Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Conquering the Post-Holiday Letdown

While this article is targeted at helping preschoolers cope with the post-holiday blues, its tips are useful for people of all ages. After this busy season, take the time to take care of yourself!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Asking to be Paid on the Books

Nannies from the Heartland requires all of our client families to pay their nannies legally and on the books. But what if you found your nanny job through another route? HomeWork Solutions offers tips about how nannies can have that tough conversation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Bonuses for Nannies: How Much?

Have you ever wondered how much of a bonus to pay your nanny? What about alternatives to cash?HomeWork Solutions has the information you need about common holiday bonus practices. And if you're looking for ideas beyond cash, don't miss our article about 15 Ways to Thank Your Nanny.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Nanny

HomeWork Solutions offers up this list of mistakes to avoid when hiring a nanny. Head over to their blog to read more.

  1. Not having a job description
  2. Having unrealistic expectations, particularly around housework
  3. Paying below-market salary
  4. Not paying the nanny on the books
  5. Hiring a nanny without a written work agreement
  6. Not asking the right interview questions
  7. Neglecting to conduct an adequate background check

Nannies from the Heartland works with every client to ensure they avoid these hiring pitfalls. Hiring well prevents problems down the road for families and nannies alike. Contact us to learn more about our services.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Head to the Rainbow Swingset Superstore this Winter!

Are you and the children missing the carefree days of summer?  Bring back summer for a few hours at the Rainbow Swing Set Superstore in Bloomington.  Located off of 494 and Lyndale, the Rainbow Swing Set Superstore opens up their swing set models to children.  Ages 24 months and under play free, and older children play for $6 on weekdays and $9 on weekends (for 2 hours).  They are open from 10-5 Mondays-Saturdays, and 11-4 on Sundays.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Keeping a Daily Nanny Log

As a nanny, I enjoyed keeping a daily log and found it helpful in communicating with the parents about the children's day. The family I work for also used the log book to record information about the children so that I had a sense of how their evening or weekend went. When the children started school full time we gradually got away from journaling about their days. Now we look back at those log books to enjoy the tender moments, the fun times and the warm memories.
Here are some tips that could help you establish the daily log routine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pinecone Turkeys

From Family Fun . . .

This is one turkey that won't get eaten this Thanksgiving. Your kids can make a flock to decorate the dinner table -- or for all the kid guests to take home as favors.

Yellow and red felt
Tacky glue
Googly eyes
Brown pom-poms
Pipe cleaners

1.For each turkey, cut out a yellow beak and a red wattle from felt. Then glue the beak, wattle, and a pair of googly eyes onto a pom-pom to create the turkey's head.
2.Glue the pom-pom head to the tip of a pinecone. Allow the glue to dry.
3.Wrap a pipe cleaner around the middle of the turkey's cone body, starting from the top and twisting it together a few times on the underside. Separate the ends of the pipe cleaner (below the twists) and bend each tip into a 3-toed foot.
4.For the turkey's tail, individually wrap 3 or 4 pipe cleaners around the back of the pinecone, starting from the underside and twisting them together a few times on the top of the pinecone to secure them. Then loop both ends of each pipe cleaner to shape tail feathers.

For video instructions visit

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Autumn Cornstalk Craft

From Family Fun . . .

Add a festive touch to your holiday table by filling a vase with colorful paper cornstalks.

Natural-colored raffia paper
Yellow poster board
Colored tissue paper

1.To make each stalk, cut three 18-inch lengths of natural-colored paper twist (sometimes called raffia paper). Untwist them, then trim the edges to resemble corn husks.
2. Fan out the husks so that they overlap and use a few drops of glue to hold them together.
3.From yellow poster board, cut out an ear of corn (about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide) and glue it atop the husks.
4.Now crumple a bunch of 3-inch colored tissue paper squares to create rounded kernels and glue them to the ear. Lastly, gather the husk bottoms and tie them together with a strip of raffia.

For more from Family Fun visit

Friday, November 7, 2014

15 Ways to Thank Your Nanny

By Nannies from the Heartland staff

As we approach Thanksgiving and the December holidays, families often ask us how they can thank their amazing nannies. Here are some ideas from the Nannies from the Heartland staff!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Helping Tweens Transition

4 Ways to Manage Your Pre-Tween's Unpredictable Behavior

Mature one minute, having a meltdown the next. Welcome to the erratic behavior of a pre-tween. Experts demystify this new phase.

child brushing hair
Within just half an hour, my son, Jack, 8, pours his little sister some milk, begs me to let him walk to the bus stop by himself, fights with his younger brother over an Iron Man toy, and then zones out, almost missing the bus. Jack's behavior swings from that of pre-tween to preschooler. What gives?

"At 7 and 8, a child's brain is in the midst of huge shifts," explains Caron Farrell, M.D., Ph.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Seton Mind Institute, in Austin. "It's almost as if children this age see how older kids and adults act, and want to behave that way—but after a certain amount of time their brain says, 'I'm done!' " Plus, while they have the physical power to handle all sorts of tasks, their mental abilities and concentration still lag. We'll help you and your kid through this frustrating time.

Increase Responsibility
New chores will help bolster his concentration skills and give him the confidence he needs to move into the tween years, says Russell Reiff, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. Brainstorm responsibilities that you both think he might be able to handle, such as packing his lunch, folding his laundry, or cleaning his room. Praise his effort—not the end result. "A 7-year-old isn't going to put away his clean clothes as neatly as you would, at least at first, but the point isn't perfection, it's skill-building," says Dr. Reiff.

If your child suggests a task that isn't safe for kids his age—like making pancakes on the stove or walking to the park on his own—don't dismiss his idea with "you're not old enough yet." Instead, tell him why the task is unsafe and when the two of you could discuss it again.

Rethink Routines
You might think that your child is too old for routines and that she should be able to handle bedtime or getting ready for school without constant reminders from you. But she needs structure now even more than ever. That's because her "executive function" skills—the ability to organize and break down the steps of a task—are still maturing. They're only slightly more advanced than they were at age 5 or 6, although her responsibilities have grown far more complex than they were in kindergarten, says Dr. Farrell.

For instance, Lauren Spataro, of Darien, Connecticut, had to keep tabs on her 8-year-old daughter, Gracie, for several weeks before she got the hang of her new after-school routine. "In the beginning of the school year, I'd talk her through opening her backpack, taking out her lunch box and throwing away trash, putting the reusable containers in the sink, and getting her homework out of her binder," she says. "Now she knows the drill, but I was surprised by how long it took to get there." One strategy to help a child commit a routine to memory: Have her write down each step—and post the list in her bedroom or on the fridge.

Encourage Empathy
Up until this point, kids have still been pretty egocentric. Suddenly, they develop a greater ability to put themselves in other people's shoes. "This marks a huge leap in their moral development," says Dr. Farrell. "No longer do they obey rules just because they don't want to be punished. Now they obey rules because they don't want to hurt other people's feelings or—more important—they want other people's approval, especially that of their teachers."

To promote this behavior, Dr. Farrell suggests praising your child when he does something kindhearted, whether it's pushing his little sister on the swings at the park or holding the door open for another family at the mall. It's also a good time to help a charity. For instance, you could ask him to choose between collecting clothing donations for a homeless shelter or selling hot chocolate at a yard sale to raise money as a family for the local children's hospital.

Play Together
In public, your 8-year-old may not even want you to stand next to her, but don't assume she feels the same way at home. In fact, kids this age still enjoy spending time with their parents, says Dr. Reiff. Change your family activities so they seem more "grown-up" to your child. For instance, swap Chutes and Ladders for Uno, or instead of reading a single story at bedtime, tackle a chapter of a book like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which your child might not be up to reading on her own.

Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy and Safe Halloween

Halloween can be a fun holiday, but a bit of planning will ensure it's a safe holiday, as well. Here are some tips for your family.

  • Bright and/or Reflective - consider adding reflective tape to costume or treat bags
  • Shoes that fit well
  • Costumes short enough to prevent tripping or entanglement
  • Non-toxic makeup and decorative hats are safer than a mask that can limit range of vision. If using a hat it should fit properly so it doesn't slide over the eyes
  • Costumes made using hoodie sweatshirts and sweatpants are very comfortable, warm and easy to make yourself
  • If purchasing costumes, make sure everything is labeled flame resistant
  • Look for accessories that are safe for the child and others
  • Flashlights for escorts and/or children should have fresh batteries
Pumpkin Decorations:
  • Small children can draw the face on their pumpkin with a marker leaving the carving to an adult
  • Consider a flashlight, glow stick or twinkle lights instead of a candle to light your pumpkin
  • If using a candle, a votive is the safest choice
  • Candle lit pumpkins should be located on a sturdy surface and away from flammable objects and should not be left unattended
Trick or Treat Safety at Your Home:
  • Keep your home safe to visiting children by making sure that the porch, front yard or driveway area is clear of obstacles (toys, bikes, decorations, garden hose, etc.)
  • Make sure outdoor lights are in working order and provide enough light for young children and parents to walk
  • Leaves can be slipery, so it's best to have them swept from sidewalk, porch or steps
  • Make sure pets are secure for their safety and the safety of trick-or-treaters
Out and About Safety Tips:
  • Children should always be accompanied by an adult
  • If older children are going alone, preview their route and agree on a time to return and stay with their group at all time. Consider having a cell phone with the group.
  • Only go to homes with a light on and never enter a home
  • Use the sidewalk and travel on well lit streets
  • Don't cut across yards or travel up alleys - especially for older children out together
  • Cross street at established crosswalks and corners - never between parked cars
Halloween Health:
  • A good meal prior to parties or trick-or-treating will help discourage children from filling up on Halloween treats
  • Children should return home to sort and check treats with adult supervision
  • Non-food treats are a nice option to hand out at your home - pens, pencils, crayons and coloring books or stickers can be a nice alternative
  • Non-sweet treats are another option - packages of crackers, raisins, sugar-free gum, cheese sticks or even a juice box
  • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ghost Cookies

by Kelly Miller

For the past seven years I have made these cookies with the children I care for.  They are quick and easy to make because they require no baking!  Have fun!  I have enjoyed making these cookies with toddlers through school age children.

          1 package Nutter Butter cookies
          1 package almond bark
          chocolate chips
          sprinkles, if desired

Melt almond bark.  Dip Nutter Butter cookies in almond bark; completely cover.  Set cookie on waxed paper.  Decorate with chocolate chip eyes, and sprinkles, if desired.  They look like ghosts!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Partnering with Your Child's Teacher

It's Parent Teacher Conference time and it got me thinking about how we partner with schools and teachers. I love to check out other blogs and online sites. This posting came up and you may also find it interesting. As a nanny I was also part of the teacher-parent partnership - volunteering in the classroom, going on field trips, supporting the child with their homework were just some of the ways I was involved. This article is just one parent's perspective.

How Do You Partner with Your Child’s Teacher?

From Blogger Jolene

I’m a big believer in my kids’ education, and I’m also a big advocate of partnering with my kids’ teachers. Sometimes, however, it’s a challenge to partner with a teacher.

Fortunately, I have a lot of friends who happen to be teachers. I have a sister who is a teacher, and my mother and grandmother are retired teachers, so I feel lucky to have inside information about what teachers say about working with parents. When I hear their stories, I then understand why it’s sometimes hard to partner with a teacher.

Because of budget cuts,

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Words of Wisdom from Families

By Kelly Miller

This article is the second of a two part series in which we talked to nannies and parents that have been placed together for over 4 years. We asked, “What advice do you have for other families or nannies to have a successful long-term relationship?” Here is what employers had to say.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Words of Wisdom from Nannies

By Kelly Miller

This article is the first of a two part series in which we talked to nannies and parents that have been placed together for over 4 years. We asked, “What advice do you have for other families or nannies to have a successful long-term relationship?” Here is what experienced nannies had to say.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What time is it?

There's no time like the present, Time on your hands, Time flies when you're having fun - - - talk about abstract! How do we explain and teach time to children?

The concept of time is one of the most challenging to teach and for children to grasp. Time consists of divisions which include - the clock, the calendar, seasons/weather and how all this fits into our lives. Although time is linear, it is also cyclical which makes it a concept both concrete and abstract. No wonder some of us struggle with it. Understanding time must be tangible and meaningful to children. That's the challenge - here are some ideas on how get started.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Back-to-School Crafts

While looking for some fun back-to-school projects I found three on the Family Fun website that we have done over the years. I actually thought we'd "invented" them . . . now I see others have had these ideas.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

After-School Snack Ideas

A good after school snack is important to children. It provides that time of day to relax over light refreshments and check-in with each child. For some families, the snack is also mini-meal to tide them over until parents are home and dinner is on the table. Here are a few of our favorites.

Warm Tortilla Chips and Dips
Large Tortilla
Cooking Spray or Oil
Cut tortilla up into strips, geometric shapes or using cookie cutters you'll get all kinds of fun chip shapes. Place tortilla pieces onto baking sheet. Lightly coat with cooking spray or a spray oil. Sprinkle with salt or other seasoning. You can also use a cinnamon sugar mixture for a sweet version. Bake at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes until golden.
Serve with salsa, veggie dip, hummus or other options. Delicious!

GORP Buffet
Gorp is a type of trail mix style treat. We'd gather a variety of cereals, dried fruits, mini-marshmallows, snack crackers, pretzels, nuts, etc. - whatever we had around. I'd put them into small bowls with a spoon. Each child would get their own bowl or cup to scoop up their favorite mix. The children would love the buffet idea and would often eat items that if served alone they weren't interested in. Great for munching while doing homework with a glass of milk, juice or water.

Snack Rollups
Large Tortilla Wraps
Sandwich Fixings
These are bite-sized sandwiches that are healthy and fill that gap between lunch and the evening meal. Take the large tortilla and build layers of their favorite sandwich items. Roll the tortilla up and then cut into one inch sections. I liked to provide several different choices to them including veggies, cheeses, meats, peanut butter or other options so they could sample. If you have leftovers they do well when placed in an airtight container and refrigerated.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fun Ways to Beat the Heat

It's summer so we expect the heat but some days the temp is really up there. This got me thinking of all the fun things I've done with children to beat the heat. Here are a few of my favorites. Remember to reapply sunscreen often and encourage hydration!

Fill 'Er Up!
Ready to get wet? Then the children will enjoy this team game. You'll need two plastic cups about 6 oz size works well, two ping-pong balls and two hand held spray bottles filled with water. One teammate holds the cup while the other squirts water into it in order to raise the ping-pong ball up and out of the cup. Sometimes getting the ball out of the cup is a challenge so it can be modified to get water to the top of the cup. A refill bucket of water is available as needed for the squirters. Switch with your teammate and do it all again.
While this is meant to be a relay race it isn't necessary to race - - - it is perfect to just get wet. So you don't really need teams either just the desire to enjoy the activity.

Splash Volley Ball
Using a large sponge and a small kiddie pool enjoy a game that's cooling and fun! The kiddie pool is the net and the water loaded sponge is the ball. Because everyone can be around the perimeter of the pool you can play with any number of children. The goal is to keep the sponge going and keep the water splashing. Slipping into the pool from time to time will happen so I filled the pool with only a few inches of water. Because this can become very active make sure an adult is keeping an eye on the action.

Water Obstacle Course
We didn't have a large in ground or above ground pool in our backyard but we did have several kiddie pools. So we set them up around the yard. In each pool was a different activity - fill the bucket, scoop and poor, sponge toss, floating ducks. You can come up a with several options for different ages or different levels of difficulty. Children will enjoy the cool off along with the active play. Ask them to come up with different skills - they'll get a chance to show off their creativity.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nanny/Family Employment Agreements

We once asked nannies on our Facebook page what advice they wish they had gotten as a new nanny. Their responses were overwhelmingly about pay, benefits, and the “rules of the game.” All of the challenges the nannies mentioned would have been prevented if both parties had written and followed an employment agreement.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Agency Longevity Matters

Since Nannies from the Heartland opened in 1990, we have seen over 30 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?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"How Can I Get a Job Through Nannies from the Heartland?"

Having been in business since 1990, Nannies from the Heartland has an excellent reputation among nannies and families alike. Many nannies wish to be represented by our agency, and often ask us how they can present themselves as an experienced and well-qualified candidate. We want to help you do this; our goal is to match nannies with rewarding professional jobs.

Here is some of our best advice about how to find that job through our agency:
  • Review our qualifications. Our website describes the qualities we seek in our applicants. Our families are seeking to hire the "cream of the crop," which is why we have these standards. The nannies we represent all have at least one year of recent, full-time professional childcare experience with young children. A two- or four-year degree in a child-related field can substitute for some (but not all) experience.
  • Submit a polished application. Not only does Nannies from the Heartland staff see your application, but so will client families to whom you are referred. Therefore, make sure your application materials look professional. The application should be typed or neatly hand-written, as well as proofread. You may also include a resume, cover letter, or letters of reference. If you send a resume, make sure it is childcare-oriented.
  • Choose your references well. We require candidates to provide 3-4 childcare references for us to contact. You want these references to be able to give glowing, detailed information about you! The best references are current or former employers, whether they be a family you nannied for, a daycare client, or someone for whom you babysit. If you have recently earned a degree, your instructors or practicum supervisors may also serve as references, provided they have observed you working with children. Family members are not ideal references; although they know you very well they may not be as objective or impartial. (Note: if you do not wish for us to contact your current employer until later in the process, just let us know this when you apply.)
  • Present yourself professionally. Nannying is a career, and you want to show that you take it seriously. Therefore, present a good image when interacting or interviewing with our agency and with hiring families. Dress nicely (we recommend business casual), demonstrate courtesy and maturity, communicate professionally, and let your passion for working with children shine.
If we receive your application but decline to represent you at this time, it doesn't mean that you're unfit to care for children. Rather, your application just doesn't reflect the level of verifiable, long-term childcare employment experience our client families seek. Again, our families choose Nannies from the Heartland because we specialize in screening and placing the most-experienced nannies in the Twin Cities. We certainly welcome you to continue building your credentials and then reapply with us in the future.
  • Gain additional experience. This could include working in a daycare or finding a nanny job through another source. Consider furthering your education by earning a degree or certificate in a field such as child development or early childhood education. Network and expand your skills by joining a professional nanny or childcare organization.
  • Some nanny applicants are parents themselves but do not have any childcare employment history. While we definitely agree that raising your own children is certainly invaluable experience, the challenge with it is that it can't be evaluated as professional employment can. Parenting doesn't come with a supervisor or impartial references. Therefore, we typically do not represent candidates whose only childcare experience is parenting.
Thank you so much for your interest in being represented by Nannies from the Heartland. If you ever have questions about how to apply or whether you meet our qualifications, please feel free to call our office. We're happy to speak with you!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Communication Styles Start Early

Communication Styles Start Early is an article from the Nannies from the Heartland quarterly newsletter, From the Heart. This article was written for the Fall 2007 issue. We thought you might enjoy it!

Did you know each of us has a communication personality? It’s the style that is most comfortable to us when speaking or interpreting – and it starts early. If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t seem to make your point to your employer, co-worker, friend or spouse it might be your style isn’t matching theirs. And if the children in your lives don’t seem to ever be on the same page with you, it might be that your styles don’t match.

Some of us like the details - need it in fact, while others just want the bottom line. Also, some of us are very tuned in to other’s feelings and are comfortable sharing feelings, while others naturally prefer to keep that part out of their interactions. All these are normal and natural styles – one is not better than another, just a different approach. But what if I knew you were a bottom line kind of person, and I could adjust my style to “talk your language” – wouldn’t that strengthen our communications. You bet it would!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Math for Preschoolers

Math is present in all parts of our daily lives, which makes teaching math to preschoolers a breeze. You don't need to look hard to find numbers, shapes and measurements right at home. Creativity and homemade games, allow you to teach preschoolers many basic math concepts and skills without investing in lots of commercial products or toys. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Performance Review Tips

Performance reviews shouldn’t be feared. Instead it should be viewed as an opportunity to gain shared understanding. Think of a review as a feedback session. Although yearly reviews are typical, I recommend more frequent meetings to set goals, evaluate progress, identify strengths and challenges. The goals set with caring for an infant aren’t the same as those you’d set in caring for a toddler or preschooler. So checking in frequently is important. 
Performance appraisals are a two way street. Listening is critical. Employers need to hear the employee’s views, suggestions or comments. The nanny family relationship and employment situation is unique; the best interests of children bring both the nanny and family into a special partnership and require teamwork. Thus the performance review is an opportunity for everyone to share and set mutual goals, as well as individual ones.

There are four main focus points during a performance review.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Is Your Child Sleepover-Ready?

The first sleepover is a rite of passage for most children but knowing when your child is ready for this special event can be tricky. Here are a few things to consider when deciding if your child is sleepover ready. And just as importantly are you a sleepover ready parent.

No Magic Age - There really is no magic age when a child is ready for their first sleepover. Most often sleepovers with friends start when children enter the school years. Your child should be comfortable with staying overnight away from home. Feeling nervous and excited are to be expected but being fearful isn't the way to start. Children who have traveled with their families frequently, often have an easier time with sleepover opportunities. Staying over at grandparents' or other family member's homes is also a good introduction to the sleepover.

Child Driven - Your child should be the one to let you know they are interested. Pushing your child into anything like this is usually a mistake. They may be talking about this with friends or have an older sibling who is a sleepover pro and they want to know when they can have a sleepover. Even if your child is a sleepover pro they may not always want to participate when invited. Finding out why is important as well as respecting their reasons to "pass" on an invitation.

Trial Run - Your home is a good place for a trial run sleepover. Make it special night where you host a family sleepover - fun food options, activity, video. Do some role playing about how a sleepover could go. Think about options and variations to explore. Part of the process is to sleep somewhere else in the house - not in their own bed.

Making a Plan - Share with your child your own sleepover experiences. Open the door to have them share their concerns with you. Discuss a plan for you and your child with details like drop off process, when you'll pick them up the next day and what would happen if they needed you to pick them up during the night. Sometimes that first sleepover is a false start. They need to know that you'll be there to pick them up as planned. This gives them confidence in you and that next time they may have more success.

Parent Approved - Your comfort is vital to success. For any sleepover, but more specifically the first, knowing some information will help you. Talk with the hosting parents/adults/guardians personally. Who will be home during the sleepover? How many children are participating? What are the plans for the event - including food and activities, bedtime expectations, sleeping arrangements, etc.? If your household has rules about what your children can watch (movies or television) and they don't match the rules or plans of the hosting home - are you ok with this? Make sure that the host family has your contact information and understand that their child can call you at anytime. If you are hosting then you want to be proactive and talk with each child's parents to let them know your plans and expectations. They need to feel confident in you as the hosting family. Making a few calls before your child invites their friends can go a long way to a successful event.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Summer Learning Tips

Statistically children lose momentum during the summer months particularly in the areas of reading and mathematics. Children on average lose one to three months of learning to “summer brain drain.” While many families encourage some summer reading they don’t always think about math. The summer break is great for all types of activities but keeping an eye on educational options can be critical for a majority of children.

Here are some tips to help you through summer and move your child forward.

·        Keep on Reading – have lots of books available and include regular trips to the library. Libraries in the metro have several special events for children throughout summer. Check out your local library for options that are available. You can also have a summer reading program at home. We kept track of reading throughout the summer, charting each child’s progress with goals specific to each child’s age level and included fun rewards for meeting those goals. It was a win-win experience for all.

·        Teachable Moments – think about what the children are experiencing throughout the summer. How can vacation experiences be teachable opportunities? Include science, history and social study options when planning your summer activities. Keep your eyes open for expanding on children’s curiosity. A trip to the beach could produce conversations and exploration a number of questions such as – How is sand formed? What is buoyancy? Why is the sky blue?

·        Keep Math in Mind – math skills suffer the most loss during the summer so being aware of math throughout the summer activities is important. Remember math skills include measuring, comparison, construction, time, number operations, money, special relationships and more. Many games have mathematical aspects that can be emphasized. Counting and number operations can be fun anywhere at any time. In fact it’s a great way to pass the time in the car or waiting in line.

·        Summer tutoring or summer school is another option to keep children on track or to enrich areas that have a special interest to them. If you choose to have more formal learning options for the children keep the sessions short and select a time of day that is best for that child. You want the child to have a good balance of the fun summer activities along with academic ones.

Whatever activities you choose that include an educational component remember to keep it fun! They’ll remember a great summer break and they’ll head back to school still on track.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Safe Springtime

Spring is here and summer is around the corner. This is the time that we’re getting outdoors to enjoy all that Minnesota has to offer. It’s also the time to be reminded about keeping safe during these warmer seasons.

Playground Safety

Heading out to the neighborhood play areas are great outings for all ages. I liked to plan to visit different playgrounds around the metro area throughout the spring, summer and fall. Part of that plan was checking the playground ahead of time to be sure the equipment is in good order and safe. Most area playgrounds are well kept and frequently checked, but it’s a good idea to have a look before you take children. Previewing the play area can help you direct the children’s activities while you are there as well as keep them safe. Many parks have great play areas along with large open spaces which are perfect for running and ball type games.

Bike Safety (or anything with wheels)

Whether the child is new to biking/roller blading/riding a scooter or any other wheel-based outdoor activity, there is a learning curve as we enter the outdoor season. Review the child's equipment and make sure that it is sized properly for them. This includes helmets and any pads. Bikes need a complete going over to be sure they are operating safely.

Make sure that everyone understands the rules of riding. Rules can change depending on location. Riding or roller blading in the neighborhood can be different than at the park or on a trail. Review the expectations before you start out.


Along with spending time outdoors engaged in play, biking or group activities comes making sure everyone is hydrated well. Once children are feeling thirsty they are already deficient in hydration. The warmer the weather and the more active the children are the more vigilant you need to be. Have water available during activities and encourage children to drink. Water should be encouraged over other drink options whenever possible. If children are overheated cooling off and re-hydrating are important to do before offering food.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Crafts

Want a beautiful spring craft idea? Try the Dragonfly Bead project from Spoonful Crafts. Directions are available from There are lots of other craft options there for all ages.

We've done this type of craft with both the more delicate beads and wire that are suggested in the directions and also with the larger sized pony beads with pipe cleaners for those smaller hands. Children should be old enough to manage beading projects. Great for small motor development and creative expression, beading is great for boys and girls. We've made Dragonflies, Butterflies, Caterpillars, Ladybugs, Bees and a host of other creative insect creatures. We’ve made some into pins or pendants, or in the case of a spider that the 8 year old boy created, a ring which he gave to his mother. She loved it!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Scavenger Hunt

by Kelly Miller

Here is a fun game to play!  Get the children outside and let them work on their observation skills.  Each player gets one point for every sign of spring they find.  This game is meant to be played over a period of days.  To add interest have the children come up with a list of their own of "spring things" - enjoy!
-the sounds of spring: peepers, frogs and toads
-music from an open car window
-a woodpecker
-a bird signing
-a plant emerging from the ground
-a bud on a tree or bush
-a flower in bloom
-a mushroom
-sap oozing from a tree
-a dog or cat shedding
-a brightly colored bird
-a salamander
-a newborn animal
-a turtle sunning on a log
-a baby out in a stroller
-a screen where a window used to be
-laundry hanging out to dry
-bathing suits in a shop window
-someone in-line skating or skateboarding

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Springtime Any Time

I know that I'm not alone in looking for any sign that spring is coming! It's enough to make anyone despair - unless . . . you make a little spring yourself. Here are a few ideas to get that springy feeling even if the weather isn't cooperating.

Get Growing
In Minnesota we can't always wait for the weather to provide optimum growing conditions. Why not start something growing inside today?
Grass - grass seeds take root and grow quickly. You may have seen grass coming from an egg shell or potato like hair from your head. Those are whimsical, simple and fun to do. But you can also grow a larger patch of grass in a basket or deep dish. What's fun about the larger container is you can grow more than one variety of grass and see their progress. Once the grass was really established we'd get out our scissors and give the grass a trim. Each child had their own basket of grass. We took photos of our grass garden, propped small plastic items in our grass garden and later when the weather was warm our garden came outside to continue growing. You'll need grass seed - several varieties if you want to go that route - good potting soil, a container that can be lined, drainage of rocks and gravel. If you want to use a pot made for plants you don't need the drainage items.
Terrarium - these clear container gardens are wonderful for indoor enjoyment. A variety of plants do well in these containers including succulents. You'll need the container - glass or plastic, rocks and gravel for drainage, good quality soil and several plants. Don't overcrowd when planting as each plant needs room. Place in a window so it gets some good light each day and enjoy. We would occasionally put in a toy animal or character which made them look like they were in a jungle. It's interesting to watch not only plant growth but see the roots taking hold. Placing a lid or plastic cover over the container will do a variety of things including raising the temperature in the space and providing "rain" inside the terrarium. The lid or cover should be removed as plants grow larger and to allow for air flow to the plants.

Paperbag Kite
Using a lunch size bag is easiest for small children to manage but you can also scale this up to a grocery sized bag. Have the children decorate their bags with stickers, markers, crayons, etc. Punch holes in all four corners of the open side of the bag, tie a length of light weight string to each corner through the hole (you may want strengthen the corner of the bag before punching the hole by using a piece of tape on the inside and outside of the corner), gather all four lengths of string from the corners and tie together. As the child runs the bag fills with air and flies. You can tie the four corner strings to a another string so that the child can have it trail after them. Light weight streamers can be added - crepe paper or light ribbon works best. This kite flies well outdoors too!

Jumping for Joy
How about a bubble wrap hopscotch game? Doesn't that sound fun and exciting? We made bubble wrap spaces for hopscotch and then using gentle painter's tape secured them to the floor. They actually worked well on carpeted floors or over rugs as well. No matter the person's skill level at hopscotch everyone got a lot out of jumping on the bubble wrap. It's a sensory and physical release that satisfies the longing for the days spent out in the spring sun . . . at least for a little while. Great for rainy days or anytime!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Finishing the Hire

This article came to us from our friends at Breedlove and Associates, experts in nanny related tax information and more. Nannies from the Heartland provides all our clients with information about their role as an employer including tax information and we always include information on resources such as Breedlove and Associates with all our client families.

Finishing the Hire
Every year, thousands of families make the same household hiring mistake. After being consumed for weeks -- sometimes months -- with the tasks of finding the ideal nanny and vetting her, they fail to "finish" the hiring process by taking care of the financial and legal aspects of employment.

The main culprits are procrastination and misinformation. Many families think they can "just handle it next April" with their tax return. Others make plans to "take care of it in a few weeks, after we're sure she's going to work out" -- and then, of course, are very slow about getting around to it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Full Disclosure: What Does This Mean?

We're reposting this article because it's as relevant as ever.

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Affordable Care Act for Nannies

Do you have questions about how the Affordable Care Act affects household employers? Check out this excellent summary from Breedlove and Associates about what families and nannies are responsible for, and what opportunities they have, under the new health care laws.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Presidents Day Resource Roundup

Whether on Presidents Day or any other day, here are some great crafts, activities, and videos to start teaching history and democracy.

Presidents Day Crafts

21 Presidents Day Activities and Crafts from Tip Junkie

The Democracy Project from PBS

I'm Just a Bill: the classic video from Schoolhouse Rock

Friday, February 14, 2014

Register Today for the INA Conference!

This year's International Nanny Association conference is just around the corner! We'll be gathering March 27-30 in Los Angeles to network, learn, and develop professionally. Early bird registration ends on February 22!

Learn more and register at

International Nanny Association Annual Conference

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cabin Fever Cures

Winter weather can be down right nasty, which means spending the day indoors with children who long to be active. No worries – here are a few suggestions to keep everyone active and moving even on those “indoor” days.

Bowling Bash
• Bowling Bash – Hallways work the best for this game because there are built in “bumpers” along the side, but a room with some length to it works just as well. Pins can be plastic disposable drinking cups, small water bottles or empty clean milk cartons. Balls can be balled up paper or a small ball (plastic or Nerf style are best). Using painter’s tape you can mark off the alley, throwing line and pin set up. Keeping score isn’t nearly as important as everyone having fun!
• Micro-Mini Golf – You can construct a table top or floor course with “hazards” from the toy box or kitchen. Be creative! Holes can be a plastic cup on its side (using a little weight in the cup or tape will stabilize it) or even a shape cut from paper. While I’m sure you can come up with lots of options for balls and clubs, we used some small plastic balls and gift paper tubes. Sometimes our courses ranged all over the house. Designing the course and set up is as much fun as the actual game.

Indoor Obstacle Course
• Indoor Obstacle Course – Look for opportunities to go over, under, around and through. Utilize furniture, blankets, pillows, boxes – get your thinking cap on and design multiple courses for hours of fun.
• Soccer – Using paper or soft Nerf style balls, we set up our field of play. Sometimes the goals were doorways or the area between the couch and chair. Make sure to clear the area of all obstacles or breakables, and clarify rules before you begin.
• Penguin Parent – This can be a fun variation on an obstacle course or played as a race. Using bean bags or small pillows as penguin eggs which are placed over the top of the feet of each player; the goal is to make it to the finish line with your bean bag still on your feet. Tiny steps and a true penguin waddle are keys to success. This one’s sure to bring out lots of laughs. Have your camera ready!
• Ready, Aim, Toss – Set up a course using small soft balls or bean bags and a variety of containers for some target practice. Varying the sizes of containers and their distance from the start line adds to the challenge. Assigning “points” can be fun for older children who enjoy some light-hearted competition.

Family Dance Party
• Dance Party – There’s nothing like some great music and the freedom to dance! Work with the children to create a special mix CD of their favorites. Varying tempos and music style brings out some very interesting interpretations.
• Sardines – This is an old favorite; a reverse of hide-n-seek. One person hides and as they are found by others more and more people squeeze into the spot until the last person finds them all. The last one to find everyone is “it” for the next game. Set boundaries about hiding spots to avoid problems.
• Shuffle Bump – This is like shuffle board or curling. Use painter’s tape to define goal areas (painter’s tape leaves no traces when you are done). Plastic bottle caps or small balls can be used. Try to get the most points while knocking your opponents out. A great game to lay down on your tummy and play.

No matter what you choose to do – indoor activities can make any day special. Enjoy!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Safe and Warm Winter Wear

It's Minnesota and we won't let the cold keep us inside. Knowing how to bundle up properly will help you stay warm and dry no matter the temperature. Layers are the way to go - layers trap body heat and help insulate you from the cold. In addition, you can remove layers to let heat escape to prevent overheating. Using light and medium layer is better at regulating your body temperature than just going with a heavy winter coat or jacket.

First Layer - Avoid Cotton
The fabrics you choose are important since some can actually make the cold worse. Outdoor experts say that natural fibers aren't a good choice for a first layer. Synthetics do a better job of wicking away moisture from the body. Cotton can actually hold onto moisture and keep you colder. Wool and wool blends are a good choices because it is known to retain the ability to insulate even when wet. Synthetics that are designed to wick way moisture are the best. This first layer should be light and comfortable.

Second Layer: Warmth
The second layer is to keep your body's natural heat in. This insulating layer could be a fleece or synthetic layer or a light weight down jacket - all do a good job of keeping you warm and again they are light and comfortable.
Your activity can determine the weight of your layers. The more active you are outdoors the thinner the layer and conversly the less active you are thicker is better. Fleece is effective in all situations.

Top Layer: Shielding
The top layer's function is to act like a shield, reflecting the elements away from the body. The outer "shell" layer protects from wind, rain and heavy wet snow. Many of today's jackets come with several layers zipped into each other allowing for you to make adjustments as needed. The outer shell has that protective property that it needed.

Keep Your Head Warm
I can still hear my mom telling me, "Get your hat on so you don't get cold!" She was right. You can lose a lot of body heat if your extremities aren't covered properly. A good hat, mittens or gloves and warm boots will go a long way to keeping you warm and comfortable. Once your head, hands or feet are cold your outdoor time is over - so "get your hat on!"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Keeping Children Warm in Carseats

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.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Introducing a New Nanny to Your Children

We're reposting great advice this from

Introducing your child to a new nanny, whether this is your child’s first nanny or the new nanny will be taking the place of a previous caregiver, can be stressful for everyone involved. Even with the best planning, there are sure to be unexpected bumps along the road, but a little preparation goes a long way towards smoothing the transition. Following are seven suggestions that may help:

  • Acknowledge your child’s attachment to his previous caregiver: If your child had a strong bond with his or her previous nanny, understand that in order to bond with a new nanny, your child must come to terms with the loss of the previous caregiver. Explain the reasons for the transition. Acknowledge your child’s feelings toward his beloved nanny, and if possible, continue to maintain contact with her.
  • Keep your child in the loop: If your child is old enough, get her “buy in” on the new nanny by involving her in the selection process. Ask her what she loved most about the previous nanny, and look for candidates with those qualities. If appropriate, involve your child in interview process and ask for her opinions. Explain why you are choosing the candidate you ultimately select.
  • Give the new nanny a helping hand: Give her as much information as possible about your child. Let her know what your child valued most in his relationship with the previous nanny, and provide as much information as possible about your child’s likes, dislikes, fears, interests, favorite activities, and daily schedule.
  • Be consistent: Help your new nanny to maintain a consistent structure and set of expectations for your child. Children feel most secure and comfortable when they are held to a consistent standard of behavior, regardless of who is in charge. Be clear with the nanny about your child’s schedule for meals and naptimes, and your expectation that the schedule will be followed as closely as possible. Make sure the new nanny understands what foods are permissible for meals and which are saved for occasional treats, and the limits your family enforces on time spent watching television or using the computer.
  • Spend time together: Ease the transition by inviting the new nanny to visit and play a few times before she officially starts work. Not only will this help your child to get acquainted with the new nanny, but your child will develop trust in the nanny if she sees that you trust the nanny, too. Make sure you communicate this trust verbally and through your body language towards the nanny. Try visiting a few of your child’s favorite places together, or participating in a few of her favorite at-home activities.
  • Consider adjusting the schedule if needed: For some young children, maintaining a consistent daily schedule can help smooth transitions. Some children find it confusing to be in a nanny’s care occasionally – say three times a week for a full day – and are happier going for shorter periods Monday through Friday. If your work schedule permits it, you might want to consider shifting your hours if your child is having trouble adjusting to an inconsistent daily schedule.
  • Know how to say “goodbye”: Make “goodbyes” easier by finding the right time and place to say them. It may be easier for some children to say “goodbye” if they are outside, or getting ready to go for a walk, as this may give them a sense that they are the one leaving for a fun activity. Just make sure your child understands that you are leaving, too, either by getting into your car or being dressed for an outing, so that he’s not disappointed when he returns home to find you gone. Make goodbyes quick, and let your child know when you’ll be home.
  • Sunday, January 5, 2014

    Snow Day Pay for Nannies

    From our friends at Breedlove and Associates . . .

    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?

    The Law
    According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers ARE NOT REQUIRED BY LAW to pay employees for missed work caused by inclement weather or other acts of nature. That is true whether the employee is paid on a salary or an hourly basis.
    Note 1: Most employers choose to pay the employee for these kinds of involuntary absences in order to help stabilize the employee's cash flow and make sure they retain a quality employee.
    Note 2: An employment agreement that guarantees pay regardless of hours worked would trump the federal law.

    The Mess
    • When the nanny received her paycheck and saw that two full days of pay were missing, she called her employer to see if a mistake had been made.
    • The employer argued that she should not have to pay for hours not worked - regardless of the reason. (The employer was emboldened because she and her husband had been able to get into work those days and they had paid a babysitter to fill in for the absent nanny).
    • This greatly upset the employee because she was under the impression that she was guaranteed her salary, regardless of hours.
    • The disagreement between the family and the nanny continued to escalate, because both parties felt their respective positions were justified. Finally, the employer and employee called Breedlove & Associates to learn the law and "get a formal ruling."

    The Outcome
    We explained the law and the sensitivities. In the absence of an employment agreement, the law favored the family. But the appeal to decency (and employee retention) motivated the employer to pay for the two snow days.
    Nevertheless, the disagreement had severely damaged the relationship between the family and nanny. The relationship terminated within weeks of the snowstorm and the family retained an agency to find another nanny.

    How the Whole Thing Could Have Been Avoided
    This case illustrates the importance of employment agreements and employment law guidance within the placement process. Neither the family nor the nanny had these foundational elements in place.
    If the family had a staffing professional at their side, they would have known how to handle these types of situations before the snowstorm hit - or at least who to call. Without established understandings and agreements, simple issues like snow days can turn into disagreements, wasted time, anxiety and sometimes even premature terminations.
    This foundational structure and guidance is part of the enhanced service that quality agencies bring to the nanny search process -- expanding the value proposition from "finding an excellent nanny" to "creating an excellent nanny experience." If you have any questions about employment law or how to incorporate it into your placement process, please give us a call. We're here to help.

    If you have additional questions, please call 888-BREEDLOVE (273-3356) or visit