Friday, July 31, 2009

Teaching Children to Help

"After the verb "To Love,' 'To Help' is the most beautiful verb in the world," says Bertha Von Suttner.

We have been discussing teaching children to respect their material possessions. A great way to teach children to value money and their possessions is to give children chores and an allowance to earn for doing chores. More importantly, the work will lead to a sense of pride for being helpful as well.

In March 2009 nannies and au pairs shared what chores their charges are responsible for, click here to see the results.

In her book 365 Way to Raise Great Kids, Sheila Ellison recommends using chores as a way to teach children respect of belongings and to create an attitude of helpfulness in children. She explains, "Each day the list of things to be done to keep the household functioning is endless. An attitude of helpfulness creates a feeling of togetherness within the family as everyone works toward common goals."

Here are some of Ms. Ellison's activities to help teach children to respect valuables and earn an attitude of helpfulness:

Children need to be taught new responsibilities when ready and able. A two-year-old may not be able to make her bed, but a 10-year-old certainly can be expected to make his bed. Observe the children taking notice what they are capable of and who well they accomplish tasks. For each child, think of a new responsibility they are to learn, or a chore they are already doing consistently. Be willing to be patient and commit time each day to help teach children the new task. Then reward with the allowance agreed upon by the parents. Don't forget that praise is the best reward.

Rather than telling the children each day what chores you would like them to do, make a chore chart. The chart should have the days of the week across the top of the paper, and the chores to be done down the side. On each day, put the first initial of the person's name who will be doing that chore. This is a good way to make sure that chores are equally distributed. It also puts the responsibility on the child to look at the chart and make sure they have done their jobs. You may want to have a check-off system at the end of each day to make sure all the chores were done.

A fun way to make children feel they are choosing their chores is to put up a "Help Wanted" bulletin board in the house. Write advertisements for the jobs you need done: "Looking for someone strong to help me move some books," "If you have a green thumb, answer this ad for weed pulling," "Window washer needed, apply to nanny." You can either write the amount to be paid for each job wanted advertisement or you could require each child to answer a certain number of ads each week.

Sometimes we should reward children without using money. Check out our article from February 4, 2009 where we list great ways to reward children without using money.

In January 2009 we posted a creative idea about using poker chips instead of money to reward children. Click here to see that article.

What chores are your charges responsible for? Do you use a system to reward children for being helpful?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Teaching Children an Attitude of Gratitiude

Grateful Not Greedy by Brenda Nixon
Just because greed is to be expected, it's not to be accepted.

Yesterday we discussed teaching children to respect material possessions. To continue the discussion we refer to "The Birth to Five Book," by Brenda Nixon. Part of her essay, "Grateful Not Greedy" is posted below.

Kids are naturally self-seeking. Our society focuses on acquisition, and while it may be more blessed to give, receiving really is more fun. So its understandable why youngsters aren't grateful.

However, just because greed is to be expected, it's not to be accepted. Gratitude is a matter of learning.

As a parent, the first and most influential teacher, you must teach your impressionable tot how to be appreciative. [As a nanny you must also teach children to be appreciative.] Facing life with an attitude of gratitude will help him be more happy and content. How do you communicate this valuable message? First, slow the greed avalanche right from the start by:
  • Limiting TV viewing especially during the holidays when advertisers target [children] as a way to get into [the parents'] bank account.
  • Setting limits on the number of birthday and holiday "wish list" items.
  • Reminding [the child] that this list is suggestion only.
  • Focusing on intangible wealth. Good friends, laughter, safety, and freedom are indeed welcomed gifts.

Second, you can live a grateful lifestyle. It has been said we are always teaching - sometimes we use words. Saying thank you to others or whispering grace before your meals can show gratitude. However, the most successful teaching tool is you. [The child] is a copycat and will act like you. Smile to show appreciation to the server who hands him a glass of milk; give generous hug to his teacher to appreciate her hard work at school; and write notes of thank you for gifts and kindness received. Your grateful behavior will teach your tyke to be grateful too.

Notice nature. It is easy to take our environment for granted. In these early, teachable years, encourage [the] child to appreciate the scenery that surrounds him.

Contrast [his] family with those less fortunate. Remind [the] child that there are people in your community who aren't as blessed: families without homes and sad, lonely people without family or friends. It's never too early to show gratitude for your family.

I like that Webster's dictionary says of thankfulness: "impressed with a sense of kindness received." This definition takes the focus off material possessions.

I believe that children who learn to be thankful early in life receive a permanent lesson in contented living.

The Birth to Five Book, by Brenda Nixon, Revell, 2009.

How do you teach children to appreciate all they have?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teaching Children to Respect Material Posessions

Kids' Demands for Material Possessions

Marilyn C., a nanny working in New Hope, PA says, "The child I care for simply has no respect for her valuable possessions because any material possessions she wants [are] given to her. The child has learned that if she asks often enough, she will always receive."

The nanny continues, "She is eight-years-old and just got her third I-Phone after losing the first two."

"After not being responsible enough to prove she can care for her expensive phone twice, she [received] a new one and I cannot even afford a cell phone despite working 60-hours a week with a good salary," says Marilyn.

The nanny admits, "Her parents work hard so they certainly have the right to spend their money on their child. I have no right to be jealous and should be happy for the child that her parents can afford to purchase what she wants. But in this case it is difficult not to worry that the daughter is not learning the value [of] money or to respect her material possessions."

First, we recommend Marilyn and our readers refer to our listing of age appropriate developmental stages children learn respect. The eight-year-old can definitely be taught to respect her material possessions.

Next, we like advice shared by Lisa HW in an article, Kids' Demands for Material Possessions.

Lisa HW explains that how much stuff a child has, and how spoiled he is, are two completely separate things. There are traits of a spoiled child. One is that he is demanding, in terms of the way he presents his requests for things. He doesn't care about any of his parents' struggles or how hard they work. He just wants the stuff and doesn't understand why he couldn't/shouldn't have what he wants.

The spoiled child will demand, whine, and generally demonstrate unpleasantness when he doesn't get what he wants. A spoiled child can't or won't understand other people's concerns. He lacks empathy, and he lacks a willingness to even try to understand. A spoiled child feels entitled.

Spoiled children can be children who have little, or they can be children who a an overabundance of stuff.

Teaching children the realities of money and prioritizing, without expecting them to shoulder the burdens of our own financial concerns, can lay a foundation that makes the amount of stuff kids get matter less, when it comes to whether or not they're spoiled.

Teaching children that special purchases and surprises come to those who most deserve them is also important.

Letting children know that even if we can't buy what they want right now, we understand that their wish for something is normal and understandable, can let them know we aren't disregarding them, or seeing them as "always wanting something."

Helping them to understand that they need to sort out which things they feel are most important, and helping them decide which things are things are needs and others are wants, is also important.

Denise and Mark Weston, the authors of Playwise, explain that to help children develop a sense of appreciation you must not jump to fulfill their every request, need, or personal timetable. In the course of everyday life, many situations present teaching opportunities to accomplish this.

For example, when you are speaking on the telephone, instead of letting the child interrupt you be clear that he will need to wait until you are finished speaking to the person on the telephone. Let them know that your attention is something you choose to give, something of value to be treated with respect. The frustration the child will feel while waiting for you to finish helps develop her sense of appreciation for you and others and what you do for her.

The child whose every need is met without waiting or struggling will not grow to appreciate what others do for her, limiting her to a state of self-centered living.

Certainly do not withhold love and affection, but put a limit on the amount of gift giving and "giving in" you do to teach the child to appreciate these acts of kindness.

Finally, financial expert Suze Orman had some great tips about teaching children financial lessons on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Suze says that saying yes and no to children should never depend on the economy. "It should be dependent upon: 'What kind of values do you want to raise your children with? Do you always want them to think they're entitled? Or do you want them to understand the value of a buck?'" she says.

Suze recommends giving a child an allowance for chores or work around the house. Suze calculates that each minute of work is worth roughly 10 cents. It will take about four hours of work to earn the $20 a child wants. Suze says this is a good level to start a child's wages.

"Now if they do that job efficiently, you can give them a pay raise. If they do not do that job efficiently, … I would actually decrease their salary, so that the kids understand good work equals good pay equals job promotion. Bad work equals getting fired," she says.

"And when they learn that at 8, 9, 10, now what are we talking about? We have a kid that knows they have to work for something."Suze says good tasks for a kid are ones that help their parents. "You guys have to decide together what helps you really around the house," she says.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Knowing What to Expect, When Teaching Respect

Age-Appropriate Respect
As we begin our discussion of teaching children to respect themselves and others it is important for you to know that age and stage of development a child is in affects their ability to respect, empathize, appreciate, and tolerate diversity.

We found this description in a great book Playwise By Denise Chapman Weston and Mark S. Weston. We highly reccomend this book for all nannies and au pairs to use with children.

You may want to print this page since it is a great reference to use when teaching children and it is quite long.

Stage 1 Infancy: Birth to Two-Years-Old
The stage of life from newborn to toddler.

Expect babies to be self-centered. The first 12-months of life are affected by instinctual drives for nurturing, food, and basic care. Babies are unable to relate to what others feel (like annoying a pet by pulling his tail) and cognitively too immature to understand the concepts behind these traits (such as imitating nurturing behavior of her caregivers toward siblings, stuffed animal, or adults).

While it is fine to say, "No! Don't pull the cat's tail that hurts him," do not expect children under two-years-old to understand or show signs of empathy. And while it's fine to say, "Johnny, say thank you to Sally for giving you the gift," do not expect the child to show overt signs of appreciation or respect.

Stage II Early Childhood: Preschool to -Years-Old to Six-Years-Old
The stage of life from toddler through Kindergarten.

This is often called the play age because it is the peak period of interest in play and toys, marked by exploration, discovery play, creativity, magical thinking, fierce striving for independence, and learning social skills.

Between ages two and four expect children to be egocentric and self-centered. They tend to be focused exclusively on themselves, with little concern or understanding of how others may be feeling. You may often hear, "I don't care," "It's not fair," "What about me," and "It's my turn!"

You can expect children between the ages of two and four to appreciate people and objects in terms of how much they meet their interests or bring them pleasure. They associate respect with an individual's level of authority and power to reward or punish them. They respect others due to their physical size and strength (for example, little boys love bigger boys) and status among peers.

Do not expect children to understand the feelings and thoughts of others until age three. Do not expect them to appreciate the thoughts and meaning behind a gift or favor (although you can prompt them to say 'thank you"). Do not expect them to pay respect to someone who does not show them respect.

Between the ages of four and six expect children to begin to recognize the value of their relationships and associations with family, teachers, and close friends. They should exhibit more generosity and willingness to share. They should begin to understand the feelings of others. The ought to begin to respect people for their skills and talents.

Do not expect children between the ages of four and six to exhibit these developing understandings consistently or when tired, cranky, stressed, or overexcited) without preparation and reminder cues from the caregiver.

Stage III Late Childhood: The School Years Six-Years-Old to 11-Years-Old
This stage of life begins with entrance into first grade and extends into the beginning of adolescence.

This period is marked by major interest and concern for social involvement with peers. Participation is rule-based group play and increased motivation to learn and academic success. This stage is very important for establishing attitudes and habits about learning, work, and personal potential.

Expect children to make only small strides in developing these skills and traits a little bit at a time. Expect that children will experience cruelty and disrespect at the hands of their peers. You can expect they will tune out empathy when it is convenient to them. They will invest more energy in caring and appreciating friends than they do siblings. They will demonstrate a commitment to humanity skills in a disciplined environment that stresses morality and kindness.

Do not expect children at this stage to pay attention to these issues if they are not reflected in the actions of their parents, older siblings, caregivers, and educators. Do not expect them to develop respect or empathy through fear or force.

Stage IV Early Adolescence: 11-Years-Old to 15-Years Old
This stage of life begins around the time a child finishes elementary school and concludes by the time he graduates middle school or junior high and enters the world of high school.

This period is marked by change, the onset of puberty, growth spurts, increased interest in peer relationships and opposite sex, and fierce striving for self-identity and independence.

Expect young adolescents to become more attentive to the nature of relationships between people, more aware of prejudice and discrimination and the disparities between rich and poor, and motivated to tack action to help those who have been mistreated or oppressed. You can expect adolescents will convey an attitude of contempt toward adult customs and sensibilities. They typically will act scornfully toward, mistreat, and undervalue their family family members, in particularly their siblings.

Do not expect young adolescents to put effort into treating family members with respect and empathy unless the parents have taken the time to understand their adolescent's cultural values and interests -- even if they do not wholeheartedly approve of them.

Have you had difficulty teaching children to respect others? Do you think understanding these normal age-appropriate stages of learning respect will help you in teaching children respect in the future?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Teaching Chidlren Respect

Teaching children to respect themselves and others is one of a nanny's most important responsibilities.

Respect defines everything we do in life. When we control ourselves and use good table manners we show respect towards others. We say "please," "thank you," and "excuse me" to show we appreciate others. We treat children kindly and with respect to help children develop high self-esteem. During an economic recession is the perfect time to teach children to respect money and material possessions.

We asked nannies if they are dealing with issues of respect in caring for children. Their issues will be discussed this week.

We will talk to Michelle D. from Fort Lauderdale, FL who is trying to help a child to respect herself and stand up to bullies. Michelle explains, "One of the girls I care for is very heavy and is being bullied at camp this summer. She is so timid and insecure and won't swim now because she is embarrassed to wear a bathing suit. "

Ariel T., a nanny working in Charleston, SC admits the boy she cares for speaks to her disrespectfully. Ariel says, "The eight-year old boy I care for barks orders at me. His parents speak to me kindly when asking me to do things. But, I feel like the eight-year old orders me around."

Marilyn C., a nanny working in New Hope, PA says, "The child I care for simply has no respect for her valuable possessions because any material possession she wants is given to her. The child has learned that if she asks often enough, she will always receive."

Maria F., a nanny in Staten Island, NY has issues with nannies that are disrespectful towards children. Maria says, "I see nannies yelling at their charges when we go to the playground. It angers me. Not only are they hurting the child's feelings by yelling at them, they are embarrassing the child by scolding them in public too."

Erin S. of Englewood, CO also has issues with disrespectful caregivers. Erin says, "It irks me when nannies gossip negatively about the parents that hire them. I feel like if the parents are paying them and trusting them to care for their children and home they nanny should respect her employers and keep intimate information private."

Finally, Anna P., a nanny from Bethesda, MD cares for a teen-aged girl that hurts herself. She explains, "I work for a blended family and one of the teen daughters is anorexic and cuts herself. Nothing is more important than helping children develop self-worth and self-respect."

Stop by tomorrow when we will begin discussing these issue of respect.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Children's Books about the Seashore

Weekly Trip to the Library for Nannies and Au Pairs

The past week we discussed activities to do with children at the shore. It is a good idea to visit the library with children every week. Here are some children's book suggestions on the topic.

By the Seashore
By Maurice Pledger, Illustrator A.J. Wood
Ages Infant to Preschool
For young children this book combines wonderful illustrations with lift-a-flaps and touch-and-feel components, this unique book introduces children to the different textures that they might find on the seashore. Each rhyme is designed around a particular tactile ocean adventure, such as prickly coral, slimy anemones, and scratchy sand. Each page is beautifully illustrated and will give young children a sense of the wonder of nature. The book also contains buried treasure under each lift-the-flap, which is another visual activity for kids.

Seashore (Eyewitness Book Series)
By Steven Parker and Elizabeth Hester, Illustrator Dave King
Ages: Infant to Preschool
Introduce children to the animal inhabitants of the seashore, including fish, crustaceans, snails, and shorebirds. Learn how they survive in demanding conditions. See how a sea urchin disguises itself. Find out how a crab grows a new leg. Discover how big seaweed can grow.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
By Steve Jenkins
Ages 5 to 8
Caldecott Honor–winning Steve Jenkins provides a top-to-bottom look at the ocean, from birds and waves to thermal vents and ooze.Half the earth’s surface is covered by water more than a mile deep, but most of this watery world is a mystery to us. In fact, more people have stood on the surface of the moon than have visited the deepest spot in the ocean. Children will see jellyfish that flash like a neon sign, creatures with teeth so big, they can’t close their mouths, and even a squid as long as a bus, which battles to the death with a sperm whale, the largest predator on earth.

Earth and You - a Closer View
By J. Patrick Patrick Lewis, Illustrator Christopher Canyon
Ages 9 to 12
A group of Japanese educators, publishers and businesspeople had a vision: to show children through poetry and art that everything in nature is connected, and that they too are connected with nature. They engaged a highly talented American author and illustrator, and this is the result. First published in Japanese, Earth & You introduces Earth’s major features (the oceans, mountains, deserts and so on) and links them to each other and to the human community. This book not only teaches, but testifies to the wonders of a connected world. It is the first of three books celebrating the human relation with nature’s features, nature's creatures, and nature's past and future.

If you have a book review you would like us to share with nannies and au pairs please email Be sure to stop by again next Saturday for another weekly trip to the library.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Having Fun with Kids in Tides and with Seaweed

More Fun for Au Pairs and Nannies to Have with Kids at the Beach

This week we have been discussing going to the beach with children. Below are more fun activities to do at the beach with children. The following ideas about ocean tides and seaweed are from the Kids' Nature Book by Susan Milford.

Mark High and Low Tides:
Check the newspaper or television for a tide table in your region. The tide table will tell you when the two high tides and low tides will occur each day. Let the children use a stick to mark in the sand where the water ends at high tide. Then go back to the same spot at low tide to see how much the water has receded.

Explore a Tide Pool:
As the tides move in and out the receding water leave behind miniature pools of salty water. These tide pools provide the perfect home for sea anemones, crabs, tiny fish, sea stars, sea urchins, and other sea life. Look in tide pools when the tide has just gone out. This is when the little nooks between rocks will be brimming with life. Kneel close to the water, shading the sun with your body, and peer into the water for movement beneath the surface. What signs of life can you detect?

Look for Fiddler Crabs:
Visit a salt marsh at low tide, stop and watch quietly in one spot for a while. You may get to see the flurry of activity as fiddler crabs move through the grass and mud flats.

Look for Plants Growing by the Shore:
The plants you will find along coastal areas may look similar to plants growing inland. There is a major difference, however. The plants in dry sand and wetlands must tolerate salt. The coastal plants must also be able to withstand winds off the ocean. Can the children find any plants that remind them of the garden variety? The beach pea is a fragrant flowering plant. Seaside goldenrod grows down by the ocean. There are beach heathers, sea oats, and plenty of grasses that have adapted to life at the water's edge.

Make a Seaweed Collection:
Plants grow on rocky shores. Seaweed grows right on the rocks. Seaweed is algae and instead of roots they have suction like anchors that hold them to rocks and other solid objects. You can pry one off with a knife or sharp shell for the children to look at. Closest to share are the green seaweeds, followed by brown, and then the red seaweed. Seaweeds can be either hung to dry or pressed. Because they are so bulky when wet, you will need to use plenty of folded newspapers, changed frequently, to dry them. Weight the newspapers with something heavy.
Find these and more great ideas in The Kids' Nature Book by Susan Milord published by Gareth Stevens Publishing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fun With Sand

Activites for Nannies and Au Pairs to do with Children at the Beach

Most children are content to play in the sand at the beach. All they need is a shovel, bucket, and their imagination to make tunnels and castles in the sand.

Here are some more activities to do with sand with children:

Swinging Sand Art:
Make a hole in the bottom of a paper cup. Make another three holes around the rim. Suspend the cup by a string by threading the string through the holes and tying it to a branch. Spread brown paper below. Fill the cup with sand and gently push the cup so it swings in small circles and arcs. The sand will pour out and make patterns on the paper below. Reuse the sand to continue the activity.

Sand Touching:
Have the children dig their hands under the sand. When they are totally covered, suggest that they try to touch their fingers. Also ask them to shake their hands. If the sand is damp, tunnels can be excavated from each end until the fingers meet.

Collect Sand:
Collect sand from different beaches. The color of sand is different from beach to beach. Much sand in the United States is greyish in color, but you can find white coral sands in Florida. Hawaii has blackish green sands due to volcanic rock particles. Label plastic bags or plasitc containers where and when you collect the sand. Later use the list below to help determine what particles the sand has in it and then have kids try to guess where the sand is from.

Black sand has lava and iron particles in it.
Grey sand has granit and feldspar.
Light brown sand contains granite and quartz.
Yellow sand is made of quartz.
Gold sand has mica in it.
Red sand has particles of garnet in it.
Pink sand contains feldspar.
White has coral, seashells, and quartz in it.
Make a Sand Bottle:
Allow children to fill a bottle with the layers of different sand you collected at different beaches. Even if you only have two types of sand the children can they can alternate layers to make stipes and patterns. They can even include small pebbles they found on the beach. Fill the bottle tightly to the top and tightly cork or screw a cap on the bottle to keep the sand from mixing.

Sand Castings:
You will need plater of Paris and collect seashells and other treasures along the beach. Make a shallow hold in the sand and line it with shells, sea glass, and pebbles collected at the beach. Pour in plater and let it harden. Dig it up when it has set, allowing it to dry several more hours before cleaning off the sand. Footprints in the sand make ideal holes to use to make the castings.

Sand Paintings:
The most famous sand painters in the United States aer the Navajo Indians. The children can make their own permanent sand paintings using different colored saqnds. On heavy cardboard, allow children to paint with slightly watered-down while glue. While the glue is still wet, have the children sprinkly sand over the painted area, tapping away excess after the glue has some time to set.

1. The Kids' Nature Book by Susan Milord published by Gareth Stevens Publishing.
2. 363 Days of Creative Play by Sheila Ellison and Judith Gray published by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Share with us what you like to do with sand or on the beach with children.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nanny Jobs Requiring College Degrees

Yesterday posted this under "Moms & Dads Parents Share Their Stories & Advice." We would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Here is the post:

Nanny positions requiring college degrees

It’s tough out there for job hunters. It’s getting even harder for those looking for nanny work.

I’ve noticed more and more job postings are requiring nannies to have a college degree. Some nanny agencies won’t look at you unless you have a Bachelor’s degree under your belt.

Just yesterday I came across a mom looking for a nanny for her fraternal twins. Under her list of skills--“college degree preferred.’’

I think these parents and agencies are totally off base.

While earning a college degree is a major accomplishment it doesn’t mean you know squat about parenting or caring for kids.

As a working single mom, I relied heavily on nannies and babysitters when my daughter was much younger.

The nanny my daughter loved the most was a high school dropout with three grown kids. She cared for my daughter for two straight years until it was time for her to start pre-school.

She was loving, playful and creative. But she was also stern, disciplined, and organized. She knew my daughter so well she called my attention to things her pediatrician missed.

When I panicked about certain behavior, she was able to tell me from her own parenting experience, not to worry, it was a phase. And she was flexible, which was a big plus in my line of work.

I’m grateful for having found her. She’s no longer our nanny, she’s a family friend. To my daughter she will always be “Tia."

Had I narrowed my nanny pool to college graduates, we would have never met and our family would have missed out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beach Crafts for Kids

Seashell Crafts for Nannies and Au Pairs

Yesterday we discussed how to protect children at the beach. Today we share seashell crafts for nannies and au pairs to do with kids. These crafts will also become keepsake memories of the trip to the beach. If you aren't visiting the beach you can still purchase inexpensive shells at a craft store.

The best time to search for seashells is when the tide is going out. Shells come in all shapes and sizes and allow kids to pick a variety of shells. Children should be encouraged to gather shells that have already been opened without debris in them. Any whole shells or seashells with debris should be dropped in boiling water before allowing children to handle them.

Wind Chime: String lots of seashells on fishing line or strong thread and hang several strands together to make a wind chime. Many small shells already have holes in them naturally. If some shells do not already have holes, use a small safely clip to push small holes in small shells. Knot the string to keep sea shells separated. Tie the strings to a branch or driftwood.

Necklace: If the children want to wear their shells it is easy to make a shell necklace. Thin shelled shells can be tapped gently with a hammer and a small nail to make holes for stringing. Knot the string along the way to keep shells separated.

Refrigerator Magnets: Smaller, more delicate shells make great magnets. Using a hot glue gun or white craft glue, attach a small, sturdy magnet to the shell. You can even add some tiny dried flowers to the magnets. Let dry, then use them to decorate the ‘fridge.

Flower Pot: Transform a plain clay pot into a work of art by gluing rows of shells around the rim or in a fanciful pattern. Kids may even wish to cover the entire surface of the pot. A small flower pot adorned with seashells is a charming addition to a desk or counter top.

Large Shells: Large shells make great candy dishes, spoon rests, paper clip holders, and trinket boxes. Kids can paint the shells if they choose.

Sun-Catcher: If the children have collected fragments of shells and sea glass they can glue the shell pieces and sea glass onto a clear coffee can cover with epoxy (adults must help children with this glue). This makes a pretty sun-catcher to hang in a sunny window.

What crafts have you made with children after visits to the beach?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Beach Safety for Kids

Nannies and Au Pairs Must Make Safety First Priority
By Diane Laney Fitzpatrick

Your ocean visits should be full of fun and adventure and free from accidents. Be prepared for dangers from the water, sand and sun, and practice beach safety.

Love Your Lifeguard
Set up your beach spot in an area manned by lifeguards. Lifeguards will warn you of sharks or other dangerous sea life nearby; they’re aware of undertows and perilous water conditions; they will enforce safe limits on swimming and they’re trained to spot distressed swimmers.

No matter how attentive a [caregiver] is, children of all ages are safest in areas staffed by trained lifeguards.

Sand Hole Dangers
Beach sand safety should be a top priority. Don’t let children dig deep holes and trenches in the sand. More than two dozen young people have been killed over the last decade when sand holes collapsed on them, according to a June 18 Associated Press report. People climbing in or falling in sand holes can become quickly buried when the sand collapses, making sand more dangerous and deadly than sharks, experts say.

Sea Life Dangers
Jellyfish, cone shells, stingrays, sea snakes, man-o-war, sharks, crocodiles, scorpions, and even some insects can turn your day at the beach into a trip to the hospital emergency room.

Teach children not to touch something in the water or on the sand if it might be alive, as colorful as it might be. It’s a good idea to wear beach shoes even when in the water, to avoid stepping on dangerous sea life, as well as sharp shells and rocks.

Sun Protection
Being on the beach, with the nearby water attracting the sun and a cooling, ocean breeze, you might be deceived into thinking the sun is not a danger. Even on an overcast day, the sun can cause serious sunburn on the beach.Use sunscreen often and liberally. When possible, cover skin with a loose t-shirt or a beach towel or cover-up, and wear a sun hat with a brim. See Sun Safety by Numbers.

Dangerous Water Conditions
Riptides, undertows, strong currents, high waves and rough surf can quickly become dangerous for even those in shallow ocean water. Be aware of the particular water safety hazards at the beach where you are and ask lifeguards if there are any signs you should watch for. Read more about water safety.

Storms crop up quickly and without warning on open beaches. The National Weather Service’s lightning safety recommendations say if you’re on the beach and you hear thunder or are aware of an approaching storm, you should go immediately to your car. Don’t seek shelter under beach picnic shacks, since they’re not safe in lightning storms. Wait 30 minutes after the last thunder crack before going back to the beach or driving home.

Crowded Beaches
Keep a close eye on children at the beach at all times. Crowded beaches make it hard to find your blanket spot, especially if you’ve been in the water and you’ve unknowingly moved with the current. Don’t let youngsters go off alone. Tell them to go to the lifeguard station if they get separated from the family.

Heat Exhaustion
Just because you’re near water doesn’t mean you’re getting enough water. Being in the sun can cause dehydration, especially if you’re running or playing on the beach. Bring plenty of drinking water to the beach with you and be sure the children take frequent water breaks.

Don’t let beach hazards keep you away from the fun. But be aware of beach safety rules and tips so you can prepare yourself for the best vacation ever.
Tomorrow we will share activities to do at the beach.
Will you be taking the children to the beach this summer?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Six-Figure Nannies

Top Jobs

Maurna Desmond

Good help for the children is hard to find. The best costs a fortune.

Don't call Autumn Backman a nanny. A lean, high-energy brunette, she speaks French, a bit of German, graduated magna cum laude from a respectable East Coast university and has lived in Vienna and Monte Carlo. "I'm more of a governess," she says.

With 15 years in the business, Backman's primary goal is to bring "a whole new level of adventure to the children's lives." That might mean heading to Central Park to find the "forest" where there are wild brambles, or hitting up the Museum of Natural History for a bit of imaginary time travel. "For them it's very exciting," she says. "My joy is to bring joy and play to the child." But there's also scheduling doctor's appointments and inculcating good manners, "It's about raising a good citizen," she says.

Backman belongs to a special breed of domestic servants. An elite nanny today can't just be a passive grandma figure who keeps the kids safe and fed. She must be well-educated, personable, travel easily in any type of society, and is usually very fit. Poor health choices would be a bad influence on the children. "That's why you're paid that," says Claudia Kahn, chief executive of the Help Company, a Los Angeles-based agency that places nannies, butlers and other domestic workers with the world's rich. While a spiffy resume is key, "attitude to me is important to me as anything," says Kahn. "They have to say yes to any wishes that are given to them."

The difference between what uber-nannies rake in and what the average caretaker makes echoes the spread between their respective employers. The average full-time caregiver--there are some 1.2 million nannies in the U.S. according to government data--earns $26,000 a year, basically minimum wage, according to Breedlove and Associates, a firm that helps some 6,500 families with the legal side of hiring domestic help.

That figure "pops a bit" to around $30,000 in high-cost areas like Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, according to Thomas Breedlove, the firm's proprietor. This might even err on the high end since these are only families that choose to be above the board when it comes to taxes. "We don't get any Craigslist-type nannies," he said.

But for high-net worth families, money is no object when it come to mother's little helper. Top-shelf nannies can pull in six figures a year and more, depending on the client and what the nanny brings to the nursery.

But they need to be worth it. A top-shelf governess must be an ideal influence on the impressionable tots she's being enlisted to rear. They should have experience with children and some coursework in early childhood development studies, says Kahn. A National Nursery Examination Board certificate, granted by the U.K. government since 1945, is also increasingly desirable.

The perks are plush. Jetting off on private planes to exclusive resorts and lavish vacation homes; eating at five-star restaurants; hobnobbing with an elite circle that might involve Hollywood celebs, Wall Street kingpins or Washington powerbrokers. The nanny can get access to all the freebies, from designer goodies to invite-only movie premieres.

But Kahn warns that there's plenty of unseen grit in the nanny business. "From the outside it looks so glamorous because they're given free BMWs and are getting free clothes from every designer on the planet, but it's really demanding. It's not for everyone," says Kahn.

Nannies typically sign contracts for two years. One nanny equated this to a tour of military duty. "You just sign your life away," she says. Even traveling to tropical locales can be work. "It's like you're on vacation, but you're not. It's like being 10 again because you can't do what you want. You have to really look out at the ocean and say, 'That's so beautiful,' and then I have to do what they want me to do." But she takes it in stride. "I take my job really seriously, and I expect them to pay me accordingly. It's not a pastime."

A 31-year-old-nanny in San Francisco says moms with money tend to be much more involved in their children's lives, but it gets lonely for them being with the kids all the time. This crowd of moneyed hands-on moms want someone they like being around, not just an extra set of hands.

"I get paid what I get paid because I know to fit in. They don't want a nanny robot. I think the little boy I watch loves that I get along with his mom because we have fun," she says. "If you don't respect the person who's with your kids all day, why would you hire them?"

Then there are the social implications of a top-shelf nanny. "You want someone who represents you," says the nanny in the City by the Bay.

Maintaining the delicate balance between mommy, daddy and nanny can be tough. Especially when super nanny is bright and spunky and mom is tired and trying to shed some baby weight. Or if the family just wants some time away from the nanny. "It's something you learn, when to be around and when to disappear," she said.

But Backman insists that it's really about finding the right family to work for. "It's a relationship, not a job. Picking a job just for a high salary is like marrying for money. It's the wrong reason," she said.

Aside from work, Backman likes to tool around Manhattan on her cherry-red Vespa and hang out with friends in her duplex apartment. An avid runner, she's completed six marathons and volunteers with friends at the New York Road Runners Club to raise money for inner-city schools. This weekend, she's whisking her mother away to Bermuda. She says she plans to keep her job indefinitely. "I enjoy myself," she says.

For those who want to move on from nannying to other work, the transition can be tough. Breedlove says that older nannies often try to stick with it through to retirement. "Quite a few of the young ones start their own nanny placement agencies," he says.

Children's Books About Summer

Weekly Trip to the Library for Nannies and Au Pairs

Lemonade Sun: And Other Summer Poems

By Rebecca Kai Dotich Illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
This is an assortment of poems shares the merits of summer. The variety of summer activities addressed in this collection will brings joy to those who read this book.

The Summer Solstice

By Ellen Jackson
A great book for pre-schoolers to sixth grade. It contains multicultural beliefs, customs, and celebrations surrounding the longest day of the year - the Summer Solstice. Scientific facts are sprinkled throughout the book as well as activity ideas and recipes.

That Wild Berries Should Grow: The Story of a Summer

By Gloria Whelan
Elsa is a precocious fifth-grade girl who cannot imagine living anywhere but amid the hustle and bustle of busy downtown Detroit. Even in the midst of the Great Depression there are many exciting things to occupy her time. But when the prescription for a sudden illness includes spending the summer at her grandparents’ country cottage beside Lake Huron, Elsa must learn to find excitement in "empty" places. Readers will discover with Elsa a summer full of simple yet wonderful new experiences: tending her own garden, fishing on the big lake, exploring a mysterious gully, making new friends, learning to walk barefoot, and picking wild berries. When Elsa returns to the big city at summer’s end, will her life ever be the same again?

The Relatives Came

By Cynthia Rylant Illustrations by Stephen Gammell
The story begins as you see a car bouncing along miles of country road until it slams into a fence and the luggage goes flying. From there, a big, happy extended family shares one of the joys of summer vacation for many, visiting with relatives. So much eating, playing outside, working together, and hugging is involved that "You'd have to go through at least four different hugs to get from the kitchen to the front room." The colored pencil drawings perfectly capture the happiness of all that becomes contagious by the end of the story.


By Jon Scieszka Illustrations by Lane Smith
When the summer reading list accidentally gets stuck in the pages of "The Book," (the magical, time-warping book present in each story in the series), the three boys are transported right next to a 266-pound chicken in Hoboken, a character from one of the books on the list. In fact, all the characters from the summer reading list are in this strange place, where the bad characters battle the good characters, and the trio must save the heroes of children's literature. Kids will enjoy the tension, strange action, and funny situations that occur. Dracula, Winnie the Pooh, the Headless Horseman, Madeline, Encyclopedia Brown, and other familiar characters mingle. With quick thinking and the help of clues spun into a web by a well-known spider, the boys manage to get back to their summer vacation. Look for other time-warping adventures in the series, which begins with KNIGHTS OF THE KITCHEN TABLE.

Friday, July 17, 2009

When Granny Becomes Nanny By CBS

Survey Says Grandparents are Taking Over Child Care in Recession, Expert Addresses Effect on Family Relationships

(CBS) Are roles changing for grandparents -- from granny to nanny?

In a survey of 10,000 grandparents across the country, 61 percent of those polled said they take care of their grandkids on a regular basis. Twelve percent said they were the primary caregiver.

Marian Robinson, the "first grandmother," is known to be the bedrock and stability of the Obama family, helping to raise her granddaughters, Sasha and Malia Obama.

In light of these economic times, many grandparents are becoming the babysitters du jour.

There are 56 million grandparents in the United States, according to They head 37 percent of households and have the highest net worth of any group, putting them in the best position to weather the economic downturn.

And, for some grandparents such as Jacqueline Rafla, a grandmother of 12, caring for grandchildren keeps them going.

"It's life, it's youth," she said on "The Early Show" Thursday. "You're reliving your own children through these little children."

This trend toward grandparent care is in part because of the recession. In fact, according to National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, 40 percent of grandparents now living within an hour's drive of their grandchildren provide regular child care -- and just eight percent of grandparents receive any pay.

So how do you manage this relationship respectfully without taking advantage of the situation?

Dr. Georgia Witkin, senior editor and grandparenting expert for, said 92 percent of grandparents don't want to be paid for watching their grandchildren, they just want to be appreciated for what they do for the family.

"[Grandparents] want to know that you know what they're doing is of value and money is not the only way of showing that," she said.

Witkin said caring for the children is "worth it" because grandparents get to feel needed again.

"A lot of us are busy working and so forth, but this is part of what we've done before, we'd do it again, and we're doing it for the family in hard economic times," Witkin said. "We've seen it before. The family comes together. If you're helping your son or daughter work, it's good for you. It's good for your grandchildren. Instead of leaving them the out now and get appreciation."

Witkin added the benefits are also present for the children with grandparent care, including a low adult-child ratio, which she said, is much better than at daycare. In addition, she said the food is better and the children are getting unconditional love.

Another benefit or grandparent care, she added, is that several studies have suggested children who have a great grandparent presence have less delinquency and less drug abuse.

Witkin also gave these tips for grandparents taking care of grandchildren:

Parent Yourself: "If you're taking care of everyone else, remember to parent yourself too. Not better than everybody else, but put yourself on your own list of loved ones."

Pause: "Pace Yourself. Remember to pause. [Women] typically take care of everybody else...The moment you have down time, those children are busy watching TV, do something for yourself instead of another chore."

Play: "I love grandmothers taking care of grandchildren because the grandchildren will never remember all the laundry you do, but they will always remember the day you went down the slide with them or you were in the pool with them. You know what I say to the grandmothers and grandmas too? 'Go out and play with them. Don't just send them out to play.'"

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Setting the Record Straight About Pre-Screening

For the past week we have been discussing misleading advertising by some nanny web sites claiming that they pre-screen caregivers posted on their web sites.

Three more nanny web sites have answered our questions about "pre-screening" which we share with you below.

Shannon Pitts, CEO of InteliMark Enterprises explains, " does pre-screen every candidate and family profile to ensure our quality standards are maintained and to be sure our terms of service are upheld which protects nannies and families alike."

Mr. Pitts continues, "We also have a proprietary 30-point fraud prevention system that helps to identify and immediately block potential scammers, helping to make one of the safest online job matching sites for nannies and families."

Perhaps "pre-screening" is defined differently by different nanny industry businesses. We liked Pat Cascio's definition of pre-screening and that is what we referred to as pre-screening. Ms. Cascio, the owner of Morningside Nannies in Houston, Texas says that pre-screening nanny candidates includes finding out all information needed to make a great placement for the family and job seeker. Pre-screening nanny candidates requires the caregiver to complete an application for employment, be personally interviewed by nanny agency staff, and have all references verified to ensure the individual has professional childcare related work experience.

Ms. Cascio says, "[To pre-screen] nanny placement agencies must assess the nanny's skills and ability to handle the job requirements before ever sending the job applicant on job interviews."

After explaining Ms. Cascio's definition of "pre-screening" to nanny web sites Mike Nagel of in Waltham, Massachusetts says that, "Safety is our top concern. has multiple review processes in place that all our care providers go through before we upload their profiles onto our web site."

Mr. Nagel says, "Each caregiver’s profile is hand-reviewed by a team of moms who work from home — our 'Mom Force.' The Mom Force reviews profiles scanning for any red flags, scams, spammers, and other safety-related concerns. They also remove contact information, last names, and children’s names from the body of each profile. This is to ensure the safety of our members. Wherever possible, we also double-check their advertised certifications."

"Our Mom Force not only reviews caregivers profiles, but they also review all job postings that appear on the web site. Job posts are, again, scanned for any red flags, fraud, scams, and so on. We do this to ensure not only the safety of our members searching for care but also those providing care, as well," explains Mr. Nagel.

He continues, "We also offer our Premium Members the opportunity to request unlimited, free background check of caregivers, as well as the ability to listen to recorded references and read reviews from other members of the community."

"While we take all of these precautions and all nanny profiles are mom-reviewed before we allow them on our site, your article has brought to our attention that some of our affiliate marketing partners are using the phrase 'Pre-screened Nannies' to describe our service. We will work with them to modify their descriptions of our service to be consistent with how we describe ourselves. Thank you for bringing this to our attention."

Mary Schwartz, Director, PR of says, "We do not screen the caregivers but rather give our care seekers the tools and information to screen and find the perfect match."
Ms. Schwartz continues, "Our four-step screening process not only helps guide parents and care seekers through a thorough hiring process, it also helps our members keep safety at the forefront of each interaction."

"In order to help care seekers track their progress, we provide an interactive checklist on each caregiver profile for care seekers to mark off as they complete each step. You can read more about the process and how we walk parents through the process on our web site," says Ms. Schwartz.

Lora Brawley, nanny care consultant and nanny trainer of recommends parents always get involved in checking references of nanny job applicants even when using a nanny placement agency. "What I would say is that for families not to assume that just because they’re using a reputable placement agency that they’re getting a well screened caregiver, especially if the nanny has nanny experience. Many agencies barely scratch the surface when interviewing nannies about the type of care giving environment they provide. Most focus on what the nanny is willing to do so they can jump to the placement phase," says Ms. Brawley.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Checking the Background of Parents and Nannies

For the past week we have been discussing that parents must screen caregivers themselves when using nanny web sites to hire in-home childcare providers. Nannies should check the backgrounds of the parents before accepting a new job as well.

When you apply for a nanny position, you should expect a background check will be conducted by the nanny placement agencies and parents before you are hired.

As a nanny you are not responsible for the cost of the background investigations. Nanny placement agencies usually charge their clients (parents) to pay for the background checks.

Parents and employment agencies typically perform criminal checks ($50); motor vehicle check ($30); social security scan ($40); education history ($30); and past employment check. Although performing credit checks for nanny candidates is controversial, credit reports can alert employers to fraudulent addresses, numbers, employment history, and assumed names.

Nanny placement agencies and parents will need your permission before checking your credit and it may cost about $25 to check credit. A few agencies and parents may also require a drug test.

Parents should also consider contacting the your references directly rather than just letting placement agencies talk to your references.

You can also check the backgrounds of parents. At the very least you should do a google search of the parents’ names.

You may also be interested in any civil litigation involving potential employers ($50).

For example, you want to know if the father has been sued for sexual harassment, if the parents have ever been sued by a former nanny, if a parent has filed a restraining order against the other, and if they have filed divorce in the past and then decided not to divorce. All of these issues are matters of public record and can be found in civil court files.

At the very least always be sure to ask the parents for caregiver references.

Some questions you might ask include:

1. "Why did your former nanny leave the job?"

2. "Would you mind if I asked your former nanny some questions about working for your family?"

3. "Who can I contact about character references about your family?"

Have you ever checked the background of the parents you worked for? How have you checked their background? What questions should other nannies ask the parents to screen potential employers?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Au Pair Agencies Do Pre-Screen

Last week we discussed misleading advertisements made by some nanny web sites claiming to "pre-screen" caregivers on their web sites. To see the article posted on Wednesday click here, to view Part II of the article posted onThursday click here, and to read our post on Friday click here.

Unlike nanny web sites, au pair agencies are required to pe-screen caregivers prior to introducing the cultural exchange visitor with host families. Yet, similar to parents using nanny web sites the ultimate responsibility for the well being of the children still rests with the parents.

The United States Information Agency (USIA) says, "Nannies are childcare providers who are paid for their expertise and experience and they are employees of the family for whom they work. Au pairs, on the other hand, are participants in a USIA exchange program. Au pairs provide up to 45 hours of childcare per week as part of their responsibilitiy to their host family and are considered members of the family, NOT employees."

Sponsoring organizations in the U.S. (au pair agencies) have the responsibility for administering the program, within the regulations set by the USIA. Unlike nanny web sites, the sponsoring organizations identify, screen, select, and match au pairs and host families and monitor the au pair/host family relationship throughout the year. At the end of one year, au pairs return to their home country.

Although USIA authorizes these sponsoring organizations to conduct au pair programs, the responsibility for choosing the right organization rests solely with the host family and the au pair.

The USIA established the au pair program in 1986 as an educational and cultural exchange with a strong childcare component. "Au pair" is French for "on the par," reminding host families that their international visitor is to be treated as a member of the family, not an employee.

USIA's rules are clear: au pairs are provided a private bedroom meals, remuneration tied to the minimum wage (will increase to $195.75 per week on Friday, July 24, 2009), a full weekend off each month, two weeks paid vacation, and up to $500 toward attending an institution of higher education. An au pair is not to work more than 10 hours a day/45 hours a week and is not expected to perform general housekeeping.

Sponsoring organizations in the U.S. have the responsibility for administering the program, within the regulations set by USIA.

Unlike nanny web sites sponsoring au pair organizations carry out the day-to-day operation of the au pair program. They identify, screen, select, and match au pairs and host families. They ensure that background investigations, including criminal history checks, are performed on au pairs, and that host parents have adequate financial resources to participate in the program.

The sponsoring organizations interview au pairs for spoken English proficiency and suitability to participate in the program. They also interview host parents to ensure spoken English fluency and suitability to deal with an international visitor.

The sponsoring organizations provide au pairs with a detailed profile of the host family and community into which they will be placed, and the educational institutions available in the community. They ensure that au pairs have all the training required by USIA. These organizations must maintain monthly contact, through local and regional counselors, with au pairs and host families to ensure compliance with the program.

For a listing of USIA-designated sponsoring organizations contact the agency's FAX ON DEMAND service by calling (202) 205-8237 (document #203) from a phone/fax, or visit USIA's web site at

Please Note: No guarantee of performance or competency is made by the designation of sponsor organizations.

Learn more by visiting U.S. Department of State web site at:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Weekly Trip to the Library: Nature or Nurture?

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
By Geogg Colvin

Geoff Colvin is a Senior Editor and columnist for Fortune Magazine. In print and on television and radio, he reports about personal and business successes and the reasons for those results. In this book, Colvin examines whether success is determined by nature or nurture.

Colvin draws on scientific studies and supporting anecdotes to explain that the common belief that a person is born with superior talent in a certain field is a myth. The author states that the belief in that myth is an impediment to an individual's potential achievements. Using examples such as Tiger Woods and Mozart, Colvin examines the processes that helped these achievers exceed the accomplishments of others in the same fields.

Old joke: Q. "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"
A "Practice, practice, practice."

Colvin agrees that practice is the way to become a superstar. But not mindless, automatic repetition of previous practices. To become the very best, you must engage in deliberate and thoughtful practice designed to be physically and/or mentally demanding and increasingly challenging. Those striving to be the very best must be prepared to practice thoughtfully, always reaching a little further to get closer to the desired goal.

Essential to this process is a discerning teacher, whether a parent or an outsider. In the cases of Amadeus Mozart and Tiger Woods, that teacher was a demanding father. Leoplod Mozart and Earl Woods started tutoring their sons at age three. Those extra early years of education and immersion in their skill sets gave them a head start over the talents and training of others starting at a later age.

This book is targeted to a business audience. But, if your charge is a child prodigy, you can provide a nurturing environment. You want to do your best to prevent a precocious child from becoming a Michael Jackson-like-immature-adult/child.

This book is subtitled "What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else." For nannies, au pairs, parents, and all child caregivers, that should mean recurring and self-critical self-appraisal of your actions and the consequent reactions of the children.

You should track the cause and effect of your actions and your responses, and be ready to alter your behavior as necessary. Ongoing deconstruction and reconstruction of your strategies are vital to a dynamic relationship.

You must be thoughtful and ready to adapt to get the desired behavior of your charges. You must practice your facial expressions, your tone of voice, and your body language.

Your loving manner, your kindness, your maternal instinct is great but it is not enough. You must evaluate and practice your skills if you want to be world-class, if you want to be the best nanny.

If you have a book review to share with in-home childcare provides please email Stop by next week for another "Weekly Trip to the Library."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Screening Nannies

Whether parents decide to hire a nanny with the help of a nanny placement agency or do it themselves on a nanny web site they should understand the importance of background screenings.

While parents and agencies may think that a background screening is thorough, it may or may not include all of the information a parent wants or needs to make an informed decision about hiring a nanny candidate. Similarly, potentially unqualified nanny candidates may be able to secure employment because of an incomplete background screening.

The International Nanny Association (INA) has developed recommended practices for background screenings that nanny agencies or parents may conduct for nanny candidates. Please click here to see the entire publication.

Here are the INA background screening standards:

• Identity verification and authentication to ensure that the candidate is using real and accurate information about his or her own identity.

• Employment and educational history verification and verification of applicable credentials and licenses.

• State and county criminal record searches for every jurisdiction where the candidate has worked and lived, using any and all names the candidate has used, for at least the past seven years, depending upon applicable state laws.

• Sex offender registry search for all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam.

• Driving record review.

• Compliance with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and all other applicable local, state and federal laws.

• Periodic background screenings on nannies who provide temporary services.

• In addition to these screenings, agencies may wish to consider obtaining a credit report as well as conducting a civil records search to expose lawsuits, liens and judgments.

Permission to post this publication granted by Susan Tokayer, Co-President of International Nanny Association.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pre-Screened Nannies? Part II

Misleading Nanny Web Site Ads

What separates a nanny placement agency from a nanny web site is that nanny placement agencies screen job applicants for the parents prior to sending caregivers on a job interview.

Yesterday we started a discussion about misleading nanny web site advertising. Some nanny web site advertisements claim that their site lists pre-screened nanny candidates.

But, nanny industry experts clearly note that no nanny web site can pre-screen their job applicants.

Nettie Weber, owner of Perfect Match Nannies & Sitters in Wisconsin explains, "Nannies and parents using online sites to locate nannies and sitters are generally under a false truth and very mislead that the candidates have been properly vetted."

Ms. Weber says, "If they only had read the fine print of their online search site they would see what their $9.99 background check gets them, or rather, doesn't get them."

"It's unfortunate both that some online listing services aren't more forthright about their so called 'screening processes,' and that many families put background screening at the very bottom of their 'must do' list when hiring. Unfortunately, in most cases, you get what you pay for concerning this topic," says Ms. Weber.

Most nanny web sites clearly state that they do not pre-screen the nanny candidates and do not falsely advertise that they do so.

One such reputable site is, a nationwide nanny referral web site that includes the nanny background check in their membership. Yet, Kathy Webb, the owner of,, and HomeWork Solutions in Potomac Falls, Virginia says, "The family and the nanny need to know that they are the ones responsible for their own due diligence when seeking a match. We go to considerable lengths (to our financial detriment I might add) to make sure everyone understands that."

In fact, the web site states, "You must interview, reference check, and order the background check -- we provide you all the tools. No nanny job sites pre-screen the nanny for you!"

Steve Lampert, owner of also tries to educate parents how to properly screen nannies. He says, "This is an area of passion for me and my goal is to attempt to educate families and nannies about proper Internet hiring."

Mr. Lampert explains, "At eNannySource we offer families the tools needed to screen candidates and don’t imply or state in any way that we pre-screen and in fact work hard to make our screening tools available to families."

The nanny web site owner says, "Even when a family uses a full-service agency that professionally screens the candidates, it is still the family’s responsibility to thoroughly interview and reference check anyone they are considering hiring. It’s puzzling to me that people are so skeptical (and rightfully so) about anything that comes from the Internet and take many precautions, but yet when it comes to their children and home they sometimes hire with what seems like a blind eye."

Deborah Smith, President of Parents With Nannies, Inc. and of a nationwide nanny web site, says this is one of her biggest pet-peeves of sites that purposely mislead parents and nannies. She says, "We make it very clear to families that we do not pre-screen nannies. We do not want families assuming the nannies have been screened."

Ms. Smith continues, "It is virtually impossible for any online service to reliably pre-screen candidates. This is why nanny agencies get $2000 and more for nanny placements. It is why I named my site . I did not want any families to be confused as to what and how we operate."

"We offer thorough background checks through a reliable company that cost between $89 and $129 depending on which state the nanny resides," says Ms. Smith.

Candi Wingate of and says, " and do not pre-screen the nannies or caregivers, but give members the tools and resources they will need to do the screening they require."

Monta Fleming, President and Founder of GoNannies, Inc. also candidly states, "We do not conduct background checks directly. Since we're not a placement agency, we offer families the ability to order and run background checks through our site."

Ms. Fleming explains, "We recommend to families that they run our full background checks on any final candidate they are considering hiring to work in their home."

Despite the fact that nanny web sites do not perform any screening of job applicants and should not advertise as such, it is appropriate for reputable nanny placement agencies to advertise that they pre-screen nannies.

Reputable nanny placement agencies have extensive applications, personally conduct phone and when possible in-person interviews, and finally conduct background checks on the nanny job candidates. In fact, this thorough process is what separates a nanny placement agency from a nanny web site.

Most nanny placement agencies cannot afford to actually pay for the pricey background check prior to sending applicants on interviews, but they do extensive pre-screening of the nanny candidates.

In fact, Pat Cascio, owner of Morningside Nannies in Houston, Texas explains, "It is my understanding that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that the pre-employment criminal check should not be done until the person has been offered employment pending their background report," says Ms. Cascio.

Susan Tokayer, co-president of the International Nanny Association and owner of Family Helpers in Dobbs Ferry, New York agrees. Ms. Tokayer explains, "Our clients know that the background check is not performed until a candidate is offered a position."

"But, we do extensive screening before sending job candidates on interviews with parents," says Ms. Tokayer.

Ms. Cascio says that pre-screening nanny candidates includes finding out all information needed to make a great placement for the family and job seeker. Pre-screening nanny candidates requires the caregiver to complete an application for employment, be personally interviewed by nanny agency staff, and have all references verified to ensure the individual has professional childcare related work experience.

Ms. Cascio says, "Nanny placement agencies must assess the nanny's skills and ability to handle the job requirements before ever sending the job applicant on job interviews."

Annie Davis, President of the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies and owner of Annie's Nannies Household Staffing says, "We conduct the background check before the nanny candidate interviews with the potential family."

We are still awaiting replies from some nanny web sites. One nanny web site says they will provide us with their screening process. So, we will continue this discussion as it progresses.

Tomorrow we will post the International Nanny Association's recommended practices for background screenings that nanny agencies and parents may conduct.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pre-Screened Nannies?

Three Nanny Web Sites Remove "Pre-Screened Nannies" from Advertising

We have all heard the tragic story of a nanny Douglas Shepherd, 23, of Fort Myers, Florida who has just recently been charged of aggravated sexual assault and lewd conduct with a child. The caregiver was hired by the parents who found the nanny on a nanny web site.

Yesterday, Be the Best Nanny Newsletter heard complaints from a nanny about parents in Bergen County, New Jersey that feel they were intentionally misled by a nanny web site that advertises that they pre-screen their nanny candidates.

The truth is that no nanny web sites pre-screen nanny candidates.
When the parents from New Jersey contacted the nanny web site for assistance with the troublesome nanny candidate found on the web site, the company just emailed the parents stating that they cannot help them with the matter.

There are also reputable nanny web sites that make it clear that the parents must do all screening and conduct the background checks themselves when using a nanny web site to find nannies. Most nanny web sites do not intend to mislead parents into believing they have screened nanny job candidates.

But, some nanny web sites intentionally mislead parents by stating in their advertising that their site contains pre-screened nannies.

This morning (Wednesday, July 8, 2009) we searched the Web by googling "pre-screened nannies" and found five nanny web sites advertising on the Internet that claim they list pre-screened nannies on their web sites. In fact, the very nanny web site the parents from New Jersey accused of falsely advertising they have pre-screened nannies, did indeed have that advertisement online.

The great news is: after we contacted that nanny web site about their misleading advertisement they immediately started removing the misleading information from the Internet. In fact, their web site was properly worded, it was just their advertisements that improperly stated, "pre-screened nannies."

We have also contacted the other four web sites. Two more of those web site owners assured us they have started removing the inaccurate information in their advertising.

We are still waiting for responses from two well-known nanny web sites that have stated in their Internet advertisements that they provide pre-screened caregivers listed on their web sites.

To give the web site owners more time to respond, we will continue the discussion tomorrow. At that time we will quote the responses we receive from the popular nanny web sites owners who were found to have misleading advertising.

We will also include information from reputable nanny web sites that do not mislead potential clients in their advertising and reputable nanny placement agency owners about this important topic.

Au Pair Increase in Salary

Au Pair salaries to increase on Friday, July 24, 2009.

An increase in minimum wage will go into effect on Friday, July 24, 2009. The au pair stipend will increase from $176.85 to $195.75/week.

On that date au pairs must receive at least $195.75 per week. The au pair stipend is based on a U.S. Department of Labor calculation which takes the minimum wage for 45 hours and then subtracts 40% for room and board.

· Currently: $6.55 x 45 hours = $294.75 x .60 = $176.85
· July 24, 2009: $7.25 x 45 hours = $326.25 x .60 = $195.75

Any family who does not change the rate of pay for their au pair after these changes go into effect will be in violation of U.S. Department of Labor laws and U.S. State Department regulation.

See more information at:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No Batteries Required

Nannies and au pairs don’t need to rely on electronics to entertain children when traveling.

Here are some fun and easy games to play with children while traveling, no batteries required.

A is for…
Starting at the beginning of the alphabet, each player tries to spot and name three things beginning with each letter, in order. For example, the first person to see grass, a garbage can, and a gas station wins for the letter G.

Imaginary Hide-N-Seek
Pick a location all the players are familiar with such as the backyard or favorite playground. Each person thinks of a place they would hide. The players take turns guessing where they are hiding such as, behind the bathroom closet? Kids must use the honor system and admit when they have been found.

Travel Scavenger Hunt
Give each child a list of items to watch for. You can draw little pictures for kids that cannot read yet. In the city it might include a bus, neon sign, and policeman. On a plane it might be a pillow, blanket, or cloud.

Math Fun
Make up word problems based on something you see on the trip. An example for a five-year-old might be: If we had three suitcases and lost two of them how many suitcases would be left?

Name That Tune
One player thinks of a song that everyone else knows and hums the first few notes. The other players try to guess the name of the song. The first player keeps humming more notes until someone guesses the right answer. No winner or losers in this game.

Rainbow Game
Take turns picking a color. Have everyone try to find as many things as they can that are that color. For example, if you pick the color green the children can find leaves, grass, and traffic lights. Purple is the most difficult color to find when traveling.

More fun traveling games can be found in the July 2009 Be the Best Nanny Newsletter.

Do you have any traveling tips for nannies and au pairs?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Nanny and Au Pair Traveling Checklist

Yesterday we started discussing working while traveling with your employers' family.

In the June 2007 issue of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter we asked nannies and au pairs what they like to bring when traveling with their employers' family. Below is the list.

Checklist for Traveling:
1. Plenty of ZipLoc bags.
2. Proper legal documents.
3. Backpack (easier to carry than a diaper bag). Kids should carry their own light backpack too.
4. Emergency phone numbers and phone numbers of hotels.
5. Cell phones.
6. Photos of kids in case you get separated.
7. Baby wipes or travel wipes.
8. Travel potty seats, if needed.
9. Clothing, diapers, coats , swim suits, boots (as needed).
10. Pack a change of clothes to bring in carry-on bag.
11. Car seats.
12. Favorite pillow or blankie.
13. Sleeping bags (if needed).
14. Medicines and vitamins.
15. Sunscreen and toiletries.
16. First aid kit.
17. Bag of toys. Kids should carry their own backpack.
18. Crayons and coloring books.
19. IPOD or MP3 player.
20. Books.
21. Portable DVD player and favorite movies.
22. Healthy snacks, water, juice boxes, and baby food.
23. Bottles, pacifiers, rattles, soft baby toys, and baby mirrors.
24. Umbrella stroller (easier to transport and carry than big cumbersome strollers).

We appreciate these ideas shared by nannies and au pairs. Do you like to bring something we missed when traveling with your employers' family? Let us know your travel tips.