This brief essay explains the importance of observational skills in a child’s life. It also lists/analyzes some books and activities that will help young children develop those skills.
There are eight operations we associate with the process of thinking. These operations are: Observing, comparing, classifying, hypothesizing, organizing, summarizing, applying, and criticizing (Norton, 11). Out of all, observing is the most important. Without observational capabilities, the seven other operations become impossible. For example, one cannot organize unless they can observe similarities. Consequently, observational skills must be emphasized in a child’s life. Below are some books and activities that will help develop this crucial procedure.
Come Look with Me by Gladys S. Blizzard is an art appreciation book perfect for observational training. Along with every picture are a few questions asking the reader to observe certain aspects of the piece. There are no wrong answers; it is strictly up to the reader’s interpretation. This book is a great choice, because not only does it introduce children to wonderful paintings and drawings, but lets them decide what the artist may have been trying to say. If possible, it would be beneficial to take a trip to an art museum. There children could experience artwork in its purest form, and make their very own observations. Replicas are splendid, but nothing can compare with the real thing.
First Thousand Words by Heather Amery & Stephen Cartwright is a book that does three things to help greatly with observation. It contains pictures of everyday life, chooses items from those pictures that the reader can find, and has the names of those items printed beneath. That way, children can look for a certain item and use the word in tandem. Language and observation skills are thus empowered at once, aiding greatly with reading. Another note-worthy aspect of this book is the fact that there is no narrative. This allows readers to come up with their own stories about the various things happening in the illustration. Something good to go with this idea would be a flannel graph (17). A child could use it to create his/her very own scenes instead of just interpreting someone else’s.
The final piece of literature I would suggest is, The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. What makes this book outstanding is how the illustrations go along perfectly with the text and yet, tell their own story. By observing the subtle nuances in each picture, the reader receives a deeper understanding. Observation is about two things, seeing what is there and what is under the surface. This book masterfully instructs on how to do the latter. In a classroom setting it would be valuable to ask each child for their interpretation of one of the drawings. No doubt there will be differences, but that is the point, you can teach the children how interpretation depends on individual perspective.
There are many other books and techniques than listed here that can be used to teach observation. In fact, wherever you are, at home, outside, these places are full of different things to observe. “What color are the flowers?” “How big is that tree?” whatever we see can be delved into further. In order to teach observation you need only be…observant.
Amery, Heather & Cartwright, Stephen. First Thousand Words. Revised Ed. London: Usborne Publishing, 1995.
Blizzard, Gladys S. Come Look With Me, Animals in Art. Florida: Lickle Publishing Inc, 1996.
Norton, Donna E. Through the Eyes of a Child, An Introduction to Children’s Literature. 7th Ed. Columbus: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall, 2007.
Potter, Beatrix. The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit. London: Penguin Group, 1982.
Billy Greer Copyright 2010
Published in: Family