The data collection and registration of information about the child and his parents, toys and play took the form of a short interview or introduction and completion of a comprehensive questionnaire.
The questionnaire was prepared so that it was clear, precise and easy for the parents to understand. The layout was deliberately chosen so that the questionnaire did not look too “professional” or daunting.
The questionnaire had neither codes in the margin nor codes columns. The respondents simply had put a cross against their answers to the closed questions. They had four weeks to do this.
The respondents were welcome to enclose children’s drawings, poems, stories and photographs if these were the source of inspiration for their responses. The material would also be used as documentation in connection with discussions of the research results.
The assistants or interviewers were all volunteers, either trained in child welfare, teachers or student teachers. They participated in the data collection after thorough instruction (in the form of a training course or instructive lecture) about the objectives of and thoughts behind the research.
Motivating the parents to participate was achieved by talking to them (sometimes in their own homes). There was a short interview with the child and parents together and the parents were instructed how to complete the questionnaire. This interview was best restricted to less than 30 minutes’ duration.
The idea of involving the mother/father in the research was to ensure that there was someone on hand to check the child’s answers and to create an opportunity for letting Mum/Dad become equal partners with the child in answering the questionnaire about toys and play. Children don’t look for any underlying objectives. They just want to give “correct” answers and are often inconsistent relative to previous responses. In most cases, the children and their parents knew the interviewer as this person was a family member, a neighbour or the child’s own teacher.
In the case of younger children, if the interview took the form of a conversation where the child showed the interviewer around the playroom and presented his toys, this was motivating and helpful. The child himself often started by demonstrating how a toy worked or how he played with it.
For the older children, greater linguistic fluency was significant and, based on their school experience, the children tried to give “correct” answers.
In these situations, parental participation was therefore excellent. The aim of many of the questions was to register parents’ attitudes via their answers. The questionnaire was therefore left in the hands of the parents for several weeks so that they had plenty of time to talk about the research and write explanations and answers to the half-open questions before it had to be submitted/returned and subjected to the checking procedure.