Saturday, February 18, 2017

Nanny Family Travel Tips

No matter what time of year we get questions from both nannies and families asking for travel tips – how to make the experience positive, how to set expectations, how to prepare, and many more. Nannies who travel with their employer families and families who have their nannies travel with them have a unique experience ahead of them. The key is planning and preparing in advance, being clear about expectations and boundaries. The bottom line is that this is the family’s vacation and the nanny is included as the child care provider. Ideally everyone should come home with fond memories and good feelings.

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Warm Valentine's Day Project

by Kelly Miller

The gingerbread houses are all packed away, but we still have many weeks of winter. Are you looking for a fun activity?  Every winter, I make "ice castles" with the children.  We build the castle with sugar cubes, and we use white frosting as glue.   (You could build igloos, too.) Then we decorate the castle with conversation hearts, gum drops, and other Valentine's Day candies. Gummy bears make up the castle's inhabitants.  Each year the castles have gotten bigger and more elaborate... last year, we used five boxes of sugar cubes and two tubs of frosting!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Homemade Snow Dough


This is a favorite dough recipe from when I was a child. What makes it a Snow Dough is the sparkling quality the glitter adds to the dough. I prefer the iridescent or white glitter rather than the silver or gold glitter which is often also coarser and can tend to make the dough more crumbly or tough. With this dough project children don't have to wait to have a winter fun day. When it's just too cold to play outdoors this can be a nice substitute activity. Appropriate for children about 18 months and up. The children can add props to their snow people and snow scenes - sticks, found objects, beads, etc.

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons white tempera paint (this really whitens the dough which can have a grayish tinge otherwise)
1 tablespoon white or iridescent glitter (this little amount makes a big impact)
*A few drops of peppermint extract or another extract you like (optional)
*If you'd like to color your dough you can add either a few drops of food coloring or a small amount of colored tempera paint.

Directions
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the extract (if using) in a medium-size pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture holds together, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
2.Turn the play dough onto a waxed paper–lined counter to cool, about 15 minutes. If you like, knead in peppermint extract for a festive holiday scent.

I also recommend giving each child their own space at the table. A tray or mat can help keep their creations stable while providing a defined personal space. Everyone at the table is sharing, enjoying the activity while also having their creations and space respected.

If you'd like to create a winter snow scene and snow people to display, use a paper plate or some other container as a base.  Over time the dough will begin to dry and eventually crumble. Children should be prepared for this. This is a teachable moment opportunity - a time to talk about the way our outdoor snow creations don't last forever because of the weather, so too the indoor creations have a limited time. So we enjoy them while we have them!

If you want to reuse your dough again and again don't leave it out. After playing store in a Ziploc bag or air tight container in the refrigerator. The dough keeps for about two weeks, maybe a little more, if refrigerated.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

15 Ways to Thank Your Nanny

By Nannies from the Heartland staff

During this season, families often ask us how they can thank their amazing nannies. Here are some ideas from the Nannies from the Heartland staff!
  1. Have the children make her cards or art projects.
  2. Encourage your nanny to take advantage of classes, seminars, and other professional-development opportunities. Pay for the class or pay her for the time she spends at it.
  3. Tell her about the impact she has on your family: "Sasha sure loves reading with you!" or, "The boys won't stop talking about the trip you took to the zoo." Even better, make it specific to her best qualities: "You are so good at listening to the children," or, "I really admire the way you teach Jacob spelling."
  4. While a pay raise or bonus is wonderful, also consider compensation that won't be taxable income. This might include a contribution to health insurance or retirement.
  5. Give her a framed photo of her with your children or family.
  6. Make time to ask your nanny for her insight about your children--she is a child care expert!
  7. Give your nanny her birthday or another special day as additional paid vacation time.
  8. Recognize milestones, such as her annual anniversary of working for your family. Enlist your children in baking a cake, presenting a special song, or picking her flowers.
  9. Purchase her a membership to the International Nanny Association or another industry organization.
  10. Allow your nanny to take the children on outings and to playgroups. Consider purchasing a zoo, pool, or park membership for her to enjoy with your children.
  11. Make sure your home is stocked with books, art supplies, games, and the other tools she needs to perform her job with excellence.
  12. Give your nanny regular performance evaluations and feedback. Educate yourself about industry pay and employment standards so you are sure your nanny is being paid competitively. We will happily give our client families advice about current trends; just contact us any time.
  13. If your nanny is truly exceptional, ask for her permission to nominate her for International Nanny Association's Nanny of the Year award.
  14. Put together a gift basket based around an activity she enjoys: watching movies, cooking, exercising, scrapbooking, etc. Include gift cards, edibles, and small items. Children love taking part in this!
  15. If possible, allow her a bit of schedule flexibility for doctors' appointments, important family commitments, and other events in her out-of-work life.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Helping Children Cope with Holiday Stress



For many children, the holidays are happy, fun and exciting. There is a break from school and a chance to see friends and relatives. However, the holidays can also be stressful and confusing.

Family plans and celebrations may be complicated a variety of factors. Relationships with adult siblings can put children in awkward positions. Family dynamics can be hard to navigate particularly with families who are separated, divorced or remarried.

The following are some tips for parents to help children cope with holiday stress:

Discuss holiday plans well in advance, and include your children in the planning process. Children need some degree of control and predictability. Prolonged uncertainty, constantly changing plans or last minute decisions can all increase stress. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a spontaneous experience but be careful that other plans aren’t upset in the process.

Make sure children get plenty of rest. While it may be exciting to stay up late, lack of sleep often leads to increased irritability. Stick to the “normal routine” as much as you are able. This is also true of regular meals and snacks. Holiday time brings in special foods and sweets. Be thoughtful about how these impact children’s health and wellbeing.

Limit the amount of time children spend alone watching TV or playing video games. Encourage physical activity and interaction with peers. Include physical activity in your holiday events. This can be a wonderful time to try something new together as a family. Our family loves to engage in group games and community service projects together. Getting outdoors to play or take a family walk are easy ways for everyone to enjoy physical activity.

Don’t promise things you can’t produce. For example, don’t promise something will happen during the holidays if the decision is really out of your control. Instead stick with plans that are achievable and reasonable.

Don’t try and compensate for an absent family member or inability to do a special activity with lots of gifts. What most children really want is your time and attention. Focus on them. In fact, limiting gifts can have a positive effect. Many families choose one special gift per child. Our family did this along with a family gift – a new game, special activity together or some other family based event that everyone could enjoy. This shifts the focus from gifts to time spent together.

Uphold and maintain family traditions. Children count on certain traditions. They can have an important grounding effect. There is also a place to add a family tradition to as children grow allowing them to broaden their holiday experiences. I know a family who volunteers to deliver meals to families unable to get out. They have done this for years and their daughter looks forward to the tradition and the service to others. Our family plays tag football as part of our traditional Thanksgiving activities.

As the adult, take care of yourself. Try to avoid getting overloaded with obligations. If you feel stressed, it increases the pressure and tension on your children.

Most children enjoy the holidays. However, preparation, patience and honesty can help prevent conflict, reduce stress, and enhance the holiday season for the whole family.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Teaching Respect



We’ve all heard the adage: To gain respect we must give respect. How do children learn to be respectful? We all know that children learn from the adults around them, so what are we modeling? Are they seeing that mom, dad and nanny are treating each other respectfully? Are they expected to be respectful themselves? Are they feeling respected? Respect is a two-way street

Although children may not put labels such as respect or disrespect to the behaviors they see around them they are watching . . . and learning. Is it the lesson you want them to receive? When children see adults they care about communicating in an open and valued manner they will follow those examples. And it’s not only what is said or how it is communicated but body language as well. Children are constantly interpreting what they are seeing and feeling.

Encouraging Respect:
1) Serve as role model of respect in your daily interactions; taking other’s opinions seriously and controlling emotions. You are also a role model when you correct children after they behave insensitively towards others.
2) Encourage appropriate group interactions. Children need practice with their peers and adults. Understanding individual uniqueness while having a feeling of belonging goes a long way in building respectful behavior.
3) Encourage self discipline. Individuals who are able to discipline themselves have an easier time managing reasonable social rules and expectations.
4) Provide decision making opportunities. Giving children a say in family or other group rule development empowers them to follow those same rules in various circumstances and to appreciate the authority of others.
5) Often showing respect means being tolerant. Cooperating with others in projects and conflict resolution helps build the values of sharing and tolerance.
6) Promote discussion and debate. Issues such as fairness, inclusion or exclusion, and following rules are part of a normal day for us all. Being able to discuss feelings and opinions in a constructive manner needs to be practiced and developed.

Show Respect:
1) Allow the speaker, adult or child, to complete what they are saying uninterrupted. Be a good listener.
2) Allow children to make mistakes – and forgive mistakes that are made by others, whether children or adults.
3) Allow and encourage civil disagreement. We don’t all agree on everything. Being able to accept differences is important. Civil discussion is a balance of expression and listening skills.
4) Transition time is necessary. While this is most often true of children it can also be true of adults. Being pressured can lead to disrespectful outbursts that could be avoided.
5) No means no. Being able to say no and stick to it. This is a good one for all of us to follow. Wheedling to get a “no” to turn into “yes” is disrespectful. If your “no” is easily turned to “yes” what message is that sending to others?

Respect is an asset worth everyone’s investment which has great return, not only to your family but to the community at large.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How to Keep a Nanny Long-Term


"We’ve had challenges keeping a nanny long term with our family. What are we doing wrong?"

The nanny employment relationship is very unique. For one thing it is very personal and intimate. This makes for a great foundation for caring for children and working with parents in a partnership. It also increases sensitivity about the daily issues that can come up and can make dealing with concerns challenging for everyone. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

MUTUAL RESPECT: This is huge. Respecting each other is critical from day one. Being cognizant that your nanny is a professional and her expertise can really be an asset to your family. Great nanny and family relationships rely on respecting each other.

WORK AGREEMENT: Establish a work agreement with details about the position that everyone is clear about and then follow through with what you’ve agreed to. If things aren’t working for whatever reason address them directly and specifically. Don’t wait until frustrations set in before talking together. Nannies from the Heartland client families receive a fill-in-the blank work agreement document to use as is or as a springboard for creating their own.

UNDERSTANDING THE NANNY: Nannies are nurturers. This is ideal for a profession centering on children and families. Their position with your family is very personal to them. It’s a very different environment than working in the corporate world. So a different approach is needed when discussing job related issues with the nanny. Put yourself in her shoes and see things from her viewpoint.

APPRECIATION: Everyone needs to know they are appreciated – in your job, with your family and friends. Appreciation builds a relationship and fosters loyalty. Letting your nanny know that you appreciate the care she is providing for your children and family goes a long way. A daily “thank you” is simple and effective. A thoughtful personal gift on their birthday or at a holiday will show that you not only appreciate them but have taken the time to know who they are.

COMPENSATION: Appropriate compensation which reflects your nanny’s experience, background and education will help ensure a long term working relationship. This includes paying accurately and on time. If you are uncertain about the current market, contact us at Nannies from the Heartland, we’d be happy to assist you. The compensation package should also include how vacations, holidays or other benefits are handled. Following through on your work agreement in these areas is important to the nanny. Period performance and compensation reviews should be done to keep everything up-to-date. Nannies from the Heartland supplies a performance review document that is provided to both the nannies and families working with us.

GREAT PARTNERSHIPS = Long Term Positions: We have many stories of amazing nanny and family relationships which have lasted for years and years. The one common theme is the time they took to develop their relationship and really work as a team. Great nannies who are happy in their work truly value their job, the children and their employers. Great employer families support their nanny; treating them with respect and care. While not every nanny and family relationship is always long term, many are. Nannies from the Heartland are experts in helping both nannies and families find the best possible fit to build strong partnerships.