Business development

How to create a parent survey for your childcare center

All the tips and tricks you need to know to increase participation and gather informative feedback
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January 29, 2024
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In a rush? Heres the quick breakdown:

  • It is important for families and teachers to collaborate in childcare and early childhood development. For families to be involved, the center needs to promote open, and consistent  communication.
  • Conducting parent surveys and family feedback questionnaires helps foster a community where open communication and feedback - both positive and constructive - is encouraged. This helps make sure each child gets the best care and support.
  • Read on for tips on how you can create effective parent surveys so that you can have informative, actionable feedback, and a higher participation - and completion - rate. 
  • Some tips include: timing, question format, channels and accessibility, and necessary reminders.
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It takes a village to raise a child isn’t a common saying for no reason. It’s true. 

Childcare and supporting children in their early childhood development is not a task that anyone can - or should - do alone. 

However, it is important to create a collaborative village, rather than multiple siloed villages. Let me explain what I mean. Since a child is learning and developing in a variety of environments, it is important for there to be consistency and coherency across those various environments, specifically between childcare and home. This requires family involvement and engagement, and consistent and open parent-teacher communication. 

We know that may be easier said than done. Your days are chaotic, and when you think you may get a free moment to touch base with a parent, something else always seems to come up. We get it. However, communication and collaboration is absolutely essential to high quality childcare and successful early childhood development. A great way to understand how you are doing with it is by conducting a questionnaire for families.

These family feedback surveys cultivate a community where open and honest feedback is welcomed and encouraged, and therefore, enhances the collaboration and involvement between all adults in “the village.”

As a business, family feedback will let you know how as a center you are doing really well, and where you could improve. It ensures families are satisfied with the quality of care their children are receiving, their child’s development, and that they will continue to recommend your center to other families.

Now let’s talk about the actual survey - what to include, when to send, how to send, etc.

Tips for creating your childcare survey for families

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Before creating the survey

1. Establish clear objectives:

First things first - you must clearly define the objectives of the survey. Having a clear objective will make asking the right questions easier, and getting relevant, actionable feedback. 

 Some possible objectives may be…

  • Understanding families satisfaction with the curriculum, lesson plans and activities
  • Ensure families feel they are an equal partner with their child’s teacher, and feel satisfied with the communication and collaboration parent-teacher communication, 
  • Ideas for family involvement and community events
  • Families satisfaction with the childcare center’s emergency and safety protocols
  • Gather feedback about your center’s childcare management platform

2. Length

Between 10 and 15 questions is best. Research has shown that the more questions asked, the less time a participant spends on each question. This means you might not get the most helpful response, as they are “just trying to get through it.”

3. Timing

Choosing an objective, and the length of a survey is directly related to how often you want to send out questionnaires and surveys. 

  • Quarterly - Focus on a clear objective for each survey, which allows you to ask less questions and keep it short.
  • Twice a year - You will probably have more questions, and maybe two or three objectives. 
  • Once a year - If you are sending a survey at the end of the year, you may have a lot of objectives, and a lot of questions. This can be a bit riskier, as “survey fatigue” is real. If there are too many questions, there may not be as high of a participation rate as you would hope, and participation is essential to a successful survey.

The big ideas

Creating the survey

1. Language and clarity

Ensure that the surveys are given to each family in their preferred language. When questions are asked clearly and are easy to understand, responses are also more likely to be more clear. 

Also, you don’t want parents to interpret the question differently than you had intended. If they do, you will not get the feedback you are hoping for. Clear questions means clearer, more informative and actionable responses.

2. Use a mix of question types

Using a variety of question formats will help keep participants engaged with the survey. As I said above, “survey fatigue” is real. 

Do you remember answering all the multiple choice questions on your SATs? If you were like me, it was really hard to keep paying attention, and I easily could get caught up in creating a pattern with the bubbles on the answer sheet. 

Also, some question formats are better for gathering numerical data that will be easier to analyze and recognize concrete themes and patterns. However, having qualitative data as well  will expand on the numbers and provide you with more detail about the numbers, which is also important. 

Also, don’t forget. We are all human, and some people may interpret numbers and scales differently. Having open-ended questions can help make those numbers a little less ambiguous. 

Question formats include: 

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Rating or scaling questions
  • Yes or no questions
  • Open-ended questions

3. Include a mix of positive and constructive questions

Provide a balance of questions that highlight your center’s strengths, but also allows families to share their concerns and areas they think could be improved. 

By specifically giving them the space to give constructive feedback, you are showing you genuinely want to hear their concerns, and they should feel comfortable to do so. 

Once the survey is completed

1. Analyze and take action:

Once the survey is complete, analyze the responses. Identify patterns, common concerns, and trends. 

Establish an action plan based on the feedback received. What can be improved first? What will take the longest/be the biggest change? What should be our priority? Create a loose timeline for when issues can be addressed (immediately, this year, next year, etc.). 

2. Work together with your staff

Make sure to allow space for your staff to get together and talk about the results. Agree together on priorities and realistic timelines.

3. Allow space for the conversation to continue if necessary

You should share the results of the survey with the community, such as in the newsletter, or in your childcare management platform. Also, the steps that you and your staff will take based on the feedback received. 

If necessary, send a follow up survey, or invite families for an in-person open discussion. It is important to be transparent and share results with the families because it demonstrates a commitment to continuous enhancement and open and honest communication. 

Also, the families will feel heard, and that the time spent answering the survey was not a waste of time. Also , they will likely feel more comfortable to continue to share their positive and constructive feedback moving forward. 

4. Continue to encourage two-way communication and feedback

Surveys should simply be a catalyst for ongoing communication between your staff and families.

Make sure families know that they do not have to wait for you to send out a questionnaire for them to share their feedback. Remind families that they can schedule meetings, or contact your administration or their child’s teachers whenever they want to address a concern, issue or provide any feedback. 

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Ways to improve participation and completion rate

1. Anonymity and confidentiality:

It is great that you are encouraging all types of feedback by asking positive and constructive questions. But still, being honest and sharing concerns can be intimidating. 

Make all survey responses anonymous, as it will result in more honest and open feedback. Most online surveys, like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms, give you the ability to choose to make all responses anonymous. If you are handing out the surveys on printed paper, do not ask for names, and provide an area where families can drop it off, without having to personally hand it in. 

Assure parents multiple times that their responses will be kept confidential and used solely for the purpose of enhancing your preschool’s services and care.

2. Make sure families are aware of the feedback survey

Let families know about the upcoming survey in advance, and tell them when and where to look for it (in their email, as a printout in their child’s classroom, etc.) 

More importantly, make sure you reiterate how important their participation and input is - that their feedback is essential to ongoing improvements and the well-being of their children.

3. Give a clear timeline

Make sure families know when they need to submit their answers. Also, make sure they have enough time to complete it - at least a week. 

4. Make the survey accessible

Share your survey in a way that is accessible and convenient for your target audience. Whether it's an online platform (like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey), paper printouts, or a combination of both, accessibility is crucial for encouraging participation.

5. Follow-up reminders:

It is okay to send gentle reminders to families who haven't yet participated. A follow-up communication shows that their input is valued and reinforces the importance of their opinions.

Ready to get started? Get your free downloadable and editable parent handbook template here.

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Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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