I know it seems like the Holidays and winter are far away. But in just the blink of an eye, the season of gift giving will be here. And it is a challenge each and every year to think of what to give a family that has the means to get anything they might want for themselves.
It's a kind of awkward thing to buy a gift for someone who knows exactly how much you make (or how much you don't make). But still we want to show our love and appreciation for families who share their youngsters with us.
So here are some ideas that you can start NOW. Or let's be honest, bookmark this and pull it all together at the last minute.
1. Photos. I don't know a parent that doesn't appreciate a photo of their kid. If you think they have enough portrait style then consider taking the kids somewhere and snapping a few. Most parents I know would love a "Day in My Life" type book that you could make with kids. Consider snapping pics that are candid and full of action, photos that highlight personality! A new idea I just ran across that I LOVED was recreating older family photos with the kids. Check it out here.
2. Games. They are not just for kids. Family style board games are a great gift, as they can remind parents to take some time out of the schedule and have fun!! In the past I have made family monopoly (you can find the kits here) but this year I might try our own memory or Guess Who with photos of family members.
3. Kits/Baskets. Putting a bunch of inexpensive items together with a theme shows you are thinking about what the family likes! And as we always tell the kids, it's the thought that counts. We've all seen a movie night basket with candy, popcorn and DVD's. But what about a cupcake baking basket, a day at the beach basket, a grow our own seeds kit, or even a road trip kit.
4. Signage. We love taking photos of kids every year on the first day of school or their birthday. What about a set of appropriate, ready to use and cute signs. You could use chalkboard paint to make it customizable for each year or make a whole set with pre written things on it!!
5. One of my favorite all time make it yourself gifts for families is a box or jar of conversation starters. You can design on popsicle sticks or small notecards. Fill your jar with as many questions as possible and make events out of family meals and other down times!! For a list of questions click here.
How do you encourage a kid to be a life long learner? Well, you have to make learning fun and relevant. Simple right?
Not so much, especially as schools are increasingly teaching curriculum that is not student led and often taught just to pass arbitrary tests and standards.
HOORAY! Why do I cheer? Because as a nanny we do not have those sad little tests with their pathetic fill in the blank bubbles. We can FOLLOW the interest of the child.
That of course doesn't mean we don't need to teach content. It means we can make learning FUN and RELEVANT which will in turn help a child become a lifelong learner.
Here is what I mean.
I like Disney. I mean, I really am a Disney freak. I go to the parks as often as I can afford, see the movies and know the trivia. It is no surprise that when I started a business I looked at marketing and business books by the Disney company. They have lots of them! I learned a bunch about business plans, marketing and organizational stuff from those examples from Disney execs.
I have a nanny kid who loves princesses. (I swear I did not encourage this. Ok, maybe a little) She loves playing princesses. So we know a bunch about them. But I make sure to use the princesses as a jumping off point. In fact, I bet I can list a bunch of activities that taught her important skills using the princesses. Don't believe me? Here goes....
1. We counted the princesses as we put them in the castle. (ok easy I know!!)
2. We looked on a map to see what country they came from.
3. We used new vocabulary such as, kingdom, raven haired, stupendous, archetype and more!
4. We used princess beads to work on fine muscle skills.
5. We built castles using our blocks.
6. We worked on telling time with the clock on our castle. (poor Cinderella)
7. We practiced manners by playing out greetings, good byes, pleases and thank yous.
8. We developed relationship skills as the princesses often fight, have best friends and have to share things.
9. We stretched our muscles as we danced to princess theme songs.
10. We accessed our patience as we waited for princesses to wake from their slumber.
11. We measured ingredients as we made princess cookies.
12. We studied plant growth as we grew a garden for the princesses to play in.
As you can see, and I could go on and on, there are some important learning outcomes stemming from the play we do. You probably are doing all these things, but remembering what they get out of these activities helps you to ask questions, be patient as they experiment and introduce new ideas. It also is crucial that you share with their parents that not only did you PLAY princesses today, you also encouraged proper 3 finger grip when you were coloring!
My nanny family is expecting a baby. Well, we are really past expecting. We were expecting him a week ago. Now we have moved on to a sort of frustrated "get here already" kind of mentality.
Waiting is hard. It is frustrating for us all. When we have to wait in line for a ride at an amusement park or if we have to wait for our yummy food to arrive we might start out excited but if the wait seems long to us that quickly moves on to impatience.
Imagine how it must feel for our kiddos. Waiting for a kid is probably the hardest thing ever! It might even be worse than someone saying NO. At least with a no answer you can try to get around it and then move on. For little ones waiting for something there is no end in sight.
My 3 year old is waiting for her little brother. We have done the work. We know what our roles are to be, where he will sleep, how things will change and how fun (and tiring) it will all be. As we were talking about the waiting today, and sharing how we were both frustrated, I was reminded by her that it will be worth it. Especially when we get to help him open presents at Christmas.
Helping a kid to wait is not easy, but it is important to practice waiting. It is part of life. Finding some ways that help a child delay gratification can be tough, but a necessary building block for other important concepts like self regulation.
It helps younger kids to be concrete. Make a jar countdown or mark days on a calendar. At restaurants, you can point out the time and keep track. Show them how hard it is for you, but that you CAN wait and it is usually worth it. Set timers. Put a treat in sight and then stretch the time until they can have it.
Most of us know a million waiting games. But did you ever explain to a kid WHY we play them. That in itself is a teachable moment. We distract ourselves to get thru the time.
We are still waiting (I was hoping I would get the call as I wrote this post) for baby boy. And like my little one said to me, "he will come when he is ready."