Friday, December 11, 2015

Holiday bonuses: 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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

15 Ways to Thank Your Nanny

By Nannies from the Heartland staff

During this season, families often ask us how they can thank their amazing nannies. Here are some ideas from the Nannies from the Heartland staff!
  1. Have the children make her cards or art projects.
  2. Encourage your nanny to take advantage of classes, seminars, and other professional-development opportunities. Pay for the class or pay her for the time she spends at it.
  3. Tell her about the impact she has on your family: "Sasha sure loves reading with you!" or, "The boys won't stop talking about the trip you took to the zoo." Even better, make it specific to her best qualities: "You are so good at listening to the children," or, "I really admire the way you teach Jacob spelling."
  4. While a pay raise or bonus is wonderful, also consider compensation that won't be taxable income. This might include a contribution to health insurance or retirement.
  5. Give her a framed photo of her with your children or family.
  6. Make time to ask your nanny for her insight about your children--she is a child care expert!
  7. Give your nanny her birthday or another special day as additional paid vacation time.
  8. Recognize milestones, such as her annual anniversary of working for your family. Enlist your children in baking a cake, presenting a special song, or picking her flowers.
  9. Purchase her a membership to the International Nanny Association, or another industry organization.
  10. Allow your nanny to take the children on outings and to playgroups. Consider purchasing a zoo, pool, or park membership for her to enjoy with your children.
  11. Make sure your home is stocked with books, art supplies, games, and the other tools she needs to perform her job with excellence.
  12. Give your nanny regular performance evaluations and feedback. Educate yourself about industry pay and employment standards so you are sure your nanny is being paid competitively. We will happily give our client families advice about current trends; just contact us any time.
  13. If your nanny is truly exceptional, ask for her permission to nominate her for International Nanny Association's Nanny of the Year award.
  14. Put together a gift basket based around an activity she enjoys: watching movies, cooking, exercising, scrapbooking, etc. Include gift cards, edibles, and small items. Children love taking part in this!
  15. If possible, allow her a bit of schedule flexibility for doctors' appointments, important family commitments, and other events in her out-of-work life.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Autumn Leaf Mobiles

On your next nature walk, focus on leaves. Encourage your children to pick some of their favorites off of the ground to make these fun and simple leaf mobiles:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How do you do a thorough background check?

At Nannies from the Heartland, we screen all of our nanny applicants carefully before referring them to families. Our screening includes a thorough in-person interview, personal conversations with several references, and a criminal background check (including driving records).

Thoroughly vetting an applicant's background isn't easy, particularly for the rare applicant who deliberately tries to deceive prospective employers. In this article, the International Nanny Association offers advice about key steps in the screening process.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Encouraging Social Development in Toddlers

Encouraging social development starts early. Those toddler years are a great place to start and here are a few pointers in making it a great experience for everyone.

Play Dates
Toddlers and young preschoolers benefit from short play dates with friends or neighbors of the same or similar ages. An hour or 90 minutes is great for the youngest children and can increase over time. You want everyone to end the play date feeling good and wanting more, not frustrated or over tired. Having a light, healthy snack to share is nice along with one planned activity. The rest of the time can be free play. If you are hosting the play date be sure to talk about it prior to the child's guest arriving. Consider limiting the number of toys to be shared and be sure there is enough for everyone. Remember this is practice in social behavior - plan for success.

Mixed Age Interaction
While play with children of the same or similar ages is beneficial, so are opportunities to interact in a mixed age groups. Older children become leaders and helpers for the younger ones. Younger children can learn a lot from older children. Keep groups small so there is plenty of physical space - toddlers need room - and there is enough for everyone to do. Older children can take on the role of planning activities and helping little ones. This is a real character builder for everyone. Again, don't make these dates too long.

Taking Turns
The art of taking turns requires plenty of practice. It can start with the child taking turns with the nanny or parent during play time. Then move onto practice during play dates and mixed group time. Expectations need to be set and gentle reminders given frequently. Sharing one toy can be very hard for some children, but having similar toys that can be exchanged and played with cooperatively makes for happier play time. Taking turns really is a practice based skill - this can go well one day and not so well another, keep at it and make it fun.

Emotional Identification

Toddlers and young preschoolers are a bundle of emotions. Labeling emotions can help children identify what they are feeling and communicate with others. As the adults, it's up to us to label the feelings and explain that everyone has these same feelings. Talking about ways to deal with feelings is also part of the package. While not every toddler can verbalize, they do understand what you are saying and are taking in large quantities of information. They are filing away everything so that they can use this information later. Be patient, consistent and clear.

Imaginative Play
The use of dramatic or imaginative play is a wonderful way for young children to explore all kinds of knowledge parts they are trying to label. Imaginative play acts out what they are learning, observing and feeling. It allows the child to have control over the process of understanding in a way that is unique. Allowing for time each day for this type of play - both indoors and outside - encourages greater understanding of the world around them. Adult should wait to be asked to participate. Sometimes the child wants adult interaction and other times they prefer to play on their own allowing you the time to observe them in their work place - at play.

Time for Self

All children need time to play on their own. Even siblings need some time for themselves. This is the time they don't need to share or try to get along, they can just be. As always an adult being available to them in close proximity is important for them, but we don't need to hover or direct this personal play time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"What's all of this fighting about?"

The day's activities are underway. Things are going well so far, breakfast is over, your tidying the kitchen, the children (3 and 5 years old) have gotten out the Duplos and you've told them you'll join them in the playroom in just a minute to have some fun. You've planned a play date for later in the morning and a craft for after rest time. All is quiet in the other room so you take a moment to throw a load in the washer. Then you hear it - - - a distant rumbling, the first indications of a sibling skirmish. You drop what you're doing and head to the playroom. You arrive to raised voices, tears and an obvious dividing line of toys between "mine" and "yours" with one toy clutched tightly in the 5 year olds hands while he admonishes his sister. You sigh, here we go again.

Sound familiar? Toddlers or teens, sibling rivalry battles can erupt with little or no warning. Knowing that rivalry is "normal" doesn't help us feel less frustrated. However, understanding the reasons behind rivalry can be helpful in choosing appropriate strategies to deal with or even prevent a battle from turning into a war.

There are three basic reasons siblings feel competitive with each other - 1) need for attention or approval, 2) jealousy, 3) an impression of playing favorites. I'll also add to the list the lack of skills to resolve personal conflicts.

Every child desires to have attention or approval from the adults in their lives. We've all heard "look Mommy," "see what I can do Daddy," or "look what I made Nanny." We want to give them our attention and let them know how wonderful we think they are. If often seems they want our attention just as the phone rings or we are in the middle of making a meal. Striking a balance between attending to the children's needs and having them understand that there are times that they will need to be patient is a challenge. Keep calm, get down on their level to ask them to be patient, be specific about how long it will be and follow through. Most children respond very well to this, especially if you make an effort to praise them for waiting and being patient.

Introduction to the skills needed to resolve personal conflicts of all types is an ongoing teaching opportunity. To start building good communication skills practice labeling feelings, differentiate between frustration, anger, disappointment, hurt, etc. When issues arise, get down to the children's level, have each child verbalize their feelings, ask who they are angry with and how they would like to be treated, praise them for talking about the problem. Look for options that will allow each child some resolution - more one-on-one time with parent or nanny, creative ways to share, find other activities or have the child "take 10" giving them a short break from interacting with a sibling. In the conversation period you may found out that they aren't really angry with their brother or sister, but with mom, dad or nanny. The main goal is to get the child to communicate as much as possible about what is going on with them and then let them know how much you appreciate them talking to you about their feelings.

"Take 10" can be a choice the child can learn to use without direction from you. Rather than a time-out for negative behavior, "take 10" allows the child to step away from a negative situation on their own or with an adults help. They can choose to play elsewhere, find a quiet spot, come to an adult for a chat, etc. "Take 10" is simply taking a break, no regulation time limit is set. If a child is ready to return after a few minutes - great, or if they need or want more time they can take it. I still remember when I heard the middle child let his little sister know that he needed a break from play before he got frustrated with her. He told me she was making him "crazy" and he was going to read a book - 15 minutes later they were back playing together. The break was good for everyone.

Being part of a family is like being part of a team - when everyone works together then everyone can win. Praise for cooperation, patience and understanding builds . . . greater cooperation, patience and understanding. Some children respond will to sticker charts and earned rewards. Stickers are given for appropriate behavior, good communication, seeking adult help when needed, staying calm, etc. Setting a goal of X number of stickers to earn a small reward can be very motivating. This method can be a very nice option for younger children or non-verbal children providing visual reinforcement. How quickly a reward is earned should also be considered. While older children can handle getting to the goal in a week or month, the younger child may need to see something happen within the day or even within a few hours.

Rivalry between siblings is normal, it's up to us to guide children toward building stronger sibling connections. Developing positive strategies now can mean strong relationships in the future.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summertime Science Experiments

Summer is a great time for bringing out science projects. Here are a few that will energize your budding scientist! Enjoy!

1. Mix 8 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in 1 quart of water in a shallow pan.
2. Blow through a straw as you move it slowly across the top of the liquid.
3. When you've made a bubble, touch it gently with a wet finger. What happens? Touch another bubble with a dry finger. What happens?
4. Look at the bubbles. How many colors do you see? What do the colors remind you of?

Creepy Crawlies!
1. Search for bugs: in sidewalk cracks, on lights, on animals, or on plants.
2. Tell your child the names of the bugs you found. Did you find: ants, spiders, fleas, moths, flies, ladybugs?
3. Ask your child how the bugs are alike or different. Explain the difference between an insect and a spider (insects have six legs, spiders have eight), for example.
4. Watch ants in an anthill or around some spilled food. Explain that when an ant finds food, it runs back to the hill to "tell" the others. As it runs, it leaves a trail that other ants in the hill can smell. The ants find the food by smelling their way along the trail.

Make Your Own Cloud
Rather than tell your children how clouds are formed when warm and cold air meet, show them. Here's a way for children to see it all up close! This is an adult child activity. There's a match involved, so a grownup is imperative.
What You Need:
• glass jar
• piece of black paper but to fit halfway up around the jar
• tape
• hot tap water
• match
• ice cubes in a plastic bag
What You Do:
Tape the piece of black paper around the bottom half of the jar. Fill the jar to the top with hot water. Leave it for about a minute. Then pour out all but an inch of the water.
Have an adult light the match and hold it over the jar opening for a few seconds. Drop the match in the water. Then quickly put the plastic bag of ice cubes over the top of the jar.
Questions to ask your child:
What happened to the air in the jar?
What did the ice cubes do?
What else did you notice?
So what happened? The warm water and the match heated the air inside the jar. The warm, wet air rose up to the top of the jar and ran into the cold air just below the ice cubes. When the warm, wet air met the cold wet air, they created a cloud of water droplets. Instant cloud!

My First Rocket
What You Need to Know
Rocket-like devices were demonstrated about 360 B.C. By the Greek mathematician and scientist Archytas. So while some form of a rocket has been in existence for many years, the science of how a rocket works was first described by the British scientist Sir Isaac Newton in 1687. Newton stated three important scientific principles that govern the motion of all objects, whether on Earth or in space.
What You Need:
• 6 feet (1.8 m) of string
• 4-inch (10 cm) piece of drinking straw
• 2 chairs
• 9-inch (23 cm) round balloon
• spring clothespin
• transparent tape
What You Do
1. Thread the string through the straw
2. Tie the ends of the string to the backs of the chairs
3. Position the chairs so that the string between them is as tight as possible
4. Inflate the balloon. Twist the open end of the balloon and secure it with the clothespin
5. Move the straw to one end of the string
6. Tape the inflated balloon to the straw
7. Remove the clothespin from the balloon
What Happened
The straw with the attached balloon quickly moves across the string. The movement stops at the end of the string or when the forces acting on the balloon are balanced.
When the inflated balloon is closed, the air inside pushes equally in all directions. The balloon doesn't move because all the forces are balanced. When the balloon is open, the action-reaction pair of forces opposite the balloon's opening is unbalanced. One force is the walls of the balloon pushing on the gas inside the balloon. This force pushes the gas out of the balloon's opening. The other force is the gas pushing on the balloon's wall opposite the opening. This force pushes the balloon in the direction opposite the opening.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Keeping the Balance with Summertime Schedules

Summer schedules are usually full of fun exciting outings, activities and events. I confess I love the variety that comes with the spring/summer season, but I also believe that keeping an eye on balance is a good idea. Just like the school year it can be easy to overload the schedule and overwhelm the children . . . not to mention overloading yourself. So when making plans remember that downtime to just hang out and really play is important. Spending time outdoors in the early morning before the heat and humidity hit is a great way to start the day. Depending on the age, stage and temperament of the children you'll want to consider how often you plan an outing or special event away from home. In my experience it's fun to have several at home activities that are special events unto themselves, sprinkle in some playdates with school friends to add variety, a fun outing and you have a balanced approach to the summer schedule.

Here's a sample of what I mean:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nanny Salary and Benefits Survey Results

The International Nanny Association has released the results of their 2014 Salary and Benefits Survey. Nannies and families alike can benefit from understanding and discussing these industry standards. Visit their website to read the full report.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why use a full-service nanny agency?

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

Families said the number one advantage of looking on their own came down to the expense. However, many concluded that the time and energy they expended in the process, with often less than desirable results, were really costing them in the long run. While online services usually have some type of membership fees with the option of a la carte ordering for reference, background, or driving record checks, families still put in hours of work – and ordering add-on services doesn’t come cheaply.

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

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Working Together Through Divorce

Divorce is stressful, sad and confusing for everyone. No matter what age the child, they will feel uncertain about what is happening and may feel angry. Mom, Dad and Nanny can work together to ease fears and provide the stability children are seeking.

What to tell the children and when to tell them is often the first concern of parents. Your nanny can be helpful in supporting this process. Planning what you say and timing it makes this difficult time a little easier. Give an honest, child appropriate, explanation. Be truthful in answering “why” and keep it simple. Children don’t want or need long explanations. Emphasize your continued care and love. They may worry that this will change everything in their lives, including the care and love from their nanny. Assure them that their daily lives will stay consistent as much as possible.

Obviously, there will be changes in the family’s life and routine. Clarify those changes simply and to the point – they want to know how this decision will affect them. When Mom and Dad

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rainbow Veggie Ribbons

Here's another great way to make vegetables fun and appealing--and to get children involved in the kitchen. Check out the full recipe at Super Healthy Kids.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Vegetable Dip Taste Testing

If you're looking for a fresh new way to get children excited about eating vegetables, try this brilliant "taste test" idea from Foodlets! Just line up a few different dips, add some veggies, and let kids have fun with flavors and combinations.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Games You Can Make

Stuffed Shelf of Traditional Games

While there are many wonderful games to purchase that are beneficial to young children, I always enjoyed making my own. It offered the opportunity to make them specific to a subject, theme, holiday, season, or another other topic of interest. I could also make different options such as having a simpler version for the youngest child while offering other challenge levels to the older ones.

These four games can take you a long way! Here's the basics you'll need to create your own games:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tips for Great Interview

A job interview is your best chance to make a great impression. At Nannies from the Heartland we provide our nannies with an interview guide to help them do just that. Here’s are a few of our tips.

Dress professionally. Many nannies make the mistake of dressing for an interview as they would for a day on the job. Casual attire may be practical for the day-to-day work, but step it up a notch for the interview. Business casual is a good guideline. If you’re meeting the family in their home, wear socks or nylons so your feet aren’t bare when you remove your shoes.

Get to know the children. Take time to ask questions about the family’s lifestyle and the children’s personalities. If you get to meet the children, show interest in them. We know that you’re also interested in practical matters such as salary (and those are important to discuss, too), but parents are focused foremost on finding the best caretaker for their family. This can be a personal and emotional decision, so make sure to show your love for children.

Be prepared. Anticipate the interview questions and rehearse answers that highlight your best qualities. Expect to discuss your experience with and outlook on:

• Activities and recreation
• Child development
• Education
• Discipline
• Nutrition and meal prep
• Safety and emergencies
• Housekeeping

If your interviewers don’t bring up these topics, feel free to do so yourself. You want to make sure the family’s outlook is compatible with yours. Think of some examples of times you've encountered particularly challenging situations, emphasizing how you addressed the issue.

Also be prepared to discuss your needs around salary, benefits, and schedule. Remember, interviewing is a two-way street. Families want to attract a great nanny just as you want to attract a great family. Make sure that your own questions are answered and that you know whether or not the job would be a good fit for you.

Send a thank-you. Follow up your interview with a thank-you note or e-mail. This gives you the opportunity to express your enthusiasm about the job and (briefly) reiterate why you’d be a great fit. A note will set you above the crowd and show how courteous and professional you are. I personally had a former boss tell me that she was unsure about hiring me until I sent a thank-you note. That simple gesture gave her confidence that I’d be a good employee.

With some preparation, you should be able to shine in an interview and find a family who will appreciate everything you can bring to the job.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Indoor Ice Castles

by Kelly Miller

The gingerbread houses are all packed away, but we still have many weeks of winter. Are you looking for a fun activity?  Every winter, I make "ice castles" with the children.  We build the castle with sugar cubes, and we use white frosting as glue.   (You could build igloos, too.) Then we decorate the castle with conversation hearts, gum drops, and other Valentine's Day candies. Gummy bears make up the castle's inhabitants.  Each year the castles have gotten bigger and more elaborate... last year, we used five boxes of sugar cubes and two tubs of frosting!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Overnight Care: What's the Law?

When nannies provide 24-hour care while parents are out of town, wage laws can get a little complex.  How much overtime pay is required? Do nannies get paid while sleeping? HomePay breaks down the law in simple terms on their latest blog article.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Five Tips for Raising Caring Children

How do you raise children to be respectful, caring, and kind to others? It's not always easy, and even when we think we're doing it well, our children might not be quite getting the message. 

According to Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd, About 80 percent of the youth in [one] study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that 'My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.'”

Check out this advice from Making Caring Common (read the full article for more details and tips):

1. Make caring for others a priority.
2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude.
3. Expand your child's circle of concern.
4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor.
5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings.