Saturday, 30 April 2011

YOUNG CHILDREN - Arlee's A to Z - Characterisation


Young children appear to know the rules the conversation but discuss and debate is a little over their heads - it just is.

Young kids boast and no amount of persuasion can shift them from their-right to reality.

When young children are forced into close proximity there will be a split. The cautious wall-flowers will separate out – opt to move to the edges - and watch. The confident become a group – not a long lasting one. A leader will emerge, the others will jostle for the next important positions and the rest sort out the pecking order by posturing, shouting louder or being biggest and the most determined. At this point some of the initial wall-flowers will join the group now the uncertainty is resolved. Unsuccessful socialites will drift out and form their own group – they often become a shadow of the key group.

Conversation and play is a process of experimentation: trial and error. 

Observing them at play is like watching life on replay – young children mimic the adults who have influenced them: using mannerisms and whole sections of sometimes poorly understood language, they reflect the speech patterns, sayings and the values they have learned at home or school.

Unsupervised, smaller children will often react toward unfamiliar things either with aggression or fear where older children will investigate the unknown and try to make rational sense of it. 

Older children will try to find parallels between the unknown and the known. They will wait, discuss and think. Although there is usually one child acting on a more emotional compass who will want to hit out at the unknown object - just to see. 

Four year olds can and talk things through when encouraged. To family and friends, they can talk from sun-up to sun-down. However, when they are in new and unfamiliar settings they will opt for caution and they won't speak at all.

Young children are ruled by their basic needs. Their body is their primary environment - an endless source of fascination and amusement. 

Beyond themselves, young children need the security of the familiar: family, neighbourhood and school.

They have a unique field of vision – low and immediate. 

There is magic in everyday objects so their learning must be grounded in sight, sound and touch.


Stories for young children need :
  • familiar settings
  • strong plot
  • moral, brave and likeable heroes
  • obviously unlikeable villains
  • a real sense of danger
  • emotions
  • absentee adults 
  • basic enough language to encourage confident participation at first, and confident independent reading later - this does not mean that there should be no challenging vocabulary
  • shorter sentences
  • create revoltingly original insults

You're feeling?
yearning, yielding, youthful or yucky

Whatever happened to the month? Like badly pegged washing, one minute it was flapping around lazily and the next it was disappearing into the distance at an alarming speed. ;) I'm going to post z later in the day. 


  1. I love that list. And, yup, that's the social order in a playground (or school).

    Have a great weekend.

  2. Hi Medeia
    Thank you.
    Little people are tough on each other but, 1/3 know it, 1/3 don't know it and 1/3 don't care.
    I hope you have a great weekend too.

  3. novel is written through the eyes of a ten year old boy whose mother is struggling with schizophrenia. The challenge is in keeping it simple, seeing a world gone sour as a young boy. And yes, having a ten year old of my own certainly helped:) The book comes out in a week or two.

    Great post, Elaine. Our passions appear similar.


  4. Elaine - I love the list and this post in particular. I am always looking for helpful hints for my writing for children. Thank you.