Saturday, March 31, 2012

Playwise by Denise Chapman Weston and Mark S. Weston

Weekly Trip to the Library

Playwiseby Denise Chapman Weston and Mark S. Weston is the book I refer to most as a nanny. I use this book so much that the cover is worn, much of  text is highlighted, and many of the corners of the pages are folded and torn.

The reason I love the book so much is that in the tradition of  the authors' other book, Playful Parentingthis book uses proven techniques based on the psychological principle that children learn best through play. Inside this book are fun activities to play with children to help them develop confidence, caring, and a sense of honor they'll need to make their way in a the world.

The creative and entertaining activities help instill basic virtues and emotional intelligence in children. Whether you're parent or caregiver this book has hundreds of games and projects you can do with children to lay the foundation of self-worth upon which character and integrity are built.

The activities focus both on elements of character-building such as unconditional love and acceptance, stability, and good role-modeling, and on developing character skills such as personal potential, moral awareness, and resourcefulness.

I highly recommend this book to be a part of any nanny, au pair, and parent library.

If you have a book you would like reviewed please contact stephanie @ Don't forget to stop by next Saturday for another Weekly Trip to the Library.

Friday, March 30, 2012

How Nannies Can Find Support

The Internet, Local Nanny Groups, and Nanny Conferences
By Sue Downey, Nanny and Co-Founder of Nannypalooza

Other than dirty dishes in the sink on Monday mornings and late parents on a Friday night, one of the biggest problems that nannies face is the isolation. Nannies do not have coworkers. There is no water cooler and no happy hours after work (okay, some nannies make that happen). There is very little support.

Great nanny employers try to support their employees the best they can -- but it can be difficult. If you start blowing-off-steam about the kids, the parents may misinterpret and have hurt feelings, taking your comments too seriously instead of understanding you are just venting. And really, you can’t complain about your employers to many other people because your friends working in offices don’t get it. Plus, there are privacy issues to consider.

But nannies need support and advice. What if you have an issue at work? What if you need some answers on employment issues? What if you want to know how the other kids get potty trained at 18-months and you are still knee deep in diapers? There are not too many resources to turn to. But, the good news is that there are resources out there.

1. The Internet:

The first place to find support is the Internet. There are countless message boards, Yahoo groups, and nanny blogs for caregivers to visit. Even twitter and facebook groups are becoming important ways for nannies to reach out to other in-home childcare providers who understand and can be the shoulder to lean on when they need a friend. Plus, nannies can access the Internet 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, making it convenient for caregivers that work long hours.

2. Local Nanny Support Groups:

Local nanny support groups are a great resource for nannies. Some are run by nanny placement agencies and others are managed by groups of nannies. Nanny support groups plan social outings, playdates, workshops, and nanny night outs that all are essential for keeping sanity in what can be an isolating job. In-home caregivers can meet some of the best people in the nanny industry just by reaching out. And sure, there are some people who won’t be your cup of tea, but that would happen in an office setting as well.

Interestingly enough, many local nanny support groups struggle to get nannies to attend their events. Many hours are spent planning playdates, nanny night outs, and meetings but group leaders are often disappointed by low turn out. If you have a nanny support group in your area and haven’t tried attending an event -- give it a try.

3. Conferences
Personally, I love attending conferences. Nanny conferences take networking, fun, education, and social interaction all to the next level. Conferences can really make you feel like the professional that you are -- even if the day before you attend you are up to your elbows in paper mache.

There are many options for educational conferences. Nannypalooza is conference the weekend of October 13 and 14, 2012. National Nanny Training Day is a nationwide event in which the nanny industry will provide nanny training opportunities to local nannies on Saturday, April 28, 2012. The INA Conference is hosted by the International Nanny is Association  in Las Vegas this year May 3 to May 6, 2012. The National Association of the Education of Young Children also organizes wonderful conferences for early education professionals and local and state co-operatives all host childcare conferences.

At Nannypalooza, National Nanny Traiing Day, and the INA Conference you will find more nanny interaction. At other early childcare conferences you will have to transfer the knowledge from school setting to in-home setting. But, either way, you will be glad to take the time to attend an educational professional childcare conference.

How do you gain professional support? Are you a member of an online nanny group, local support group, or attend nanny conferences?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Seven Ways for a Nanny to Keep Happy and Healthy

A Happy Nanny Means Happy Children
By Lynn Wariara, Author of How To Get The Best Out Of Your Nanny

There are a lot of nanny job descriptions that require nannies to be “positive, fun, and energetic.” My concern is how do nannies keep themselves healthy and in-balance despite all the demands of working with children for long periods of time each day?  How do you ensure you are at your very best both physically and mentally to maintain a happy and loving environment for the children placed in your care?

I am reminded of the flight instructions given by the air hostesses before take-off: “When the oxygen mask drops, if you are seated next to a small child or someone needing assistance, secure your own mask first. Then, assist the child.”

I used to think, “What a selfish thing to say?”  But now, I realize you cannot be much help to anyone else unless you take care of yourself first. You cannot give love unless you first love yourself.  You can only give what you have. So with all this said, I have come up with seven ways to keep yourself  in balance, by having fun, and being energetic so that you can be the best nanny.

1. Meditation: Take time each morning before you start your day to meditate. If you are spiritually out of balance, it will show in both your physical body and in your behavior. I know of some who take time to say a prayer each morning so that their day may be well guarded.

2. Exercise: We all know the benefits of getting in shape. Exercise helps clear your head, reduces symptoms of stress, and increases energy and your metabolism. An unfit nanny may find it harder keeping up with children.

3. Healthy foods:  Eating foods that are loaded with sugar actually slow you down at the end of the day (right when you need the most energy with dinner, homework, and bath time).  Buy plenty of healthy snacks so you can make healthy choices instead of choosing unhealthy snacks impulsively.

4. Take your vitamins: Working with children all day, you are exposed to many germs. Taking essential vitamins helps to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Visit your nearest health food store or ask a trusted pharmacist or your General Practitioner what dietary supplements you should take.

5. Read: When the children nap, make use of the time to accrue some knowledge or relax with a great novel. It’s proven that reading helps reduce stress, improve analytical thinking, sharpen memory, increase vocabulary, enhance writing skills, and serves as a great distraction.

6. Socialize: Socializing reduces stress. Getting together with friends for dinner, or to go to the movies, or to get spa treatments all help create a happier, healthier you. Get involved with organizations that celebrate your passions like a book club, non-profit organizations, or a house of worship.

7. Visit your doctor for a check-up: Make sure you have what it takes to be mentally and physically capable of caring for children. I know many nannies don’t have health insurance. But, to find the cheapest individual health care insurance in your state click here. Scroll down to the blue box on the right hand side to find the lowest plan at There are also programs that cater to health care for domestic workers. I recommend For more information regarding this program please call Glenn Davis at 908-325-5176.

I know that by following these suggestions you will be a healthier and happier nanny, which will be very much appreciated by the children you care for and the parents that hire you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

How Early Do You Get Up to Go to Work?

Yesterday we asked live-in nannies and au pairs if they have a curfew on week nights? We also asked on our Facebook page what time nannies and au pairs get to work. Today, we are asking you to answer if you feel like you are getting enough sleep on week nights?

Working as a nanny or au pair is exhausting. Not only are nannies and au pairs required to play with children, prepare healthy snacks, tidy the children's areas and so much more, most nannies work very long hours.

Getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt,"which means your body will demand that the debt be repaid and you catch up on lack of sleep. We don't seem to adapt to getting less sleep than we need, while we may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and other functions are still impaired.

Too little sleep may cause: memory problems, depression, a weakening of your immune system, increasing your chance of becoming sick, and an increase in perception of pain. Plus, sleep-deprived people drive as badly or worse than those who are intoxicated.

The amount of sleep a person needs depends on many factors, including age. For example, in general:
  • Infants require about 16 hours a day
  • Teenagers need about 9 hours on average
  • Most adults need 7 to 8 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day
  • Women in the first three months of pregnancy often need several more hours of sleep than usual
However, experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven't had enough sleep.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Should Live-In Nannies and Au Pairs Have Curfews?

What Time Do You Start Working Each Morning?

Live-in household employees should never stay out too late on week nights. Responsible nannies arrive home at a reasonable hour. When nannies stay out until one or two o'clock in the morning, parents worry about the quality of care provided for their children. Without proper rest child care providers tend to become impatient, slower to respond in emergencies, less interactive with children, and may become a safety hazard to children.

Nannies must avoid situations that alter good judgment and reduce their ability to be responsible caregivers. Being home early indicates to the employers that you posses good judgment, take your work responsibilities seriously, and care about your interpersonal relationships with the parents.

A nanny's position should not be so cumbersome as to leave no time for a social life. Everyone needs balance in their life and without it, will not function effectively. Employers who do not recognize this should be avoided.

After considering all of those factors it is important that you and the parents come up with a time you both feel comfortable with if you are to have a successful working relationship.

Excerpt from Be the Best Nanny Newsletter by Anne Merchant Geissler author of The Child Care Textbook 2007.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Should Parents Run Credit Checks on Nanny Candidates?

Should a Nanny's Credit Card Debt or a Few Late Payments Matter During the Interview Process?

Many nannies have contacted Be the Best Nanny Newsletter asking why some parents ask to run credit checks before hiring a nanny. Some nanny placement agencies ask for credit checks simply as a way to find former addresses and jobs the job candidate might not have included on their resumes. But, agencies should only check your credit as a way to check your job and address history.

Anne Merchant, the author of The Child Care Textbook 2007 explains that credit checks should not affect nanny job hiring.

Ms. Merchant explains that poor credit is a problem afflicting millions of otherwise intelligent, law abiding, kind-hearted American citizens. As long as they have made an effort to make good on their financial commitments, bad credit should not effect their job placement negatively. Many times financial problems are a result of illness, unemployment, and other unexpected curve balls.

However, no one can check your credit without your permission.

Most nanny agencies run background checks that do not include credit checks. Nanny candidates shouldn't bring up the subject if the employers don't. Focus on how well you can accomplish your job responsibilities as a nanny instead.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Products Nannies Love: Boo Bunnies

Product Review Sunday

For 25-years, when a kiss and hug just isn't quite enough to calm a child with a boo boo, Boo Bunnie Ice Packs save the day! A sweet plush bunny soothes the little one’s heart while the ice pack goes to work on the boo boo. Great for teething and for general wear and tear Boo Bunnie Ice Packs are a fantastic baby shower gift. They are available in many adorable colors and patterns. And even better, Boo Bunnie is an honored recipient of the iParenting Media Award given for product quality and excellence. Parents and babies love Boo Bunnie’s snuggly soft face and reusable ice cube! Store the ice cube in the freezer until needed. Cute plush bunnie cradles a plastic re-usable ice cube filled with distilled water. Store in freezer until needed, then watch adorable Bunnie soothe little one's tears. The bunnies are washable. Every kid needs at least one Boo Bunnie Ice Pack.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Are You CPR/First Aid Certified?

Should Parents Pay for Their Nanny or Au Pair CPR/First Aid Certification?

All in-home childcare providers should be CPR/First Aid certified. The American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED program is a comprehensive training program designed to help caregivers recognize and respond appropriately to cardiac, breathing, and first aid emergencies.

Nannies and au pairs can find a location to get certified, or renew their certification (every two years), by contacting the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED Participant's Manualcovers skills that students need to know to give immediate care to a suddenly injured or ill person until more advanced medical personnel arrive and take over. The program incorporates the latest science and meets OSHA guidelines, features accident prevention and emergency preparedness tips, and includes skill sheets at the end of certain chapters, for easy reference and review.

Topics covered include:
Chapter 1: Before Giving Care and Checking an Injured or Ill Person
Chapter 2: Cardiac Emergencies and CPR
Chapter 3: AED
Chapter 4: Breathing Emergencies
Chapter 5: Sudden Illness
Chapter 6: Environmental Emergencies
Chapter 7: Soft Tissue Injuries
Chapter 8: Injuries to Muscles, Bones and Joints
Chapter 9: Special Situations and Circumstances (includes Emergency Childbirth, Treating Older Adults, Language Barriers, and more)
Chapter 10: Asthma
Chapter 11: Anaphylaxis and Epinephrine Auto-Injectors
Appendix: Injury Prevention and Emergency Preparedness


Friday, March 23, 2012

Pet-Sitting Contract for Nannies and Au Pairs

Does the Family You Work for Have a Dog?

Pet-sitting can be a pet-peeve (no pun intended) for some nannies and au pairs.

For example, Katie, a nanny working in Atlanta, GA told Be the Best Nanny Newsletter,  “I don’t like pets. I just don’t accept nanny jobs at homes that own any large pets.”

Sandra, a live-in nanny working in Westport, CT explains, “I am allergic to cats and dogs so I cannot work for a family that owns a cat or dog. I don’t like other pets but as long as I am not responsible for caring for them then I can work in the household.”

MaryAnne, a household manager in Morristown, NJ explains, “I feel I ought to be compensated more if a family I work for has a dog. Whenever the parents have said I won’t be responsible for caring for the dog that was far from the truth. Dogs are harder to care for than the children. I don’t mind cats or smaller animals. But, I have no interest in walking dogs or cleaning litter boxes.”

Using a simple pet-sitting contract can be helpful when parents ask nannies or au pairs to pet-sit.

For example, if the family will be traveling on vacation the nanny or au pair should create a separate pet-sitting work agreement that includes essential responsibilities for the job. If the au pair or nanny cannot perform the pet-sitting duties the parents can then use the work agreement when they hire another pet-sitter as well.

Information to Include in a Pet-Sitting Contract:

  1. Emergency phone number where the family can be reached in case of emergency.
  2. Veterinarian phone number.
  3. Pet-sitter back up person in case of emergency.
  4. List of family, friends, or neighbors that have a key to the house.
  5. Detailed history of each pet.
  6. Where family buys pet food and supplies.
  7. What food to serve each pet, at what time, and the amount of food.
  8. Detailed list of any medications required. When, how much, and what type of medicine should be given to each pet.
  9. Which treats the pets are allowed to have and at what times.
  10. Fees per walk and length of each walk (for example half hour walk).
Does the family you work for have a dog? Have you experienced any issues working with pets?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Benefits of Being Paid On-The-Books

Although it is estimated that 80% to 90% of household employers are not tax compliant we highly recommend paying nannies legally. Yesterday, we listed the risks for parents that don't pay their nannies legally. Today, we are listing the benefits for household employees to be tax compliant. Click here for our review of the best tax software to use to complete your taxes.

The benefits for nannies that are paid on-the-books include:

A History of Salary and Employment: If you want to rent an apartment, lease or buy a car, apply for a credit card, or apply for a mortgage you need a record of employment to prove you make a salary.

Unemployment Benefits: If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you will be able to receive a portion of your salary if you are laid-off. This is an important benefit in a difficult economy.

Disability Benefits: If you have an illness or injury you can collect Disability Insurance while you are unable to work.

Workers Compensation: If you become sick or injured on the job Workers Compensation is an insurance plan to help pay for your medical care.

Social Security and Medicare: Once you meet a certain age requirement to retire the extra money can be a benefit. Medicare can help pay your medical expenses once you reach retirement age.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Excuses Have Parents Given You for Not Wanting to Pay Taxes?

Knowing the Risks of Tax Evasion, Why is Nannygate Still an Epidemic in America?

It is estimated that 80% to 90% of household employers don't pay taxes on their household employees.

Nannygate is the popular term coined to describe these household employers who don't pay taxes. Nannygate is an epidemic in America.

There is a long list of reasons parents should pay the nannies they hire legally. Not paying taxes for household employees is tax evasion. Parents that are not tax compliant are opening themselves to potential civil and criminal penalties and potential liability for taxes, penalty taxes, and additional charges. Parents that work as accountants, lawyers, or doctors can lose their licenses to practice their profession if they don't pay taxes for their household employees.

Parents are also are short-changing themselves if they could qualify for a medical expense deduction or child care credit if they cannot prove their deduction before IRS without admitting their tax evasion.

Knowing all of this, why is Nannygate still an epidemic in America? Why do you think most parents don't want to pay their household employees' taxes? Have parents given you the run-around about paying taxes? What excuses have parents given you in the past?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Are the Nannies Who Make Twice as Much an Hour Also Twice as Good?

The Best Nanny Money Can Buy
in the New York Times

In this article in the New York Times today the author poses an interesting question. Do nannies making more annually than pediatricians offer better quality care than nannies being paid $15 per hour? What do you think?

Do You Think A VBAC Doll Is Great or Too Much?

Teaching Kids About Birth

MamAmor dolls are pregnant, birthing, and breast-feeding mamas. The VBAC Doll collection from MamAmor is a collection made to show various birth situations, from vaginal birth to c-section birth and yes, even a VBAC birth (short for vaginal birth after cesarean). The dolls were created to help teach kids about birth.

These dolls are beautiful. They are made of soft cloth, with an elastic vaginal opening, each doll comes with a baby within, along with a woven umbilical cord, a placenta, diaper, and receiving blanket. There is a snap on the newborn dolly’s mouth and a corresponding one where the Mommy dolly’s nipple would be, so that the infant can breast-feed. Other accessories for this mama and baby doll set, such as a sling or diaper bag may be purchased separately. However, the real question is – do kids really need a VBAC education?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Should Au Pairs Working in America Pay FICA Taxes?

Would Taxing Au Pairs Help Unemployed American Nannies Find Jobs?

This year it was rumored that Congress was considering legislation that would require au pairs and host families pay a 7.65% FICA tax. I have been unable to track down that bill so if you can find that legislation please share that link in comment section below this article.

But, it's an interesting concept. If in fact au pairs and their host families were taxed approximately $1,500 per year would that be enough financial burden to convince the parents to hire an American citizen to work as a nanny in their home rather than an au pair in the cultural exchange program?

In the Be the Best Nanny Newsletter monthly poll, the majority of nannies that have already taken the survey have answered that au pairs are indeed filling much needed nanny jobs.

For those who feel au pairs are taking away jobs that could be filled by unemployed American citizens this legislation might help unemployed nannies looking for jobs. But, those who oppose such legislation make the point that the au pairs won't be here to benefit from the taxes they will be required to pay.

In Favor of Taxing Au Pairs:  In a difficult economy when unemployed nannies are struggling to find great nanny jobs, au pairs are working in positions that otherwise might be filled by American citizens.

Those Who Oppose Taxing of Au Pairs:  If the au pair is only working and visiting America for one or two years they will not have the opportunity to take advantage of the Social Security and Medicare benefits they would be required to fund.

Do you think au pairs working in America should pay FICA taxes?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Turbo Tax Rates #1 in a Nanny's Review of the Best Tax Software!

What Tax Software Do You Like?

The pressure is off. I finally did my taxes yesterday! It only took me only an hour, despite my long list of itemized deductions, because I used TurboTax.

I've used a few different brands of tax preparation software in the past few years. I like all of the  tax preparation software I have used that are listed below.  But, my personal favorite is Turbo Tax. I have found it to be the easiest tax preparation software to use. No need to go to a store to purchase the software, just visit their website and get started. It is easy to use and if you can accurately fill-in a few blanks, you can create a correct return using TurboTax. There is no fee for the 1040EZ tax filing (with no dependants and not itemized deductions). There is a fee if you have dependants and need to itemize deductions like medical bills. It's very affordable but the fees increase after March 23rd so if you haven't done your taxes yet use their software today!

H&R Block
H&R Block has plenty of retail locations with experts to help you with any problem you may have, but it will cost you for that help. I went to a local H&R Block twice and the accountants and staff are absolutely friendly, professional, they listened to my concerns, answered all my questions, devoting as much time as I needed, which is great! My only complaint was the price. But, they provide plenty filing options and great tax guidance, making them one of the best tax preparation services around. H&R Block at Home is ideal for simple tax returns. eFiling your state return with H&R Block will cost a bit more than other services though.

TaxAct is perhaps the lowest priced personal tax software to use. They offer a wide range of free federal eFiling options. They have less online tax information compared to their competitors that I've listed above. But, if you do not require additional assistance TaxACT is one of the best tax software programs I've used. It is accurate and reasonably priced.

TaxBrain uses forms-style data entry screens to gather your tax information, which is very different than the interview-style screens found in TurboTax or H&R Block at Home. I don't like the TaxBrain data entry style as much as the style used by Turbo Tax and H&R Block at Home but that is just my personal opinion. Many people prefer the TaxBrain style of data entry. TaxBrain works best for wage-earners with few deductions or other tax issues. The prices are very reasonable but they do not file 1040EZs for free. I feel that their competitors listed above offer more extensive support for with complex returns.

But, these are simply my reviews. Please share your opinions of best software to use to do your taxes too!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

GTM Launches 401(k) Retirement Plan for Household Workers

Do You Have a Retirement Plan?

GTM Payroll Services, a well known and established nanny and household employee payroll company in America, announced yesterday that they have launched the GTM Domestic Workers 401(k) Retirement Plan.

GTM Payroll Services explains that this type of retirement plan provides GTM household clients an excellent and cost-effective tool to retain and recruit quality employees.

A 401(k) is a type of retirement savings account in the United States. The advantage to the employee of having a 401(k) is that their employers can help their employees save for retirement while reducing taxable income. The worker chooses to deposit part of their earnings into a 401(k) account and not pay income on it until the money is later withdrawn in retirement. The earlier a nanny starts a retirement savings the sooner she will start earning interest for their retirement.

We highly recommend nannies encourage their employers to contact GTM about the GTM Domestic Workers 401(k) Retirement Plan.

But, if employers don't offer their in-home childcare providers with a 401(k) retirement plan, nannies can look at other options to start their own retirement savings. An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a personal retirement savings plan available to anyone who pays taxes. Financial experts recommend opening an IRA as young as possible to allow time for your retirement investments to grow. A traditional IRA allows tax-deductible contributions of up to $5,000 per year, or more if you are over age 50. Whatever you contribute towards your IRA comes off your yearly income, and is non-taxable income.

If you don't know the terms Roth-IRA, CD, ROI, 529B EFT, mutual fund, and spiders than you are not ready to invest your money. Do your homework. This information is readily available. There are many excellent online resources available to define these and other terms and to focus the user on appropriate investments. Our blog cannot recommend specific investments or appraise your needs or tolerance to risk.

Nannies and household employers who are interested in learning more about the new GTM Domestic Workers 401(k) Retirement Plan should contact GTM Payroll Services Inc. at (888) 432-7972 or visit

Children's Books About Saint Patrick's Day

Weekly Trip to the Library

Crafts For St. Patrick'S Day (Holiday Crafts for Kids by Kathy Ross, Illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm
Twenty easy craft projects including a shamrock bird, leprechaun face mask, a shillelagh, a rainbow bracelet, and a pot of gold table decoration.

Irish Night Before Christmas and A Leprechaun's St. Patrick's Day by Sarah Kirwan Blazek
An Irish Night Before Christmas tells a satirical version of Father Christmas' yearly visit. A Leprechaun's St. Patrick Day is the day in the life of one family's celebration of the holiday on the Emerald Isle.

A Leprechaun's St Patrick Day by Sarah Kirwan Blazek, Illustrated by James Rice
Five little leprechauns set out to make mischief for a rather large family during the St. Patrick's Day parade.

O'Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott
The king's men take a beloved horse from an outcast witch but the Crookhaven community doesn't know what to do. Kate O'Sullivan, her two brothers and father take matters into their own hands, determined to return the horse to it's rightful owner. Unfortunately, they get caught trying to take the horse back and are sentenced to hang for their deeds. Kate cooks up a delicious story to save their lives.

Shamrocks, Harps, and Shillelaghs: The Story of the St. Patrick's Day Symbols by Edna Barth, Illustrated by Ursula Arndt
Who was St. Patrick? And what do leprechauns, shamrocks, shillelaghs, and reed pipes have to do with it? These questions and more are answered about this early spring holiday.

Mary McLean and the St. Patrick's Day Parade by Steven Kroll, Illustrated by Michael Dooling
"In 1849, the potato famine forces Mary's family to leave their farm in Ireland and cross the ocean to settle in a basement room in New York City. Living in the drab surroundings, Mary dreams of the grand St. Patrick's Day parade, in which their local storekeeper, Mr. Finnegan, drives a gaily decorated horse-drawn cart. Mary can ride in the cart only if she finds a shamrock--an unlikely event, given the snow-covered ground. The appearance of a leprechaun finally helps her fulfill her dream."

The St. Patrick's Day Shamrock Mystery by Marion M. Markham, Illustrated by Karen A. Jerome
First a mysterious shamrock appears on Miss Wink's front door. Then Kate and Mickey find a sign on their new clubhouse: "The Green Shamrock Gang Was Here." Will the Dixon twins be able to solve this mystery?

Friday, March 16, 2012

What are You Doing with the Kids for Saint Patrick's Day?

Here are some of our suggestions of what you can do with kids for Saint Patrick's Day.

How to Make Corned Beef and Cabbage by Stephen Block
You Will Need:
“Flat Cut” Brisket,
5 Carrots,
2 bunches Leeks,
5 Parsnips,
1 bunch Celery,
1 head Cabbage,
6 Yukon Gold Potatoes,
1 Point Cut” Brisket,
½ Cup Pickling Spice,
Garlic cloves,
2 Turnips,
2 Rutabagas optional to this recipe,
meat thermometer
Click here to see the rest of the recipe.

St. Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt
My favorite project to do with kids for Saint Patrick's Day is to have a Saint Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt. Click here to see how to have a St. Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt.

Irish Mulligan Stew Recipe
Click here to see how to make Irish Mulligan Stew.

Shamrock Necklace
Learn how to make a Shamrock Necklace by clicking here.

Leprechaun Hat
Click here to see how to make a Leprechaun Hat for Chips.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who Do You Talk to About Your Job?

Do You Think Nannies and Au Pairs Gossip too Much About Their Parent Employers?

Professional household employees are rare these days. If you work as a nanny or au pair how often do you hear other in-home childcare workers gossiping and complaining about their jobs at the playground?

In contrast, professional nannies, (chefs, housekeepers, and personal assistants) don't speak badly about their employer’s publicly.

A professional employee knows the only way to resolve issues with their employer's is by communicating directly with them, not by gossiping about them to other people. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What is Your Favorite Age Group to Work With?

What Ages are the Kids in Your Care? 

When looking for a new nanny job nearly every nanny agency application and parent interviewing childcare providers ask the caregiver what is their favorite age group of children to work with. Undoubtedly, caring for an infant is vastly different from caring for a 12-year old.

Although most nannies are hired to work for infants until the child attends school full-time there are plenty of full-time nanny jobs for older children as well.

When working with infants nannies help with sleep training, swaddling, hygiene, proper formula feeding and introducing solid foods, and teething. Many nannies who care for infants also help care for new mothers who may be recovering from a cesarean delivery, need help with breastfeeding, or suffering from postpartum depression.

As children become toddlers nannies must focus on childproofing the environment and safety, potty training, separation anxiety, creative play and learning, and much more.

Once kids head to preschool many of the same issues nannies have with toddlers still exist but the focus for nannies becomes teaching letters and properly socializing with other kids. Preschoolers are known to have temper tantrums, discipline issues, and being picky eaters.

When kids are in elementary school they are becoming more independent. But, in addition to having many of the same issues as preschoolers, nannies must also help their charges with homework and tutoring. At this age kids are tackling physical, social, and emotional milestones which is thrilling to see. But behavioral problems like tattling, teasing, and talking back are also common with elementary school aged kids.

Discipline and behavioral issues all increase as children get older. As kids develop into young teens peer pressure can be a real problem when kids make friends with bad influences. As kids develop into puberty they are physically changing and are known to become more argumentative. When working with teenagers, difficult subjects such as cigarettes, sex, drugs, and alcohol become issues nannies must help parents and teens deal with.
Which is your favorite age group to work with?
  • Infants (newborn to 1 year of age)
  • Toddlers (1 - 3 years of age)
  • Preschoolers (3 - 5 years of age)
  • Middle Childhood (6- 10 years of age)
  • Young Teens (11 - 14 years of age)
  • Teenagers (15 - 17 years of age)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Do You Drive for Work?

Do You Use Your Own Car for Work?

Some parents don't allow their nanny to drive their kids. But, the vast majority of nannies who have a current driver's license, are willing to drive, and have a clean driving record  have an advantage in landing nanny positions over caregivers who cannot drive. Employees who drive can help parents tremendously by taking children to school, activities, and doctor visits and they can run errands to the dry cleaners, post office, or grocery store.

A driver's license is also the most important form of identification used in the United States. In countries with no national identification card (like the United States), driver's licenses have often become the identification card for many purposes. All nanny employers and nanny agencies run a
Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) report on their nanny candidates.

Obtaining a driver's license will be slightly different in each state. For most beginner drivers, they will have to go to a local DMV office with a birth certificate and two forms of identification and take a simple written test containing around 30 questions. Once they have a learner's permit they can practice driving in a friend or relatives car or sign up with a driving school before taking the road test evaluation. It will take a few weeks to get a license but well worth the benefits.

If you use your car for work purposes (driving kids or errands for your employers) you should be reimbursed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gas mileage allowance Currently, that amount is 55.5 cents per mile. The gas mileage covers all costs of using your own car including: cost of gas, car insurance, and maintenance.

If you want to land a great nanny job, learning to drive and getting your driver's license might improve the pool of jobs you can choose from. Be sure to ask your employers to pay the current
IRS gas mileage rate if you use your car for your job.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why Do You Think Nannies are Having a Harder Time Finding Great Jobs?

Nannies, au pairs, and nanny industry leaders please take our Be the Best Nanny Newsletter monthly poll to help determine what you think is hurting nannies in their job search at:

Why do you think nannies are having a harder time finding great nanny jobs?
Parents underemployed due to the economic recession
Unemployed teachers working as nannies
Parents and caregivers using nanny web sites instead of reputable nanny agencies
Au pair program providing cheaper in-home childcare
Nannies not being certified or licensed
Not having enough legislation to protect domestic workers
Non-citizen, illegal workers
American citizens illegally paid in cash, working off-the-books

Share your answers and we will post the results on our blog.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Have You Seen The Lorax in 3D Yet?

For Product Review Sunday we are recommending a great movie in theatres now, rather than a product that can be currently purchased on Amazon or on store shelves. I highly recommend The Lorax. After more than 40-years after Dr. Seuss published The Lorax (Classic Seuss) the story is very relevant today.

The Lorax the movie is a 3D adaptation of the classic tale by Dr. Seuss of a forest guardian. The animated adventure follows the journey of a 12-year-old as he searches for a real tree, in a world without trees. To get a real Truffula Tree he must find the story of the Lorax who speaks for the trees and protects the forest.

The story blames big business and greed for destruction of our environment. The film has colorful animation, great music, and pulls at your heart-strings. The characters are played by Taylor Swift, Zac Efron, Betty White, Danny DeVito, Jenny Slate, and Ed Helms. Dr. Seuss' message of "unless" we do something to change our circumstances now is as important today as it was more than 40-years ago.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Seize the Daylight by David Prerau

Weekly Trip to the Library
Benjamin Franklin conceived of it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle endorsed it. Winston Churchill campaigned for it. Kaiser Wilhelm first employed it. Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt went to war with it, and the United States fought an energy crisis with it.

For several months every year, daylight saving time (DST) affects well over a billion people throughout the world. Yet most people switch their clocks backward and forward without ever understanding where this revolutionary idea came from or how, throughout its history, DST has led to surprisingly contentious clashes between numerous politicians, scientists, and interest groups in the United States and all across the globe.

Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Timetells the remarkable story of daylight saving time — the intriguing and entertaining tale of our attempt to regulate the sunlight hours. The book is full of funny anecdotes and remarkably quirky individuals, and was written by David Prerau, who has been called the world's leading authority on the subject.  Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Timerelates the fascinating stories behind the movement for DST in the United States, Canada, Britain, France, and throughout the world.

The goal of daylight saving time — to use daylight to its maximum advantage — is generally recognized to be of universal benefit. But few people understand how surprisingly controversial this deceptively simple idea has been. Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Timechronicles the long-standing debates: Proponents have proclaimed DST's benefits, including saving energy, reducing automobile accidents, providing more daylight for outdoor activities, cutting crime, and many others. But DST also has had many detractors — from farmers to parents of schoolchildren — who have waged contentious battles against it.

In addition to energy, accidents, and crime, daylight saving time affects a very wide variety of other, often unexpected areas, from Mid-East terrorism to the attendance at London music halls, voter turnout to gardening, street crime to the profits of radio stations. Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Timerelates all of these extraordinary tales as well — and a great deal more.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Does Hiring a Nanny Mean an Absent, Non-Responsive Parent Isn't Neglectful?

Working for Neglectful Parents

This week we discussed working for parents of different parenting styles as defined by child development researcher Diana Baumrind.

A reader of Best Nanny Newsletter who works as a nanny for a single mother who has asked to remain anonymous emailed us for some advice. Her email reads, "Although the mother pays me to work as a nanny to raise her kids she doesn't have any extra money to spend on the kids. We don't have enough food in the house. When the daughter was hospitalized the mother stayed at work despite angry calls from doctors begging the mother to come to the hospital. She doesn't help with homework, attend any sports, activities, or important milestones for the kids (like Kindergarten graduation). But, when I discuss this with friends, family, and the child's teacher I was told that by hiring me she's not neglectful. Just by hiring me does that mean she is really not neglectful? Should I report this to child services? The doctors at the hospital and teacher haven't reported her so should I  just keep working for these kids without bringing it up to child services?"

The term neglectful parenting describes a parent who is neither demanding nor responsive.

The worst of the four primary parenting styles, neglectful parenting describes a parent who doesn’t pay any attention to their children. At the same time, this parent will let their children do whatever they want without any guidelines to follow.

These parents don’t show much affection for their children and are not involved with their child’s life. They don’t take their child’s emotions and wants into account, and the child usually feels unwanted. Often, children raised with this type of parenting style will force themselves to become independent, as they cannot depend upon their parents.

This has a substantial impact later in life: they may have considerable difficulty with social situations and become delinquents.

The difficulty for nannies working for parents that are neglectful is all the discipline and emotional support of the children becomes the caregivers' responsibility. Nannies who work for neglectful parents burn-out from having so much responsibility, and little support from the parents. By hiring responsive, caring nannies do you think the parents are not neglecting the children but providing quality childcare for the children?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Have You Ever Worked with Permissive, Indulgent Parents?

Indulgent and Permissive Parenting Style

On our Facebook Page nannies admitted that working for permissive parents is harder than working for strict parents.

Many people speculate that parents who themselves had a very strict upbringing, with their parents following the authoritative parenting style, want to make things easier for their kids so they practice the permissive parenting technique.

This type of parent is responsive to the emotions of their child but is not demanding. Indulgent parents are lenient and do not set behavioral expectations. Many people call their children "spoiled brats," because they typically get what they want. If their parents always give them whatever they want, they will expect others to do the same. Because of this, they can become impulsive and in their teen years even reckless. They are more likely to become drug users and thrill seekers.

All children crave routines, structure, and discipline. For full-time nannies that spend more time with the kids during the week than the parents, it can be very frustrating when the parents don't back her up with routines, structure, and discipline.

Click here for questions to ask parents in job interviews to help uncover the parents discipline style before accepting a nanny job.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How Nannies Should Bring Up Problems With Their Employers

Are Rules Sometimes Meant to Be Broken? Authoritative Parenting

This week we are discussing working with parents of the four parenting styles defined by child development researcher Diana Baumrind.

If you hear the parents (or yourself) often saying, "Because I said so" it's likely they are (or you are) using an authoritative parenting style.  Adults who use the authoritative parenting style don't listen to children's explanations or concerns. Instead, these adults are results orientated and dish out a lot of punishment without hearing the children's explanations. Adults who adopt the authoritative parenting style are demanding of children, but not particularly responsive to their children’s needs and concerns.

Children raised under this kind of control often have less social ability. They are also more likely to experience a nervous breakdown, become runaways, or otherwise rebel against their parents.

For most nannies working for parents that are authoritarian can be difficult because the parents don't seem to listen to their children enough or understand their children's emotional needs.

Although it can be difficult to confront parents about their parenting style if nannies feel the parents are too strict and punishing the kids unfairly here is some advice on how to discuss the parenting style with the parents.

In the article "Handling Complaints and Solving Problems" by Iowa State University, before caregivers speak with employers about a job related issue, nannies should think about what they want to say and present their statements in a professional and respectful manner. Bring it to the attention of the parents at a time when neither of you is tired. Talk in a polite and helpful manner. Don't blame the parents, instead phrase your comments positively and ask for the parent's help and advice. It will be easier for the parents to accept your complaint if they know that you see their child's good points too.

1. State the problem.
2. Listen to the parent's explanation.
3. Check your understanding of the problem by summarizing.
4. Share your thoughts and feelings about the problem.
5. Brainstorm solutions.
6. Try to reach an agreement.
7. Be as specific as possible.
Have you ever worked for parents you feel unfairly punish their kids too much?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Have You Ever Worked for Parents That Punish Their Kids Too Much?

Working for Authoritarian Parents

Authoritarian parenting is also called strict parenting. Parents who adopt this parenting style are demanding of their children, but not particularly responsive to their children’s needs and concerns.

These parents have high expectations for their children to conform to a set of rules of behavior. When their children violate these rules, the parents are extremely strict and punish the children, most often without any discussion. Generally, the parents won’t listen to or try to understand their child’s point of view.

The authoritarian parent likes to remain firmly in control and rarely lets their children make his or her own decisions. Children raised under this kind of control often have less social ability. They are also more likely to experience a nervous breakdown, become runaways, or otherwise rebel against their parents.

During the job interview nanny candidates should ask the parents what type of parenting style they have. Of course a parent isn't likely to define their parenting style as authoritarian, indulgent and so on. So, nannies should ask questions about the parents' discipline techniques to help uncover their parenting style.

1. What is your philosophy about discipline?

2. Specifically, how would you punish each of your children if their behavior requires punishment?

3. Are you consistent with your discipline style?

4. How will you support me when disciplining the children?

5. How do you handle temper tantrums?

6. How do you handle misbehavior in your children if they hit, bite another kid, yell, and so on?

7. Are you open to my using different and new creative methods of discipline?

8. Can you assure me that you will never spank or use unnecessary harshness when disciplining your children?

9. How and when will we meet each week to discuss issues about the children?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Do You Think it is Harder to Work for a Very Strict Parent or a Permissive Parent?

What Parenting Style Do Your Employers Use?

Parenting styles have a profound effect on a child. A parents child-rearing style is one of the major influences on a child’s future well-being. The parent’s style of managing their kids affects their academic achievement, self-confidence, aggression, psychological strength, and capacity to cope with real-life challenges.

Child development researcher Diana Baumrind published a series of studies which concluded that there are four main elements that define parenting styles: responsiveness, unresponsiveness, demanding, and undemanding.

Not only do parents often have different parenting styles, when a nanny helps raise kids in a home things can get even more complicated since she there's a third personality that has been raised by different parents with different parenting styles and taught different values and discipline methods that helped shape who they are.

This week we will discuss the working for parents with these different parenting styles:

Authoritarian parenting style is demanding, but not particularly responsive to the children’s needs and concerns.

Authoritative parenting style implements and combines the basic elements of being demanding and responsive.

Indulgent and permissive parenting styles are responsive to the emotions of their child but are not demanding.

Neglectful parenting style is neither demanding nor responsive and don't pay any attention to their children.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Potty Scotty and Potty Patty Dolls

Products Nannies Love

Before reading Dr. Sears potty training techniques or the One Day Potty Training Method (see Azrin and Foxx) I used a potty doll to potty train. I have used potty dolls to potty train and once the child is ready they have been trained that day.

Once I notice that the toddler has a dry diaper in the morning and after naps and other signs the child is ready to potty train I start putting the the Potty Scotty Doll or Potty Patty Doll on the real toilet and ask if the child wants to try too. And voila, if they say "Yes" and do it they are ready to be toilet trained. In fact, it has taken very little work after a toddler has said "Yes" and successful urinated in the toilet while playing with their potty doll with me.

The Potty Patty Doll and Scotty Doll were designed for the One Day Potty Training Method (see Dr Phil), but is a great tool potty training in general and is also the perfect doll for girls and boys.

The Potty Scotty Kit includes some basic potty training products:

1) Potty Scotty Doll- This Potty Training Boy Doll that is Specially Designed to Potty Train. He is an anatomically correct drink and wet-on-demand doll. He can drink water and hold it until you want him to go pee. He can pee standing up or sitting down.™ He is 16-inches tall and is dressed in a two piece outfit, so that the pants can be removed when potty training. He is also wearing a diaper underneath his clothes. Click here for Operating Instructions for the doll.

2) Two bottles for Potty Scotty. These are specially designed doll bottles to feed the Potty Scotty Doll water, so he can pee.

3) Three "Big Kid" doll underwear This underwear is like the child's potty training underwear. Potty Scotty will change into this "Big Kid" underwear, along with your child on the day of the training which I like to call the "Big Day". The additional underwear is to change the doll when he has an accident on the "Big Day."

4) A Guide for Today's Parent - Potty Training Book
This book walks parents through the entire potty process from determining if their child is ready, to how to handle bowel movement training and bed wetting. It answers common questions such as: At what age should I start potty training? How do I know if my child is ready to be potty trained? What should I do? How should I potty train? What does potty training in one day mean? What about Bowel Movement Training? What should I do if my child resists training? How do I handle night time potty training and bed wetting? and much more. The goal is to help parents prepare for this important developmental milestone and make it a positive and memorable experience for both parent and child.

The Potty Patty Doll includes the following items:

1) Potty Training Girl Doll by Potty Patty Patty is an anatomically correct drink and wet-on-demand doll. She can drink water and hold it until you want her to go pee. She is 16-inches tall and is dressed in a two piece outfit, so that the dress can be removed when potty training. She is also wearing a diaper underneath her clothes. In every box there are the Doll's Operating Instructions.

2) Bottles for Potty Patty

3) Three Doll Training Pants These training pants are like the child's potty training pants. Potty Patty will change into this Big Kid underwear, along with your child on the day of the training which I like to call the Big Day. The additional underwear is to change the doll when she has an accident on the Big Day.

There is no potty chair for the dolls for a couple of reasons. Since the doll is used to model the "going potty" behavior for your girl, Patty should use the same potty chair that your child will use AND Patty can potty anywhere - in a potty or in the toilet!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

3 Old Stories Modern Kids Need to Hear

Weekly Trip to the Library

There are certain stories that are universal. No matter how old they get, the lessons they teach never go out of style. Unfortunately, modern children frequently grow up without anyone ever sharing these stories with them. Here are three stories every child should hear. 

1.      The Boy Who Cried Wolf – How many times has a child lied? This story’s lesson is one that all children need to learn. If they create a lifestyle of lying, eventually it will catch up with them. This story is also about respect. Because the boy did not respect those around him and constantly lied to them, he was without friends when he needed them. This is one lesson that has not changed throughout history.

2.      The Tortoise and the Hare – All children sometimes feel that they are not as smart, as fast, or as popular as the other children. This story will help them to realize that success is not based on looks or popularity, but on effort. Despite the fact that the tortoise wasn’t fast, he still beat the hare in the race because he simply kept going when the hare did not. A valuable lesson for children everywhere.

3.      The Ant and the Grasshopper – Another story that children need to be told, especially in this decadent age, is that pleasure isn’t everything. The grasshopper starved in the winter because he would rather play all summer than store up food. The ant, however, had enough food because he balanced work and play. A valuable lesson for the ‘me’ generation.

These stories are very, very old, and yet they are as true today as they were when they were first told. Children around the world learn these stories and the lessons they teach. Don’t let your kids miss out on these valuable lessons that the classic tales impart.

Author Bio
Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of nanny agency.  Learn more about her here.