Monday, December 30, 2013

Snow Painting

snow painting of smiley face

by Kelly Miller

Now that winter's in full swing, it is a perfect time to gather up old spray bottles and make snow paint!  Just fill spray bottles with water and food coloring (you will need one spray bottle for each color).  I have done this activity with many children over the years, and it is always a favorite winter activity. 

Step 1:  Gather spray bottles
Step 2:  Fill bottles with water.  Add food coloring.  Shake and be sure cap is tightly secured!
Step 3:  Have fun painting the snow!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy holidays!

No matter how you and your loved ones celebrate during this season, we wish you peace, happiness, and warmth. Thank you for being part of our community!

-Nannies from the Heartland

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Bonuses for Nannies

If you have questions about a holiday bonus for your nanny, check out this helpful article from Home Work Solutions.

You may also enjoy our article 15 Ways to Thank Your Nanny for other ideas about how to show your gratitude for her work.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Making Winter Memories with Children

by Kelly Miller

Now that we are in the Holiday season, I have been thinking about the memories I have made with my children and the children I have nannied for over the years.  Most people do not remember the gifts they received in years past, but the experiences!  Here are some memorable ideas to do with children this season.

One activity I did every year (for 5 years!) with one of my nanny families was making Snowballs.  Even my boss would get excited when I said it was Snowball Day!  This is a simple idea for young children.  We would simply insert a straw into a large marshmallow, dip the marshmallow in chocolate or almond bark, and then pile on the sprinkles!  These were easy to display in a large glass.

Take advantage of the snow!  I have helped many children decorate their yards with snowpaint.  It is easy to fill a spray bottle with water and food coloring. 

Put together a basket with holiday books.  Go to the library and browse your own books.  I have found that if the books are not together, it is easy to end the holiday season without reading them.  This is an easy way to get the children excited about reading!

One thing I do every year at home is have a basket with holiday craft supplies.  Ribbons, stickers, foam shapes, glitter, glue, sequins, etc. are great for boosting a child's imagination.  Every year I put the basket away after the holiday season, and it is ready to go for the next year!  I often buy the supplies on sale after the holiday, so it is ready to pull out the following year. 

What are you doing to make winter memories with your children?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Stress: Coping Strategies

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.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Volunteering with Children: Now and Year-Round

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

By Colleen O'Connor Toberman

Community service is a wonderful way for children to learn ideals such as generosity, self-awareness, compassion, and appreciation for diversity. However, the lessons 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.
  • Consider your child's passions. If your son loves animals, find an opportunity for him to express this passion. If your daughter asks you questions about people you see who are experiencing homelessness, take advantage of this teachable moment.  Children (and adults) learn best when they are engaged with their work.
  • Realistically plan for your child's needs. Account for childrens' energy level, daily rhythms, and comfort needs. There are many opportunities that can be done at home on your own time, which may work best for some families.
  • Use your child's talents. A budding artist can make cards to send to troops abroad. A violinist can perform for nursing-home residents. Soccer fans can teach younger neighbors how to play. Children love sharing their talents and seeing that almost any skill can be used to better the community.
  • Find a volunteer opportunity. Good places to find family-oriented service projects include Doing Good Together, your child's school, scout troops, or your faith community. With some brainstorming you may even be able to come up with your own projects around the neighborhood: picking up trash, making cookies for a neighbor, or hosting a block barbeque. Ask your children what needs they see around them; you'll be surprised by their answers.
  • Make sure it's the right opportunity. When inquring about a volunteer project, be open with the coordinator about your family's abilities and needs. Volunteer coordinators are passionate about giving people great community-service experiences. However, a project that doesn't go well leaves your children turned off to volunteerism and the organization without its needs met. Therefore make sure that you have a clear idea of what will be expected and that the coordinator has a clear idea of what your family is prepared to do.
  • Take the organization's needs into account. Introducing children to volunteerism is crucial, but so is making sure that the organization is furthering its work. Pay close attention to what the organization's needs are and be sure that you can meet them while requesting a minimum of special accomodations. Some projects just aren't suited for young ones, and bringing your children along won't actually be helpful to the organization. Make sure you've found a project that suits your family.
  • Learn and have fun! If the work focuses on tasks that your children can do well and will enjoy, they'll be begging to volunteer again. Even very young children pick up on your attitude, so make sure you are enthused about the task at hand. Turn projects into games that make the time go by and may even incorporate some learning. Ask questions such as, "Why do you think people come to the food shelf?" or, "How many weeks of your allowance would it take to sponsor an endangered panda?"
  • Volunteer year-round. Community service often comes to mind during the holidays; however, children need to see that sharing with others isn't just a December activity. Most organizations have more volunteers than they can handle during this season, but their needs exist 365 days a year. By volunteering at other times of year, you might find that volunteer coordinators have more capacity to arrange a great experience for your family. You may also have more space in your schedule, and your family will have more energy to devote to the work at hand. Children don't need a holiday to get excited about community service. Any day will do!
More resources:
Help Your Kid Help Others
Volunteering With Your Family
Family Volunteer Guide: suggests volunteer projects based on your interests