Art of Observation
Observation plays a vital role in how as parents and caregivers we can provide a prepared environment for our children based on their interests and what they are ready for or capable of doing.
Dr Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori method, believed that observation was the key to a child’s learning. She emphasized observation or observing children and hence coined the phrase “Let the child be the guide”.
In this blog, we'll explore how as busy parents, with lots to do, can we practice the art of observation with our children.
The Importance of Observation:
Observation is crucial in the Montessori way because it helps you understand your child's unique needs, learning style, and interests. By observing children, you can create a prepared learning environment that is tailored to your child’s unique needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach or just because a friend/ relative’s similar-aged child is doing it. Remember each child is unique and different and children develop at different and their own pace.
Observation will also help you identify any issues or challenges your child may be facing. For example, if a child is struggling with a particular activity or is not making progress on something, you can create targeted learning interventions to support your child come up with the solution.
Note observation is not a passive activity. You need to consciously take the time to observe your child. You will need to pause and take notice of what your child is doing. How do they move their bodies? How do they use their hands and fingers? What gets them excited? What development milestone are they working on? and what toys /tools can you give them to support or scaffold their learning? All this without interrupting a child when they are doing the task or at play!
Here are some tips to practice observation.
- Observation is Ongoing: Whenever the opportunity allows pause and notice how your child is doing a certain activity. You can stand afar and observe, to not disturb your child immersed in an activity. This pause will go a long way in identifying and correcting undesirable behaviors too in the long term. For e.g. If you’re your child jumps on the couch, you may notice that your child has high energy levels that need an outlet and may want to take them to a trampoline park to get that energy or get an indoor trampoline. If they are throwing things, then a small ball can allow them to channel what they need and build gross motor skills too.
- Observation is objective: Observe without judgment or preconceived notions about your child. Observe to understand, not criticize, or correct. You will intuitively arrive at the solution when you are objective in your observation.
- Observation is individualized: You may learn that your child needs more guidance and support, E.g.: Your child may be struggling with a puzzle piece and saying “Have you tried rotating the piece the other way” could just give them the clue to solve the puzzle, or may require more independence and time to get to the solution, so waiting for the right moment to offer guidance and support may be the approach to take.
- Observation requires patience: Observation is more than just watching; it's an art that requires patience and practice and over time you will develop the skill. Make note of what you learn. Be willing to experiment with different things that will work for your child rather than getting frustrated about your child not being able to use something that you gave them. Rotate toys or bring in materials to address the needs and plan future activities. Stay open-minded.
Observation is not limited to just watching the child. It also involves listening and taking note of their behavior, interactions, and emotions. It's essential to be present and engaged in the moment and not let personal biases or preconceived notions influence our observations.
Maria Montessori believed that observation was not only a tool for identifying a child’s learning needs but also a tool for self-reflection and growth. Through our children’s behaviours, We see the impact of our actions and are constantly challenged to improve and grow.
By observing children, we gain insight into their world and can learn about ourselves as their parents/ caregivers.