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.