Saturday, December 31, 2011

Activities for Nannies to Do With Kids on New Year's Eve

What games or activities do you play with kids on New Year's Eve?

When nannies are paid handsomely working on New Year's Eve they ought to put some effort into their job to keep the kids entertained. In fact, a subscriber of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter who works and lives in the Atlanta area says she works her employer's New Year's Eve Party each year. The parents give her a flat rate of few hundred dollars and she also charges $75 for each child brought to the party. Last year she made $800 in one night.  If you are working for New Year's Eve, here are some ideas to use with children as midnight approaches. For kid friendly drinks click here. For New Year's Eve arts n' crafts click here.

If possible, rent some holiday movies such as How the Grinch Stole Christmasor The Polar Express [Blu-ray] so kids can watch movies if they start to get tired. Be prepared to supervise games such as Wild Planet Hyper Dash, Pictionary Junior, Twister, or Guessing Resolutions (see below). Print out free coloring pages and age-appropriate word searches from children’s web sites so children can color when they first arrive or at anytime during the party.

Games to Play with a Group of Children

Jack Frost: Have everyone stand in a circle and chose a volunteer to play Jack Frost, who will stand in the middle of the circle. Jack Frost runs around the inside of the circle and picks someone at random to touch. The person that Jack Frost touches must then start shaking that body part, such as the left hand, and cry out ‘Jack Frost nipped my hand.’ That person must keep shaking their hand for the rest of the game.Meanwhile, Jack Frost continues to run around the inside of the circle touching people’s hands, feet, arms, and legs. Each person must cry out which body part Jack Frost nipped and start shaking it. The game is only over when Jack Frost has managed to nip the arms, legs, hands, and feet of someone in the circle, so that his or her entire body is shaking.

Guessing Resolutions:
Make each of your guests write down five resolutions, each on its own slip of paper. Pull one slip of paper out of a basket at a time and read it out loud. Everyone has to write down who they think made each resolution. At the end of the readings, the person who guessed the most correctly wins a prize. Read some of the wrong guesses out loud for fun!

This is a hide-and-seek game in which only one person hides at the beginning. As the others find the hiding person, they squeeze into the hiding spot. The last person to find everyone hides in the next round. If you have a big, nook-filled backyard, and it’s not too cold outside, this is a great game when everyone needs a breath of fresh air.

What to do as Midnight Approaches

Candlelight Resolutions: Set a kitchen timer for 30-minutes. Turn off all the electric lights. By candlelight, talk about your hopes and resolutions for the year to come. Of course if there are young children at the party use flashlights instead of candles. When the bell rings, it’s midnight, and everyone flips the lights back on to toast to the new year.

Bubble Wrap Stomp: FamilyFun's Parties: 100 Party Plans for Birthdays, Holidays & Every Day (FamilyFun Series, No. 3) suggests doing “The Bubble Wrap Stomp.” Pick up several yards of the large-bubbled Bubble Wrap used in shipping packages. Just before midnight, unroll the wrap on a hard surface, such as a wooden floor or driveway. When the New Year’s countdown concludes, your party guests can stomp on the bubble wrap to make a lot of noise.

Gather Alarm Clocks: Gather all the alarm clocks in the house and set them to go off at exactly midnight.

What games do you play or activities you do with kids on New Year's Eve?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Do You Charge More on New Year's Eve?

Have You Ever Charged More for Babysitting on New Year's Eve?

In 1999 babysitters made $300 for New Year's Eve in San Francisco. According to the The New York Times, more than a decade ago, babysitters were earning up to $100 an hour, some $250 for five hours, with a 13-year old charging $135 per child. If sitters could earn that much more than 10-years ago, nannies can certainly ask for more than the usual rate when working on New Year's Eve in 2011.

A nanny can charge more when her services are likely to be in higher demand, such as on holidays. We recommend you charge more than your usual rate if you plan to work on New Year’s Eve.

Ask yourself if you even want to work on New Year’s Eve. If you would rather have the evening off simply say, “I’m sorry I already have plans that evening.”

If you would like to work New Year’s Eve determine the rate you would feel comfortable making. Would you like an hourly rate (such as $25 or $30 per hour) or would you prefer a flat rate (such as $150 or $200 for the night)?

Have you ever charged more than your typical rate when babysitting on New Year's Eve?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Tell-All Book: Could You Ever Tell Secrets About a Former Employer?

Kardashian Nanny Writes Tell-All Book

Pam Behan, the nanny who helped raise the Jenner and Kardashian kids, has written a tell-all book detailing her time working for the family. For years, she cooked, cleaned and worked as a personal assistant for Bruce and Kris, and during that time, she apparently uncovered a whole lot of secrets and built up a whole lot of resentment for almost everyone in the family save one person.

That one person, of course, is reportedly Bruce Jenner who not surprisingly, she got along with swimmingly. According to TMZ, Behan claims in the book that the family’s patriarch even spoke up on her behalf after she got pulled over for driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, that good will apparently did not extend to the Olympian’s sons, who the nanny describes as “spoiled and disrespectful”. Behan even owns up to once slapping Brandon in the face, a breach in etiquette that almost got her fired.

As for Kris and the girls, she was reportedly hot and cold on mom and privy to some of Kim and Kourtney’s secrets. It’s unclear what exactly she thought of the girls, but considering she hasn’t publicly bashed them, one would assume she had at least a decent relationship with them.

A New Year, A New Financial Beginning for Nannies

How to Spend Your Holiday Bonus
The start of a new year is a great time to take control of your financial life.

If you worked hard and the parents rewarded your good work with a holiday bonus, don’t spend the extra income frivolously. Use the extra money to pay-off debt, build an emergency fund, make some investments, or even give to charity.

Pay-Off Debt:
First, if you have outstanding credit card debt use the money to pay-off as much debt as possible. Determine which card has the highest interest rate. That is the debt you want to satisfy first. See how to pay off credit card debt with our article, "Who to Pay First - Yourself."

Build an Emergency Fund:
Once you have paid-off your credit card debt then look for the best possible savings account. Financial planners have been warning Americans to build a three-to eight-months worth of emergency cash in case they get laid-off. If something unexpected and expensive were to happen, that's the cushion that will soften your blow. The savings is for emergencies (like if you are unemployed or sick) only. Click here to learn more about building a savings.

Make Retirement Investments:
If you have no outstanding debt and already have a savings account for an emergency fund then you should consider making some investments. An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a personal retirement savings plan available to anyone who receives taxable salary during the year. Click here to learn about retirement plans.

Give to Charity:
If you're already debt-free, have fully funded your investment accounts, and have your emergency funds are in order, you've got it made. There are plenty of deserving, but under-funded, charitable causes that could use some support. Stop by next Friday to learn how to get tax write-offs when donating to charities. Click here to learn more about getting tax write-offs by donating to charities.

Did you get a holiday bonus?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

7 Chidlren's Books for the 7 Days of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a non religious celebration s
tarted by Dr. Maulana Kareng, a professor of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, in 1966, as a way to bring together the African-American community. Here are our picks for some children's books about Kwanzaa to share with your charges.

Celebrate Kwanzaa
Celebrate Kwanzaa: with Candles, Community and the Fruits of the Harvest is part of National Geographic's Holidays Around the World series for children in grades 1-4. Like the other books in the series, Celebrate Kwanzaa is - a nonfiction book illustrated with striking color photographs, designed with a picture book format, includes facts about the holiday, and feature photographs of people in different cities and countries celebrating the holiday, as well as additional resources in the section at the end of the book.

It's Kwanzaa Time by Linda Goss
This book has it all: history, stories, crafts, games, recipes, and songs. It was written by Linda and Clay Goss. The stories, one for each day and principle of Kwanzaa, include illustrations by award-winning artists, including Ashley Bryan, Leo and Diane Dillon, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, and Jerry Pinkney. The stories range from folktales to true stories.

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney
In this 63-page nonfiction book, Andrea Davis Pinkney provides a straightforward account of the celebration of Kwanzaa that provides a good introduction to Kwanzaa for all ages. What sets the book apart are the illustrations by Brian Pinkney. Using scratchboard and oil pastels, the artist provides striking illustrations to accompany the information about the origins and activities of Kwanzaa, illustrating each day with family activities.

The Gifts of Kwanzaa by Synthia Saint James
Synthia Saint James' artwork, with its bold colors and simple shapes, will immediately engage young children's attention. A young girl's family prepares for, and enjoys, Kwanzaa. Along with an explanation of the family's activities, the author provides examples of what the principles of Kwanzaa mean that even quite young children should be able to understand.

Seven Spools of Thread
The story, the striking artwork, and the clever way both are used to illustrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa make Seven Spools of Thread an exceptional children's Kwanzaa picture book for all ages. The author is Angela Shelf Medearis, the popular author of numerous children's books. Daniel Minter's linoleum block prints complement the story, yet stand alone as dramatic pieces of art.

Kwanzaa Karamu: Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast by April A. Brady
The subtitle of this book, Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast, provides an accurate description of its contents. After a description of Kwanzaa's origins, symbols, and principles, there are lots of recipes (breads, soups, main dishes, vegetables, and desserts), illustrated with photographs, a section on crafts, and a glossary. The 64-page book was written by April A. Brady, with artwork by Barbara Knutson and photographs by Robert L. and Diane Wolfe.

Crafts for Kwanzaa by Kathy Ross
This book provides directions for 20 Kwanzaa crafts. Sharon Lane Holm's colorful sketches and Kathy Ross' clear directions make it a joy to use. Included at the beginning of the book is an overview of the holiday. Throughout the book, Ross introduces Swahili words and describes the relationship of the crafts to the celebration of Kwanzaa.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sophos Uncovers Fresh Nanny and Au Pair Job Scam

Security researchers at Sophos have detected one spam outbreak, which offers a salaried work for au pairs or nannies where the salary stated is absolutely unimaginable.

Essentially, probable victims through the spam mail are presented one simple work of minding two kids. Craftily written, this email is tempting enough for anybody to abandon their existing job. The job offers a high salary, also provides a separate room containing a laptop, TV, as well as other essential electronic devices.

The email informs the reader that the job isn't very difficult. And while the recruiter doesn't think it necessary for monitoring or supervising anyone for performing her job, he expects the person will be capable of doing fine without any instructions.

The anticipated web-link or attachment that could be malicious.

Senior Technology Consultant Graham Cluley with Sophos elaborates that answering the email could facilitate the scammers to enquire any amount of private details from the user. While that could prove sufficiently harmful, yet circumstances may become still trickier with au pair/nanny spam campaigns.

In addition Cluley says that the probable recruiter may dispatch payment in advance to the employee telling her about depositing it into her bank account. But, prior to the check's clearance, she may get another email from the fraudster telling that an awful misfortune (like some steamroller on the runaway killing his wife and kids) has taken place and so doesn't any longer need her service.

The scammer, pretending to be terribly grief-stricken, may request the victim to return the greater part of the cash, possibly through Western Union and help solve the tragic situation he was in.

Nevertheless, the victim, assuming that she has got the check, which will get credited to her account, may even proceed to wire the requested money, ultimately losing on both ends.

Distance yourself from job emails, which appear unbelievably true.

Are You Celebrating Kwanzaa with Your Charges?

Learning About Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States honoring African heritage and culture. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting of a kinara and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Ron Karenga and was first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967.

These seven principles of Kwanzaa comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:

Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Do You Have the Day Off as a Paid Holiday?

There are 11 federal holidays in the United States. Christmas Day is one of those days.

Government offices, organizations, businesses, and schools are closed, almost without exception. Many people visit relatives or friends and are out of town. Public transit systems do not run on their regular schedules. In general, public life closes down completely.

Since Christmas Day was on a Sunday this year the holiday is observed today -- the Monday following the holiday. Do you have the day off from work. If so, are you paid for the holiday?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What's Your Favorite Christmas Book?

Reading Christmas Books Make a Great Family Tradition

Reading Christmas books to children is a great holiday tradition. It enhances their beautiful memories of Christmas, as they are snuggled up close and warm, feeling secure, and loved. Reading Christmas books add to that certain magic only a child's imagination could create.

The best fictional Christmas books are the classic ones. You don't have to buy them, because they are usually found in the library. But, owning the books makes a Christmas tradition of reading it during the holidays. These make great Christmas gifts for your charges.

Here are our favorite Christmas books. What are yours?

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..."Thus begins the famous Christmas poem that describes St. Nick and his reindeers' visits to drop gifts inside kids' stockings. This, to me, is the definitive version of the Santa story. Little children love to hear stories told in rhymes, and Clement Clarke Moore's classic fascinating verse, along with illustrations by Jan Brett featuring two stowaway elves, makes this an enjoyable read.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This classic tale about the infamous old grouch Scrooge who learns the true meaning of Christmas is one of the most famous Christmas stories, and a great introduction to Charles Dicken's literary work. Mr. Scrooge, who says "Bah! Hambug!" whenever somebody greets him "Merry Christmas," transforms into a loving and giving person after he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The combination of Ghosts and Christmas is intriguing to kids, and the story may teach your kids profound Christmas life lessons.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May
The original Rudolph story about the most famous reindeer of them all will capture your kid's heart. Rudolph is made fun of by his peers because of his bright red nose, but ends up to be Santa's hero. The original story is much better than the movie that it inspired. And it gives its popular song more meaning and stirs up a richer imagination for a child.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
Kids are fans of Dr. Seuss because of his fanciful, funny rhymes and wacky characters and situations. It doesn't get wackier than this tale of the Grinch, a nasty creature who hates Christmas and stole children's presents in Whoville so that Christmas wouldn't come. It comes anyway, and the Grinch discovers the true meaning of the holiday. The fun illustrations in this book perfectly suit the wonderful and crazy story.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
This award winning book is about an old-fashioned steam train that takes children to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to meet the red-suited gentleman and to see him off on his annual sleigh ride. This is a more sophisticated children's story about belief in Santa. With wonderful illustration that takes kids to a land they have never visited before, it is an unforgettable read for kid's five and older!

What is your favorite Christmas story book?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Are Your Favorite Christmas Eve Traditions?

Leaving Santa Cookies

On Christmas eve, the night before Christmas, children expect a visit from Santa.  It is customary to read children some Christmas stories to complete their evening. The classic The Night Before Christmas is by far, the most popular short story of all. Reading stories in front of the fireplace with some hot chocolate will get the kids settled down and ready for bed. Then leave cookies for Santa and he will leave some crumbs and a note behind.

Make fresh cookies. Whether you plan on leaving chocolate chip or Santa's favorite, frosted sugar cookies, Santa prefers homemade to store-bought cookies. Put the cookies on a decorative Christmas plate. Leave at least ten cookies. Make sure that there will still be cookies for Santa after Mom and Dad have eaten a few themselves.

Leave a glass of milk or eggnog with the cookies. Keep the milk or eggnog in the refrigerator and have Mom and Dad put it out before they go to bed. Santa loves icy cold milk.

Leave the cookies in a place where Santa will see them. Place them on the fireplace hearth or near the Christmas tree. Leave a note to tell Santa where the cookies are if you have to hide them from the dog.

Leave a note by the cookies. Let Santa know how thankful you are for his visit to your house. Sometimes Santa has been know to write notes back to good children.

You can also have the kids throw Reindeer Food out in the yard for the reindeer before bed. See our recipe posted yesterday. If the reindeer do not eat it the squirrels and birds will.

Click here to see original article at

Friday, December 23, 2011

Last Minute Christmas Fun With Kids

Magic Reindeer Food and Treats

Many families leave cookies and milk for Santa, but what about his reindeer? Sprinkled on the lawn on Christmas Eve, Magic Reindeer Food leaves a glittering path -- and a sweet snack -- for Rudolph and friends. Package Magic Reindeer Food recipe in zipper food storage bags.

In a small zipper food storage bag or empty shaker container, mix:

1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup red
or green sugar crystals (as used for cake decorating)

Add this poem to copies of the Magic Reindeer Food gift tag:
Be sure to take this magic food and sprinkle on the lawn,On Christmas, Santa's reindeer travel miles before the dawn.The smell of oats and glitter path will guide them on their wayAnd you'll wake up to Santa's gifts next morn on Christmas Day!

Note: many recipes for Magic Reindeer Food call for craft glitter, which can harm birds or wildlife if ingested. For safety, substitute colored sugar crystals and be kind to animals!

Reindeer Mix Recipe for Kids to Eat:

Reindeer Mix for Kids:
3 cups of Rice Chex
3 cups of Corn Chex
3 cups of Cheerios
3 cups of stick pretzels
2 cups of dry roasted peanuts
16 oz bag of M & M's
(3) 12oz packages of white chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients, except for the white chocolate chips. Melt those in the microwave, one bag at a time, until soft. Be careful not to over do it, they burn easily. Pour melted chocolate over the mixture and work together. Lay snack mix out on a wax paper to set. Once it's hard, break up into chunks.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gingerbread Man

Christmas Crafts

Run, run, as fast as you can… You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man. This is a great way for younger kids to make a pretty realistic gingerbread man without all the mess and hassle of making them in the kitchen. This also makes a great bulletin board display or Christmas Ornament!

If you happen to be reading one of the many stories about gingerbread men, then this project would be ideal to go along with the story and reinforce what you’ve read with your charge.

You’ll Need:
  • Brown sandpaper
  • Scissors
  • Markers, crayons, pom poms, glitter, buttons, etc. to decorate
  • Hole punch (Optional)
What to Do:

1. Print out the template below and trace it on to the back side of the sandpaper. Cut it out (a grown up may have to do this for younger children).

2. Decorate the gingerbread man any way you desire.

We used glitter glue in the example, but here are some other suggestions:
  • Color with crayons or markers
  • Use pom poms or real buttons to make the man’s buttons and eyes
  • Glue on pieces of cereal to make the features
  • Glue on pieces of real candy
  • Embellish with yarn or ribbon
  • Use glitter or confetti to “shine” up the gingerbread man
  • Glue on cotton ball hair
3. Punch a hole and tie on a ribbon to make an ornament or to hang from the ceiling. Most sandpaper is stiff enough without having to glue it onto another piece of paper or cardboard.

The Template
Be sure to enlarge the template on a copier to make it larger if desired.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 3 Nanny News Stories of 2011

What Big Stories About Nannies Did We Miss? posted the top 10 Biggest Nanny News Stories of 2011. We rearranged the concept a little and added the new America's Supernanny television show. Here's our three top nanny stories of 2011.

1. The Babysitter Bill: 
The California state assembly introduced a bill, A.B. 889, AKA “The Babysitter Bill” which included provisions regarding such issues as overtime pay, rest breaks, and the right for household employees (nannies, housekeepers, and babysitters) to sue employers for failure to meet the provisions. Though not officially dead, backlash from its introduction led to its suspension before it made it to the governor’s office.

2. A Daycare Owner Becomes America's Supernanny:
Many nannies applied to become host of Lifetime's new show American Supernanny. Instead of choosing an experienced nanny, a daycare owner hosts the show. Angry over the choice of hostess of the show, a nannies has started a petition on to take the show off the air.

3. Nanny Takes It To The Bank:
Next time you check your Bank of America debit card statement, say a little thank you for part-time nanny Molly Katchpole. Thanks to her efforts in getting more than 300,000 signatures on a petition at, the financial Goliath rescinded their plan to assess debit card users with a $5 monthly fee.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Easy Star of David for Hanukkah

Easy Craft for Nannies and Au Pairs

The Star of David is named after King David of ancient Israel. With the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 the Star of David on the Flag of Israel has also become a symbol of Israel.

You will need:
6 Popsicle sticks
Yarn or ribbon

  1. Glue Popsicle sticks into two triangle shapes.
  2. Place one triangle upside down on the other. Spread glue at the points where the triangles meet.
  3. Let dry.
  4. Paint the Popsicle sticks or dab glue onto the star and sprinkle on glitter.
    Use yarn or ribbon to hang.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Tzedakah Box: Spirit of Giving for Hanukkah

No Matter Their Religion, Teach Kids About Charity: Make a Tzedakah Box

With Hanukkah starting this Tuesday at sundown, this is the perfect time to make tzedakah boxes with your charges.

In modern Hebrew tzedakah refers to charity – giving to those in need. Giving tzedakah in Judaism is not voluntary, it’s considered an act of justice. Every Jewish household should have a tzedakah box. The tradition of giving are a basic part of Jewish living.

The giving of charity can often be just as rewarding to the giver as to the receiver. The spiritual reward for giving can often just as great as the benefit the receiving party will gain.

The tzedakah box can take almost any shape and form. The easist tzedakah box to make is simply letting kids decorate an empty tissue box with stickers. There are round boxes, square boxes, long ones and flat ones. They can be made of all sorts of materials. For example, glass, ceramic, silver, pewter, wood and even paper maché. The boxes are usually decorated with Jewish motifs or general motifs such as nature.

The tzedakah box makes a great gift. If it’s of high quality it can even last for ever and maybe be passed on as a family heirloom. Giving it as a gift is most appropriate on almost any occasion: Hanukkah, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, new babies, weddings, birthdays or even when visiting friends and family.

Make a Tzedakah Box to remember the needy during the holiday season.

You Will Need:
  • Empty, Clean Nut Container
  • Silver Paint and Foam Brush
  • Sequins
  • Tacky Glue and Toothpick
  • Small Craft of Shiny Blue Wrapping Paper
  • Craft Knife and Adult
  • Scissors
  1. Remove lid.
  2. Remove label from container and paint it with silver paint.
  3. Let dry.
  4. Use dabs of tacky glue to attach blue sequins in rows along the top and bottom.
  5. Cut two stars of David out of blue wrapping paper and glue them on each side of the box.
  6. Only an adult should use a craft knife and cut a slit in the top for your spare change.

Nannies Love Little People Hanukkah Play Set

Product Review Sunday

Little People Hanukkah Play Set
My favorite part of this adorable Little People Hanukkah Play Set is that the menorah lights up! It plays music too! Just look at the photo and do we need to say more? This is the cutest little toy for children celebrating Hanukkah. The characters are adorable. The presents are fun to open and close and the music is cute. Definitely a fun toy that provides lots of entertainment for any child.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Menorahs in December: How the People of Billings Montana Rejected Religious Hatred

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn

In 1993, in Billings, Montana there were displays of bigotry based on religion, race, and sexual orientation.

White supremacists desecrated a Jewish cemetery, made harassing phone calls to Jewish homes, painted swastikas on the home of an inter-racial couple, and so on. But then something happened in 1993 involving a Jewish menorah that triggered a positive reaction by thousands of people.

On December 2 of that year, a brick was thrown through the bedroom window of a 5-year-old Jewish boy, Isaac Schnitzer, who was displaying a Hanukkah menorah.

When the Schnitzer family reported the incident to the police, law enforcement recommended removing the menorah from their window.

Horrified, the town responded. The Billings Gazette printed a full-page menorah, which thousands of citizens pasted in their own windows in a show of solidarity that was trumpeted by the world media as an example of how one small community stood up to hate.

The story inspired books, articles, a Life magazine photo spread and the 1995 documentary "Not In Our Town" by California filmmakers Patrice O'Neill and Rhian Miller.

That prize-winning film - and a follow-up documentary a year later - galvanized community-based tolerance campaigns based on the Billings model in hundreds of U.S. cities.

Town leaders were feted at the White House, and the city received national awards from Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Raoul Wallenberg Committee.

To commemorate the 1993 year of violence and the anti-hate campaign that followed, church leaders, police, and administration officials, and representatives of local rights groups showed up to talk about how the city could still improve. A reinvigorated Not In Our Town Committee is moving forward to address lingering minority grievances.

The brick-throwing incident at the Schnitzer home catapulted the community into the national limelight.

"In 1993, there were 80,000 residents and just 50 Jewish families. Most of the people in Billings had never met a Jew," says New York psychotherapist Janice Cohn, author of "The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate," a children's book based on the Billings incident.

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn

This picture book tells the true story of an inspiring event: when windows with Hanukkah menorahs become targets for rock throwers in Billings, Montana in 1993, thousands of non-Jewish people put pictures of menorahs in their windows, dramatically reducing the number of hate crimes in their city. The story itself is so compelling and heartwarming it has its own power. Great for children aged five- to 10-years old.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Do You Know a Live-In that Isn't Going Home for the Holidays?

What Tips Do You Have for Live-Ins Feeling Homesick During the Holidays?

It is only natural that live-in nannies and au pairs that move cross country or from another country to work and live-in another family's home will feel lonely and homesick at times. But, homesickness is at an all time high when live-in domestics can't travel home for the holidays. Loneliness can lead to isolation and even depression when nannies and au pairs stay at work instead of spending the holidays with their family and friends.

The best way for live-ins to cope with feelings of homesickness is to keep busy. Nannies and au pairs should get out of the house on days off. They should travel to the closest metropolitan city and visit museums, landmarks, ethnic restaurants, and any tourist attractions they would regret not experiencing during their stay. They can attend religious activities at houses of worship and volunteer as ways to keep busy with people who share similar interests.

Another important way to combat homesickness is to make new friends. In-home child care providers can make friendships among other staff members at the home they work in. If there is a chef, housekeeper, driver, or dog walker the nanny or au pair likes they should make plans to socialize after work. Be careful not to spend too much time chatting when you're working though.

Nannies and au pairs should ask the nanny referral agency or au pair agency that placed them, for a volunteer list of names and phone numbers of the other childcare providers they have placed in the area.

But, the best advice is for homesick live-in caregivers is to keep in touch with family and friends from home. The quickest and cheapest way to stay in contact with family and friends far away is by email. Nannies and au pairs can download Skpe for free and stay in contact using a web cam.

It may be inevitable that live-in nannies moving across country and au pairs moving to a new country will feel homesick, especially during the holidays. But it may help to follow the tips above so that these feelings are temporary.

What tips do you have to battle homesickness for live-ins who aren't traveling home to be with friends and family this holiday season?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

If Your Boss Didn't Give You a Holiday Gift, Would it Hurt Your Feelings?

Other Than a Cash Bonus, What Holiday Gift Do You Want from Your Employers?

Many nanny agency owners have been asking Be the Best Nanny Newsletter what parents should give their nannies as holiday gifts. So, we though we should ask nannies to answer the question themselves.

Undoubtedly, when asked, many nannies will say they want a cash bonus (for example, see our quotes in The Wall Street Journal articles "Cash is King" and "What to Give Nanny?").

True, cash is king. But what if your employers only gave you cash and no other gift, wouldn't that be upsetting? Be honest, tell parents now, what do you really want for the holidays?

What do you really want (along with the cash) for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Don't Forget to Tip the Nanny Who Ensures the Health, Safety and Happiness of Your Child

The Most Important People to Tip this Holiday Season

CBS Money Watch listed the six most important people to tip this holiday season. Below is what they recommend giving for nannies, babysitters, and housekeepers. Click here to see entire article and the other four most important people to tip.

If there's any tip you shouldn't skip, it's the one for your nanny or babysitter. This person has perhaps the most important job in your life: ensuring the health, safety and happiness of your child when you're not there. You may already pay your child's caregiver a solid wage throughout the year, but a tip is still necessary to show your appreciation and avoid hurt feelings. According to BrickUnderground, full-time nannies generally earn a tip equal to one or two weeks' pay. Alternatively, they receive one week's pay plus one week's vacation. For your regular babysitter, consider tipping $25-$50 in cash or gift card, the equivalent to one night of babysitting.

House cleaners.
If you employ a regular cleaning person daily, weekly or monthly, you should present a tip around the holidays. The more responsibility this person has and the more frequently they visit, the more you should tip. A part-time housekeeper earns about $9 an hour with 10 percent of income derived from tips. (Although in metro areas like New York and San Francisco, it's common to pay $20 to $25 an hour for weekly or monthly house cleaner). According to BrickUnderground, a regular housekeeper or cleaning person may earn about one to two week's pay in the form of a holiday tip. So, if your housekeeper comes once a month and you pay an average $100, then $100 would be an average bonus.

Click here to see how much to tip others during the holidays./

What Was the Best Holiday Gift From Your Employers?

Holiday Gift: What to Give Your Nanny?

A few years ago we were quoted in The Wall Street Journal in an article asking, "What to Give Nanny?"

The author recommended that parents give their child’s nanny cash for a holiday gift. But, there were some other ideas too. Here is the article:

When I asked our family’s tutor what he’d like this holiday season, he asked straight-out for a cash bonus. Even though cash isn’t exactly the most personal gift, as we’ve discussed before, currency is the No. 1 choice of nannies and sitters too, based on a poll by the sitter-finding site The No. 2 pick was multi-purpose gift cards from such vendors as or American Express, followed by bath and body products, gourmet food items or clothes, writes Genevieve Thiers, SitterCity’s CEO.

Nannies expect at least a week’s salary as a bonus, says Stephanie Felzenberg, executive editor of “Be the Best Nanny Monthly Guide.” During these tough economic times, if you can’t afford this (as we discussed earlier this week) Ms. Felzenberg says, you should “speak to the nanny so that she isn’t insulted” or left wondering whether her performance has fallen short. Nannies also like “any gift that could be considered a benefit of the job,” such as help with the car or health insurance.

Among other ideas, says Judi Merlin, director of A Friend of the Family Home Services, Athens, Ga., a placement agency, are spa services, a gym membership or tickets to a concert or show. Other possibilities: frequent flier miles, a tuition payment, a time-share week, a gas card or help buying a computer. If your budget won’t stretch any farther, consider a gift of time; wangle a few hours off work and fill in for your nanny for a while.

Of course, nannies and sitters also appreciate gifts that bespeak their bond with the children — a photo book, scrapbook or locket with the child’s photo, says Pat Cascio, owner of Morningside Nannies, a Houston agency.

What was the best holiday gift your employers ever gave you?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How Much Do You Spend on Holiday Gifts for Your Charges and Their Parents?

How Much Nannies Spend on Gifts for the Family They Work For

We started of this week with our suggestions of what to give as gifts to the family you work for in our 2011 Be the Best Nanny Newsletter Holiday Gift-Giving Guide.

Today we share the results of a holiday gift-giving survey on how much nannies and au pairs spend on gifts for their employer's family.

Of the nannies that took our Be the Best Nanny Newsletter holiday gift-giving survey, 59% give a holiday gift to each member of their employers' family (both children and parents). Although it is completely appropriate for nannies to give one gift to the entire family rather than individual gifts, only 3% of survey participants give one gift to the entire family.

Whether you give gifts only to your charges, to both your charges and their parents, or just one gift for the entire family, the most important thing to remember when buying holiday gifts this season is that it is fine to keep to a budget. Consider that the sentiment and meaning of the gift is much more important than the price tag.

How much do you spend on gifts for the family you work for?

44% No more than $75.
31% No more than $50.
19% Under $30.
6% I have no budget, I just but what I think they will love.
0% No more than $100

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Best Nanny and Au Pair Gift Guide

What Are You Giving Your Charges and Their Parents this Holiday Season?

I have yet to meet a nanny or au pair that hasn't bought the kids they care for a little gift for the holidays. When choosing a gift for your employers and their kids this holiday season remember the main goal of giving them a holiday gift is to show your appreciation and respect. That doesn't always require much money.

For example, I always suggest that in-home child care providers give their charges children's books. Simply read our reviews of children's books in our Saturday column, "Weekly Trip to the Library." Click here  to see our list of the best books for gift giving. Click here for a list of interfaith children's books you can give to your charges.

You also can't go wrong giving the children matching, snuggly jammies. Other great gift choices include inexpensive board games, puzzles, Legos, or hobby models the family can do together. See if a local theatre group is putting on a production of "The Nutcracker" or other holiday themed show. Tickets to a ballet, concert, or play make a terrific gift for the entire family to experience together.

Not all nannies and au pairs buy the parents that employ them a gift, but I still like to give the parents an inexpensive, sentimental gift. The gift of time is the cheapest gift to share with your employers. Make up a gift certificate for free babysitting one evening so the parents can go on "date night." If you have enough in your budget you can give them a movie theater gift card for them to use on their date night, along with your free babysitting gift certificate.

Since the best gifts come from the heart it is appropriate for nannies and au pairs to share handmade gifts with their employers because they work very closely with them and their children. Handmade gifts should either appeal to the personal tastes or interests of your boss, or have some practical use. You can't go wrong snapping photos of the kids over the year and making a small scrapbook for the family of the children. Knitted scarves, mittens, or hats or baking a favorite dessert make great gifts too.

Here are some inexpensive gift ideas I've found online for nannies and au pairs to share with their charges and their parents this holiday season.

If you want to purchase your gifts online better buy them in the next few days. Most online stores say you only have five more shopping days to gaurantee getting your online gifts in time for Christmas.

For the Kids:

Melissa & Doug Shape, Model and Mold $14.60

Shape, Model and Mold set includes five easy-grips, wooden stamping cubes, three rolling pins, four modeling dough tubs with molding lids and a patterned wheel press. Recommend ages three-years and above and for $14.60 any nanny or au pair can afford this gift.

Alex Tub Tunes Water Flutes $11.03

My charges love these bath toys. With these five Water Flutes, kids can experiment with music and learn to play songs during bath time. They will discover different sounds and tones with these real musical flutes that can be tuned with water to create a variety of sounds. For older kids Play the real flutes for the tub are tuned by filling them with varying amounts of water to produce multiple tones. The gift ncludes easy-to-follow, waterproof, song sheets as well.

Wild Science Worm Farm $15.09

This worm farm teaches children about earthworms and their importance in our ecosystem. Grow vegetation and watch how earthworms help to move soil and help the plants to grow. There are removable privacy screens for the side of the habitat allow you to see how the earthworms live. The farm includes tank, two packets of colored sand, tweezers, pipette and a 24- page booklet.

Lego Creator Street Speeder $13.55

Some Lego kits are expensive but there a plenty of affordable options too. This Lego Creator Street Speeder provides three ways to cruise the city in style! Kids can hit the road in this sporty green street machine with opening doors. Then they can rebuild it into a cool hot rod or a lightning-fast race car! Instructions included for all three models. Provides multiple building opportunities for beginner and intermediate builders alike! Vehicles have opening doors, loaded with details, and sporty green and white striping color scheme.

EverEarth Amazon Blocks $15.07

These adorable building blocks are eco-friendly and child safe.This solid wood toy is from the new Ever Earth line by Maxim Enterprise. Create your very own jungle layout with these 25 fun building block shapes. Made of sturdy durable wood, fun brightly colored screen printed chunky shaped blocks. Ever Earth Toys are made from renewable forests. Solid wood from renewable forests. Water-based, non-acrylic, non toxic paint and the packaging is made of attractive recycled materials. Perfect for kids 18-months and up.

For the Entire Family:

i Tunes $25

This is the perfect for almost any child (or parent). Each gift card includes an iTunes store code redeemable for music, movies, TV shows, audiobooks, games, and more. Recipients can sync to their iPod, iPad, or iPhone, burn music to CD, and watch or listen on their computer-Mac or PC.

Blokus Classics Game $14.40

Blokus encourages creative thinking and has received a Mensa award for promoting healthy brain activity. The goal of this game is for players to fit all of their pieces onto the board. When placing a piece it may not lie adjacent to the player's other pieces, but must be placed touching at least one corner of their pieces already on the board. The player who gets rid of all of their tiles first is the winner and strategic thinking helps as you block moves from your opponent. Blokus sometimes comes to an end because there are no more possible moves.

Four players make this abstract game especially fast and exciting; however, it can be just as fun for two or three players. Blokus has come up with a number of different ways to play the game to make it more thrilling when playing with less than four players. Draft Blokus allows a player to use more than one color and Reverse Blokus reverses the entire game so that the person who places the least amount of tiles on the board is the winner. It can even be played in a solitaire version when one player attempts to place all of their pieces in a single sitting. A game of Blokus typically lasts a 30 minutes. As a practical feature, raised edges on the board help keep the tiles in place and allow convenient clean-up. This game includes 84 pieces in four vibrant colors, an instruction guide, and one gameboard with 400 squares.

Blokus is simple to understand, but the game's complexity is revealed shortly after everyone begins to play. It can be addictive, even for those not normally into abstract games. Blokus is a catalyst for spatial thinking, as players form images in their mind before placing the pieces on the board. Children and adults can play together for hours of competitive family fun. As Europe's 2003 Game of the Year, Blokus is adored by many and even played in professional tournaments.

Rory's Story Cubes $6.86

Rory's Story Cubes is a pocket-sized creative story generator, providing hours of imaginative play for all ages. There are infinite ways to play with Rory's Story Cubes. You can play solitaire or with others. Here are some suggested uses: party game or ice-breaker, literacy development, speaking and listening skills, creative inspiration, mental workout, problem solving. Rory's Story Cubes is a pocket-sized creative story generator, providing hours of imaginative play for all ages. With Rory's Story Cubes, anyone can become a great storyteller and there are no wrong answers. Simply roll the cubes and let the pictures spark your imagination.

For the Parents:

Godiva Chocolates $25 and Under
The best chocolatier in the world has 50 chocolate gifts for under $25. Check them out by clicking here.

Wine Gift Sets $40 and Under
If the parents love a nice glass of wine with dinner after a hard day at work has great gifts sets that many nannies and au pairs can afford. Click here to see the gift set choices.

Hand Print Stepping Stone

Packed with recycled, earth-toned stained glass and letter stamps, you'll have everything you need to make a unique decoration for your employer's garden. Kit includes plastic reusable stepping stone mold, seven pounds of stepping stone mix, recycled stained glass pieces, letter stamps, mixing and writing tools, and easy to follow instructions.

Magazine Subscriptions:

1. Be the Best Nanny Newsletter $10
2. Working Mother $10
3. Parenting Magazine $10

Mom's Ultimate Family Organizer

This comprehensive, one-stop organizer is an essential tool for the busiest person of them all -- mom! Inside the sturdy binder is a system for managing motherhood: calendar pages to keep track of family members' schedules, directory pages to locate everyone from the kindergarten teacher to the carpet cleaner, and planning pages for birthday parties or the family vacation. Helpful sticky notes and tear-out lists make it easy to stay organized, while survival tips and tricks from real moms offer encouragement. When life gets hectic, this binder is in control. This binder includes: a month-at-a-glance and week-at-a-glance calendar pages, fold-out summer break planner, catchall pockets, perforated tear-out lists and notes, and sticky notes.

Movie Date Night:

1. AMC gift card $25
2. Regal Entertainment Gift Card$25

Books for Parents:

1. Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change $18.96
2. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love, and Wonder $10.17
3. The Working Parents Cookbook: More Than 200 Recipes for Great Family Meals $10.36

What are you giving the kids you care for and the parents you work for this holiday season?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

As Teachers Get Laid-Off, Are They Are Taking Our Nanny Jobs?

Do You Know Teachers Who are Working as Nannies?

In the Chicago Tribune, Vikki Ortiz Healy reported online today that unemployed teachers are finding jobs as nannies.

This is no surprise to me as last year I needed help driving my older charges to activities that overlapped, while I cared for a newborn. Although my employer and I met through a high end nanny placement agency, the mother hired a high school teacher with a Master's Degree to help drive kids to activities after school easily online. But, she hired a working teacher! The teacher was employed! Even with a Master's Degree and a job, the high school teacher needed more money! And this treasured teacher (and part-time nanny) and my employer found one another easily on

The Chicago Tribune article explains, "As job prospects across the state and nation remain bleak for new and laid-off teachers — more than 8,800 Illinois teachers received pink slips in 2010, according to officials — many are finding welcome work as nannies and baby sitters."

The article continues, "Nannies increasingly say they have found that parents jump at the chance to leave their children with someone with a teaching background, offering generous incentives such as signing bonuses and extra time off. The popularity has inspired the creation of one local website —, which plans to launch soon — specifically for unemployed teachers and nurses hoping to find work in child care."

But, this is bleak for nannies! During the economic recession parents are losing jobs as well. There are less nanny jobs in total. Of course parents will hire the most experienced and educated nanny they can find for the same price.

Erin Krex of owner of First Class Care domestic placement agency in Chicago explains the problem with hiring teachers as nannies is that teachers may always want to be get back in the classroom. Parents are often concerned that if they bring on a nanny that is a teacher, it will be only a one-year-solution to their child care needs.

Meanwhile, qualified nannies with 20-years of experience are being overlooked.

Read the entire article here.

What do you think? Are there less nanny jobs available? Do you know teachers who are working as nannies?

"The Polar Express" By Chris Van Allsburg

Weekly Trip to the Library

This is a wonderful book to read with kids that are not too young because the book questions if Santa is real. My nanny employer has told me the phrase, "There is no Santa," will never pass her lips. So, it might be better to read it to older kids who may be questioning if Santa is real arleady. They will beleive by the end of the book.

It is far too easy to express cynicism about Christmas. Likewise, it is far too easy to put down the Christmas season as too commercial. And it is far too easy to dismiss a seasonal gem such as The Polar Express as simplistic and sentimental. But this tale is one of belief, of keeping something which is childlike, not childish, and that just doesn't grow old.

The narrator, a boy, lies awake listening for the sound of the bells on Santa's sleigh, a sound a friend who doesn't believe in Santa Claus says that he won't hear. Indeed, he does not, but what he does hear is even more wonderful and remarkable. He hears the hiss of steam and the squeak of metal, and when he looks out the window, he sees a train outside his house. It is the Polar Express, heading for the North Pole.

Once aboard, he finds that it is full of children, all in their nightclothes. They sing Christmas carols, drink cocoa and eat candies as the train races northward. Finally, they arrive at the North Pole, and the narrator is selected to receive the first gift of Christmas. He asks for, and receives from Santa Claus himself, a silver bell from the sleigh.

Although the boy loses the bell on the way home, kindly Santa returns it to him, and the boy discovers that the bell has a remarkable quality. Only those who still believe in the wonder of Santa and the spirit of Christmas can hear the bell. His friends and his sister eventually cannot hear the bell, but even when he grows up "the bell still rings for [him] as it does for all who truly believe."

The story is accompanied by beautiful pictures that capture the nighttime journey. The author employs somber tones in most of his scenes, speckled with snow and highlighted with starlight and the glowing lights of the train. He captures the cold and mystery of the night, contrasting it with the warm interior scenes.

Every child should own this book. It is a magical story that they can appreciate for the rest of their lives.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Nanny Contract – All Good Things Must End

By Guest Blogger Nathan Hammons, Esq.

Today, in our fifth and final post, we address ‘termination’ or ending a nanny contract.

It’s not an enjoyable topic to think about. But you need to, as all parent/nanny work relationships end at some point. Advanced planning can ensure that everyone is treated fairly. It can also help avoid unnecessary hurt feelings.

At-Will Employment

In most states, nannies are ‘at-will’ employees by default. That means the parents can fire the nanny on the spot for a good reason (e.g., endangering the children), a bad reason (e.g., hair color), or no reason at all. The parents, however, cannot fire the nanny for an illegal reason (e.g., racial discrimination).

At-will employment has advantages, as problem employees can be terminated quickly. It also has its disadvantages. Most nannies, for example, depend on their jobs. They have bills to pay and plan their lives accordingly. If they’re fired on the spot, their lives will likely be thrown into turmoil. Similarly, a nanny walking off the job puts parents in a bind, as they’ll have to find a new caregiver on short notice.

Importantly, a written work agreement – such as a nanny contract – can replace at-will employment. That’s good news, especially given how parents and nannies rely heavily on one another.

For Cause Termination

With a written work agreement, termination comes in two flavors – ‘for cause’ and ‘without cause’.

‘For cause’ means the employer has good reason for ending the contract, such as illegal activity. It usually allows for immediate termination. ‘Without cause’ means the employer, for whatever reason, decides the employee’s services are no longer needed. It normally requires prior notice of a specified time (e.g., one-day, one-week, etc.).

With nanny care, there is a variety of behavior that might justify ‘for cause’ termination. For example, the nanny may compromise the children’s safety, steal from the parents, use illegal drugs, or fail to perform his or her job duties.

All of the ‘for cause’ behavior – that is, actions that allow the parents to fire the nanny on the spot – should be spelled out clearly in the nanny contract.

Without Cause Termination

‘Without cause’, as noted, means that an employer has simply decided to let an employee go. Parents, for example, might no longer need a nanny’s services because the children are of school age. Or the family may need to move because of a job transfer.

Whatever the reason, the key question for ‘without cause’ termination is how much ‘prior notice’ is needed to end the contract. Simply put, when do the parents need to tell the nanny that his or her employment will end? And when does a nanny need to tell the parents that he or she will be quitting?

It takes time to find a replacement caregiver. It also takes time for a nanny to find new work. That said, it’s usually best to require at least two- or three-weeks’ prior notice to end a nanny contract without cause.

Putting It Together

Next, combine your ‘for cause’ and ‘without cause’ language in your nanny contract, and your termination provision is complete. Here’s sample language you can use:

Termination Without Cause. Parents may end the nanny’s employment for any reason by giving him or her at least three-weeks prior notice. Likewise, the nanny may discontinue his or her employment for any reason by giving the parents at least three-weeks prior notice.

Termination For Cause. The parents may immediately terminate the nanny’s employment for cause if the nanny:
• violates the nanny contract
• allows the children’s safety to be compromised
• fails to perform his or her job duties
• lies or is dishonest to the parents
• steals from the parents
• is convicted of a crime, or
• uses illegal drugs.

This language can be inserted anywhere in a nanny contract, but it usually goes at the end. And don’t forget – the nanny and one or both parents need to sign the nanny contract.

Parting Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed our five-part series on nanny contracts. If you missed our prior posts, click here to learn why you should have a nanny contract, click here to read about keys to a good work agreement, click here to learn about common mistakes, and here to discover three things that can make a good nanny contract great.

If you have questions about nanny contracts, contact your nanny placement agency or an attorney licensed in your state. If you don’t have an attorney, your local bar association should be able to refer you to a good one. And best of luck with your nanny care!

This post is fifth post of a five-part series on nanny contracts. Nathan Hammons is an attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s also a father and the creator of website with information about the legal ssues of nanny care and providing a professionally written nanny contract. He can be contacted at

DISCLAIMER: This post provides information only and not legal counsel or advice. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nanny Contracts 202 – Advanced Topics

By Guest Blogger Nathan Hammons, Esq.

Previously, we covered the key ingredients to a good nanny contract and mistakes that are commonly made.

Today, we delve into a few things that can turn your good nanny contract into a great one.

# 1: Trial Period of Employment

It’s stressful when a nanny begins a new job. The children meet and hopefully bond with their new caregiver. The parents pass on a great deal of information and hopefully come to trust their new employee. And the nanny enters a household, hoping to bond with the child as well as the parents.

Normally, the stress lessens after a few weeks, when trust forms and everyone gets used to their new roles. In some cases, however, it comes to light that the nanny is not a good fit.

For that reason, it’s wise to include a trial period of employment in your nanny contract. A trial period allows parents and the nanny to part ways quickly and without too much pain, if things aren’t working out. It also gives a nanny a vote of confidence, once he or she makes it to ‘full’ employment.

To include a trial period in your nanny contract, address two things. First, state the length of the trial period. One month is usually fine, but it can be shorter or longer if desired.

Second, state specifically what it takes to end the nanny contract during the trial period. For example:

During the trial period of employment, the parents may end the nanny’s employment for any reason by giving him or her at least one-day prior notice. The nanny may discontinue his or her employment for any reason by giving the parents at least two-days prior notice. The number of days required for prior notice can be changed, if desired.

# 2: Transportation

Your nanny contract needs to have a section about transportation, if you expect that that nanny will ever drive the children, even to a nearby park.

To address transportation, keep two things in mind. First, ensure that the nanny is properly reimbursed. If the family’s car is used, the nanny should be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., gasoline). If the nanny’s car is used, the nanny should be reimbursed for gasoline, depreciation, insurance, and other costs. A complex calculation isn’t needed – simply multiply the IRS standard mileage rate (currently 55.5 cents a mile) by the number of miles the nanny has driven the children. (The 55.5 cents a mile includes gas, so don’t double pay.)

Second, ensure that motor vehicle insurance is properly in place. If the nanny’s car is used, the nanny should contact his or her insurance company and ask if an ‘endorsement’ or ‘rider’ is required because the nanny will use the vehicle during employment. If the family’s car is used, the parents should have the nanny added as an ‘occasional operator’ to their insurance policy. The parents should also ask if an endorsement or rider is needed because a household employee will be using the vehicle. In both cases, review insurance limits to make sure they are adequate.

# 3: Confidentiality

There’s a good chance a nanny will come across sensitive information while working. A nanny might hear about family finances or medical issues. Or perhaps an oddball relative that did something embarrassing.

Whatever the situation, it’s usually wise to address confidentiality in your nanny contract. For example, you could include the following:

The nanny acknowledges that information he or she obtains about the parents and the children, including but not limited to information about their health, finances, career, and household, is confidential. The nanny agrees not to disclose that information to anyone for any reason, unless legally required.

While most nannies keep sensitive information to themselves, the provision serves as a helpful reminder. It also allows parents to sue for breach of contract, in the unlikely event a nanny tells a family secret.

This post is the fourth article of a five-part series on nanny contracts. Nathan Hammons is an attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s also a father and the creator of, a website with information about the legal issues of nanny care and providing a professionally written nanny contract. He can be contacted at

DISCLAIMER: This post provides information only and not legal counsel or advice. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

4 Common Mistakes With Nanny Contracts

By Guest Blogger Nathan Hammons, Esq.

Nanny contracts don’t need to be intimidating or hard to understand, as we discussed yesterday. Mistakes are nevertheless made, and the consequences can be severe – back taxes, fines, audits, and more.

Today we address four common mistakes with nanny contracts that can land you in hot water:

# 1: Employee vs. Independent Contractor

Some parents think they can avoid ‘nanny taxes’ by calling their nanny an independent contractor. They’re wrong.

The IRS has two categories for workers – independent contractors and employees. Generally, an employer must pay certain taxes on wages paid to an employee. An employer doesn’t owe taxes, however, for payments to independent contractors.

To figure out a classification, the IRS looks beyond labels and examines whether an employer has the right to control or direct work performed and how the work is performed.

For nannies, parents exercise significant control – they tell the nanny when and where to work, what child care to provide, what house rules to follow, and more. Consequently, nannies are employees in most cases, and the parents must pay ‘nanny taxes’.

In short, don’t use a contract calling the nanny an independent contractor.

# 2: Salary Without Hourly Wages

Many parents pay their nanny a weekly or biweekly salary. It’s quick and easy. Parents who do so, however, should be careful.

Live-out nannies must be paid at least the minimum wage as well as overtime. Live-in nannies are generally exempt from overtime requirements, but they still must be paid at least the minimum wage. (For a useful chart of state requirements, click here.)

Parents who pay a flat salary can easily run afoul of minimum wage and/or overtime requirements. They might neglect to pay their live-out nanny overtime for a week where the nanny put in extra time. Or a live-in nanny’s wages might drop below minimum wage for a particularly busy workweek.

To avoid these problems, specify hourly and overtime rates of pay in your nanny contract. Also, track hours worked, and make sure that extra pay is provided for additional work.

Because wages and taxes can be confusing, it’s usually best to work with a good accountant or nanny payroll company. You can also consult an employment attorney licensed in your state.

# 3: Illegal Pay Withholding

In general, parents must pay a nanny for the hours worked, regardless of whether the nanny’s job duties were completed in those hours. That means parents can’t withhold pay if the nanny did a poor job or violated the parent’s rules (e.g., no texting while driving).

Parents also generally cannot withhold pay because of lost or damaged property, absent proof that the loss or damage was intentional. Thus, a nanny must be paid even if he or she breaks a $100,000 antique vase while playing with the children.

In sum, don’t agree to a nanny contract with illegal pay withholding.

# 4: Forgetting About It

The fourth and final mistake is what’s done with a nanny contract – forgetting about it.

Legal contracts should be read and followed. Too often, however, they’re jammed into a file cabinet and forgotten about until spring cleaning. Or worse, they’re left untouched until a problem arises. By then it’s too late – chances are one or both sides have been failing to follow it as they should.

The same goes with a nanny contract. If you forget about it, there’s a good chance you’ll start straying from its requirements, even if you don’t mean to.

It’s easy to avoid this problem. Obviously, read the contract from start to finish before signing it. After signing it, re-read it a week or two later. Then re-read it again after a couple months and at the end of the first year. During the process, if you see you’re not following the contract, either change your behavior or, alternatively, change the contract. Be sure to get any changes to the contact in writing, signed by those who initially signed it.

This post is the third article of a five-part series on nanny contracts. Nathan Hammons is an attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s also a father and the creator of a website with information about the legal issues of nanny care and providing a professionally written nanny contract. He can be contacted at

DISCLAIMER: This post provides information only and not legal counsel or advice. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.