The environment in which the toddler is observed is a private home, approximately 2500 square feet. The primary areas that the toddler interact in include a large family area with an entertainment center, two couches, and several "play stations" including a toddler walker toy, several push toys, a couple of large image books, a giant Elmo stuffed animal and a puzzle. The toddler also moved about the kitchen, which was wide and open, had hardwood floors and a dining area where the toddler's high chair was set up. There were several gates positioned through doorways to block the toddler from accessing other areas of the home.
During the time of observation, the toddler was at home with mom and dad, myself as the observer, and one other couple who had an infant of 3 months with them. The adults were engaged in animated discussion and preparing to watch a movie together while visiting.
The toddler, hereby identified as N.S., seemed very comfortable around the couple visiting with the 3-month-old, H.A. I maintained as unobtrusive position as possible, sitting apart from the gathering in order to observe N.S.'s behavior over the course of 1 hour.
For the first part of the visit, N.S. was busy occupying himself with "playing" with the visitors and their new baby. He would approach mom #2 slowly, and shyly peer at the baby, point with a finger, make the noise "ba ba" and smile. During this interaction, several times N.S. ran behind his mother, tugged her pant leg and looked over at the infant again exclaiming, "ba ba" and smiling. His mother nodded and smiled in acknowledgment "Yes N.S., you are a big boy. See the pretty new little baby? Remember when you were a baby?" This behavior is notably attributed to social development, which would be considered "normal" for a child of 1 year of age (Fogel, 2001). N.S. is showing "recognition" of the fact that there is another little person in the room, and expressing adequate interest in the newcomer. N.S. has demonstrated an average level of social interaction (Fogel, 2001) showing curiosity of the newcomer's role and situation.
N.S. continued this game for some time but eventually lost interest in the infant. He went over to one corner of the room where his Elmo stuffed toy was sitting. Grabbing the Elmo, he sat down, hugged the animal and began sucking on the stuffed animal's nose. He continued sucking for some time, licking the stuffed animal too at various points. After about 10 minutes of this N.S. stopped and began to fuss, sticking out his lower lip and sucking on his hand. At this point mom stepped in and signed the image for eat. Apparently N.S. has learned some simple sign language, as he repeated the sign his mother had and went over to his high chair. Momma put N.S. In high chair and gave him some cheese and bread to eat.
Once about ever four minutes or so, N.S. would fuss, momma would make the sign for drink, which was a fist directed toward the mouth, and N.S. would take his sippy cup and drink from it. Here a good deal of cognitive achievement that is normal for this age level has been displayed by N.S. He is utilizing his hands and mouth to not only explore but also express hunger. A majority of young babies use sucking, licking and tasting as a cognitive tool to decipher their environment and relate to new objects (Fogel, 2001). I this instance, N.S.'s abandonment of his Elmo for his hand is a clear switch from mere interest to a state of agitation and hunger. The fussiness exuded by N.S. is a natural reaction to the environment, a cognitive sign that N.S. has become hungry. It appears that N.S. is still growing out of the infantile stage where babies suck on their hand as an expression of their hunger (Fogel, 2001). Fussing and crying are also examples of the natural response to the body's cues for hunger.
After approximately another 15 minutes N.S. began to fuss again, and throw the remainder of his food on the floor. Once again at this point the momma would make a sign for finish, and N.S. would repeat. He was then let down from the high chair. N.S.'s cognitive ability seems slightly advanced for his age, as he is able to perform simple sign language functions indicating his physiological state of health. In this instance for example, N.S. is able to relay messages of hunger and satiation to his mother using sign language. Though normal cognitive development in a toddler would allow for mastery of sign language prior to speech, a majority of toddlers have difficulty mastering these symbols until they are 14 months of age and older; as N.S. is only 12 months, his cognitive ability seems somewhat advanced in this respect (Fogel, 2001).
At this point N.S. went into the family room to again observe the infant, who had been placed in a "bouncy" chair that vibrated. N.S. hit the bouncy chair and made a fussy noise, and tried to climb in the bouncy chair with the baby. Momma stepped in at this point and discouraged this behavior; N.S. responded by sticking out his lip and squealing, "ba ba." Momma responded N.S. is a big boy now, has to be careful of the little baby."
N.S. paused for some time and looked about the room at this point. He then went to the corner and grabbed his toy mower, and began pushing it around the room. He would push it toward each of his guests and make a noise something like, "mo mo." Each of the guests would comment something to the effect of, "my big boy you are, mowing the lawn!" N.S. would respond by smiling and laughing and pushing his mower to another member of the room. Now we have once again entered the realm of social development. N.S. wants to "share" with the baby and realizes that the infant is using a "toy" he might be interested. Though undoubtedly N.S. has been too big for the bouncy chair for sometime, the fact that the baby is interested in it has sparked a newfound curiosity.
At one point N.S.'s mom picked up the infant to hold her. N.S. immediately ran over to his mom and began pulling on her leg, holding his hands up high like he wanted to be picked up. Momma kept telling him that he had to wait, but N.S. became increasingly vocal, making "ma" sounds and throwing up his hands, bouncing up and down and clinging to his mother's leg until she picked him up as well. N.S.'s sentiment of jealousy and clinging to his mother are perfectly normal exhibits of his social and cognitive development. At this age he is likely to be developmentally more "clingy" to his mother, and perhaps does not understand why she would want to share her affections with the baby. His pulling, attempts at capturing his mother's attention by calling her name and grabbing her leg are all signs of normal attachment issues that can be associated with both social and cognitive development in a one-year-old (Fogel, 2001).
Social and cognitive development are inextricably linked. A toddler must develop certain cognitive abilities, such as the ability to recognize familiar faces, before he/she has the capability of functioning as a social entity (Fogel, 2001). In this case N.S. demonstrates a perfect union of cognitive and social ability. N.S. has reached an age where he is able cognitively to distinguish between himself and the presence of another baby in the room. The presence of another young person has sparked his social desire to explore the new baby but also retain the…