Monday, July 30, 2012

Discovery: The Child's Science

Children are born explorers. At times they appear driven to take apart, to dissect, to dig to totally become involved with every aspect of an object. How can we encourage this drive to discover? As adults in the child's life we have a unique opportunity to encourage exploration through play and exposure to diverse environments.

Tools of the Trade
Providing children tools that foster discovery is one way we can nurture their curiosity. Imagine what an inquisitive four year old could do with acrylic tubing, funnels, magnifying lenses, magnets, PVC pipes and fittings, mirrors, prisms, eyedroppers, tweezers, straws and the list goes on. Experimenting with air, water and sound are just a few of the things that come to mind. Building and construction supplies are gateways for imagination, but so is the thrill of taking something apart. Preschoolers (and older) are especially interested in how something is constructed. To take apart an old telephone (not a cell phone) or VCR is like opening a whole new world to them. With appropriate adult supervision and encouragement these kinds of activities not only develop the children's cognitive thinking and small motor skills, but are a real bonding experience for you and the child.

Environments that Nurture
There is nothing like exploring the outdoor world for sparking teachable moments. Nature walks with child sized binoculars open the world of the small and the distant. A foray into the garden with digging tools, magnifying glasses and clear jars sets up interest in soil, rocks and insects. We can all probably remember the first time we discovered the science of "wormology." Enjoying this first time experience with the children in your life is like going back in time.

Seize the Moment
Children often initiate those teachable moments. When an opportunity arises, grab it. Stopping to look closer at an ant hill is time well spent. Answering the fifteenth question about wind is worth it. Follow up with a trip to the library for more about those favorite subjects.

Whether you set the stage for discover by having a time or place set aside for a special activity, or seize the moment with a spontaneous investigation, you'll be supporting the developing creative mind of the child. Have fun and dig in!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Boredom Busters

Summer is here and with it comes lots of fun, interesting activities that can keep any age busy. After 22 years as a nanny, I’m no longer surprised that the boredom blues hit at some point during the summer. Although this seems less of an issue when children are toddlers or preschoolers it is still a bump to get over. Here are some ideas for you that are kid tested, nanny and parent approved.

Balanced Schedule – Over scheduling can be an issue in itself producing an over tired or stressed out child. This is true of adults as well – if you’re over tired at the end of the day because too much was planned maybe it’s time to rethink the schedule. Sometimes older children’s view of summer vacation means lying around and “vegging out.” Too much free time can lead to listlessness and irritability. Get them involved in making plans, let them help with research, guide them by scheduling days for activities and days that are devoted to free time at home. So the key is having a balance of activities and downtime. Be sensitive to the needs of each child in scheduling activities.

Read All About It – Incorporating reading into your summer schedule can be a blast if you make it fun! Reading is great at any time and with all ages, but to make summer reading special, consider highlighting it each day.  Here is an idea that’s been successful for me to encourage and develop reading skills. Make a summer reading tree, a visual representation of reading progress. Each book read is recorded onto a paper leaf and attached to the tree branch. Information on the paper leaf includes the name of the book, author, child’s comments and their name. Even the youngest child can be involved – infants listen to books being read, toddlers chose their own books and attach leaves, preschoolers add reading sight words, early readers share the reading with an adult and school age children add reading independently. Follow up activities add to the reading adventure by planning craft or art projects, science, cooking, drama, and physical movement that all echo the book’s themes.

Neighborhood Summer Camp – This is an option for children of all ages and can be an alternative to a traditional camp program. Neighborhood camp can be planned for a few hours, a couple of days or longer. The camp can be centered at one home or several neighborhood homes. I’ve hosted a neighborhood camp over several years - I planned activities and set the schedule. Neighbors helped with gathering supplies and assisting in supervising children. We spent the majority of the time outdoors with access to shade and refreshments, and had a rainy day plan ready just in case. We had different themes each year, offered a variety of schedules over the years and shifted activities depending on the number and age range of the children. It was always a blast!!

Mixing things up throughout the summer helps to get over the boredom blues. Involve the children in plans and make a summer calendar together. Balance active and quiet activities each day, leave room for special outings and days to just chill out at home. Take photos of the summer activities and use them in projects with the children. Even serving meals and snacks outdoors (even breakfast) can shake things up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Coping with Difficult Times

We felt this previously posted article about coping with difficult times could be helpful to nannies and families in light of the shootings in the Colorado movie theater this past weekend.

Difficult times for children can include personal issues but also world situations. They hear about earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, flooding, protests, government transitions, terrorist attacks and more. Whether these are close to home or on the evening news, our children feel the loss and pain of these tragedies. Children are trying to cope on different levels and they are looking to the adults in their lives for stability, security and perspective.

Keep lines of communication open and be ready to listen. Hear their concerns, fears, observations and questions. While we may want to downplay their fears and concerns we should respect their feelings. Answer questions honestly and clearly while providing support and reassurance. You may need to ask some leading questions to help them verbalize. “Tell me more about that” is great statement to encourage sharing. Children who are showing distress but not talking about it may need your gentle guidance to conversation.

It is appropriate to let children know your feelings about these tragedies so they realize that their feelings are normal. Share your coping strategies with them. What do you do to address your fears? Help them see that society has changed to address uncertainty and make their lives safer. For example, talk about tightened airport security, review what your child's school has done to improve safety and security, and help them to see that they have a role to play in their own neighborhood and community. If you are in an area that is not prone to some types of natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, let them know that the risks are low. If you are in a higher risk area, remind them about how your community is prepared.

Children may want to learn more about situations and how they can help. Participate with them in this endeavor. You may discover ways to take action that will help process concerns and refocus toward a positive outcome. We know how it feels if we are able to make a difference in the lives of others and children also appreciate being able to participate in a constructive way.

We all hear and see the news reports, multiple repeat stories, as well as reviews of disasters or tragedies. It is hard enough for us, as adults, to manage all the exposure. Children really struggle with too much information, so limiting exposure is important. When children are young we can do this quite easily, but for school age children this can be difficult. Maintaining regular routines and normal expectations while considering others allows children to feel supported and secure on a daily basis.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tamarack Nature Center - Interactive Discovery

Tamarack Nature Center

If you are looking for a new, highly interactive, nature based experience for all ages - you won't want to miss Tamarack Nature Center. The link below brings you right to the page with all the information you'll need to have a great day of adventure and discovery. We'd love to hear your feedback on this very special park and your experience.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Local Nannies - Don't Miss These Events!

Local nannies, don't miss out on these events sponsored by Twin Cities Professional Nannies. TCPN is a non-profit local nanny support group that provides a variety of events for metro area nannies which includes social activities, educational opportunities and community service events. If you are interested in learning more email TCPN at

Nannies from the Heartland, a long time buisness member of TCPN, is co-hosting the Nanny/Child Picnic in August. See details below. 
What: TCPN Annual Nanny Picnic Potluck
When:Saturday July 14th
Where: Brookview Park is located south of Highway 55 at Winnetka Avenue in Golden Valley . The street address is 200 Brookview Parkway , Golden Valley . From Highway 55, exit South on Winnetka Avenue . Turn right onto Brookview Parkway to enter the park area. We will meet near the parking area.
Time: 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Please bring a potluck item to share, a beverage, your own chair or blanket. All local nannies and their families are invited to attend.
RSVP: As soon as possible to

What: Annual Nanny-Child Picnic: Co-Hosted by Nannies from the Heartland and Twin Cities Professional Nannies
When: Tuesday August 7th
Where:Veterans Memorial Park in Richfield The street address is 6335 Portland Ave , Richfield .
Time: 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM
This year TCPN is holding a joint nanny-child picnic with our business member Nannies from the Heartland. The picnic is a great time to bring children of various ages together for games, crafts and prizes (those will be supplied). Nannies please bring food for the children in your care and yourself. Additional beverages will be supplied. More information on the picnic will is in the Nannies from the Heartland newsletter and via email from TCPN. To get follow up emails please connect TCPN at
RSVP: By Friday, August 3 to or or call the office at 763-550-0219.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Invest in Nanny Screening - Worth Every Penny

Over the years we’ve heard so many stories of families trying to screen and hire on their own or with an online service. They cite all the hours of work to prescreen candidates, call references, interview, do criminal background and driving checks in order to feel “ok” hiring a nanny who might not be a good fit or even worse, a negative experience for the family.

Families said the number one advantage of looking on their own came down to the expense. However, many concluded that the time and energy they expended in the process, with often less than desirable results, were really costing them in the long run.

While online services usually have some type of membership fees with the option of ala carte ordering for reference, background, or driving record checks, families still put in hours of work – and ordering add-on services doesn’t come cheap.

When these same families finally experience working with a full service agency that is knowledgeable and equipped to work on their behalf these families are amazed at the difference. A professional, experienced agency is going to customize the search for each family based on their unique needs and expectations. They see the investment as one that really makes sense in the long term.

Nannies also tell us that using online services or working with families on their own is a challenging and sometimes a nerve racking experience. There is vulnerability for all parties, but it is especially felt by nanny candidates. While families should be understandably concerned with inviting a stranger into their home for an interview, nannies are equally concerned for their safety when meeting a family that is unknown to them. Using an agency brings the valuable sense of security to both parties throughout the process. Veteran agencies will be able to help nannies find the best positions because they are dedicated to finding the best match to the nanny’s skills and experience.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Are You Sunburned Or Just Plain Burnt-out?

by Samantha Sawyer

Does the pace of summer activities have you waking up each morning prepared to run the race, to fight the good fight?  Now that the kids are home all day, do you find yourself secretly scheming to sneak in a daily nap (for yourself!) just so you have enough steam to make it through the second part of the day?  Yes, you—busted!

Summer months seem to inspire children to nag their caregivers more and more skillfully than ever with statements such as, “I’m so-o-o bored. Come play with me!!!  Don’t you love me?”  No matter what games you suggest, or which extracurricular activities you enroll them in, your children beg for more – more - MORE attention. 

Face it.  All kids are alike.  They crave the attention of those they love.  They love you.  They whine for you.  You were the same way.  You know this game. 

Your mother told you that you’d get yours some day, and payback is here! 

Your mom knows this, too, but she hasn’t let on.  That’s why she’s not available to babysit summers in the weekend.  She’s enjoying life at the lake.  You wish you were there, too.  You’re on your own, kiddo!

So what are you going to do about it?  You could pout, just like your kids seem to, but that won’t help you.  Deep down you know that’s true, even though you’re certain that your children will all find fame and fortune in future sales careers. 

Consider this:  Entertain-me pressure commonly occurs when children are off-schedule because they lack the sense of internal security that the rhythm of a good routine provides.  As a result, they are seeking connection and security from the adults they love most.  (And who would that be?  That’s right.)

It is impossible to set a routine since one child has swimming lessons, another has music lessons and the third one needs to be shuttled to her friend’s house for a play date….all within the same half hour?  Enter “simplicity”. 

Children are asked to live in a fast-paced adult world.  This interferes with their natural, slow pace of kid life.  Kid-paced life allows children to grow into their full, unique selves in a way that brings contentment, ease, and the ability to behave.  (Oh, yes, they really can.  Have faith.)

Summer months challenge children’s ability to hold it together because of all the things on the schedule.  This, in turn, tests adults’ ability to keep the schedule and family dynamic operating smoothly.  Now you know what mom really felt like underneath that patient smile as she kept the car running, the washing machine humming, and the meals coming—all on schedule. 

To set your child up for success this summer, and allow fun experiences without sacrificing your sanity, or their responsibility to behave nicely, follow these two tips:

1.       Practice present-moment connection with your child.  Set multitasking aside and focus solely on the present moment for 30-minute blocks of time.  This deep, tuned-in connection is a good time to talk about the task-at-hand, discuss feelings and make observations about the world around them.  This type of connection is another way to boost her internal sense of security so she won’t demand your constant attention.

2.       Create a visual schedule with your child of her sleep routine.  No matter what event (or crisis!) pops up in the daytime, going to sleep at night will never change.  Take pictures of the five to seven steps your child’s nighttime routine involves, and hang it at her eye level.  Review and follow it with her for the first week, and pretty soon she’ll follow it independently.  This routine gives your child a sense of security and helps her wind down at night so she drifts easily into sleep.  That means that you can too!

Finally, here’s a third tip for those of you who call up your mom and invite her over for a summer barbecue.  If you dedicate yourself to completely fawning over her and thanking her for all the good things she’s done for you over the years (aka “heartfelt appreciation”) you may find yourself with a willing babysitter. 

If you play your cards right, you may not even have to ask.  And, so, how much would it be worth to you to get away for a few hours of fun with your partner in life (and parenthood)?  I thought so.  Pick up that phone now.

For more FREE tips on rejuvenating your energy so you have plenty for a whole summer of fun visit Samantha’s blog at   If you wish to THRIVE with your child this summer call Samantha directly at (651) 785-3059 or write to her at for your FREE parent coaching consultation ($50 value).  Mention this article and you will receive an additional $25 off parent coaching (expires August 31, 2012).