Child Routine activities

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Scope of the chapter

This chapter aims at providing a theoretical framework by means of discussing relevant theories that support the use of activity settings. The theoretical concepts discussed include the Bioecological theory, ecocultural theory and the developmental niche concept. Thereafter, the components of activity settings are expanded on, with specific reference to the African context.


The field of early childhood intervention has evolved significantly over the past three decades with many conceptual changes highlighted in the literature. The most significant being the introduction of family-centered practice which recognises the centrality of family in the life of the child (Turnbull, Turbiville & Turnbull, 2000). The term familycentered refers to a particular set of beliefs, principles, values and practices that aim at supporting and strengthening family capacity to enhance and promote child development and learning (Dunst, 2002). Family-centered practice recognises that families are unique,with their own traditions, beliefs and value systems. The family context which has been identified as the context for learning and development (Carpenter, 2000), is embedded within a particular culture; and while families are not defined by culture alone, culture is viewed as having a significant impact on the developmental opportunities of children (Harry, 2002; Barnwell & Monimalika, 1996). To understand family strengths and in order to build capacity, it is imperative that one gains insight into the cultural contexts in which families live (DeFrain & Asay, 2007). This is important, as research has shown that caregivers desire approaches which are easy to incorporate into their daily lives, and assist the child in being part of the family and community (Sheldon & Rush, 2001).

Contextualising development

Culture is defined as a “socially interactive process of constructions” consisting of two main components: shared activity and shared meaning (Greenfield, Keller, Fuligni and Maynard, 2003, p. 462). One way of understanding shared activity and shared meaning is through investigating activity settings, which are the “perceptible instantiation of the ecological and cultural system that surrounds the family and individual” (Gallimore, Goldenberg and Weisner, 1993, p. 539). The study of activity settings therefore allows for human activity to be understood within context, because the impact of culture on belief systems is mediated through the everyday experiences and events that involve the child’s interactions with various people and the environment (Gallimore et al., 1993; Harry, 2000). Furthermore, it is through engagement in activity settings that individuals learn ‘cultural scripts’ or what is expected of them, which activities are considered appropriate or inappropriate, how they are expected to engage in these activities, the ways other people will deal with them, and the ways in which they are expected to deal with others (Tudge, Odero, Piccinini, Doucet, Sperb and Lopes, 2006). Culture therefore structures the settings within which children’s activities take place (Dawes & Donald,2005). The theoretical concepts underlying activity settings are now explored, in order to
develop a perspective on development in context.

Bioecological framework

Bronfenbrenner has motivated for research on children to focus on how children develop within settings that are “representative of their actual world” (Lerner, 2005, p. x). Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological perspective helps to achieve this objective, because it is inclusive of all the systems in which families are enmeshed and it reflects the dynamic nature of actual family relations (Swick & Williams, 2006). The ecological environment is conceptualised as a set of nested systems consisting of the Microsystem, the Mesosystem, the Exosystem and the Macrosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 2005; Sontag, 1996). This discussion focuses only on the Microsystem and Macrosystem in order to understand the proximal and distal influences on the child. Bronfenbrenner’s most proximal level of interaction in his hierarchy of systems, the
Microsystem, allows for a closer look at the patterns of “activities, roles and interpersonal relations experienced by a developing person in a given face-to-face setting with particular physical and material features, and containing other persons with distinctive characteristics of temperament, personality and systems of belief” (Bronfenbrenner, 1992, p. 227). The child’s family context is the Microsystem in which early learning takes place (Swick & Williams, 2006). The interaction that takes place in the immediate environment is referred to as ‘proximal processes’. The proximal processes affecting development vary systematically as a joint function of the characteristics of the developing person, the environment (both proximal and distal), and the processes taking place. Examples of such processes include feeding a baby, reading, caring for others and play. Participation in these interactive processes over time generates the ability, motivation, knowledge and skill to engage in such activities, with others and on one’s own (Bronfenbrenner, 2005). Children’s developmental contexts are therefore viewed as cultural in all senses (Dawes & Donald, 2005).

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1.1 Introduction
1.2 Problem statement and rationale
1.3. Terminology
1.3.1. Activity settings
1.3.2. Family-centered
1.3.3. Natural environments
1.4 Chapters 
1.5 Summary
2.1 Introduction
2.1.1. Scope of the chapter
2.1.2. Background
2.2. Contextualising development
2.2.1. Bioecological framework
2.2.2. Ecocultural theory
2.2.3. Developmental niche
2.3. Activity settings 
2.5. Summary
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Aims
3.3 Research design 
3.4 Preparatory Phase
3.5 Main Study
3.5.1 Description of setting
3.5.2 Participants
3.6 Equipment and Materials
3.6.1 Equipment
3.6.2 Materials
3.7 Data Collection 
3.7.1 General procedures
3.7.2 The interviews
3.7.3 Description of procedure followed
3.8. Data analysis and statistical procedures
3.8.1 Analysis of transcriptions
3.8.2 Reliability
3.9 Summary
4.1. Introduction
4.2 Description of context
4.3 Activity settings
4.3.1. Child Routine activities
4.3.2. Play activities
4.3.3 Early Literacy activities
4.3.4 Entertainment activities
4.3.5 Chore activities
4.3.6 Spiritual activities
4.3.7 Family activities
4.3.8 Community-based activities
4.4 Caregiver Perceptions 
4.4.2 Important lessons learned at home
4.4.3 Activities that the child enjoys
4.4.4. Perceptions on how children learn
4.5. Conclusion 
4.6 Summary
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Conclusions
5.3 Evaluation of research
5.4 Recommendations for further research
5.5 Summary


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