2 year old: "Sue, what are you doing?"
Me: "Washing the dishes."
2 year old one minute later: "What are you doing, Sue?"
Me: "Still washing the dishes."
2 year old 30 seconds later: "Now what are you doing?"
Me: "Still washing the dishes."
I know that if you have small children, there is a very good chance that you have had these same conversations, along with the dreaded "Why?" loop and the ever popular "How do you…?" chorus about 1 billion times in your home. And that's just Monday!
These endless question phases can be devastating mentally. It can wear you down like a dripping faucet at 3 a.m. - washing away your patience and joy at spending time with your little darlings drip by drip. (Or question by question, as the case may be)
I try very hard to remember as we go through those phases that for children, everything is an opportunity. It is my job to seize the moment.
Everyday moments like folding laundry, doing dishes, going grocery shopping etc.. are filled with moments that we can teach. The trick is looking at things from their perspective.
I am washing the dishes. Do you see the bubbles in the sink? Want to feel them in your fingers? Why do we wash dishes? What are the steps to wash the dishes? Would you like to help me?
I am folding laundry. Can you match the socks? This is 1 wash cloth. Now I am going to fold it in half- that means I make 2 equal pieces from one whole. Feel how warm the towels are? Let's wrap up in them and read a book.
We are going to the grocery store. What do we need to buy? Can you help me spot the apples? Are oranges a fruit or a vegetable? What do you smell? What number is this on the sign? That tells us how much it costs. We need 4 cans of beans- let's count them out.
It is hard in our busy world full of "To Do" lists to stop and see EVERY moment as the potential to open a door for your kids. Sometimes you just need to get the towels folded for goodness sake! But when the questions start coming, sending back a few of your own can at least give you a fighting chance!
I was thinking about all the ways we do not work in our own best interests.
Are there any others things you have seen that nannies do to sabotage themselves??
If you have been to the toy aisles of your local EverythingMart lately, you know how overwhelming shopping for toys can be. There are so many choices! Do you choose based on age? Gender? Television show or movie tie-in? How in the world can you figure out how to best stock your playroom with toys that the kids will actually play with? It is very disheartening to buy a toy that you're sure your child will love, only to have them play with it for a day and then shove it in the bottom of the toy box. In this article I am going to share some tips for getting the most bang for your buck in the toy aisle!
There are many things to consider before bringing a toy into your playroom - especially if you are concerned with creating an atmosphere that is fun, supports your family’s values, and promotes early learning. The toy industry's marketing machine is a huge behemoth that will make you feel that if you love your children, you always have to be buying the latest and greatest buzzing, light up, battery-operated monstrosity. Don’t get me wrong- some of those toys can be FUN! There is certainly a time and place for them. However, there are a few other things to consider when choosing a toy:
First, I like to choose toys that can be played with by more than one age group. Even if you only have one child, they do eventually grow up. (Usually faster than we want!) Choosing a toy that will grow with them is a good way to stretch your dollars while challenging them. If you have children of multiple ages, this is crucial. Having toys that interest different age groups can help you teach concepts like sharing and taking turns. It can promote cooperative play (don’t laugh, it can happen!) and lets older kids develop leadership skills, while younger kids can learn from siblings and friends.
Next, I look at the ability for the toy to be used in more than one way. For instance - small plastic animals can be used for imaginative play, and then again later when we work on one to one correspondence (a child’s ability to match one object to one number or object). Then those same animals can be matched with pictures from a magazine to learn what habitat they live in. Or we can match them up to the letter that comes first in their name. Now we have used those figures for math, science, language and open ended play! Score!
Finally, I like to choose toys that will be fun! Most of the time this means looking at a toy from your child’s perspective. Will it help them imagine a new world? Is it scary or colorful or loud? Does it feel good in their sensitive hands? This part is harder to know universally, but you know your kids. You know what they like and how they react to their world, so you can make a good guess on this part.
When you choose toys that are fun, flexible and able to capture the imagination of many ages, your playroom will be the place where EVERY kid wants to play. I just hope you have plenty of snacks!
As nannies we have some unique challenges and some very exciting benefits to being in the home. We have a great deal of control over how things go- the pace, the activity and the schedule. We also have to juggle a lot of elements - the age ranges of the children, the other adults (parents, grandparents, other workers) in the home and the running of the household.
How do you set up your days?
There are a few different approaches but it warrants some thought.
Most children have periods of the day where they are more open to certain activities. For instance, very kinesthetic (lots of movement) kids may need to move around a lot during or after periods where they are exposed to new information. Younger kids may need to follow a period of stimulation with sleep. All kids need to have basic needs met to be able to fully engage. This means they need to be comfortable in temperature, not be hungry and not be too tired. Perhaps you consider all these things for your kids and set up times when you introduce materials, plan crafts or games and outings.
OR maybe you follow the child’s lead and each day is a bit more unique. There is a rhythm to this but it does not necessarily have a pattern that is easy to see. These days are more free flowing and able to change on a dime. You may introduce materials only to have a child see a butterfly and follow him on a nature walk instead of the puzzles or blocks you had laid out. You may not have a snack time per se but instead feed the child when they ask for the snack.
I find for me that it is better to think of a rhythm to the days instead of a true schedule. I like to have routines at the outset of the day- getting dressed, self care, eating breakfast. Then flow into a period of directed activity, setting out an art project, science experiment or sensory play. When the interest wains with this I open it up to free play which is often independent as I start a load of laundry or do the breakfast dishes. I observe the child and offer guidance as necessary. None of this is done on the clock (with specific times or starting and ending times) more just with the interest level of the child and my patience and interest as well. As it nears time for lunch there is more routines of clean up, any responsibilities the child may have and then stories before rest time. In the afternoon I like to get outside if possible and also allow time for revisiting the mornings activities.
What ever structure you choose, it is important to give it some thought and to have a plan. As always when working with kids (and nanny families!) the plan may go out the window more days than not. But starting with a plan means that you will make sure you are intentional in your caregiving, which is a big step to quality care.
Do you keep a nanny binder or notebook? What do I mean?
Well as I attend classes, workshops and read articles, I find that I want to save some of those materials for further reference and study. I used to keep a binder or file in a filing cabinet. These days my “notebook” is more a list of links and some folders on my computer, but it serves the same purposes.
Why should we keep a notebook?
Well, there are many reasons!
Nannies work with many different age levels. At one point in your career you may have toddlers, another teens. It is almost impossible for one person to know all you need to know about each age group at all times. Keeping a notebook lets you reference back to milestones, activity ideas or other information about each age and stage.
Nannies need inspiration. The days are long and we work with no other adults. It is part of our job to inspire the kids- but who or what inspires us? In my notebook I have a running list of ideas and techniques that will inspire me.
Nannies are professionals- and professionals research their areas of expertise. Part of being a professional is keeping up to date on all the latest and greatest information out there. You need to know so much to take care of kids and it is always changing. Keeping track of it all can be a challenge so keeping a notebook lets you ad information to refer to when needed.
Nannies need backup. Sometimes you don’t know what to do. Sometimes parents will ask you for advice. When I am faced with a problem, I know I can go to my notebook and pull out advice from a forgotten workshop, an article from a journal or website. I can share this with parents to back up my own personal thoughts and beliefs.
What should you be looking for when collecting data for your own nanny notebook?
*articles from parenting magazines
*thought provoking tidbits you come across
*ideas for crafts, activities and other kinds of day to day useful items
*articles and papers from scholarly journals and childcare professional publications
*listings of books (with notes if possible) that you have read
*listings of links that you can refer to over and over
American Medical Association
Zero to Three
*notes/handouts from workshops attended at Nannypalooza and other conferences
*important information about YOU as a nanny professional including info on taxes, building a portfolio, negotiating and interviewing with families, etc..
I will be posting info on Wednesdays for you to consider adding to your own notebook. Hopefully this will help you build your own library. And if you have a suggestion for others to add let me know! I will share it!
I thought I would write a little letter to myself - myself at the start of my nanny career about 20 years ago.
Dear Younger, More Energetic, Less Intelligent Self,
You found a career when you offered to help that family out for a few weeks. You found a calling, a way to impact the world, a place where you finally fit in. Give thanks.
Give thanks again. Some people never find that place.
Now keep that gratitude handy because this profession is like no other.
You will encounter parenting that you will immediately and incorrectly feel is wrong. The truth is that parenting is like painting, there are really very few “WRONG” ways to do it. There are lots of ways to do both that will produce a masterpiece, but sometimes artists and painters just throw stuff up there and see what sticks. Sometimes it is something original and amazing (see Jackson Pollack) and sometimes it is crap (see millions of starving artists). Either way, it is a huge responsibility to help a creation find it’s way into the world.
Parents have it harder than you think they do. Give them a break. Be THANKFUL that someone else pays you to do what you love. Be THANKFUL that parents put their own egos aside and hire an “expert”. Be THANKFUL that you have a job.
You will be angry that the dishes are not done. You will get frustrated that the rules are not always enforced and that the messes get bigger and bigger. You will be annoyed at the lack of follow thru, the late nights and the inconsistent behaviors. You will have days when you feel under appreciated and unloved.
Get over yourself. That is wasted energy being angry and feeling indignant. Either change the situation or let it go. Don’t hold on to that ball of resentment in your stomach, it will affect your relationships with the kids and cause you to gain 20 pounds.
You will put your needs aside for the family you work for- not always a good thing. Find a balance. Your boat will go under and you will find yourself drowning if you don’t put on your big girl panties and say “no” nicely and firmly. No one is responsible for drawing the lines but you. So get yourself a marker, a mirror and figure out where your boundaries are.
Your ideas about how to raise and educate a child are going to change a great deal as you learn and grow. Don’t be afraid to try something new, to admit your way is not the ONLY way or to just concede that the stuff your mother said was at least half right.
You will have some really amazing moments in your life that you will owe to the children you care for, the parents you support and to the nannies you call friends. Stop to take notice of these moments. Sing out the songs of your successes. These moments will be your own masterpiece and they will be amazing.
You are a nanny. Be proud of it. It will be a journey like no other!
My take on this week is a little different than most I think so I wanted to share.
Next week from Sept 22 to the 29th is National Nanny Recognition Week. If you are reading this blog you probably already know about NNRW. It was started a few years back by a few nannies and agency owners who wanted to showcase the important work that nannies do.
Times have changed in the past few years since the first NNRW. The nanny profession has increased its visibility and there are more nannies working in the states than ever. Nannies have been featured on television as childcare experts and we have started to connect to each other and educate ourselves in larger and larger numbers.
NNRW is often promoted as a chance for families and others to appreciate nannies. But I really think that this is a chance for us to celebrate the whole nanny universe. What does that mean?
I think it is a time to recognize the families that employ us. We work for some amazing people. I think that nanny care is the best choice you can make for your kids. But it is not easy. It is a remarkable thing to hire a nanny and let that nanny into the family. Nanny care is usually the most expensive care option. And it is emotionally much more difficult. Parents know that they will miss moments that the nanny will see. They know that the child will come to love the nanny in a very personal way. There will be a moment when the child calls out for the nanny instead of the parent. They put an extraordinary amount of trust in us. They do what is best for their child at the expense of their own ego (not to mention pocketbook). Not to mention the work of building a strong nanny/family relationship! It is not easy and it should be celebrated. If we didn’t have them, we would not have a job.
I think it is a time to celebrate the kids who come to love us. I am thrilled to be a part of the lives of my kids. It is an honor. I am thankful for every shared moment and I like to take time each year to think of those times and be grateful.
I think it is a time to celebrate nannies. The nanny profession has changed a lot in the past 10 years. There are more of us than ever! We are more visable and there is a greater diversity. During NNRW I like to think of the wonderful people who have come before me, who have helped me learn about this job and shown me the way. I like to think of those who are nipping at my heels, to thank them for sharing their innovative ideas and enthusiasm for an occupation that I love.
It is a time to celebrate all those in the business community, the agencies, tax professionals and the like that have made being a nanny so lucrative. Agencies can get a bad rap, but it is a tough spot and most agencies really do care about the placements. These businesses support us and our families and make it easier to get paid, find jobs and work with families. They deserve a spotlight moment this week too!
Sure, I love a little recognition. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. And there have been so many times when I felt like I got little or no thanks for the blood, sweat and tears I put into my work. However, perhaps as Dr. Seuss would say, NNRW doesn't come from a store. Perhaps it means just a little bit more. The reason for the season for me is to celebrate all the people in my life who have made this job, this calling if you will, a part of my life that defines me in so many ways.
I have to admit to you that I used to love them.
I would print off worksheets or buy workbooks and have the kids do them all summer long.
Of course now I struggle. Something about using workbooks and those sheets feels so wrong to me. Especially for the younger set. Worksheets are a great way to organize the info and reinforce topics, but I still wonder.
Same goes for the endless number of holiday crafts and projects. I love all those cute snowmen made with cotton balls or octopus coloring sheets. Who doesn't want to make all those crafts on Pinterest?
And they are learning right! There are numbers and shapes. There are ABC projects using so many creative materials that my head is spinning. I pin them to my Pinterest boards like a mad woman and troll the aisles of the craft store in a frenzy.
Boy do parents love those worksheets and projects. They love them emotionally when they see the preschool printing and handprint butterflies. They love to display them proudly on the wall and send them to Grandma's house. They also let them know that we are doing things that are "educational". They hired a nanny and now look- it is like a private preschool.
Here is the thing that has been nagging at me for awhile. It started off low and it started to grow (sorry- too many readings of The Grinch lately). These things are not really for the kids as much as they are for me and for the parents.
My growing suspicion, backed up by a lot of reading on the subject, is that playing a great game of legos can teach my kids more about colors and counting than 10 worksheets. I am guessing that instead of a cotton ball snowman, building a real one would teach them more. We can teach them the ABC's while playing in our pretend store. And while most parents want little Jane to know those ABC's and to be able to count to 100 by age 2, that time will come. It might be more important that Jane learns how to imagine, to solve problems and to communicate.
These activities have their place. I still do them and for older kids- depending on the school they are headed to- they are crucial. Parents sometimes need a little of these no matter what we explain to them. And to survive the school system, kids will need to produce things that make a teacher happy. But I am going to offer that in small amounts and know that the time will come and they will learn that game. My time with them can be spent have a discussion, taking a walk, or playing a game.
I have been a nanny for 20 years!
It made me start thinking that I have been fortunate enough to share some of the "nanny lessons" with my newer to the field friends.
We all bring gifts to the table.
An experienced nanny can
... help you navigate the tricky dance of your relationship with the family
... connect you to groups like the INA, NAEYC or other nanny support groups
... share with you the pain and the healing of leaving a job
... translate what a family means when they say "flexible hours" or "light housekeeping"
... show you were the hidden child friend gems of your city are
... hold your hand and understand when the days get tough
... laugh at the crazy parent stories and offer some perspective
... demonstrate what being a professional is all about
But my younger friends bring many gifts to me all the time!
A newer nanny can
... remind me of my passion for the profession
... share with me new ideas and shake up my old ways of looking at things
... excite me
... connect me to other nannies who are looking to be friends
... remind me of the natural gifts that good nannies have
... offer up lessons just learned from school or other training
... help me to not be jaded as I laugh at the crazy parent stories
... demonstrate what being a professional is all about
Whether we have been here for 20 years or we are just coming to the party, we have much that we can offer each other. This is why support is so important to nannies and why we must be open to the gifts we all bring.
You know you’re a nanny when…
You find yourself singing along to children’s music in the car only to remember you are currently alone
You pride yourself in finding creative craft ideas using household “trash”
You go shopping for new clothing items and one of the first requirements is that it is appropriate for your child filled days
Your purse/bag contains more of your children’s items than your own
You are excited to have 2 minutes of down time so you can finally go pee in peace
You have a car seat filled, toy carrying, children’s book totting car, despite having no children of your own
You search for answers to the question “Why??” multiple times a day
You are able to wash/fold/put away four loads of laundry, unload and refill the dishwasher, bathe/feed/dress/diaper the children, tidy up the house, entertain and educate the children all without using the TV as a “babysitter” for the children
You find yourself explaining that you’re their nanny on a daily basis
Its impossible to scroll through your cell phone pics without stumbling upon pictures of your kiddos, or one of their many activities
You have multiple bottles of baby sun block on hand during the Summer months
You have to remove the stroller, car seats, sippy cups, snacks, and toy/activity bags before using your car
You can suggest numerous local child friendly activities to desperate parents you meet during your travels with the kiddos
You arrive home from work with stained clothing, on a daily basis
Family Fun is the highlight of your mail deliveries each month
You get excited the craft store has stickers on sale
You constantly catch yourself talking about children, or child related things, even when you’re not at work
Submitted by Amber Jakelsky Backo. Amber has a Facebook page where you can share ideas for creative projects! It has loads of great ideas!! Check it out.
Like her Facebook Page