Collection overview

The collaborating sites in PLAY perform a variety of roles (see people for details). Each site that performs a collecting role is pre-assigned to complete all of the collecting functions (see in blue below). This page contains detailed help for the data collection and upload process. Click here for information about participant recruitment .

All videos that are collected with go through a quality assurance process in which the PLAY team will ensure that the videos are eligible to be included in the final sample. Videos that pass QA will then be passed on for coding. Videos that don’t pass QA will be (depending on why they didn’t) reused for other purposes or will be sent back to the collection site for modification. In some cases, the collection site might be provided additional training.

Participant Recruitment

1. Scheduling visit

To schedule a visit, you will be making two phone calls to each family: the initial recruiting call and the confirmation call (if the family agrees to participate). Depending on the availability of the mother, you will complete the participant paperwork

1.1 Initial recruiting phone call (option 1/3)

1.2 Initial recruiting voicemail (Option 2/3)

If you reach the family’s voicemail, please leave the following message:

1.3 Initial recruiting email (Option 3/3)

If you will be contacting the family over email, you may use the following template:

2. Establishing visit details

Once you have connected with the family and decided on a visit date, please send the following email to establish the visit details:

3. Confirming a visit (day before the visit)

3.1 Confirmation phone call (Option 1/2)

3.2 Confirmation voicemail (option 2/2)

If you reach the family’s voicemail, please leave the following message:

3.3 Confirmation email

If you have the family’s email address, it is always advisable to send a confirmation email. You may use the following templates:

4. Preparing for Visit

4.1 Pack

Camera, SD card and extra battery Microphone with sponge cover
Fully loaded and charged tablet Laser Measure
Decibel meter mic Tripod for camera
Tote bag Yoga mat
Dish set Toy
Binder with answer scales Paper backups of all questionnaires and forms
Participant payment

4.2 Prepare

  1. Take your own water with you. For the duration of the visit, you will decline any offerings of food or drink.
  2. Take your university ID with you, be prepared to show it if asked.
  3. Dress plainly, modestly, neutrally. Nothing too bright and attractive to children. Try not to wear all black either :)
  4. Avoid strong perfumes and noisy jewelry. The idea is to blend into the background as much as possible.
  5. Be prepared to plan your bathroom breaks around the visit (it will be approx 2.5 hrs long).

Home Visit

Now that you have set your target participant sample and completed all the steps listed in the recruitment process, these instructions will help you prepare for your participant home visit.

Please ensure that you are currently logged in at Databrary to view protected content in this webpage. For confidentiality reasons, access to video exemplars is restricted to researchers with authorized access to Databrary. To register for access, visit

At the end of data collection, you will upload exactly 4 videos to your Databrary repository:

  1. One-hour naturalistic play (include: decibel measure, shoes if child is wearing them in the house)
  2. House walk-through (include: measurements of each room, sleeping arrangements, clothing, books, toys, shoes if child is barefoot)
  3. 5-min structured play (focus on child and mom, even if they leave mat area)
  4. Questionnaires (set up camera on tripod, focus on mom)

1. Arrival introduction

Say: Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m visiting from [INSTITUTION]. Thanks for letting us come to your home today!

  • Ask if you should take your shoes off.
  • Ask for good place (i.e. out of child’s reach) to put backpack and coat.
  • Do not leave the tripod and other equipment lying around.
  • Do not engage or warm up to the baby. Just need to make mom feel comfortable.

3. One-hour natural play video & noise measurement

3.1 Decibel Meter

Say: We would like to measure the environmental noise levels. Is there a good place where I can put this measuring device where your child cannot reach? The tablet only measures the environmental noise levels and not what you’re actually saying.

  • Set up tablet, put in microphone.
  • Ensure that “Audio Tool” is force closed.
  • Turn on “Keep Screen On”.
  • Point the video camera at the tablet
  • Open the decibel meter application (the application immediately starts recording noise levels upon startup).
  • Place device in the most central place in the home (e.g., living room).
  • The microphone should be facing towards the room (e.g., away from walls) and propped up on the microphone stand so that it is not lying flat against the surface of the space.

3.2 One-Hour Natural Play Video

General Recording Guidelines

  • Aim to get 60 minutes of uninterrupted natural play recoding, in addition to the time you take to give instructions, record the decibel meter and shoes.
  • Keep camera on the child at all times. Specifically, ensure that the child’s whole body is visible on camera. If mom is in frame, capture as much of her body as possible without compromising the view of the child.
  • Record in front or to the side of the child as much as possible.
  • Do not zoom in.
  • Always try to stay toward the edge of rooms and doorways. You do not want to influence child to interact with you, or get in child’s way.
  • Remain at as far a distance as possible (~3 to 5 m, hugging the wall) so that the child is not distracted by your presence.
  • Try not to interact with the child or make eye contact with the child. Just watch through the viewfinder of the camera.
  • If mom asks to pause the camera, ask for permission to point the camera away so you can continue recording audio.

Say: So I’m going to start recording now.

Begin recording and say: For the next hour, do anything you would typically do as if I weren’t here. Try to ignore me as much as possible and I will stay out of the way. I will also try not to respond to you and [CHILD] so that he/she is not distracted. You can go anywhere in your home but we just ask you to remain indoors. You can play together or not, you can do chores, watch TV, talk on the phone, give him/her a bath or snack. The idea is to capture what your typical day is like. And as a reminder, I’m just here to record so you will be in charge of [CHILD]’s safety.

Point camera at the tablet while opening “Audio Tool” (the application immediately starts recording noise levels upon startup). After opening the app, quickly point the camera at the child and start timing for the one-hour natural play video. Note the time on the viewfinder of the camera and record for an additional 60 minutes.

Note: The instructions and tablet set up should take no longer than 5-minutes.

At the end of the one-hour recording, say: Great, we are done with the one-hour recording!

With camera in hand (and still recording), walk over to where the tablet was placed, and hit the “save” button on “Audio Tool”.

  • If child was wearing shoes during the recording, say Could I get a close-up of the shoes [CHILD] has been wearing?. Ask mom to remove the shoes, video-record the shoes after the session; take them off child and video the bottom, side, and top views. Focus the camera on the shoes and comment on shoe type, sole (hard, soft), heel (if any), and other observations.
  • If the child was not wearing shoes during the one-hour natural play video, record the shoes during the house walk-through.

Then stop video recording on the camera. Now that the camera is off, name the audio file with the site name and subject number (e.g. NYU_001) and close the “Audio Tool” app.

4. Video House Walk-through while measuring rooms

Start recording and say: Now, we would like to see the space that [CHILD] gets to explore throughout the day. Please walk me through your home as I follow with a camera, and take measurements of the spaces. As we walk around, please show me where you keep any objects — toys, books, sippy cups, anything like that — that [CHILD] might interact with regularly. Please show me where you keep his/her clothes and shoes to give us an idea of the kinds of things he/she wears.

Ensure that all of experimenter’s personal items, recording equipment, yoga mat and toys for structured play are stored out of sight.

Video capture tips:

  • Watch recording through viewfinder to ensure that the view is not blurry or shaky
  • Move the camera slowly and walk slowly
  • A clear and steady view, free of blurriness and shakiness, is necessary for detailed coding of the home environment
  • The laser measure device does not work against reflective surfaces (mirrors, glass walls, etc), so point to a non-reflective surface or measure from the reflective surface towards the opposite direction.

About room measurements:

  • You will measure all rooms in the house while you do the video walkthrough
  • A room is any space used by someone on a regular basis - bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, basements - they don’t need to have windows
  • A room has to have a clear demarcation (e.g., a wall or an entry). A space is considered to be a room if it has a minimum of 3 walls.
  • If the room has a short divider (e.g., when a kitchen and a living room are divided by a counter), count as one big room and measure accordingly.


  1. Start at the entrance of the home.
  2. Pause at the entrance of each room.
  3. Audibly name the room by its function (e.g., This is where [CHILD] sleeps).
  4. First, get as much of the Entire Room in frame as possible. Keep the camera zoomed out and make sure to capture the ceiling and the floor of the room.
  5. Next, pan the camera SLOWLY from Left to Right.
  6. Then, pan the camera to Floor, name the different types of surfaces in the space (hardwood, plush carpet, thin rug, linoleum, tile, etc.), and then pan to the Ceiling.
  7. Hold the camera in one hand while you take measurements of the room using the other.
    • Turn measure on by pressing ON/DIST button. Make sure the laser beam is visible.
    • Measure wall to wall, lengthwise and widthwise.
    • If a room has an odd or asymmetrical shape (i.e., any shape other than a rectangle or a square), measure the largest rectangle or square area of the room.
    • Place the base of the laser flat on the wall, push ON/DIST againt to send the beam across the room (avoid moldings, door castings, reflective surfaces)
    • Repeat the above for the second dimension (length or width)
    • Focus camera on laser measure for each measure and read numbers out loud with units (e.g. eight point five feet)
  8. Ask parent if child spends time in each room: Does [CHILD] spend any time in this room?
  9. Ask parent about child’s objects in the room: Do you keep anything for [CHILD] in this room? (If yes) Would you mind showing me?
  10. Ensure during the house walkthrough that the parent provides information on all of the following:
    • Children’s Sleeping Arrangements. Please show me where [CHILD] typically sleeps.
    • Child’s Clothes. Please show me where you keep [CHILD]’s clothes.
    • Child’s Shoes. Please show me where you keep [CHILD]’s shoes.
    • Child’s Books. Please show me where you keep [CHILD]’s books.
    • Child’s Toys. Please show me where you keep [CHILD]’s toys.
  11. Film the Location of the storage space (drawer, toy chest, cabinet) in clear context of the rest of the room. Then, SLOWLY and CLEARLY film the Contents of the storage space to show what is inside of it, zooming in if needed. (Overhead view for bed, crib, drawers, toy chest, etc.; Zoomed in side view for cabinet, closet, bookshelf, etc.)
  12. Do ** NOT ** turn off the camera when walking to next room.
  13. Walk SLOWLY.
  14. When all rooms are recorded, walk back to the entrance of the home and then stop recording.

FAQs about House Walk-through

5. Five-minute Structured Mother-Child Play

Say: Now I would like you to play with your child for about 5 minutes with these toys. We always clean these toys before and after each visit. I have a mat that I’m going to ask you to sit on. Where’s a good place for me to put it?

Place the mat on a clearing on the floor.

Start recording and say: Please sit next to [CHILD] on this mat. I’ll give you a set of toys. Please play with [CHILD] however you like for 5 minutes.

  • If the child is playing with a different toy before the recording, ask mom if she can put the toy away.
  • Hand tote bag with toys to mom. Quickly point the camera at the child and mom and note the time on the viewfinder. Record for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Record so that the child and mother’s entire bodies - faces, eyes, and hands - are captured. If child stands up, make sure to capture the feet. If you are in a position from which you cannot capture the full face and both eyes, position yourself to capture a profile view.
  • If child and mom are separated at any point, focus camera on child.
  • Use timer on camera to time engagement.
  • After 5 minutes, say “Great job! We can now move on to the questionnaires.”
  • If the child is still playing with the toys after 5 minutes, let the child play and continue on to the questionnaires.

FAQs about House Structured Play

6. Questionnaires

6.1 Setting up for Questionnaires

  • Position yourself in front of mom, with the paperwork between you.
  • Set up the tripod to capture both you and mom. You will need to change the battery on the camera to ensure sufficient power.
  • Give mom a copy of the colored answer scales.
  • Give mom a copy of MCDI and Rothbart so that she can follow along when needed.

6.2 Questionnaires

All questionnaires should be administered in the primary language of the mom.

You will fill out all questionnaires on your computer or your tablet using the Kobotoolbox app. Here are the 8 questionnaires you will use, in the following order:

Questionnaire When to use
Demographics Before Home Visit
(Over the phone with mom)
Language (MCDI)
Temperament (Rothbart)
Locomotor Milestones
Media Use
Division of labor
During Home Visit
(In person with mom)
Checklist (not a questionnaire) After Home Visit
(Experimenter alone)

In case of technical issues (and to have a paper copy of all questionnaires during home visits), please download and use the questionnaires from below. For printing, each of the above forms are bundled into sets for different age and language combinations. (Please note that presentation and format will differ from the Kobotoolbox app.)

Age Language
12 months Monolingual English
Bilingual (English instructions)
Bilingüe (Instrucciones en Español)
18 months Monolingual English
Bilingual  (English instructions)
Bilingüe (Instrucciones en Español)
24 months Monolingual English
Bilingual (English instructions)
Bilingüe (Instrucciones en Español)

6.3 Permission to share - signing Databrary form

  • Be sure to continue video recording while signing the Databrary form.
  • Say: The data that we collected today is incredibly valuable for researchers. We are asking for your permission to upload the videos to a secure online data library where only authorized researchers have access. There are two levels of permission – the first level is if you allow us to share the video with other researchers and the second level is for researchers to be able to show excerpts and images in presentations and conferences. This is a form that explains everything I just said. Because both you and [CHILD] were on the video, Please check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for each level for yourself and for [CHILD] and sign.
  • When finished, give mom a moment to look over each form and sign them.
  • Make sure to get mom’s signature on the appropriate fields of the Databrary release form

FAQs about Questionnaires

7. Visit wrap-up

  • Give mom the payment
  • Ensure that mom has copies of the consent and Databrary forms
  • Collect and pack all equipment and paperwork from the house
  • Thank mom for letting us come to her home!

Clean up and Upload

When you arrive back at the lab, please complete these steps on the day you collected data or on the very next day:

  • Wash all toys and equipment thoroughly.
  • Wipe down yoga mat.
  • Submit home questionnaires.
  • Complete and submit housing checklist and cleanup notes.
  • Upload videos and decibel data to Databrary.

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.