|Table of Contents||ii|
|Chapter One – Introduction
|Chapter Two – Literature Review
|Chapter Three – Methodology
|Chapter Four – Findings
|Chapter five – Discussion
|Chapter Six – Conclusion and Recommendations
The research question is what are facilitators ’perceptions’ of parent, baby and toddler groups in the Cavan area?
The researcher has three objections, to gain a better understanding of parent, baby and toddler groups, understand the benefits of participation for parents and children and finally to gain insight to the running of parent, baby and toddler groups in relation to activities, funding and training. The results of the fieldwork noted that there was very little research done on parent, baby and toddler groups in the Irish context.
A qualitative method was used to gather the data in this study. Three facilitators’ of parent, baby and toddler groups participated in semi – structured interviews which were recorded and transcribed. The questions were pre approved by the researchers’ supervisor and consent and participation forms were signed prior to the conduction of the interviews.
The researcher has also provided a number of recommendations in relation to parent, baby and toddler groups and the upkeep and running of the groups.
Chapter One – Introduction
This chapter will introductory chapter will briefly discuss this small scale study on the facilitators’ perceptions’ of parent, baby and toddler groups. It will also discuss the rationale for the research together with the aims and objectives, which will also be outlined. This chapter will end with a brief summary of the following chapters.
1.1– Rational and Background for the Research
The researcher has been asked to complete a dissertation as a requirement as part of their BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Care and Education. The topic that is of interest to the researcher is parent, baby and toddler groups and how they work. The decision to undertake this study on parent, baby and toddler groups was made as the researcher had an interest in the groups since participating in multiple parent, baby and toddler groups as part of their summer employment. There has also been a significant increase in the number of parent, baby and toddler groups in the researcher’s local area in recent months, which also spiked an interest of how they are set up and is there much up keep involved. The researcher was also interested to see how beneficial the parent, baby and toddler groups were to parents and children and the relationship between the two.
The aims and objectives arose from interests and questions that the researcher had on parent, baby and toddler groups from their own experience. The objectives of this study are to gain a better understanding of the aims and objectives of parent, baby and toddler groups, understand the benefits participants will gain from participating in parent, baby and toddler groups regularly and the study will also look at the funding, training opportunities and the running of parent, baby and toddler groups.
1.2 – Status of Research in the Area
From previous research and knowledge know to the researcher, there is currently very little research done on parent, baby and toddler groups in the Irish context. The research known to the researcher will be outlined in chapter two, the literature review. The researchers’ main sources for information were Early Childhood Ireland, TULSA and the County Childcare Committees.
1.3 – Summary of Dissertation
The function of the introduction chapter in this dissertation is to briefly outline the rational for the topic chosen and briefly introduced the aims and objectives of the study. The introduction will now briefly discuss the content of the following chapters of the study. The next chapter, Chapter Two – The Literature Review, will briefly look at the information and research already carried out and available in regards to parent, baby and toddler groups in the Irish context. As previously disgusted there has not been very much previous research conducted in the field of parent, baby and toddler groups. The literature review will also briefly look at a number of areas of interest to the researcher, such as, the definition of parent, baby and toddler groups, running of groups, responsibilities of the groups, funding and training.
Chapter Three, the methodology chapter, outlines the methodology used to conduct the research on this small scale study. It will also discuss the methodology choices and rationale for these choices. The methodology chapter will also highlight the sample and sampling techniques that were used to conduct this study and it will briefly outline all the ethical considerations and how they were avoided. The methodology chapter will finally look at how the data was transcribed and coded and will discuss the main limitations to the study.
Chapter Four, the findings, will present and analysis the data that was collected from the participants of the study. It will also discuss the five themes that arose in the coding of the data collected and will then present, word for word, quotes from participants.
Chapter Five, the discussion chapter, will take the findings and themes and will base the discussion on the research aims and objectives outlined in chapter two – the literature review.
Chapter six, the conclusion and recommendations chapter will briefly conclude the following chapters and findings and will discuss the recommendations the researcher has recommended in relation to the study, future researchers and future upkeep of parent, baby and toddler groups.
To conclude, the introduction has given brief synapses of what the rational for this study and has also given a brief description of the following chapters. The following chapter – the literature review, will discuss the research already available in the Irish context that has been discovered by the researcher.
Chapter 2 – Literature Review
The literature review will now look at the information already available in regards to the facilitators’ perception of parent, baby and toddler groups in the Irish context. It will discuss what a parent, baby and toddler group is, what they do and how they are run. It will also look at the facilitators’ in the sector and their role in the running and upkeep of the groups and it will also look at the role of the parents and guardians within these groups.
** It is important to note that for the purpose of this study parents, guardians and carers will all be referred to as parents. **
2.1 – Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups
According to Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), parent, baby and toddler groups are a local support group where parents and carers can meet to compare notes. These groups may also be the only social outlet for parents. By having this large social network of parents coming together in one place, parents can help and support each other by offering advice, this is seen as an early intervention mechanism, by sharing stories and letting each other know that they are not the only one facing these issues. This helps parents become less anxious which then stems onto their parenting and then to the child.
Activities provided at parent, baby and toddler groups are not only aimed at supporting strong relationships between the child and parent but they also provide a wide range of experiences to promote learning and development for the child. Both TULSA, (2017), and Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), this is the main benefit of the groups and also states that parents are responsible for their own child for the duration of the session and that the parent should be actively involved in all the activities during the session in order to gain the full benefit of the group.
2.2 – Benefits of Participation.
2.2.1 – Benefits for Parents
Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups are created when a number of parents, with children of similar ages, come together to socialise and support one another, (Early Childhood Ireland, (2015)). This helps parents gain information and support on a number of issues they may have, such as temperaments, routine, feeding and weaning. According to Bullard, (2010), the environment in which we surround children affects their moods, ability to form relationships, effectiveness in work or play and even their health. One of the main benefits, according to Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), is that these groups allow parents the opportunity to give their child undivided attention, away from the distractions of the home in order for the parent and the child to form secure attachments. Cowley, (1994), highlights that children need close relationships with significant adults (for example – mum and dad) in order to form attachments and develop secure relationships. Hayes, (2010), defines attachment as the emotional connection between the child and the significant adults in their lives.
2.2.2 – Benefits for Children
According to the Cavan County Childcare Committee, (2016), there are a number of benefits of participating in parent, baby and toddler groups for the child. One of the main benefits, according to Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), is the opportunity to bond, one to one, with their significant adult, ( for example – mum and dad), with the adult’s full attention on the child and not on the day to day goings on of the home, work or with other siblings. Children will also benefit from the opportunity to socialise and interact with peers their own age, which enables them to develop socially, develop relationships and gain confidence within the group. Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), also highlights that parent, baby and toddler groups can be a good starting point for preparing the child for out of home care, such as, a crèche or another childcare setting or a childminder. Children also get the opportunity to play with new toys which they may not have had the opportunity to play with before and they may also participate in activities they haven’t yet experienced in a group with new people in a new environment.
2.3 – Roles in Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups.
The Cavan County Childcare Committee, (2016), highlights the importance of parental participation in parent, baby and toddler groups. Without them, the group could not exist. Each parent is responsible for their own child for the duration of each group session. Parents are encouraged to interact in all the activities and discussions within the group for the benefit of themselves and their child, to obtain the full benefit of being in the group.
Zaphiriou Woods et al, (2011), also encourage parents to observe their child’s behaviours and share with others in the group their struggles and how they have managed inappropriate behaviours. This helps to provide insight to one another’s experiences and reassuring parents that they are not alone in this matter. While all parents will benefit from participating in parent, baby and toddler groups, parents of the 10% of children that Thomas and Chess, (1968), described as “difficult” may benefit most.
2.4- Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups, who is running them and where are they being held?
Parent, baby and toddler groups are run by many organisations. According to adverts on the Cavan County Childcare Committee, (2016), there are two types of parent, baby and toddler groups in the Cavan area. These are described as drop in sessions and privately run sessions. The majority of the parent, baby and toddler groups in the Cavan area appear to be drop in sessions that are provided by childcare settings as an additional service and have a very low admission fee of €2 or €3, if any. Drop in sessions are generally semi structured and provide a free play session for children and parents, followed by refreshments and an opportunity for parents to talk to one another and then they generally finish up with circle time that consists of a stories and song time, which is generally facilitated and led by a practitioner.
According to the Cavan County Childcare Committee, (2016), privately run sessions such as Mini – Movers, Mother and Baby Yoga Clubs and Mini Swimmers, are also available in the Cavan area. Private parent, baby and toddler groups are generally held in their own building, unlike drop in sessions facilitated within a childcare setting, and most of the water related sessions are available in the local swimming pool. These sessions provide a much more structured session to clients and are strictly for profit businesses. Signing up or booking is essential for these parent baby and toddler groups and these sessions generally require a much higher fee. Privately run parent, baby and toddler groups’ focus on one main activity, such as music, swimming or yoga, rather than a number of activities. According to Net Mums, (2015), these sessions provide a more intimate one to one session between the parent and their child and although they focus less on the parenting network some provide a short session after the group session for the parents to get together over refreshments but this is optional.
2.5 – Resources and Equipment.
The Cavan County Childcare Committee, (2016), provide a list of resources and equipment that providers should consider purchasing when setting up their own parent, baby and toddler group. This section is categorised into four sections, one for the facility, one for babies, one for crawlers and one for toddlers. There is also an additional list of art equipment. Items that are listed for the facility are suitable chairs and tables for adults and children, tea and coffee making equipment, changing facilities, in a separate area from the children, and a security gate/ barrier to prevent children from leaving the setting. Some toys and play equipment recommended for purchased include, soft flooring, soft toys, rattles and activity centres for babies and roll-along toys, cars, dolls, shape sorters, stacking toys and rocking toys for crawlers. Prams, sit and-ride toys, a garage with cars, simple jigsaws, building blocks and dress-up clothes are recommended for older children. Early Childhood Ireland, (2016), and TUSLA, (2017), also advise that addition arts and crafts equipment can include play dough, paint, and drawing equipment. These guidelines also mention that messy play opportunities such as sand, water play, and gloop and play dough should also be facilitated.
Mary Sheridan, (2014), states that these toys and equipment will provide opportunities for play and will help each child with their individual development. By having an array of age appropriate toys children will gain the opportunity to develop fine and gross motor, cognitive, language and social skills.
2.6 – Running a Parent, Baby and Toddler Group.
There are a number of places facilitators can go to for more support and more information. Facilitators’ of parent, baby and toddler groups can go onto the TULSA, (2017), website, were there are a number of links to various supports and helpful tips on running and facilitating parent, baby and toddler groups. TUSLA, (2017), will be the group’s main point of contact for additional information and can provide great support to groups. TULSA, (2017), offers advice on setting up a parent, baby and toddler group and suggests that first, the organiser, must decide if the group will be run by a committee or by one person. The main organiser or chair person is then required to contact and inform TULSA, (2017) (the child and family agency) of the group in order for them to avail of their support network. For more detailed information, Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), gives advice on things like floor spacing and advises that adequate floor spacing of a parent, baby and toddler group for 35 clients should be approximately 150 square meters. They also state that each group has to have Public Liability insurance of at least €2,600,000, this can be obtained through Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), or other facilitators.
Once a location and insurance is obtained it is advised by TULSA, (2017), and Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), that an information pack be produced for parents informing them of the cost, times and dates of the sessions. Important details that should also be in this pack are contact details, first aid information, fire drill procedure and other any other relevant procedures the organiser or committee feel should be in the pack.
Net Mums, (2015), provide a detailed list of the day-to-day running tasks of the group that should be distributed on arrival to each adult and include the outlining of tasks such as setting up the premises, unlocking and locking up of the premises, welcoming people and distributing information packs, collecting money and recording it and organizing drinks and snacks. The dividing up of tasks can be decided among staff members, if run by a setting, by parents who volunteer or amongst a committee. Cavan County Childcare Committee, (2016), highlights the benefits of having a designated first aider within the group who is trained and in charge of the first aid box and its upkeep and can take over in the case of an emergency. This person could also facilitate regular fire drills with participants.
2.7-Professionals in This Area
There is currently no particular course available for facilitators’ or parents who wish to set up their own parent, baby and toddler groups. Practitioners participating in parent, baby and toddler groups are advised to attend a paediatric first aid course, which can be provided by Canavan Byrne, (2016), in the setting or in a designated facility in the county once every few months. This course is however only available to practitioners and early years professionals. Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), advises facilitators to assure they attend additionalcourses, such as child development and children first child protection training, before setting up a parent, baby and toddler group. This will provide safety and protection to their service users. Kildare County Leadership Partnership, (2015), also provides a committee skills training course. This was developed for groups in the setting up stages of a new group and require additional support with committee skills such as, aims and objectives, how to run an effective meeting, group formation, consensus building and conflict resolution, action planning or building a social inclusion focus. These courses are provided by the local County Childcare Committee, (2016), most are free of charge and are available to facilitators and parents at any location.
In this literature review parent, baby and toddler groups were described as an early intervention support network for parents where they can bond with their child while also having a social outlet. There are a number of benefits to these groups outlined throughout the text for the parents such as a social network one to one time with their child and the opportunity to get out of the house. For the child, they have the opportunity to meet peers and develop social skills in preparation for preschool or care outside of the home. The role of parents and facilitators within the group has been outlined and information for parents and facilitators running parent, baby and toddler group was discussed.
The aim of this study is to look at facilitators’ perceptions of parent, baby and toddlers groups. The objectives of this study are to gain a better understanding of the aims of parent, baby and toddler groups and facilitators’ benefits participants will gain from participating in parent, baby and toddler groups. The study will also look at the funding, training opportunities and the running of these groups.
Chapter 3 – Methodology
The purpose of this methodology chapter is to inform the reader of how the research was conducted, Cottrell, (2014). This chapter will briefly describe the methodology used to conduct this research, the methodology choice and rationale, the sample and sampling techniques that were used, ethical considerations and how they were avoided and finally how the data was coded and the limitations to the study.
Ontology focuses on two things, the nature of reality and what there is to know about the world. The Social Sciences have been shaped by two central positions, which include idealism and realism, Ritchie et al, (2013). Idealism is the belief that reality is fundamentally dependent on the mind. It is only understandable through the human mind and through socially constructed meanings built up from the humans own experiences. However, realism is based upon the illusion that there is an external reality, which already exists. This does not include the beliefs or understandings of an individual’s beliefs, Ritchie et al, (2013). A qualitative method was used to conduct the research for this dissertation topic. The reason for choosing the qualitative method was that it does not focus on gathering numbers and statistics, Punch, (2006), but rather it seeks to produce smaller amounts of more specific data and has a smaller sample group, (Roberts-Holmes, (2011)). There are many epistemological positions relevant to qualitative research. Epistemology is the way we learn and what we know about the world. Its main focus is on issues, such as how we can learn about reality and what forms the basis of our knowledge, (Ritchie et al, (2013)). These focus on two natures of knowledge. Firstly, The Pragmatic Theory of Truth, these beliefs are true if they have a practical function and secondly, Knowledge as “value – mediated”, which means that all knowledge is influenced by the values of the person who produces it or in other words the bias opinion, (Ritchie et al, (2013)). The research was conducted, by means of semi structured interviews, with professionals that facilitate parent, baby and toddler groups. The purpose of using semi structured interviews was to gather information on the facilitators’ own past, experience and opinions on parent, baby and toddler groups, (Family Health International, (2014)). Green and Bricki, (2007), state that the best way to gain in depth answers was to ask open ended questions such as – “what”, “how” or “why?”. With this, the researcher created 8 questions to ask participants during interviews. These can be found in appendix two. The prepared interview questions were based on current knowledge of parent, baby and toddler groups from previous research conducted in the literature review. They were prepared before the interviews were conducted and approved by the researcher’s supervisor prior to contacting participants. The advantages of using semi-structured interviews are that they are adaptable. The participants’ response can be recorded and any points can be followed up. Semi-Structured interviews give an increased reliability and validity as the researcher can ensure with the prepared questions that all information required for the research topic is engaged with throughout the entire interview process, (Hersen, et al, (2011)).
3.3 – Participants
The population of this qualitative study became restricted due to the methods of this approach, face to face interviews, and the availability of participants in the location of the study, Cavan. Many other qualitative researchers adopt a method of non-random or purposeful sampling as part of their research approach. Non-random sampling involves producing a sample, which reflects on the population, (Mutinta, (2013)). Purposeful sampling will be employed during this research. Purpose Sampling is selecting participants that are more likely to initiate useful data. The reason the researcher used purposeful sampling was to chose professionals that not only facilitated parent, baby and toddler groups, but the participants also had to have good knowledge of the day to day running and upkeep of the group in order to answer the questions. This approach to sampling is highly structured and planned in advance of implementation of the researcher going out in the field to carry out the method of qualitative research, (Quinn Patton, (2014)). The advantages of this method arethat the researcher will gain a greater understanding of the facilitators’ perspectives of parent, baby and toddler groups.
3.4 – Administration
Following on from the literature review, there appeared to be a gap in research in the Irish context on research done on parent, baby and toddler groups. From the researcher’s research, a number of questions arose from the literature review findings. These findings then became the bases for the interview questions. A draft of the interview questions, see appendix four, were sent to the researcher’s supervisor and approved.
The researcher then began their primary research by contacting different organizations in the Cavan area, which facilitate parent, baby and toddler groups. The first point of contact was with the Cavan County Childcare Committee, (2017), who responded to and email sent by the researcher to the administrator, see appendix five. The Cavan County Childcare Committee, (2017), responded with a list of facilitators of parent, baby and toddler groups in the Cavan area. The researcher then sent an email out to a number of facilitators. This email introduced the researcher and the topic, explained the aims and objectives of the study and what the researcher expected of the organization if they wished to participate, see appendix six.
Out of the 23 facilitators contacted only four participants responded to taking part in the study the researcher forwarded on a copy of the participation consent form and participation information sheet, see appendix two and three. These form include the purpose of the research, what the researcher purposes to do with the data, any potential benefits and risks of participating in the study, confidentiality, the rights of the participant, including the right to withdraw from the research at any given time and contact information of both the researcher and supervisor for any questions or queries the participant may have. Only three out of the four participants gave consent to being involved in interviews for the study and once consent was given the researcher arranged a number of semi – structured interviews with the participants. Upon arrival, participation consent forms were signed and an opportunity was given to each participant to ask any questions they may have, about the study, before the interview commenced. All the interviews were recorded, with the participants consent, and were immediately transferred on to a password locked CD following the interview. Once transcribed, the CD was locked in a secure location in the researcher’s home and transcripts, see appendix four, were stored under password to assure the confidentiality agreement was adhered to. All the names of professionals and businesses were removed from the transcripts prior to the coding process.
3.5 – Data Collection and Analysis
Qualitative research methods commonly produce rich and descriptive data that requires analysis, (Boeije, (2010)). This data then needs to be interpreted through the identification and coding of themes that in turn will lead to the researcher’s findings, (Boeije, (2010)). For the purposes of this study, the method that was used was semi – structured interviews. The semi- structured interviews, allowed the researcher to tap into a targeted topic with a set of prepared questions, approved by the researcher’s supervisor, but also gave the opportunity to follow up points using prompts or additional questions. The pre prepared questions were used to support the interviewer, throughout the interview, and to encourage the interviewee to go into more detail about the topic, (Green and Bricki, (2007)). It was the responsibility of the researcher to listen carefully to what the participants were saying and to actively engage with them, (Mack et al, (2005)). The questions that were prepared were made up of open – ended questions. Due to these open – ended questions, the interviewee had the opportunity to discuss more of what they felt was important in the researcher’s chosen field of research. For the purpose of this study, there were eight questions in total, see appendix one, to be discussed during the allocated interview time. The researcher also had a number of prompting questions that could be used if needed.
Once the interviews had been conducted and the information was transcribed. The data from each interview was then grouped under each question and common responses were highlighted, see appendix four. The coding then lead to five main themes:
Theme One – Parent, baby and toddler groups.
Theme Two – Service provided and activities.
Theme Three –Benefits of participation for parents.
Theme Four – Benefits of participation for children.
Theme Five – Training and funding available.
3.6 – Validity and Reliability
In order to assure validity the researched asked all the participants the same questions, in order to get each participant’s personal opinion and compare them. The same audio recording device was used for each interview in order to assure recordings were clear and recordings have all been stored on the same CD. To assure reliability, the researcher conducted all the interviews and transcribed and coded all the data. The researcher was also the only person to contact the participants prior to the interviews.
3.7- Ethical Consideration
There are a vast quantity of ethical guidelines that must be adhered to whilst this research project is being carried out. The SAI ethical guidelines, (2016), are the ones that will be referred to. Some of the ethical issues relating to qualitative methods include safeguarding the research and the participant’s interests. Research ethics deals fundamentally with the interaction between the researcher and the participants of the study, (Mack et al, (2005)).
According to the SAI research ethical guidelines, (2016), researchers have a responsibility towards their participants and all participants should be informed on the topic of the research, which is Facilitators’ Perspectives’ of Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups, who is undertaking the research, the reasons for the research and how it will be highlighted. To comply with SAI Ethical Guidelines, (2016), a consent form was distributed among participants before the interviews commenced. This consent forms contained relevant information on the purpose of the interviews, it also informed participants that their private information will be stored in a safe and secure place and any information discussed during the interview sessions will not be discussed outside of the interview. Ethical Guidelines Sociological Association of Ireland, (2016), states that research participants have a right to refuse to take part in the research process at any point throughout the process and this was highlighted to them in the consent forms and upon arrival at the interviews. Ethical Guidelines Sociological Association of Ireland, (2016), also states that the anonymity and confidentiality, of participants, must be respected throughout the research process, in keeping with this, no names of the participants or businesses will be used in the write up of this study and any transferring of transcripts will be done confidentially and recordings and notes will be stored in a secure location with a password lock.
In regards to the Data Protection Act, appropriate measures must be taken in order to ensure all research data is stored in a secure manner, Ethical Guidelines Sociological Association of Ireland, (2016), to assure this all digital transcripts will be stored under a password lock and will be destroyed after 10 months as stated in the confidentiality agreement, see appendix three, and all recordings will be stored on a password locked CD and kept in the researchers home in a safe place and will also be destroyed after a 10 month period.
The main limitation of this study was that only 4 participants out of 23 contacts responded to the email asking them to participate in the study, this was then reduced further when only 3 participants gave consent to partaking in a semi – structured interview. The lack of participation was mainly due to the business of early year’s settings this time of year and the short time line available to complete this study.
To conclude the methodology chapter has looked at the method of research undertaken throughout this study. It discussed that the researcher used a qualitative research approach to the study with the use of semi-structured interviews. The interviews were conducted using a list of eight, pre prepared, open ended questions in order to receive rich and descriptive data. This chapter also discussed the primary research carried out on the population of facilitators in Cavan and how the researcher used purposeful sampling in order to select their participants to take part in the study. To comply with the SAI Ethical Guidelines, (2016), the researcher also discussed how they prepared information and confidentiality packs and consent forms and supplied them to participants in order to avoid any issues arising. The findings of this research will be explored and discussed in the following chapter, chapter 4.
Chapter 4 – Findings
In this chapter the findings of the semi structured interviews carried out on three participants that are facilitator’s of parent, baby and toddler groups in the Cavan area, will be presented and analysed. As stated in the methodology chapter, the interviews were recorded and transcribed and the findings were then coded and themed by the researcher. The following five themes arose from the qualitative data and will be discussed in the following findings chapter. When using direct quotes from the interview sessions, responses will be indicated by quotation marks and will be presented word for word.
4.1 – Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups.
During the interviews, participants were asked what their perception of parent, baby and toddler groups were. Both participants A and B responded that it was an “opportunity for parents to meet other parents and for kids to socialise”. This was also stated and supported by Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), in the literature review chapter, which also stated that these groups can sometimes be the only social outlet for parents, especially those who have become parents for the first time. Participant C stated that it was a “regularly organised activity… that allows the healthy development of relationships”, which participant B, also supported this statement by stating that it was generally held “once a week”.
4.2 – Service and Activities Provided to Clients.
As each service was very different, each facilitator provided an array of activities and services to their clients. Participant A provides a drop in session once a week in a local crèche facility. Participant B also provides a drop in session, which takes place in the local community centre, but is run by the crèche staff. And participant C is a private business/ session with their own building where they provide their sessions. Each participant highlighted that they all supply refreshments for both parents and children, such as “tea, coffee and juice”. Both participants B and C stated that they charge a fee for participation in their parent, baby and toddler group sessions. Participant C also added that they run on a “strictly for profit” basis and that “sessions must be book well in advance”. Participant A provides a free of charge drop in session with the option to “donate for refreshments”, but there is no charge for this parent, baby and toddler session.
Activities varied throughout the facilitators. Participants A and B stated that they mainly provided a “free play” session. However, participant A was more specific and said that they provide an “array of table top activities… which parents and children can play at”, and they also stated that they provide “a number of play mats for babies”. Participant B stated that they were “more structured than other settings… and have routine and structured activities which we set up before each session”; this included a number of “messy play” activities, such as “gloop, play dough, painting and water play”, which the child “wouldn’t normally do at home”. Participant C said that they provide a completely different array of activities, they stated that they provide “a session based entirely around live music”. This session included “singing, rhythmic playing of percussive instruments and movement with scarves”. Participant C also said that they liked to incorporate messy play into the session in the form of painting and bubbles.
4.3 – Benefits of Participation in Parent Baby and Toddler Groups for Parents.
All three facilitators stated that there were tremendous benefits of participating in parent baby and toddler groups for parents. Participant A said that they felt the main benefit to parents was “to get out of the house… chat to and meet other parents”. Participant B also added it would “particularly benefit new parents… as it can be hard to find baby friendly facilities”. Participant B also felt that their parent, baby and toddler group benefitted the parents by having “guest speakers such as the public health nurse in” as this gave the parents the opportunity to “ask questions and discuss issues with a professional”. Participant C stated many benefits to parents throughout the various stages of childhood. They said that “benefits change as the child ages… parents with an infant… connect with their child through song and the teaching of oral language”, “parents of a toddler… benefit from allowing the child explore the surrounding and instruments”. As shown in this section of the findings, participation in parent, baby and toddler groups can offer a lot of support and guidance to parents and can also provide them with a social outlet for them to spend quality time with their child while still having the support of professionals and other parents around them in a very informal way.
4.4 – Benefits of Participation in Parent Baby and Toddler Groups for Children
As well as parents, children also benefit greatly from parent, baby and toddler groups. Participant A, said that the main benefit to the children attending their sessions were that “they can mix with the other children that may be coming to preschool… or other rooms/ session with them”, this helps to “integrate them with the other children so when they come to the setting they have already made friends”. Participant B also stated that participating in parent baby and toddler groups helped the children transition into the setting. They also added that children that don’t have many siblings or cousins benefit from these groups “as it gives them the opportunity to interact or socialise with children… especially with the addition of the second free preschool… children are attending much younger and starting here is a great help”. Participant B also talked about the important skills the children learn from participating in these groups such as “learning the concept of sharing and having other children around… cleaning up… introducing a routine and becoming familiar with a classroom setting”, they also explained that children that had participated in the parent, baby and toddler group found it much easier to transition into the various classrooms and routines then those that had not attended the sessions. Participant C spoke highly of the connection between music and child development and stated that “there has been any number of books written on the subject of benefits of musical education for children”. Participant C then goes on to speak about how their activities promote “early development of motor skills, accelerated development of aural, speech and social skills”, as well as increasing “self confidence”. The sessions in participant C appear to be quiet an interactive session and provide a lot of attention on the development of the child through the medium of music and social interaction.
As shown it is clear that there are a number of benefits for parents and children participating in parent, baby and toddler groups. This is not only shown in the findings but is also mentioned, by TUSLA, (2017), and Early Childhood Ireland, (2016), in the literature review.
4.5 – Training and Funding Provide for Groups And Sessions.
All three participants stated that there was no additional training available, that they neither knew of, nor was there any provided to them when deciding to set up their parent, baby and toddler groups. The participants also stated that they decided to set up their parent, baby and toddler groups based on their knowledge of benefits and own knowledge of the child care industry and need for social interactions among parents and young children. Participant C stated that they set up their parent, baby and toddler group after seeing the enjoyment had by their own children when participating in such groups in the past.
With regards to funding, as participants A and B, were both crèche/ childcare facilities both qualified for the Parent and Toddler Start up Grant. Neither setting disclosed how much funding was received, but participant B stated that the “funding did not cover the renting of neither the community hall, nor the insurance for the first year… and we have to charge a small fee of €3 per family to help cover additional costs”. Participant B also stated that they have look for “support from parents and the local businesses” in order to keep the parent, baby and toddler group running and have been very successful in getting toys and additional money for the facility. Participant C explained that they are a strictly for profit organisation and as they charge a large fee for their service they are “not entitled to additional funding”, but also stated that as they are making a profit that they are not in need of additional funding as of yet. Participant A did not state how much funding was received but did emphasis that it was “very helpful in the setting up of the parent, baby and toddler group… as we did not have to rent a separate facility it covered the cost of additional equipment”. They also emphasised the importance of “keeping receipts as proof that the money was spent on parent, baby and toddler groups… so you can receive additional grants/ payments in the future”.
To conclude the findings chapter, the data collected from this small scale study, conducted using semi structured interviews, has been presented and analysed. The data that has been presented on parent, baby and toddler groups will now be discussed in the following chapter and will be compared to the contents found in Chapter Two – the Literature Review.
Chapter Five – Discussion
The aim of this small scale study on parent, baby and toddler groups was to gain a better understanding of the facilitators’ perception of parent, baby and toddler groups. The objectives of the study were to understand what a parent, baby and toddler groups is, the benefits parents and their children gain from participating in the parent, baby and toddler groups regularly and how parent, baby and toddler groups are run in relation to activities, funding and training. To address the aims and objectives of this study the findings will be discussed under the five themes which have been identified and outlined in the data collection and analysis section of the methodology chapter. These five themes will now be discussed in the context of the literature reviewed in Chapter Two.
5.1 – Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups.
While all three facilitators of parent, baby and toddler groups were very different and provided a very different service, all three facilitators’ mentioned that a parent, baby and toddler group is primarily a session were parents and their children can come together to bond, one to one, away from all the distraction of the home, work and other siblings. This was also mentioned and supported by Early Childhood Ireland, (2015).
Another interesting point, also made by Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), in chapter two is that parent, baby and toddler groups can be a good starting point for preparing the child for out of home care, such as, a childcare setting or a childminder. Participant A discussed this in depth when asked about parent, baby and toddler groups and stated that it was one of the main reasons why the setting decided to provide this service.
5.2 – Service Provided and Activities.
While all the participants of the study had various methods of setting up and running their parent, baby and toddler groups, all three participants said that they at some stage of the session provide a free play session for the parents and children to bond with one another and to socialise with peers. The participants’ also highlighted that they provide refreshments and an opportunity for parents to talk while children interact amongst themselves in a safe environment. As seen in chapter two, this is a typical description of what goes on in a parent, baby and toddler group session, according to TULSA, (2017), and Early Childhood Ireland, (2015).
5.3 – Benefits of Participation for Parents.
In chapter two, Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), states that parent, baby and toddler groups are a local support group where parents and carers can meet to compare notes, parent, baby and toddler groups may also be the only social outlet for parents, particularly first time parents. This was also stated and supported by all three participants when asked what they felt were the main benefits of participation for parents.
Another statement made by Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), which was supported by all three participants’ was that parents can help and support each other by offering advice from their own experiences, this is seen as an early intervention mechanism and by sharing stories and letting each other know that they are not the only one facing these issues, parents become less anxious which then stems into their parenting style and then onto the child. Participant C extended their knowledge of the benefits of participating in their group by giving a breakdown of how beneficial participating in their sessions are throughout the various stages of parenting and childhood. Having these strong statements made by the participants’, of the study, backed up by an organisation like Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), shows just how beneficial these support networks are to parents and how they can positively impact their parenting experience.
5.4 – Benefits of Participation for Children.
As stated by all participants, particularly by participant C, there are tremendous benefits of parent, baby and toddler groups for children. Participant C discusses the particular benefit of their parent, baby and toddler group sessions, which mostly provide music, and its benefits to each child’s development, physically, emotionally and socially. Participants also stated that they felt the parent, baby and toddler groups helped bring the parents and children together giving them the opportunity to have a designated time with one another. Cowley, (1994), and all three participants, highlight that children need these close relationships with significant adults (for example – mum and dad) in order to form attachments and develop secure relationships and they all discuss how their parent, baby and toddler groups provides the time to create that bond in a fun and stimulating environment.
5.5 – Training and Funding Available.
It has been highlighted that there is currently no availability of training services for those who wish to set up a parent, baby and toddler group, nor is there any training available once the service is set up. However, in chapter 2, it was noted that Kildare County Leadership Partnership, (2015), provides a committee skills training course. This was developed for groups in the setting up stages of a new parent, baby and toddler groups that may require additional support with committee skills such as, aims and objectives, how to run an effective meeting, group formation, consensus building and conflict resolution, action planning or building a social inclusion focus. The researcher informed all of the participants of this service and passed on any information found.
With regards to funding participants A and B, were aware of the parent, baby and toddler grant but both highlighted that it was a very small amount and didn’t cover main of the costs for the firsts year or semester. As participant C ran a strictly for profit business and were self employed, their service did not qualify of this grant nor many others, however participant C stated that their business was making a profit and therefore did not required additional funding. Besides this grant there is currently no other additional funding available to parent, baby and toddler groups and as a result, services have to depend on funding from local businesses and / or service fees, as stated by participant B.
The findings of chapter four have now been discussed in depth and have also been compared to research already carried out by the researcher in chapter two – the literature review. In the next chapter, chapter six – conclusions and recommendations, this entire study will be summarised and recommendations will be suggested and addressed.
Chapter 6 – Conclusion and Recommendations
In the previous chapter, Chapter 5 – Findings and Discussion, the findings of this small scale study were discussed. The main objective of this conclusion and recommendations chapter is to summaries the findings, draw on conclusions and discuss any recommendations for the researcher has in relation to future research, improvements to parent, baby and toddler groups and any other recommendations to the facilitators of parent baby and toddler groups.
6.1 – Conclusion
Overall, the main aim of this research was to explore Facilitators’ Perspectives’ of Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups. The main research question to be answered, which was drawn from the topic of parent, baby and toddler groups was: what are facilitators’ perspectives’ of parent, baby and toddler groups in the Cavan area? In order to reveal the aim of the research and address the research question, the following objectives were devised to discover the facilitators’ of parent, baby and toddler groups, views on:
- What parent, baby and toddler groups are.
- The benefits parents and their children will gain from participating in parent, baby and toddler groups regularly.
- How parent, baby and toddler groups are run in relation to activities, funding and training.
The first section of the project was to uncover the available researcher already done on, what parent, baby and toddler groups are, what benefits parents and children gain from participating in these groups and how are parent, baby and toddler groups run. The literature review in chapter two shows the information already available in the Irish context across all the major early childhood platforms, such as, Early Childhood Ireland, (2015), TULSA, (2017), and County Child Care Committees. These platforms provided the researcher with in depth knowledge of parent, baby and toddler groups, what services they provide and how they are funded. The information across these platforms was all very similar
The second section of this study was to gain a more in depth insight to parent, baby and toddler groups and how they are structured and run, in relation to the activities, funding and training. The researcher decided to conduct a series of semi – structured interviews with facilitators’ of parent, baby and toddler groups in the Cavan area. As discussed in the methodology chapter, the participants were contacted via email, see appendix five, and once a number of them responded and signed consent forms, see appendix six, the interviews were set up and conducted in a suitable location at a time that suited participants. The interview questions, see appendix one, were discussed and approved by the researchers’ supervisor prior to any interviews. Once there interviews were complete and had been transcribed, see appendix four, the researcher began to analysis the rich data collected.
The third section of the study shows how the data collected in chapter four, the findings, was analysed and how it compared to the information already laid out in chapter two, the literature review. This was then discussed in depth in chapter five, the discussion, were the data is compared under the five themed headings which were also discussed in the methodology chapter under the data collection and analysis section.
These five themes are as follows:
- Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups.
- Service Provided and Activities
- Benefits of Participation for Parents.
- Benefits of Participation for Children.
- Training and Funding Available.
The data collected by the researcher shows that parent, baby and toddler groups generally provide a free play or semi structured service, where parents and their children can come on a regular bases, usually once a week, to bond one to one with their child. Parent, baby and toddler groups also provide parents with the opportunity to socialise with other parents and support one another. These groups also provide children with opportunity to meet and socialise with their peers before entering out of home care, for example a childminder or crèche. The data also shows that most services provide an array of activities, generally ones that may not be facilitated at home. Most sessions also provide refreshments to parents and children.
There are a number of benefits highlighted for parents the main ones being a social network outside the home and providing the time, each week, to spend one to one time with their child without the distractions of the home, work or other siblings. There are also a number of benefits to children that participate in these groups, such as building friendships with peers prior to starting out of home care and developing social skills they may not have the opportunity to learn within the home.
Over all there appears to be very limited funding available to facilitators of parent, baby and toddler groups, and any funding that is available does not appear to cover the costs necessary to fund the group sessions. There are currently no specific training opportunities to support parent, baby and toddler groups within Ireland at the moment.
6.2 – Recommendations
6.2.1 – Parent, Baby and Toddler Training Course
As a result of these findings the researcher recommends that there should be a training course designed to facilitate future facilitators of parent, baby and toddler groups. This course could include a number of modules such as:
- Set up and support
- Policies and procedures
- Child protection
- Activity ideas
- Parent support
These modules would help inform facilitators in how to start up their parent, baby and toddler group and assure its success. They will also give them the relevant information they need to know in relation to parental support.
6.2.2 – Activity Workshops
The researcher also suggests that there should be a number of activity workshops created. These could be open to facilitators of parent, baby and toddler groups and also to early childhood professionals. They would provide information on activities for various age groups and show facilitators and practitioners how to maintain control over the structured activity.
6.2.3 – Key Supporter
The researchers’ final recommendation is that there should be an appointed key support worker for parent, baby and toddler groups. This person could go around assuring that parent, baby and toddler groups are run sufficiently, providing antique support to facilitators and parents and could also assure the successful upkeep of the group. This could also lead to further funding opportunities for parent, baby and toddler groups down the line.
6.3 – Limitations and Future Research
The main limitation of this study was that only 4 participants out of 23 contacts responded to the email asking them to participate in the study, this was then reduced further when only 3 participants gave consent to partaking in a semi – structured interview. The lack of participation was mainly due to the business of early year’s settings this time of year and the short time line available to complete this study.
For future studies the researcher recommends that a larger time frame be giving to recruit a larger among of participants. The researcher would also have liked to develop a focus group to chat to parents that participate in parent, baby and toddler groups to get their insight on the groups.
6.4 – Concluding Comments
This chapter has provided a brief synopsis of the overall study as instructed in Chapter One – Introduction. The conclusion section of this chapter has also given a brief breakdown of each chapter and had highlighted the main points.
The recommendation chapter has supplied a number of recommendations the researcher feels would benefit future researchers in this area and would also support and benefit parent, baby and toddler groups.
Appendix One – Interview Questions
- What is a parent, baby and toddler group?
- What type of service do you provide?
- What activities do you do?
- What are the benefits of participation for parents?
- What are the benefits of participation for children?
- Does participation in groups affect the bond/ attachment between parents and child?
- What training is provided? If any
- Is funding available for parents and toddler groups?
Appendix Two – Consent Form
Institute of Technology, Sligo
Facilitators’ Perceptions of Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups.
Please initial box
- I confirm that I have read the participation information sheet dated for the above study and have had the opportunity to ask questions
- I am satisfied that I understand the information provided and have
had enough time to consider the information.
- I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I am free to
withdraw at any time.
- In signing this consent form I _____________________ agree to volunteer
to participate in this research study being conducted by Joy Peers McGarry
- I understand that I will participate in a recorded interview with the
researcher on the agreed topic.
- I understand that a written transcription of the interview is available
to me on request.
- I grant full authorisation for the use of the above information, including
publication and conference presentation on the full understanding that
my anonymity and confidentiality is preserved.
- I grant permission to use a pseudonym or first name [delete as required].
_________________ _________ ________________________
Participant Date Signature
_________________ _________ ________________________
Researcher Date Signature
1 for participant, 1 for researcher, 1 to be kept with research notes
Appendix Three – Participate Information Form
Facilitators’ Perceptions of Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups
Participation Information Sheet
Thank you for your interest in this project:Facilitators’ Perceptions of Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups. You are being invited to participate in this research project and I am required to provide a participation information sheet and consent form to inform you about the study, to convey that participation is voluntary, to explain the potential risks and benefits of participation, and to empower you to make an informed decision. You should feel free to ask me any questions you may have. If you agree to take part, I will ask you to sign a consent form. Please take as much time as you need to read it. You should only consent to take part in this research study when you feel that you understand what is being asked of you and you have enough time to think about your decision. Thanks again for reading this.
PURPOSE OF RESEARCH
Although you will not directly benefit from participation in this study, you will be contributing to a greater understanding of the Facilitators’ Perceptions of Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups.
In addition, I would like you to understand that you are central to this study and the completion of same.
The potential risks of participating in this study are limited but you should be aware that as we are dealing with a sensitive subject, some discomfort may arise for you in the course of our discussions. Please understand that you are free to stop the interview at any stage and to withdraw immediately. All information and topics discussed are confidential and your anonymity is assured at all times.
PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY
The data for this project will be kept confidential. The interviews will be audio recorded. Once the interviews are completed, transcribed and analysed, I will securely store the information and keep identifiable names and interview material entirely separate. The recordings will be stored for up to 10 months and then completely destroyed. Some of the data will be transferred onto computer files but these will be filed confidentially and again no identifiable names or other information will be revealed.
YOUR RIGHTS TO PARTICIPATE, SAY NO, OR WITHDRAW
Participation in this research project is completely voluntary. You have the right to say no. You may change your mind at any time and withdraw. You may choose not to answer specific questions or to stop participating at any time.
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS
If you have any questions about this study, please contact myself at the email above. If you have any questions about your role and rights as a research participant, or would like to register a complaint about this study, you may contact, anonymously the following: Orla Walsh at email@example.com
Participation in this study is on the clear understanding that your participation is voluntary and can be withdrawn. A consent form accompanies this participant information sheet. A copy of both will be provided to you. You are required to sign a copy of the consent form should you agree to participate in this study. Thank you so much for considering taking part in this study.
Appendix Four – Sample of Transcripts and Coding
Interview 3 – Participant C
|Interviewer||So, what are your perceptions of parent baby and toddler groups?|
|Participant||Ehm, in my opinion a parent, baby and toddler group is eh, I suppose any regularly organized activity or event that allows ehm, the healthy development of relationships between parent and child, parent and parent and child and child. Ehm they can, they can also focus on development through music, arts and crafts and physical activity.|
|Interviewer||And what type of service do you provide?|
|Participant||Ehm I provide a weekly music class or eh session for babies, toddlers and young children. It generally lasts 45 minutes to ehm roughly about an hour depending on how well the children are interacting with the session. Eh sometime the children get tired towards the end of the session because ehm its quiet an interactive session.|
|Interviewer||What activities do you do?|
|Participant||The em session is based entirely around live music. There is particular emphasis is group on singing, rhythmic playing of percussive instruments and movement with the use of scarves, dancing and clapping and of course bubbles. Who doesn’t love bubbles? Ehm we play with different instruments throughout the session, sing songs, dance and eh sometimes we incorporate paint and colouring as well as bubbles into our sessions.|
|Interviewer||It sounds like a fantastic session. So what are the benefits of participation for the parents?
|Participant||Ehm well the benefits change as the child ages. For parents with an infant for example, it is eh about connecting with their child through song, em learning new songs and understanding how certain songs specifically work towards the likes of motor skill development. Then for a toddler, ehm they can benefit from letting the child explore the space we provide, explore the instruments and interact with the other children in a safe environment. Throughout the time spent at the sessions the parents will meet other adults in similar situations. A lot of my parents are working parents and this can be the only chance they have to eh interact with other parents and their children and they can build a support network of like minded parents and form long lasting friendships for themselves and their children.|
|Interviewer||And what are the benefits of participation for children?|
|Participant||There has been any number of books written on the subject of the benefits of musical education for children I am sure you have come across them in your studies. Ehm in short I suppose, early development of motor skills, eh, accelerated development of aural and speech skills, accelerated development of social interaction and self confidence. It’s quit an interactive sessions so the children do get a lot out of it.|
|Interviewer||Does participation in groups affect the bond/ attachment between parents and child?|
|Participant||Oh yeah, without a doubt it strengthens the bond between the two. Parent’s sing to children, children sing to parents, children sing with other children. It enforces the connection made through vocal recognition and ehm also develops a keen understanding of the vocalization of emotion through the various songs and sounds.|
|Interviewer||Lovely and what training is provided? If any?|
|Participant||Ehm well there is no specific training; I developed my skills through parenting of my own children and over 5 years of running music classes for babies and toddlers in my local community. I got such a good response from the small group I was working with it just kind of took off and I left my job and started up my own business. I studied a lot of theory behind the benefits of musical play but I didn’t have any training it was all done on my own initiative.|
|Interviewer||Is funding available for your particular type of parents, baby and toddler group?|
|Participant||Ehm no I don’t believe so, as I am a strictly for profit organization and the sole trader so I do charge for my sessions and parents do have to book well in advance for my sessions. And I suppose as I am making a profit from it I haven’t had to look for funding. We have had fundraisers in the past to pay for new instruments and things like that.|
|Interviewer||Perfect, thank you for your participation the interview has now ended.|
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