Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let it Snow: Activities for Everyone

Since winter and snow are such a big part of living in Minnesota we embraced it with activities that kept us busy both outdoors and inside. Here are a few of my favorites. We'd love to hear from you - share your favorite snow related activities.

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in our silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
~ Bill Morgan, Jr.
Snow Scientist at Work
Science of Snow - Snow is fascinating!
 Take the opportunity to explore the properties and note the differences each snowfall. We had a couple of plastic tubs, magnifying glass, rulers, yard sticks, black felt and a journal book as part of our snow science kit. During or after a snowfall we'd be out gathering a nice sample of snow for examination. When the weather was cooperative we did our experimentation outdoors but sometime we just scooped up a nice tub of snow to bring indoors. Science experiments included observing differences in individual snow flakes using the magnifying glass and the black felt.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Day Pay

From our friends at Breedlove and Associates . . .

Snow Day Pay

This case puts the spotlight on a little-know aspect of employment law: how is a family supposed to handle a snow day?
The Situation
A family hired a full-time nanny and agreed to pay her a flat salary for 40 hours of work per week. They did not use a placement agency and there was no employment agreement in place.
About a month into the employment relationship, a severe winter storm closed much of the city. For two days, the nanny tried to get to work, but the road closures made it impossible. When payday came, the family paid her for 3 days of work instead of 5.
The nanny felt strongly that since they had agreed to a salary, she should be paid for the snow days. The family felt strongly that they shouldn't have to pay for work not performed - especially since they had to pay a neighbor to babysit those days.

Who's right?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


With the craziness of the holiday season don’t miss out on the best part of the season: spending time with your family and friends. The holidays are a great time spice up family traditions that you and your children will look forward to year after year. So here are some ideas to create memories and smiles for years to come.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Keeping Children Warm in Car Seats

I've seen a number of postings about children, winter coats and carseats. Here is an excellent posting from our friends at Regarding Nannies. Check out the video demonstrations which illustrate with issues and give alternative options.

I transport a 6 year old to or from school most days. Since he is an older guy we use a very nice booster seat but the issue of safety remains. That is why we buckle him in without his coat. He has told me it feels better. I make sure the temp in the van is warm and comfortable for all.

Consider the best safety options for the children you transport. Do a little research and see if you need to adjust your process.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Back to Basics, Embracing Simplified Learning

I really enjoyed this recent article in the Star Tribune 
When my daughters were young, they didn't have a lot of fancy toys but were very fortunate to have Ann, an extremely creative nanny, (which their mother is not). They built forts in the family room, log cabins out of sticks in the back yard, read tons of books and did lots of art projects with Ann and rarely watched a video or television show.  Many years later, they will still talk about the elaborate Barbie doll house and attached barn for the Barbie horses that they constructed out of cardboard during one winter break. The construction phase was more fun than actually using it once it was completed!

I encourage you to read this article and would love to get your feedback and comments.   Mary O'Connor

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drop-Side Cribs Banned

The Consumer Product Saftey Commission has banned the sale and resale of drop-sided cribs. For more information here are two sources. The article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune is the announcement of the ban and the CBS News piece has a very visual explanation.;lst;1

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Projects - Part 3 "It's all about Pom Poms"

Oh for the love of Pom Poms! These little balls of fluff are so versatile and fun to create great projects for the holidays or any time. They are inexpensive and often come in a variety pack of sizes, colors and textures. I liked to them on hand in our art supplies. You never know when a pom pom will make just the right touch to children's projects. Here are three options that work well for the holiday season. Now that you are thinking "Pom Pom" I know you'll start seeking all kinds of ideas for creations!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Introducing Children to Volunteerism

We're posting this again as it's timely and appropriate during this season focused on giving.

By Colleen O'Connor

Community service is a wonderful way for children to learn ideals such as generosity, self-awareness, compassion, and appreciation for diversity. However, the lesson will be lost if volunteerism isn't introduced to children in the right way.

As a professional volunteer coordinator, I often field inquries such as, "Where can my children and I volunteer together?" Here is some of my best advice for making community service an enriching experience for both your family and the organization you are serving.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Plymouth Magazine Photo

Nannies from the Heartland was featured in this month's Plymouth Magazine photo gallery. The link below will take you to their website. Scroll down and look for Nanny Love on the left side for a link to all the photos.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Projects - Part 2

As promised, part two of our Holiday Projects posting. Here are three more favorites of ours and I hope you enjoy them. Next week . . . you've got it, several more projects you can use!

Graham Cracker Houses and Villages

These holiday houses are decorations and treats all in one. You'll need a good quality graham cracker as your base. Some graham crackers are easily breakable and others are less so - you want the ones that are "sturdy." Each house requires at least 6 crackers. We made bottom bases out of foam core board so they could have a little landscaping space around the outside but you can also use another cracker for the base. The front and back need to be "trimmed" with by very carefully cutting the two corners to provide the pitch of the roof. This procedure takes patience and a plan, and a sharp knife. When the children were younger I did this part - not without a little frustration as some of the crackers just break. No problem though they became our snack. The sides of the house may need to be cut as well because you want the roof to pitch, so coordinate that with the amount you are taking off the front and back pieces. Perfect timing for a math lesson on angles - you can visualize the concept when you stand the front up and match it to the sides.
Assembly is easy with a good stiff frosting. We used both homemade frosting and those we purchased from the store. Both gave us good results. This is your glue!
Here's a quick recipe that is the right consistency - 3 egg whites, 1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, 16 oz. package confectioners' powdered sugar. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on high speed. Gradually add sugar and continue beating for 5-7 minutes until smooth and thick. Makes 3 cups. Store in a tight container (airtight). This should keep for a week.
Laying out all the "wall" pieces for assembly is helpful. If you need something to prop up your buildings you can use pint sized milk containers or the like. We just got used to getting all "hands on deck" as we put our buildings together, two of us would hold the building up encouraging cooperation. The frosting adheres quickly and will dry hard.
When constructing a town you can use varied sizes of buildings. For larger or longer structures "glue" several crackers together with frosting and a small piece of graham cracker as a brace on the back side. It will allow for a sturdy seam between crackers. To decorate use a variety of candies and "glue" on with more frosting. Here's where each child's creativity can flow! Group buildings together for a fun and festive holiday scene.

Puzzle Piece Projects

We all have them, puzzles with missing pieces or puzzles that no longer are a thrill to put together. Here are some creative ideas for those puzzles - recycle them into a holiday project.
Idea #1 - using spray paint or hand paint them with acrylics gather the pieces into a holiday shape to use as a tree ornament or even a holiday pin. Use craft glue to adhere all the pieces on to a cardboard base cut in the shape desired. Stack pieces until the cardboard is covered. Attach a ribbon so it can be hung as a decoration or glue on a pin back to make it a holiday pin. You can also add buttons, pom-poms, glitter and other items to give it more pizazz. Shapes that work well - trees, candy canes, snowflakes, snow people, stars, wreath. Let your imagination run!
Idea #2 - make a picture frame using puzzle pieces. They can be painted or left as they are, which can be really lovely when mixed together. You can use a cardboard frame base or just begin building around the size of the photo you'd like to use. We mounted the photo onto a cardboard or card stock base so there was a good base for the frame and photo.
After you start working with puzzle pieces you'll start coming up with all kinds of other ideas - go for it!

Christmas "Crackers"

This traditional holiday fun comes from the UK and includes a sweet treat, motto or joke or trivia and a small toy, and often a paper hat. There are many traditions connected with the cracker which could be fun to explore or to start one of your own. While you can buy commercial versions of the cracker (some that actually "crack" like a cap gun) we loved to make our own to share with family and friends. We liked to host a holiday party for neighborhood children or school friends during the winter break and our crackers were a hit for all. Because of the small size of items you'll need to be thoughtful about the ages participating or have accommodations for those younger ones.
Here's how to make your own. You'll need toilet paper tubes (they are a good size and easy for small hands to work with), tissue paper for wrapping, ribbon, options for decorating the outside of the cracker, and items to stuff inside (again those are usually candy or other treats, small toys, a joke or motto or trivia and a paper hat if you like). Starting with the empty tube stuff the inside with the items you want to include. We liked to make sure that our tubes were full of fun items. Because it can be hard for little hands to stuff the tubes and keep everything inside rather than pushing it all through, we would cover one end of the tube with tissue paper secured with tape. Once the tube is full, roll the it up in tissue paper and secure on ends with ribbon. We also needed a little bit of tape on the side to help it stay secure. Usually 1/2 sheet of tissue paper did the trick, but we also found out that not all tissue paper sheets were the same size so you may need to experiment. Then let the children decorate the outside of the cracker - stickers, holiday shapes, pom-poms, glitter, sequins, etc. You can substitute the tissue paper covering for other papers including wrapping paper if you wish.
While these crackers don't "crack" we liked to say "crack" or "pop" when we opened them. Two people will each pull on one end of the cracker to open it and reveal the contents. Each person will have their own cracker with all it's surprises. It's fun to then put on the paper hat (hats made from tissue or another light paper work best since they can be folded small enough to fit in the tube) and go around the group reading the motto or joke or trivia. Our aim was to have something funny or odd which got laughs, comments and even some discussions. Then everyone enjoyed a little treat and got to play with their toys. I liked to include a tiny game if possible or small action figures. It's surprising what you can fit inside! If you would like to include younger children or larger items you can find other sized cardboard tubes or using stiffer paper make a tube around the items and wrap as described above. Start your "cracker" tradition this holiday season!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Full Disclosure: What does this mean?

by Mary O'Connor

Full Disclosure: What does this mean? Why is it important?

I recently did a Google search on this term and found many definitions:
• The need in business transactions to tell the “whole truth” about any matter which the other party should know in deciding to buy or contract
• The requirement to disclose all relevant or material facts to a transaction
• The need in certain situations for both parties to tell the whole truth about all information relevant to the transaction
• The act of providing all material information about an article or property intended or proposed to be transferred, which may influence the decision making of the buyer.
While some of these definitions are geared to certain business transactions, the principle of full disclosure is

Friday, December 3, 2010