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Individual Growth and Development Indicators
for Infants and Toddlers

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Indicator of Parent-Child Interaction (IPCI)

The following provides a brief overview of IPCI administration procedures and materials. Please review the IPCI User Manual for a more complete description of the IPCI.

The Indicator of Parent-Child Interaction is to be completed following each of a series of brief interaction episodes between a parent (or other primary caregiver) and their young child at home during a 10-minute observation period. For children who are older than 1 year, activities include (1) free play, (2) book-reading, (3) a frustration/distraction task, and (4) a routine dressing task. For children who are 1 year-old or younger, activities are the same as for older children excluding the frustration/distraction task. Prior to the home visit at which the observation is conducted, parents are provided information about the purpose of the observation and are informed about the types of activities that will be observed. At the time of the home visit, rapport is established with the parent and information that was shared initially is reviewed and discussed further.

Materials Kit

  • Blanket
  • Set of keys and recorder
  • Books
  • 4 IPCI Rating sheets (1 for each activity)
  • Video Equipment: Camcorder, Tripod, and videotape
  • Timer

Interaction Activities (*Times are noted for the assessor only. Do not tell parents the time limits.)

Free Play (4 Min): Parents are told: “Let’s get started by spending a few minutes with you and your child doing something together that you enjoy. This activity should be something that you and your child are both comfortable with and used to and something that your child loves to do. Sometimes parents talk or play games without toys, sometimes parents just sit with their children, and sometimes children like to play with a favorite toy. Whatever you and _________ normally do that makes ________ smile, laugh, or have fun is what we are most interested in. You don’t have to sit in one place, but I’ll need to know what room you’d like to stay in together so that I can go with you to that room.”

Book Reading (2 Min): Parents are told “During the next few minutes, you and your child can spend a few minutes with these books. However you want to use the books with your child is fine. Feel free to attend to whatever needs your child might have during this time."

Distraction Task (2 Min): A blanket is placed on the floor and parents are told “Sometimes there are materials around the house that are either dangerous (like electrical outlets) or that may not necessarily be unsafe for children but that are important for children not to play with because they are breakable or otherwise not appropriate for a young child. For a few minutes, we would like for you to keep ______on this blanket and not allow him or her to get this recorder. The assessor turns on the recorder and places it in front of and within the reach of the child, reminding the parent to keep the child on the blanket and away from the keys. Every 30 seconds, the assessor activates the keys with the key locator. It is fine for the parent to engage the child with any materials so long as the parent initiates the materials. Do not make any suggestions or give the parent alternate materials with which to engage the child.

Dressing (2 Min): Parents are told that “We would like to spend a few minutes seeing what it’s like to get ______ dressed in the morning with whatever clothes and/or changing routine you use. So, however you two normally get this job done is what we are most interested in.” Parents may change a diaper, simply remove and replace the same clothing or dress the child in another set of clothes.

Steps for Preparing Parents

Telephone Introduction

The ways in which young children interact with their parents can be very different for individual children. There are also many different types of activities that young children do with their parents such as eating, bathing, dressing, and playing. To better understand how young children relate to their parents at home, we would like to visit you in your home. The visit will last about 30 minutes. During this time we would like to spend about ten minutes observing how your child interacts with you during some different activities. At the time of the visit we will talk with you again about each activity and answer any questions that you might have so that you will know just what to expect. We are most interested the following activities:
(1) Whatever you and your child enjoy doing together
(2) Looking at books
(3) Seeing how your child handles frustration (if he/she is over 1 year old)
(4) Dressing (putting on shoes, socks, and shirt)

Getting Ready for the Visit: There are a few things that you can do to help the visit go smoothly and to prepare your child for the visit.

Preparing your Child: You can help your child to be ready for the visit by making sure that he or she has eaten recently and is rested. Please feel free to help your child feel as comfortable as possible. If your child gets fussy, please feel free to do whatever you would normally do to help your child feel comfortable. Letting others know that You will be Busy: It will help the visit go more smoothly if you let family and friends know that you will be busy during the time of the visit. It is best to schedule a visit at a time when you think you won’t be interrupted by visitors or phone calls.

Things to Have on Hand: While it’s not necessary for you to have materials or toys available, if there are any things that you and your child especially enjoy doing together, it would be good to have any such materials out and ready. For the dressing activity, you may either take off and replace your child’s shoes, socks, and shirt or if you wish to put on another set of clothes, it would be good to have these ready at the time of the visit.

Tips for Assessors in Introducing Activities and Making Transitions During the Visit

  • Do not tell parents the time limit for each activity. It is important that the parent does not feel rushed, but that the assessor manages time well and helps the parent transition smoothly from one activity to the next. [As soon as the timer rings, create a break by walking slowly toward the parent and child commenting on the activity just completed, orienting parent to the next activity (e.g., use previewing—Let’s see if ____ is ready to look at a book), and introducing the activity].
  • Spend a few minutes (e.g., 5-10) at the beginning of the visit to establish rapport with the parent and help the parent to feel at ease. Review information discussed on the phone and answer any questions.Before each activity, introduce the activity by using the Protocol Script provided on the reverse page.
  • As soon as the parent initiates the designated activity, set the timer for the allotted time (e.g., Free Play- 4 minutes; Book Reading- 2 minutes; Frustration Task- 2 minutes; and Dressing- 2 minutes). If you are videotaping, stop the videotape at the designated time points and rate each activity.
  • Be sure to end the visit on a positive note. If the activities were difficult for the parent and child and they appeared uncomfortable, acknowledge feelings (e.g., I’m sorry that wasn’t much fun for you guys today). Comment on one positive thing the parent and child were able to do and thank them.