucius to Dewey, Joy. A. Palmer).

So therefore Child A and B are already aware to what is being said around them and have some understanding of language, they would definitely sense tone of voice and both children can recognise their mothers voice as a comfort noise.

Appendix 3 also shows cognitive development in that both children are use to their bath time routine and like the experience.

The children make sounds in social interaction. Their interaction with Child C (older sibling) creating interest and they enjoy interacting with her. Sound levels are intriguing when there is a sudden noise.

Lev Vygotsky is also another important child development theorist he emphasised the “importance of families, communities and other children’s influences on children”. Vygotsky believed that language and thinking were key; talking about everyday experiences would help children learn more about communication. The zone of proximal development is what a child can do alone and what they can do with someone more skilled or experienced. The social context for learning is when child learn through interaction with others. – How Children Learn, Linda Pound 2005.

Social and Emotional development: Emotional development, from initial total dependence to full independence and autonomy. Social development, from close bonding to full and rich relationships with a complex network of children and adults. (Frankel, Hobart, 2004)

The developmental norm for a baby aged between Birth to 9 months are:

At Birth – Bonding/attachment.

1 month – Watches mother’s face with increasing alert facial expression. Fleeting smile – may be wind.

3 months – Reacts with pleasure to familiar situations/routines.

6 months – Takes everything to mouth. Responds to different emotional tones to chief caregiver. (Frankel, Hobart, 2004 p.178-179).

Erik Erikson, whose influences mainly came from Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter, was largely concerned with how personality and behaviour is influenced after birth, not before birth, and especially during childhood. In the 'nature v nurture' (genes v experience) debate, Erikson was firmly focused on nurture and experience. His theory of eight stages of ‘psychosocial development’ basically asserts that people experience eight 'psychosocial crisis stages' which significantly affect each person's development and personality. -www.businessballs.com. Erikson created a wider and more educationally relevant theory of psychodynamics by integrating social and cultural factors into his writing. His work also stimulated interest in self-identity and adolescence. (Pound 2005) Erikson explained that things that happen when we are children affect us when we grow up. For example, we know that orphans who weren't held or stroked as infants have an extremely hard time connecting with others when they become adults and have even died from lack of human contact.

During the first year of life, a baby forms their first feelings about the world and whether or not it is a safe place based on the level of consistent care provided by the primary caregivers. When trust develops successfully, the child gains a sense of security but if this sense is not developed, a fear and inner mistrust of the world is formed. Anxiety and insecurity are indicative of an unsuccessful beginning. (http://www.kidsdevelopment.co.uk/EriksonsPsychosocialDevelopmentTheory.html)

Babies like putting everything into their mouths, and their senses of taste, are the primary sensory organs until about the age of 8 months.  And even afterwards it's still a first stop in terms of exploring things (touch is a very important first sense, too).  Mouths are useful for exploring the texture of things, too. As we can see from Appendix 2 and Appendix 6. Child A and Child B both like to explore objects by putting them into their mouths.

While Bronfenbrenner’s theory, in line with the social constructionist theories of Vygotsky, Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005) developed the ecological systems theory to explain how everything in a child and the child's environment affects how a child grows and develops. He labelled different aspects or levels of the environment that influence children's development, including the Microsystems, the mesosystem, the exosystem, and the macrosystem. (http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=docHYPERLINK "http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=7930&cn=28"&HYPERLINK "http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=7930&cn=28"id=7930HYPERLINK "http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=7930&cn=28"&HYPERLINK "http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=7930&cn=28"cn=28)

Child A and Child B are beginning to understand their environment as the family have a routine, which we can see from Appendix 4, that the children are aware of the routine and that putting them down on the carpet means time to move about.

Jay Belsky believed in “high-quality child care”, he produced an evaluation of the Sure Start programme and a report published in 2005 inform that in Sure Start areas the most underprivileged groups had managed rather worse that similar groups in non-Sure Start areas. The next report issued in 2008 showed much greater improvements. Belsky reported that “the risks are that more hours in any kind of childcare across the first four-and-a-half years of life and, independently, the more time in childcare centres, the higher the levels of problem behaviour(and) that children who spend more time in non-maternal care through their infancy, toddler and pre-school years experience somewhat less harmonious mother-child relationships through their first three years. They start school being somewhat more aggressive and disobedient than children with less non-maternal experience.” – How Children Learn 3, Linda Pound 2005. Appendix 4 shows that Child C attained a child minder on Wednesdays. The placement mother has spoken about her believes in making her children more independent which is why her first two children have gone to a child minder one day a week and she is going to take the twins to a child minder to. As she thinks “it is good for the children to be able to interact with other people not just mummy, it helps them build confidence”.

There is a definite attachment with the mother and the children but there is also an attachment with the older siblings and the grandmother, who visits a lot.

John Bowlby developed the Attachment Theory, when children show preferences for closeness to a small number of adults and these attachments are a normal and universal part of human development. We need that attachment from birth as babies seek out such attachment with the aim of being fed and protected as it brings the feeling of being safe. The attachments we have at childhood may determine our relationships as adults. – How children Learn, Linda Pound 2005.

From comparing the observations to the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) Child A and Child B are developing an understanding of themselves and what they are capable of doing. This is recognisable during observing them in all types of situation such as carpet time, bath time and feeding.

Recommendation are to let the children continue to stretch and grab things on the carpet, maybe using different material such as shining objects, crinkly objects, light, soft and heavy objects, to encourage the children to be confident and explore new objects.

Babies need to develop some sense of self-identity in order to develop self-confidence and self-esteem. A starting point in this journey is to find ways of helping babies recognise themselves. (Practical EYFS Handbook, Penny Tassoni). Child B is finding it harder to gain confidence in playing solely so the mothers approach to encouraging him to do so is an ongoing process, babies cry fact but Child B needs to learn that he can’t be cuddled all the time. Letting children touch things to work out for themselves what it is and letting them choose what they want and not giving in to their cry if they can’t reach as they might if you give them time.

Playing games with the Child A such as touching the parts of the body as you say them will help them to develop a greater understanding of where their body parts are and helps to create a happy game to play. Also playing feet moving games and moving her legs around helps stimulate her limbs. Being physical and close to your children and making eye contact with them and having conversations with them about anything provide ideal opportunities to develop language skills, especially with Child B. Using key words helps babies to develop language and singing songs and rhyming. Child B is also call another nick name which is endearing but may confuse him in developing recognition of his name.

Through this observations they have lead me to believe that the children are at a normal level of development, Child A is less able to grasp an hold object and her physical development is less than Child B, as Child A has Hyper mobility which means that she will develop physical ability such as standing, crawling and sitting up straight slower than her brother (Child B). But she is communicating and talking more than her brother which could indicate that she is developing quicker in the language and communication area. There is nothing to worry about with the children’s development rate although one is developing quicker at something then the other could be because of the fact that one has hypermobility so she will definitely take longer to develop physically but also because one is female and the other male may also be a factor.

The role of the practitioner is crucial in observing and reflecting on children’s spontaneous play, building on this by planning and resourcing a challenging environment which supports children and extends specific areas of learning and extends and develops children’s language and communication in their play in a safe environment.

The observations taken have helped explain why the children carry out certain behaviour and have leaded me to understand more about child development theory. The most success full observation was the checklist type as it gave me direct answer, the free disruption was effective but I felt that I was missing things as they happened as I was still writing when they happened.

Throughout the placement I have enjoyed the experience and I have gained experience with babies and have found that they are not as fragile as I first thought and that I do understand what their noises mean and I can distinguish between a “hungry cry” and “I’m sad I need attention”, cry. I have also learned that it is healthy for babies not to be seen to straight away when they first start to cry, that they can indeed sort themselves out and ignoring and leaving the children to cry helps them to become more independent.

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