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David – Time Sample

David is a 3 years 4 months boy who has been attending the nursery in the afternoons for 4 weeks. The staff were mildly concerned that he often seems to be at the centre of disruptions and they had felt that they had to keep a constant ear open for him, often meaning breaking off what they were doing with other children. They were interested to find out what he spent his time doing, what was the cause of the disruptions, and whether David was provoked or was exhibiting aggressive behaviour himself. The sessions are mainly free play and the children are free to choose from the available activities. There are 20 children and 2 staff. Here we do a time sample observation.

Good for looking at

  • Observation techniques - time sampling
  • Choosing a technique that is fit for purpose


  • To see how David spends his time and if he is frequently involved in disruptions.


  • David was observed every 10 minutes for 30 seconds over a 2 hour period.

Example observation

  • Find the example event sample observation in the ‘further reading’ section


What did your observation tell you? Have a go at interpreting your observation in light of the original aims.

You can see an example observation and interpretation in further reading.

David – Time Sample Interpretation

David spends his time at a variety of activities and concentrates well getting absorbed in the activities. He seems to be very single minded and determined to do what he wants. He plays alongside other children but isn’t seen to play with them and he doesn’t talk to any of the children in any of the sessions. He does talk to the teacher when necessary. He doesn’t cooperate with others particularly. There is only one session which involves a disruption and this is instigated by David and is a result of him taking exactly what he wants without referring to what others are doing. He isn’t seen to be aggressive even when his single mindedness annoys others and he gets hit by them. He is very assertive and stands his own ground without becoming physically aggressive.

David has good powers of concentration, becoming absorbed in whatever he is doing. He is single-minded, to the extent of taking what he wants without reference to others, possibly resulting in conflict situations, but his involvement in disruptions does not seem to be frequent. An event sample may provide more evidence of both these points.


David - Time sample 1 Download
David - Time sample 2 Download