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