Observing Harry: Child Development and Learning 0-5

Observing Harry: Child Development and Learning 0-5

Observing Harry: Child Development and Learning 0-5

Observing Harry: Child Development and Learning 0-5


"the book shows quite powerfully...how a well-resourced and flexible learning environment can be exploited by children to channel their interests and expand their understanding. As well as contributing to our understanding of learning, it should also serve to inform debate about gaining children's consent in the research process." Early Years

This book is about Harry, a determined little boy, who is intrinsically motivated to explore his world from an early age. His parents and grandparents find him so fascinating that they keep a written and video diary of Harry's play from when he is 8 months to five years. The author offers theories about how children learn and applies the theories to the observations of Harry.

The book demonstrates how effectively Harry accesses each area of the curriculum through his interests. It shows how Harry develops coping strategies when the family experiences major changes. It also highlights the contribution made by Harry's parents and his early years educators to his early education. Much of what we learn about Harry's early learning can be applied to many other young children.

This book about one child's early development and learning will be of interest to all who are fascinated by how young children learn - nursery practitioners, early years teachers, parents, students and advisers.


This account began not as a book, but as a diary and video record of Harry's early years by his parents, Ian and Colette, and by his maternal grandparents. The author is Harry's maternal grandmother referred to in the book as Grandmop or Mop. When Harry is born his dad, Ian, works for a toy company and occasionally works away from home setting up and manning toy fairs for trades people. Like every family, we were interested in and fascinated by each new aspect of Harry's development and learning. We did not realize how much we would learn from observing and documenting what Harry did and said.

In the field of early childhood education, we draw on a long heritage of observational studies that have helped us to get to know young children and to plan for their learning (Bartholomew and Bruce 1993). Baby biographies by parents have made a major contribution to our knowledge of how children learn and how we can help them, both as parents and as educators (Darwin 1877; Navarra 1955; Piaget 1962; Matthews 1994).

One of the keys appears to be the close observation of young children by people who are deeply interested in the well-being and development of those children. Holt (1991: 133) states:

While such close, patient observation is rare in most
teachers, it comes more easily to parents, because of their
interest in, and love for, their children. Like a naturalist, an
observant parent will be alert both to small clues and to large
patterns of behaviour.

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