Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Making A Positive Impact: Community Service for Everyone

Raising a giving child starts with a giving family. Volunteering as a family or as a nanny/child activity to help others can help everyone learn the joy of giving and sharing. Children have a natural tendency toward self-focus, volunteerism brings the focus off self and onto others.

When you volunteer as a "team" you can feel good about giving back to your community. The benefits to everyone in the family - nanny included - include the strengthening of bonds, enhanced communication and sends the message that you are all in this together.

Deciding what organization to give to is typically the first step. Doing the research withe the children will help them take ownership of the project. When you find an organization that everyone feels good about, find out the methods of giving that are most helpful and effective for that organization. Some groups prefer to receive donations, others may encourage charity drives, and still others look for hands-on volunteers.

Donate items to organizations for resale. Encourage children to go through their things and choose items in excellent condition. Avoid choosing broken items or those in poor condition. Finding the best strategy for donating items is key. You may try having the children each choose 10 items to donate (parent/nanny approved). As part of this process acknowledge the children's gift to others. You may want to make the donation day special with a trip to the park or other event. There are no rules about helping children feel good about donating.

Organize a food, clothing, toy or book drive in your neighborhood or through an existing group or school. This is a multi-level process that develops skills beyond the act of giving. Everyone will build skills in planning, organization, publicity, delegation, working cooperatively, sorting and categorizing, and much more.

Purchase items for donation with an organization that has specific needs. We often think of this type of giving opportunity during the holidays or in connection to disaster relief, but there are groups that look for items all your long. Your school may be looking for donations of school supplies for student who need some assistance. A neighborhood church or temple may be looking for donations of clothing, household goods or food to assist area families.

We give gifts to celebrate events in our families such as birthdays, anniversaries or other special dates. Why not expand the giving idea to include a monetary gift or personal donation to an organization in honor of the day. It's a great feeling for everyone to know that others are being helped and touched by you. Who knows, you may start a new family tradition.

Volunteering your time, talent and energy is another way to make a difference. Hands-on involvement by adults and children is such a rewarding experience. Opportunities abound in most communities including programs with elderly citizens, planting flowers or trees, neighborhood clean-up or adopt a road program, and a host of other options. Older children may be ready for expanding their community service experience to volunteering to serve food to the needy, helping organizations who distribute goods for foreign relief, or building projects such as Habitat for Humanity.

In the 23 years as a nanny I have participated with children in several community service opportunities. We have sponsored children in other countries through an established outreach program. The children loved seeing the drawings and letters from the sponsored child and be able to write back to them. We've made fleece blankets and scarves, picked up trash in local parks during Spring clean-up, planted plants and flowers in community areas, made comfort kits for adults and children affected by disasters, and participated in various charitable drives of food, books or toys. By participating together we engaged in discussions that strengthened our sense of community. We all felt good about the work and the results of our efforts and had fun along the way.

Consider rolling up your sleeves, opening your hearts and enjoying the benefits that giving to others can bring.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Agency Longevity Matters

By Colleen O'Connor

Since Nannies from the Heartland opened in 1990, we have seen 33 other local nanny agencies come and go. Very few agencies last more than a few years before shutting their doors, and even fewer can match Nannies from the Heartland in longevity and experience.

Why does it matter how long your nanny agency has been around?
  • Expertise: A new agency will not have staff with the skills and wisdom that only many years of experience can bring. Nannies from the Heartland's staff is nationally recognized, has been awarded many industry and community honors, and includes one former International Nanny Association President and one current Co-President! We are highly qualified to guide you in your search and provide ongoing support throughout the years.
  • Referral network: Long-term agencies have an extensive referral network; many of our nannies and families return to us again and again when it's time to find a new placement. They won't even consider working with a different agency. With 1,862 long-term placements made since 1990 and over 1,500 temporary placements a year, Nannies from the Heartland has an enormous client base to draw from to find the best fit for you.
  • Guarantee period: Most nanny agencies offer a guarantee period during which they will find a new nanny for a family if the first placement doesn't work out. If you choose to hire an agency that's only recently opened its doors, how can you trust that they'll still be around to honor their guarantee? Our guarantee is 120 days and yet our replacement rate is extremely low.
  • Ongoing support: As time goes on, you'll have questions that only a nanny agency can answer: "What kind of pay increase should we give our nanny?" or, "How can I communicate better with my employer family?" By choosing an agency that's been in business for many years, you can trust that they'll be available to support you down the road, whether that be in six months or six years. Nannies from the Heartland staff are always available to share their expertise and advice with client families and nannies. Contact us any time!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Recipes to Make with Children!


Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe from
Combine these ingredients in a blender and pour into a tall glass. Add whipped topping, cinnamon or sprinkles as a garnish:
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup milk or vanilla yogurt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. brown sugar
4 ice cubes
Pumpkin Bars from
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 16 oz can pumpkin
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup cooking oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine eggs, pumpkin, sugar and oil, beating until well mixed.
  3. Add dry ingredients, and mix together until smooth.
  4. Spread batter into an ungreased baking pan (15x10x1)
  5. Bake in oven 25-35 minutes
  6. Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting.
Frosting Recipe:
  • 1 3 oz package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Beat together ingredients until fluffy
  2. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating until smooth
  3. Spread cream cheese over cooled cake

Pumpkin Soup from
3/4 cup water
1 small onion, chopped
1 8 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup fat-free milk
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 green onion, green top only, chopped
Heat 1/4 cup of water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining water, pumpkin, broth, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in milk and cook until hot. Don't boil. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with pepper and green onion tops. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reality Check

Here at Nannies from the Heartland we are often asked  - "How do I tell the family  . . . ?" or "How should I let my nanny know . . . ?" What they are asking is how can I communicate clearly and honestly while still remaining nice or feeling OK about the conversation. I believe it can be done. I believe that being real is important, even vital. Everyone deserves to know the truth - the reason why a position doesn't fit or the real reason why the job needs to end or to address an issue so improvements can be made. Further I think it can be communicated in a way that while difficult or even painful at the time will be for the best in the long run. This honesty is especially helpful when nannies and families are working on improving the job parameters for long term success.

So how can you be honest, particularly when you have something unpleasant to share, and still feel good about it?
  • Identify exactly what you are trying to communicate. Is it about personality differences, differences in child care style, compensation, hours, responsibilities, duties, respect, etc.? Clearly define it. Writing it down can be helpful. Seeing it written can solidify exactly what you are thinking and feeling so you can communicate it.
  • Timing is everything. Ask for a meeting. Make sure that time and location allows for everyone to be comfortable and able to speak freely. This usually means outside of work hours and may mean outside the work setting. You definitely want to plan a conversation without the children around.
  • You should only speak from your point of view. Use "I Statements" to express yourself which shares your feelings and thoughts with others and invites the listener to see your side. When you use "You Statements" it feels accusatory and points the finger at the other person which immediately puts up barriers to communication.
  • Share positives as well as negatives. While communicating issues and concerns you also want to share what is going well. It may be possible to build from the positives and problem solve as you move forward dealing with area for improvement. Even if a job is coming to an end, hearing the positives can help ease through the process.
  • Give examples. Giving a broad title to a problem doesn't always provide enough information. If the issue is about being "organized" then provide details about that. What did you observe that gave you the impression organization was an issue. Go further and state what you would expect so that there are goals set going forward.
  • Just say it. Often the best way to address a problem is to state it, get it out into the open. Frequently we wait and brood over the issue which adds anxiety to the process. It's better to get it out so changes can be made - even if that change is to end the employer/employee relationship.
  • Listen fully. Wait until the other person has made their point. Don't interrupt while they are speaking. Focus on what is being said. Restate what you hear to clarify you've interpreted them correctly.
  • Think before speaking. Take a moment to formulate your answer so that you do not respond out of anger, frustration, or hurt feelings but respond to the issue itself. Sometimes it is appropriate and helpful to let the other party know you want  time to consider what they've said before providing a response. If this is the case give them a time and/or date that you'll get back to them.
  • Call to action. Now that you have the issue out in the open, what do want to happen next? Clearly state your expectations. Are you interested in continuing to work together to improve the situation or are you ending the position? If the job is ending determine an end date. If you are working out issues, when will you return to evaluate progress. Be specific. Then follow through.
Being nice doesn't mean you cannot be honest and real. Being real and honest doesn't mean you can't be pleasant. Having challenges in a job can be an opportunity to change and strengthen the work relationship. Sometimes the job comes to a close for all types of reasons. All parties should know the real reasons things are coming to an end. No one, employer or employee, can improve or make changes for the future if they don't have real information. Honesty really is a very good policy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Children Can Cook

Cooking With Children: Helpful Tips for Success!

As a child I loved to help my parents when they were preparing a meal or baking. There’s something so tactile and exciting about getting the ingredients ready and knowing that something tasty would reward us at the end of our labors.  While we were having fun cooking we were also learning math, science, nutrition and more importantly building memories.   So it was natural that as soon as I began working with children I also included at least one cooking project on a weekly basis.  Here are some things to consider when cooking with children. 

·         Tools – Child-sized tools are readily available and allow children to work more comfortably.  For example, using a large adult-sized spoon for mixing dough is challenging for child-sized hands.  Consider a smaller spoon and even dividing the mixture into smaller bowls for easy handling.

·         Recipes – There are a wide variety of children’s cookbooks and recipes available.  Appropriate recipes for children have simple ingredients and clear step-by-step directions.   Also, look at those family favorites that have been handed down as a chance to share family history along with great food.  What an opportunity to talk about your memories of great-grandma while making her special banana bread.  Choosing the recipe is a great pre-cooking activity and can include an introduction on how to read the recipe.  Also, consider tying a recipe in with a favorite book or song – it just adds to the learning experience.

·         Getting Started – As with any food related project, start with a thorough hand-washing.  Use a cover up or apron over clothes (an additional help during the clean-up process).  Introduce the tools and safety rules in the kitchen.  Review the recipe again and start assembling your ingredients.  Then go to it!  Even if the recipe doesn’t turn out the best, it is the experience that counts.  Learning to evaluate outcomes is also part of the process.

·         Little Hands Can – When the children were young we tried to do all our mixing, pouring and stirring at their child-sized table.  As they got older, we then had safety stools to use for work at the counter or at the kitchen island.  If cutting of items needed a sharp knife it was an adult job, but if they could be cut with child-sized knives or plastic utensils, then the children would do it with supervision.  Children are great at dumping ingredients into bowls, mixing, stirring and wonderful at kneading dough.  Eventually they move onto measuring out ingredients, chopping and cracking eggs.  Our rule about starting to use the stove had to do with height and ability.  They needed to comfortably see over the top of the pan without a boost from a step stool or chair before they could use the stovetop with an adult.  Using the oven to place items in was at about the same time, but getting something hot out of the oven was based on each child’s skills and readiness.  I feel that teaching children to handle the stove and oven is like teaching them to drive – good preparation, constant encouragement, ready to take over if needed and an occasional warning if warranted. 

·         Outcomes – Skill building together is a confidence booster and strengthens self-esteem.  The goal is that one day they are able to put together a meal for the family from beginning to end on their own, and know how very capable they are!  Enjoy your time cooking together – you’re building lifetime skills.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Fun: Alternative to Jack-O-Lantern

It's the time of year for great fun in pumpkin patches and corn mazes. We always brought home several pumpkins - some for carving, some for decorating and some for eating.

There are alternatives to traditional carving that make for fun fall decorations. Sometime you want a twist on the expected or you'd like to skip the mess that comes with carving or you'd like to find something all ages can do. Here are some options you might like to try.

Painted Pumpkins - Using tempra or poster paint decorate your pumpkins with faces or character that you can't get when carving. You can choose to make a design on your pumpkin rather than add a face. You can add glitter, gems, yarn, hats or other props to create pumpkin personalities that will charm and greet anyone coming to your home. Remember whatever your child creates is worthy of display!

Mummy Pumpkins - This design couldn't be easier. Wrap your pumpkin in gauze style bandage rolls - tuck the bandage in at the back. Leave a slit for the mouth area and insert google eyes. Secure eyes with a glue dot or tape. You can unwrap and reuse the badages and eyes next year.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Local Halloween Related Events and Activities

ZOO BOO at Como Zoo
October 20, 21, 26, 27 & 28
from 4:30-7:30pm

ZooBoo, an annual Halloween event, now in its 25th year, is Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s largest fundraiser. Each year, the grounds of Como Zoo are transformed into a world of fairytales and fun with over 200 live costumed characters entertaining guests and interacting with children. This magical event offers families a safe trick-or-treating alternative plus many Halloween surprises.
Tickets are $7 per person at the gate or $6 per person in advance. Advance tickets are available online or at Como’s Garden Safari Gifts, or by phone at 651-487-8229.
Have a question about ZooBoo – check out our frequently asked questions.
Or contact us at 651-487-8229 or
It takes more than 500 volunteers to make ZooBoo happen!
Interested in volunteering? Click here to learn more.


Friday, October 19 & Saturday, October 20
Friday, October 26 & Saturday, October 27
5 - 10 p.m. each night Nickelodeon Universe®

Experience Nickelodeon Universe in a whole new way with unlit rides, black lighting, fog effects, a live DJ, costume contests, black light t-shirt making, glow in the dark airbrush tattoos and more!

Blackout Unlimited Ride Wristbands: $19.99 + tax Purchase a Beat Flashing Bracelet for $3 First 1,000 ride ticket purchases made after 5 p.m. will receive a FREE treat bag. Valid on event nights only
Complete Event Schedule & Costume Contest Rules

Halloween Fun at the Arboretum

Sunday, Oct. 28
Ghouls & Goblins in the Gardensnoon-4 p.m., Arboretum grounds
Trick or treat on the wild side! Check out the spooky forest filled with kid-friendly ghouls and the wildflower garden teeming with goblins. Stop at trick or treat stations to fill your treat bag and participate in fun activities. Fee: $5 for ages 13 and older, $3 for ages 3-12. (After Oct. 26, it's $10 for ages 13 & older). Gate fee applies. Free for ages 2 and under. Ghouls & Goblins is presented by RBC Wealth Management. Register online.

'Spooktacular' Concert3-5 p.m., MacMillan Auditorium
Enjoy the haunting sounds of this spooky season! Performed by the talented Minnetonka Symphony Orchestra. Free with gate admission.

Weekend Family Fun: Squish Squash
noon-4 p.m. Learning Center
Sink your hands inside a pumpkin, squash, or gourd and dissect one. Dig out the insides and take a closer look at plant parts. Sample pumpkin soup. Free with Arb admission.

Wednesday, Oct. 31
all day, free admission for everyone arriving in costume
Put on your favorite costume and get in the spirit of things! Trick or treat for apples at the Gift Store, enjoy a Halloween cookie from the Restaurant. Take in the Pumpkin Palooza display in the Visitor Center and on the Arboretum grounds. Don't miss the scarecrows!

HallZOOween Event - Minnesota Zoo
October 27 & 28, 2012
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Bring your little goblins and ghouls to the Zoo for some Halloween fun. Dress up as your favorite Zoo animal or other creature of choice and get ready for a fun day of crafts, critters, and treats! Even the animals will enjoy some pumpkin action. Be sure to check out the Scarecrow Alley display at the Wells Fargo Family Farm.
  • Treats and Goodies! (10:00 – 2:00) while supplies last
  • Halloween Craft (11:00 – 2:00)
  • Creature Features
Black Bear – 10:00 a.m. Black Bear – 10:00 a.m.
Tiger – 11:00 a.m.Leopards – 11:00 a.m.
Minnesota Aviary – 12:00Minnesota Aviary – 12:00
Penguins – 1:00 Penguins – 1:00
Brown Bear – 2:00Brown Bear – 2:00
Tamarin – 3:00 Small-clawed Otter – 3:00
 “Creepy Crawly” Animal Encounters (10, 11, 12, 1, 2) Minnesota Lodge
Members Only HallZOOween event
Watch a video of our animals enjoying a pumpkin treat.

BOO BASH on Grand Avenue

Saturday, October 27 from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Celebrate Halloween with Grand Ave’s Boo Bash, one of the best Halloween events in the Twin Cities! Stop by in the afternoon for a children’s costume contest, the Monster Mash dance, a petting zoo, pony rides, and a word search! If you’re looking for Halloween events in the Twin Cities, don’t forget Boo Bash right here on the Avenue!  
For additional details at

Friday, October 12, 2012

Local Nanny Conference - October 27

2012 TCPN Conference Day
and TCPN Member Meeting
Saturday, October 27
9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Breakfast items and Lunch provided

Twin Cities Professional Nannies, a nonprofit organization, presents a day of professional and personal growth at our 2012 Annual Nanny Development Conference and Member Meeting!

This is an open event – great for parents, nannies and other childcare professionals alike.

Invite your friends, family, and nanny peers. The day will include Speakers, Round Table Discussions, Member Meeting, Networking, Door Prizes and More!

Register now and join us!


Pacer Center Speaker – Sean Roy
“Bullying Prevention - Everyone's Responsibility: What Parents and Professionals Can Do”
The curriculum contains an overview of the dynamics of bullying, including what bullying is, what the types of bullying are, who is bullied, and why children are bullied. Other topics include steps to intervene in bullying behavior, how to encourage students who witness bullying to take action, the role of the school, and laws and policies. The curriculum features a section for parents of children with disabilities.

Outside the Box
This is a group activity to get our creative and cooperative juices flowing so we begin to “think outside the box.”

Round Table Discussions
A variety of topics will be featured for small group discussion. Each participant will have the opportunity to join in several discussions during the afternoon. Discover with your professional peers new ideas to use on Monday morning.

TCPN Annual Meeting
Following the conference day members will move into the annual meeting portion where they will get an overview of the operations of TCPN over the past year. Members will be able to voice their ideas for future events and projects.

Event location: St Andrew Lutheran Church, 13600 Technology Drive Eden Prairie, MN 55344
TCPN Email:



TCPN Conference Day Registration Form
Early Bird Registration must be postmarked by October 15, 2011
City:_______________________________________________State:_____ Zip:__________
How did you hear about our conference?_________________________________________________________
MEMBERS                                                                                           NON-MEMBERS
Early Bird Discount Postmarked by October 15 = $32                               Postmarked by October 15 = $40
Postmarked after October 15 = $45                                                          Postmarked after October 15 = $65
Make your check payable to TCPN
*JOIN TCPN + Conference for $65 – a great deal for a professional conference and a year of membership
$75 – at the door charge members and non-members
*****Breakfast Goodies and Lunch Provided*****
Return to:
P. O. Box 11275
St. Paul MN 55111

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Failure: The Opportunity to Learn

Failure is such a negative word for most of us, but maybe that's because we are looking at it all wrong. Failure and making mistakes is really an avenue for learning. We've all done it - we've all failed, and we've all learned. Think back to your childhood - there are mistakes and failures there that sparked learning and improvement.

Flashback: The school playground, first grade and you are making your debut in your first game of kickball. You envision yourself connecting with the ball perfectly sending it flying over the fence and scoring a home run. However, you barely make contact with the ball and you don't even make it to first base. You feel disappointed, frustrated and maybe embarrassed. Then you see your teammates, some do actually kick the ball and some miss it completely. Next time up you do better. Through failure you are learning a lot. 

Much of learning is trial and error. Just think about first steps, first words, first time at bat, first attempts to read or write or add numbers or pouring milk . . . we learn by doing, by trying, by failure. The process of learning is full of struggle. Children do much better with this than we think. Adults often want to come to the child's rescue, make it easier, eliminate or minimize the struggle. I believe we see a child's frustration and want to make them feel better but intervening can have the opposite results.

Children who are allowed to struggle, to make mistakes, to fail - are children who are actively learning. Feelings of frustration and irritation are normal. Being able to work through those feelings and allowed to try again (and again, and again) is vital to the learning process. Our role then is one of facilitator, counselor, cheerleader and supporter. Rushing in to makes things easier or "fix" something is not the answer to building a child with confidence, resilience and self-esteem. Being available to them to encourage and support is exactly where we want to be.

Real Example: A young grade school child that I'm caring for says he'd like some milk. I tell him that's great, go ahead and get some. He looks at me and says I don't know how. So verbally I go through the steps with him - getting his cup, getting the milk out, setting it up so that he can manage the pour on his own and then encouraging him as he does it. I'm not sure if he's never done this before or if his older siblings or parents have always jumped in to help him. Either way it's a success. Next time he tells me he is getting milk. I leave him to it but I'm there in case a little reminder is needed. He has a spill. No worries, I coach him through the clean up and we're good to go. As he's enjoying his milk we discuss how to prevent a spill in the future . . . and while we're at it we talk about the science behind pouring and why a paper towel absorbs. This summer while his grandmother was visiting I heard him tell her - "No, Grandma I can do it all myself now." He then proceeded to show her and she praised him for his success. He still sometimes spills but he now knows that he can handle that too.

I'll leave you with a couple of quotes to consider . . .

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.  Henry Ford

It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.  Bill Gates

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Homemade Halloween Costumes

Trick or Treat
It's that time of year to be thinking about fun and creative costume ideas. Family Fun has some great ideas that you and the children can work on together. Check them out at

We'd love to hear about costumes you've made or created! Please share in the comment section.