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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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2.1 Creating a questionnaire for parents: Karen’s tips

If you want to create a questionnaire to send home with parents, to make the responses as helpful as possible, it will be important to ask for some personal details, such as the age of the child. However, to increase the chances of parents responding, avoid asking for any information that could identify the child and family. And make sure that you provide a space where parents can drop their returned questionnaires rather than handing them to staff, thus reducing the chances of the parent being identified.

The following is a list of questions that could be used to find out more about what parents do at home.

  1. Do you have any concerns about your child’s health?
  2. Does your child enjoy eating?
  3. If yes, what sorts of food do they enjoy most?
  4. What do they dislike?
  5. Do you think they have a healthy diet?
  6. Do you have any difficulties in providing a healthy diet to your child?
  7. Do you think that they are a healthy weight?
  8. What sorts of drinks does your child have at home?
  9. Does your child enjoy drinking water?
  10. Does your child drink from a cup or a bottle?
  11. How healthy are your child’s teeth?
  12. Do you have any concerns about the appearance of their teeth?
  13. Does your child visit the dentist?
  14. How many hours of sleep does your child get each night?
  15. What is their bedtime routine?
  16. Does your child have a bottle at night?
  17. Does your child have a dummy/pacifier?
  18. Is your child physically active?
  19. How does your child come to nursery: in a car/bus/walking/other?
  20. Does your child use a buggy?
  21. What is your child’s favourite sort of play? For example, solitary play, doing what? Or playing with others? Doing what?
  22. Does your child use an electronic device. If so, what is it?
  23. How much screen time do they have each day?
  24. Does your child have a medical condition?
  25. A special or educational need?
  26. Difficulties with mobility?

Activity 2 Finding out about home practices in your setting

Timing: 10 minutes

Having read the parent questionnaire, think about your response to the following questions:

  1. Why do you think it’s helpful to find out the answers to these questions?
  2. Thinking about your setting, are there questions you would add or remove from this list?
  3. Why do you think that it’s important to give parents the opportunity to complete the questionnaire anonymously?
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The answers to these questions can give an overview of some of the health practices within a child’s home. Parents may be concerned about being judged about their practices, therefore ensuring anonymity for parents is a way of gaining an honest response. Depending on the children and families in your setting, you may have other questions that you think would be helpful to include. On the other hand, there may be some in the above list that are not so helpful.

After completing Step 1 of the 5 Steps of the Toolkit (see Session 5) co-researcher, Karen, who was employed as the Family Support Worker, had built up a picture of the parents of the 105 children in the setting. This helped her to become aware of the diversity of the families and some of the factors that needed consideration. For instance, she became aware that some parents did not have English as a first language. some were illiterate, and on the other hand, some parents were engaged in higher education courses. Some children were in the care of the state and didn’t live with their biological parents. The findings from the completed questionnaires illustrated that careful consideration needed to be given to the ways that the setting approached working with parents.

The findings from the questionnaire revealed that many parents were short of time, and many were very honest about the mealtime routines and content of food at home. Their responses revealed that some parents lacked knowledge about what healthy eating is, or how to go about providing healthy food and hydration. Many stated that they did not have the time to make meals from scratch, and some parents didn’t have the spare cash to spend on food that their children may not eat.

The information that you gather from the questionnaires may produce some surprising facts, and it is important that all practitioners are able to be non-judgemental in response to the information.