Monday, April 30, 2012

Have You Tried BranchOut on Facebook to Find a Nanny Job Yet?

How to Use Facebook to Find a Nanny Job

We all know that the more exposure the better when searching for a nanny job, but when using the Internet or social media to find jobs there are many safety concerns.

 Last week we posted an article about the top 10 things to avoid on your nanny website profile, which cautioned job seekers from allowing parents you have never met before to access to your Facebook page on nanny web sites.


At least one nanny web site is offering the option to connect your profile with your Facebook account. Everyone recommends using privacy settings on your Facebook page because there are scam artists, bullies, and criminals lurking on the Internet. So, there are other ways to use Facebook to find a job without allowing strangers see your Facebook profile.

You can post status updates announcing that that you are looking for a job that will reach all of your friends. You can also post “notes” on Facebook, which are similar to blog posts, to announce your job search. To ensure that your friends read these notes, just “tag” them and they will receive a notification that the note has been posted.

We also recommend joining the Facebook pages of the businesses you like to help you find nanny jobs. Click "Like" on the nanny placement agencies and nanny referral web sites you prefer. Visit the nanny agencies pages often to see what nanny jobs they have posted either daily or weekly.
But the best way to find a job using Facebook (instead of allowing complete strangers to see your Facebook profile) is by using the Facebook app BranchOut. You can join for free, connect with friends, and look for jobs to your personal network of friends.

I joined BranchOut yesterday and there were 15,681 nanny jobs posted on BranchOut.
When using BranchOut you network with your Facebook friends (not strangers) to find jobs and foster relationships with professional contacts. But when your Facebook friends introduce you to people that may help your job search via BranchOut the only visible information on BranchOut is a profile picture of your choice, your work history, and your educational background. You can edit your BranchOut profile at any time. Your status updates and photo albums on Facebook with NEVER appear on BranchOut.
By default your profile is viewable by all BranchOut members including recruiters and hiring managers. If you want to change who can see your BranchOut profile just go to your Privacy Settings. For more information on your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy.

Connecting with people on BranchOut is easy. Just click "Grow Network" at the top of the screen and you'll have a number of options to choose from, including email, wall posts, and a couple different communication channels on Facebook.

Just logon to your Facebook account and search for BranchOut or visit www.branchout.com.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nannies Love LED Faucet Lights

Product Nannies Love for Product Review Sunday

The old lather-and-rinse routine just got safer, easier, and more fun, with the Handy Trends Nozzle Light - Temperature Controlled Faucet Light from Hog Wild. This fun LED light system, attaches to most faucet fixtures (it comes with two adaptors) shines a bright light through the water when the faucet is turned on. When the water is cold, the light glows brilliant blue. But when the temperature starts to turn too-hot-for-little-hands, around 89 degrees F, the light switches to red.

These attach easily to nearly any faucet using the universal adapters included with them. The adapters instructions indicate that the adapters will work on 95% of faucets in the U.S., but are not recommended outside the U.S.. When the water flows through, it activates the LEDs and lights up the water. The Color changes with water temperature. It's blue when the water is below 89F. Once the water reaches 89F or above, the LEDs change to red.

Because these are 2.25" tall, they are not ideal for single height kitchen faucets under which one must be able to slip tall pots or bottles. The LEDs are charged with a set of pre-installed G13-A style watch batteries. There are instructions on replacing these, but after 6 months my techno-geeks haven't had to yet.

The lights not only let the children know that the water is hot or cold before they wash their hands they make hand washing and bath time fun.



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Social Media, Facebook, and Kids

The Parent's Guide to Texting, Facebook, and Social Media: Understanding the Benefits and Dangers of Parenting in a Digital World by Shawn Marie Edgington

Yesterday on our Facebook page we asked if job seekers should allow parents to see their Facebook profile on nanny web sites and we posted an article listing 10 things to never include in your nanny website profile including allowing people you don't know to view your Facebook profile.

For our Weekly Trip to the Library, today we recommend reading The Parent's Guide to Texting, Facebook, and Social Media: Understanding the Benefits and Dangers of Parenting in a Digital Worldby Shawn Marie Edgington to learn how to protect children from the dangers of social media and mobile networking.

It's already happened to 11- and 12-year-old boys I know -- they have received threatening text messages from other kids, received inappropriate photos of women on their cell phones, and seen suggestive images of women undressing online.

We all know there are dangers online for kids but do we really understand how to protect them? Not allowing them to access the Internet, text their friends, or eventually have a Facebook account isn't really practical or possible. Eventually, all children will need to use modern technology, or they won't reap the many benefits of modern technology.

That's why I recommend nannies, au pairs, and parents read The Parent's Guide to Texting, Facebook, and Social Media: Understanding the Benefits and Dangers of Parenting in a Digital World

According to current studies, about half of young people have experienced some form of online harassment. Today’s youth are falling victim to the dangers of social and mobile networking, and textual harassment, cyberbullying, sexting, and online predators have become national epidemics.

The Parent’s Guide provides awareness, solutions, and preventative resources to keep kids safe and secure online. With defensive parenting and constant communication, you can instruct kids about the potential dangers of social networking, empower them to protect themselves from online predators, guard their individualized information, and preserve their online reputation.

The Parent’s Guide shares the fundamentals of mobile messaging, Facebook, and other social media platforms; information you need about privacy and security settings; and measures to defend against  cyberbullies.

Shawn Edgington makes us face facts: we may be earning "A" grades as traditional parents, but getting failing grades as "technology" parents of our grade school and high school children.

Fortunately, she doesn't just shock us with horror stories, but truly illuminates the Internet's dark shadows. She equips us to understand the key technologies, to appreciate technology's all-encompassing role in our children's lives and to protect our children from lurking cyberbullies, predators and "frenemies."

If you wonder whether you need this book, do you know the answers to all of the following questions:

1. What are the early warning signs of textual harassment?
2. Do you know how to use the ignore/block/report function on the child's cell phone?
3. What does the  school's crisis management plan provide about text messaging?
4. Why should you be worried if the child's Facebook "friends" list is very long?
5. What is SafetyWeb and how can it help you as a parent?
6. Why is "checking in" so dangerous for your child?

Shawn Edgington empowers you to keep children safe and secure in the wild world of technology.

Friday, April 27, 2012

10 Things that Aren't Appropriate for a Nanny Profile

By NannyJobs.org

When using nanny websites or job listing websites there is some information you should never share online.

A good nanny profile should include all of the basic information, such as work experience, employment history, education, and contact information. You can also add in other data such as hobbies, certifications, or references; but there are some things that are better left out of your profile. I'd like to add to the list below that you should never list the names and contact information of your job references publicly either.

Here are 10 things that aren’t appropriate for a nanny profile:

Social Security Number – Although at some point you will need to provide this to your prospective employer, it should be left off your resume/profile. This is something that need only be shared when you’re reasonably certain that you’ve got the job.

Social Networking Profiles – Unless you use it for business purposes, it’s best to leave your Facebook profile off of your nanny profile. Separation of personal and business lives, as a rule of thumb, is the best approach when creating a resume or business profile, and you don’t want any non-work appropriate wall posts or pictures influencing your potential employer’s decision.

Photos From Inappropriate Settings – No one wants to see their prospective nanny getting down at Tootsie’s Roadhouse. As fun a night of dancing and revelry as it might have been for you, save that story for another time, audience, and venue.

Salary Requirements – You do need to have a good idea of what your requirements are, but it’s not necessarily a good idea to state them in your profile. There may be other compensation available to you in jobs that would not otherwise meet your criteria, which you could then miss out on by pricing yourself out of consideration.

Driving Record – Unless it’s clean and current, it isn’t a good idea to provide this information up front. A background check will be included in the hiring process anyway, and if there are some questionable transgressions you would be better off giving yourself a chance to explain them in an interview than potentially being flagged as someone who isn’t a safe driver and thus not an option.

Personal References – You can list former employers, teachers, and the likes as professional references if you choose. Family members are not considered objective references, for obvious reasons. Using your friends as references could raise a red flag with potential employers.

Unexplained Gaps In Employment History – Whatever the reason for periods of unemployment, they should be addressed accurately and honestly. Too often job seekers will fudge in areas like this, and almost as often it results in a disastrous effect.

Political Leanings – Regardless of how passionate you may feel about a topic, a candidate, or a cause, a resume or job profile is not the appropriate place to express it. Anything that isn’t specifically relevant to the job should be left out.

Derogatory Remarks About Previous Employers – No matter how badly your past work experience may have been for you, it’s deadly to refer to prior bosses in an unflattering light. No prospective employer wants to be faced with the prospect of being in that employer’s shoes one day.

Inaccurate Data – Your dates of employment, education, degrees and certifications should all be up-to-date and accurate. You don’t want to have to explain later, after a background check, why your profile contains false information.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Caring for Kids With ADHD

What Nannies and Au Pairs Can Do To Help Children with ADHD at Home 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition in which children have extreme difficulty focusing, paying attention, and controlling their behavior. It is the job of the nanny and au pair to follow and support the treatment plans determined by the the parents and treatment professionals.

 Here are some ways nannies and au pairs can help kids with ADHD at home:

1. Reorganize the environment at home and in school to make sure the environment is safe and organized making it easier for the child to succeed.

2. Reward good behavior. Congratulate the child when he or she completes each step of a task. Aside from praises, give something like a star or a treat.

3. Always be consistent, fair and predictable in your actions.
 
4. Create routines. A definite schedule should be followed every day. Wake-up times must be established and bedtime should be consistent. Post this schedule at the front of the refrigerator so that it is clearly seen.
 
5. Make simple house rules. It's important to explain what will happen when the rules are obeyed and when they are broken. Write down the rules and the results of not following them.

 6. Arrange stuff. Everything must be in their proper place. Books are to be placed on shelves, dirty socks in the laundry, and so on. This will help teach the individual to be organized.
 
7. Avoid distractions. Follow schedules strictly. Do not allow distractions.
 
8. Give clear instructions. Avoid making long-winded instructions when reminding about tasks and responsibilities. Get the child's attention and look directly into his or her eyes. Then tell the child in a clear, calm voice specifically what you want. Keep directions simple and short. Ask your child to repeat the directions back to you.   
                                  
9. Assign goals. Make a list or chart of what can be achieved in a week. When a goal is reached, place a check mark. Post this beside the schedule for the week.
 
10. Make sure the child is supervised all the time. Because ADHD children are impulsive, children who have ADHD may need more adult supervision than other children their age.
 
11. Focus on effort, not grades. Reward the child when he or she tries to finish school work, not just for good grades. You can give extra rewards for earning better grades.
 
12. Don't yell. To correct behavior don't yell. Punish by reducing TV time or computer time or by giving time-outs instead.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Little Humility Goes a Long Way for Nannies and Parenting Coaches

Never make a parent feel like you know how to raise their kids better than they do!

Last week I overheard a parent complaining to another parent about her nanny when she asked, "Does it sometimes feel like she thinks she knows how to raise your kids better than you do?"


When helping to raise children, knowledge, experience, and confidence are great qualities for a nanny to have. But, overconfidence can just be rude and condescending. A little professional humility can go a really far way in most careers and certainly when nannies and parenting coaches are helping to raise another person's child in their home.

The Academy for Coaching Parents International (ACPI) describes parenting coaches role as a mentor who is a friend, educator, teacher, or listener. While the most important characteristics of a nanny may be to help raise children may be patience, creativity, organization, and love -- the most important characteristics a nanny can have when working for parents are compassion and support. Childcare providers are hired to support the parents and remain professionally humble and respectful no matter how much knowledge or experience they may have.

Obviously, two parents cannot agree all of the time on how to their children. So, certainly nannies won't agree with the parents style of raising kids every day either. Not only may two parents have different parenting styles, different hot buttons, and different expectations than their spouse, when they hire a nanny there's a third personality that has been raised by different parents and taught different values and discipline methods that helped shape who they are.

Raising kids is never easy. Sometimes it might feel difficult not to judge the choices of the parents, but no matter hard it gets, parents and nannies must work hard, be creative, communicate openly, and support one another so that children in their care develop to their best potential.

My hope is that no one reading this blog will ever make a parent feel like the mother I overheard last week who felt like her nanny thought she knew better how to raise her kids than she did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Common Behaviors Seen With Child Autism

Have You Cared for a Child with Autism?

Child autism is a brain disorder that often results in a lifetime of impaired thinking, feeling, and social functioning -- our most uniquely human attributes. Typically, autism affects a child's ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the external world. The disorder becomes apparent in children generally by the age of three.

Child autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors. Autistic children:

  • Display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Have difficulties with social interaction
  • Exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests.
  • Some children with autism can function at a relatively high level, with speech and intelligence intact. Others have serious cognitive impairments and language delays, and some never speak.

    Impaired social interaction.
    The  hallmark symptom of autism is impaired social interaction. Parents are usually the first to notice possibly symptoms in their child.

    As early as infancy, a baby with autism symptoms may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with autism may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.

    Problems with verbal and nonverbal communication.
    The second most common symptom of autism is problems with verbal and nonverbal communication.
    Children with autism may fail to respond to their name and often avoid eye contact with other people. They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can't understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions.

    Obsessive or repetitive routines and interests.
    Many children with symptoms of autism engage in repetitive movements, such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behavior, such as biting or head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later than other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of "I" or "me."

    Children with autism don't know how to play interactively with other children. Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking. They lack empathy. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.

    Reduced and/or increased sensitivity.
    Many children with autism have a reduced sensitivity to pain, but are abnormally sensitive to sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation. These unusual reactions may contribute to behavioral symptoms, such as a resistance to being cuddled or hugged.

    Reference: The Autism Society

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Do You Think Organic Produce Tastes Better?

    Eat Organic for Earth Day

    I believe fresh organically grown foods taste better. Think about the tomato sprayed with Windex that Jacqueline Astete described last week and you will understand that foods not covered in synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and waxes wouldn't taste as good as organic foods.

    Since organic food is grown in well-balanced soil and with a safe water supply, it makes sense that these healthy plants have a great taste.

    Several studies have reported that organic produce has a lower level of nitrate. Lower nitrate levels have been linked in many studies to better taste.

    Taste is definitely an individual matter, but hundreds of gourmet chefs across the nation are choosing organic food to prepare because they believe it has superior taste and quality. An increasing number of consumers are also of the opinion that organic food tastes better.


    In honor of Earth Day try eating organically grown produce this week and see for yourself if you think organic produce tastes better than conventionally grown produce.



    Sunday, April 22, 2012

    Green Products Nannies and Au Pairs Love

    Earth Day

    It's Earth Day and the perfect time to make simple changes that can positively effect the children in your care.

    Nature has provided us with all the food and cleaning products we need. By using organic and natural products, nannies help teach the children in their care to make healthy decisions for their bodies and the Earth.

    Choosing organic and natural products greatly reduces the amount of toxins and chemicals that come in contact with children in your care. The products listed below are some of our favorite green products to use to use when working with children to promote a healthier, greener lifestyle.

    1. Stainless Steel Sippy Cups



    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends Americans avoid soft plastics with the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). But, unfortunately studies have found that BPA is found in baby bottles and even in bottles that claim to be "BPA-Free."  Here are some ways nannies and au pairs can reduce BPA exposure. We reviewed BPA-Free baby bottles on this blog. Stainless steel sippy cups are your best bet for avoiding the chemicals, like BPA, that are found in many plastic sippy cups and can leach into children's drinks. Try Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Sippy Cups or any BPA-Free, stainless steel water bottle you prefer.

    2. Non-Toxic Bath Products



    Our skin is a living, breathing tissue that covers and protects our body, but also absorbs things that come into contact with it. According to a study done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), kids are exposed to an average of 60 chemicals every day, through breathing them in or absorbing them through their skin, from bath and personal care products. Although I love the smell of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo studies have shown that the popular cleanser has the carcinogens formaldehyde and 1, 4-dioxane in it. Instead of Johnson and Johnson we recommend using  California Baby Shampoo/ Body Wash. California Baby has a large line of great products for kids including those with super sensitive skin. They make our favorite suntan lotion for kids too.

    See more information on The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics web site. Click here for a list of the best sunscreens. Another great resource for cleansers is the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database which scores health and beauty products on a scale of zero to ten, based on the safety of their ingredients. You can use it to look up products that you currently use and see how they score, and you can also search for products with a low score for when you’re ready to make a change.

    3. Cloth Snack Bags



    I must admit I love Ziploc plastic sandwich and snack bags. But just by replacing my plastic bag usage with re-usable alternatives has eliminated hundreds of plastic bags in landfills. In the United States alone, an estimated 8 billion pounds of plastic sacks is found in the annual waste. If other nannies and au pairs use as many Ziplocs as I did I can only imagine how much less plastic garbage there would be if all nannies and au pairs tried replacing their use of plastic storage, sandwich, and snack bags with organic alternatives!



    4. Wooden Toys



    Babies and toddlers always put toys (and everything else) in their mouths. I don't want plastic chemicals going into the mouths of the kids left in my care. Melissa & Doug Wood Toysare the most well known classic wood toys.

    5. Safe Art Supplies



    Look for a label that reads "Non-Toxic" on any art and craft supplies to ensure they are safe for children to use.



    6. Green Cleaning



    Non-toxic cleaners are safer for children, pets and those with a compromised immune system. We breathe 10 to 20 thousand liters of air per day, so if toxins are contained in that air, we inhale them along with the air. Conventional cleaning products are often major contributors to toxins in the home.  People who suffer from asthma, bronchitis, or other breathing problems will also likely benefit from natural cleaning products. There are dozens of non-toxic cleaning products available today. I like Seventh Generation, Method, Simple Green, and Green Footsteps are all great non-toxic brands.

    Homemade Cleansers:
    It couldn't be easier to use vinegar and baking soda to clean the house. You will need white vinegar, baking soda, an empty spray bottle, empty Parmesan cheese container, and optional essential oil.

    Mix 50 percent vinegar and 50 percent water in the spray bottle. You can add essential oils to help it smell better if you want. Then fill up your Parmesan cheese container with baking soda. You could add essentials oils to the baking soda too, but it makes it a little bit clumpy. You’re all set to start cleaning.

    Sprinkle the baking soda on any hard surface that you want to scrub – the toilet bowl, sink, bathtub, counter tops, and cook tops. Use a rag, microfiber cloth, or one of those green scouring pads or toilet bowl brush. You may need to get a second rag wet to wipe away the residue on the counter top or cook top, but in the bathroom you can just rinse it away.

    Spray the vinegar and water mixture anywhere that needs to be wiped down – sink, bathtub, mirror, counters, tables, and floors. Don’t use vinegar on porous surfaces like granite or marble. Just use a rag or microfiber cloth.

    Saturday, April 21, 2012

    Planting an Avocado Seed with Kids

    To sprout an avocado seed, remove the large seed from the center of the fruit and wash it in water. The broad end of the seed is considered to be the bottom and thee pointed end is the top. Insert several toothpicks into the sides of the seed. They should be placed about halfway up the pit. Then suspend the seed in a glass of water. The bottom one fourth of the seed should rest in water. Place the seed out of direct sunlight and top up the water as needed.

    The seed should sprout within a few weeks. During this time, periodically add water to maintain the initial water level. If it doesn't sprout within two to three months, discard the original avocado and begin another. The roots are usually the first to emerge from the seed. The stem appears later. Pot the seedling when the root system has become well developed; the roots should be at least two to three inches long.

    Remove the toothpicks and plant into a six to eight inch pot using a commercial potting mix. Position the seed in the center of the pot. The top of the seed should be level with the soil surface. After potting, water thoroughly, then place the plant in a brightly lit location. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Fertilize once or twice a month during the spring and summer with a houseplant fertilizer.

    Avocado plants grow rapidly. They often have to be discarded after two or three years because they've become too large for indoors. The avocado is actually a tree. It will never produce fruit indoors as it may take 20 or more years to bear fruit.

    365 Ways to Live Green for Kids by Sheri Amsel

    Weekly Trip to the Library for Nannies and Au Pairs

    This week when I visited the library I found tons of great children's books about Earth Day. Reading children's books to kids helps reinforce concepts you would like to teach them. But I chose today's book 365 Ways to Live Green for Kids: Saving the Environment at Home, School, or at Play--Every Day!by Sheri Amsel to recommend to nannies and au pairs because it not only includes interesting information but it also provides hands-on projects and activities to do with the kids to promote an eco-friendly life.

    I love that this book is a simple, yet extremely informative starter book with literally hundreds of games, activities, and fun ideas to get kids excited about living a greener lifestyle. While having fun the children will learn how to protect plants and animals, why to choose organic foods, and the three Rs: reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling. These are great lessons that the kids will carry on into their adulthood. The publisher recommends these easy concepts for any third grader and up to read and follow.

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Why Should You Pay More for Organic Whole Foods?

    You Are What You Eat
    By Jacqueline Astete

    How much did you spend on clothes this year? What about handbags, jewelry, shoes, and cosmetics? If you are willing to spend a few extra dollars on clothing, shoes, and cosmetics that make you feel good on the outside, why not spend a few extra dollars to nourish yourself with the organic whole foods that will make you feel incredible on the inside?

    Undoubtedly, you have already heard that you are what you eat. Conventional produce is often sprayed with pesticides made from chemicals. Many of these chemicals are carcinogens. You can check out how the EPA rates the dangers of the carcinogens found in pesticides.

    Why would you eat foods that have been sprayed with chemicals that may cause cancer?

    Working as a nanny or an au pair you know firsthand how food affects a child’s mind and body. If a child eats processed sugar they get a "sugar high" for a short period of time, then they crash and get cranky and tired, just craving more processed sugar. In comparison, if you serve the child in your care organic fruits and vegetables, they will gain energy that lasts longer than processed sugar because it gets dispersed through their bodies evenly, and therefore nourishes their body in a healthier way.

    As a nanny, imagine what a difference in the children’s behavior could be like if you replace processed sugar with organic fruits and vegetables? I challenge you to replace your charge’s meals for one work week, that’s just five-days. Try to keep a record of how the kids feel and behave. By the end of that week, you and the children will feel like a million bucks! By no means am I a doctor, so please speak to your physician before changing anything about your diet.

    One of the easiest and most tangible ways to help your mind and body cope a little better with stress is by eating whole organic foods, fruits and vegetables. Here's a link for a list of whole foods.  So, don’t let clever food industry marketers fool you. Don’t eat a tomato sprayed in Windex. Nourish yourself with organic whole foods whenever possible.

    Teaching Kids to Be Green

    Earth Day for Nannies and Au Pairs

    We constantly hear about global warming and the need to preserve the Earth’s environment. Very simply lifestyle changes can make a great impact. Both adults and children can do little things that help us reduce, reuse, and recycle.

    Great power lies in the hands of nannies and au pairs that consistently teach children to reduce, reuse, and recycle. To teach children to respect the environment, we must live green and value our natural world, especially when our charges look up to us. If we truly care about children we must take better care of Earth and teach kids how to do the same.

    Easy things nannies, au pairs, and children can do daily include using reusable mugs and water bottles, recycle aluminum, and plastic food containers, and turn off the lights and televisions when leaving rooms.

    When shopping for groceries caregivers should show children how to look for recycling symbols on the products they buy. Purchase items in recyclable packaging whenever possible. Carry reusable shopping bags, and buy in bulk when possible to minimize packaging waste.

    Sprinkle a few seeds in a portion of the family’s garden or in pots or planters and encourage the children to water them and see the plants grow. It is most enjoyable to plant vegetables or fruits such as lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, or carrots that can be used in the children’s meals.

    Bicycle or walk to school, activities, and playdates when possible.

    Teach children to turn off running water while brushing their teeth or washing their faces and hands. Use a kitchen timer to encourage older children to take shorter showers.

    Read Earth friendly children’s books to the children in your care and watch Earth friendly movies.

    Subscribe to fun children’s magazines published by the National Wildlife Federation which include: Ranger Rick, Just for Fun, Animal Baby, and Your Big Backyard During the year subscriptions make great birthday gifts for the children’s friends.

    Some other ways to encourage the family you work for to reduce is by asking the parents if you can reduce the use of paper by canceling unneeded catalogs at: http://www.catalogcancelingchallenge.com/.

    Rather than throwing away small used clothing the parents can receive a tax deduction by donating the children’s small clothing to Goodwill, or the Salvation Army. You can also donate gently used toys and clothing to a local thrift store, or a neighbor or friends with smaller children in need.

    What do you have the children do daily to reduce, reuse, and recycle?

    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    Going Green for Nannies and Au Pairs

    Easy Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Work in Honor of Earth Day

    Cycle or Walk for Short Trips
    Instead of driving to school or playdates, allow the children to ride their bicycles, scooters, skateboards, or walk instead. A walk of just half a mile takes less than 15-minutes. The children will love the fresh air, exercise, and time to talk to you. You will save fuel and the world will be spared more greenhouse gas emissions. The fresh air and exercise make kids and caregivers feel great any time of year.

    Dress Children in Layers
    The bulk of the energy bill is for heating and cooling, (not light bulbs). So, dressing children in layers keeps those costs down by allowing kids to bundle up or strip down as needed. Being able to control their personal body temperature can also help cut down on colds; in layers, kids don't ever have to be too hot or too cold in their clothes.

    Buy Organic Food for the Family
    Studies have shown that human exposure to pesticides can cause neurological disturbances, increase the frequency of certain cancers, damage the immune system, and reduce fertility. Pesticides degrade soil and contaminate drinking water, leading to significant clean-up costs. A conventional farmer might use as many as 450 different authorized pesticides, whereas an organic farmer might use just seven natural pesticides, and only then in a controlled way. At least give priority to feeding organic foods to babies and young children. The average child has four times more exposure than an adult to at least 10 widely used cancer-causing pesticides. Pesticides can increase susceptibility to certain cancers by breaking down the immune system's resistance to cancer cells. Infants and children are among those at greatest risk. Click here to download a list of which fruits and vegetables have pesticides.

    Use Biodegradable Cleaning Products
    In the local supermarket we can buy acids, phenols, oil derivatives, corrosive solutions, chlorine, and an entire arsenal of toxic products, all supposedly necessary for keeping our homes clean (according to the advertisements). Choose environmentally friendly and biodegradable household cleaning products that do not contain the most dangerous substances. You will be contributing to the preservation of the soil, air, water, and health of children.

    Properly Dispose of Grease Before Washing Dishes
    After cooking meat most people either pour grease down the toilet or down the kitchen sink. Neither method is good for the plumbing or the water supply. The best way to dispose of grease and oil is to solidify them as much as possible, and then throw the solid materials in the trash.

    These ideas from:
    365 Ways to Save the Earth by Phillippe Bourseiller



    Philippe Bourseiller teams 365 photographs with a daily ecological action. Each of the initiatives is accompanied by facts and statistics that illustrate the threats to the environment posed by our behaviors, and demonstrates the beneficial consequences of the recommended actions. Each day reveals the image of a wonder of nature along with the guidelines to preserve our planet.

    Do you have any ideas on how nannies and au pairs can help children "go green" we didn't think of?

    Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    Reading Organic Labels

    Should We Say No to GMOs?
    By Jacqueline Astete

    When choosing food to serve the children in your care the first step is to look for the USDA Organic Seal. The USDA Organic Seal helps inform you of the quality and integrity of organic products. Looking for the USDA label is the first step to take when looking for organic products to serve. But when possible, I always recommend buying locally and speaking with the source of the foods you purchase to assure are produced using methods that do not involve synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO), and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives

    Organic-certified operations must have an organic system plan and records that verify compliance with that plan. Operators are inspected annually in addition there are random checks to assure standards are being met.

    I strongly feel nannies should not only read labels to ensure the ingredients are organic but also that they are natural, humanely raised, and Non-GMO (genetically modified organisms).

    Unfortunately, GMO foods aren’t required to be labeled in the United States. But, there are Non-GMO labels on many food products. I highly recommend looking for the Non-GMO label. GMOs are a heavily debated issue that we will have to discuss further at a later date on this blog.

    But, my main argument against GMOs is that we don’t know all the unpredictable outcomes or side effects that will eventually occur. They might present allergy risks to people because genetic modification can cause new allergic reactions in the human body. Until we know all the effects of genetically modified foods will eventually have I urge nannies not serve GMO to children when possible.

    The USDA has identified for three categories of labeling organic products:

    100% Organic:
    Made with 100% organic ingredients

    Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients

    Made With Organic Ingredients:
    Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

    Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    Pesticides: Following Healthy, Sensible Food Practices

    Dangers of Pesticides for Children

    With Earth Day less than a week away we are discussing why we should serve children organic foods this week.

    Children are at a greater risk for some pesticides than adults for a number of reasons. Children's internal organs are still developing and maturing and their enzymatic, metabolic, and immune systems may provide less natural protection than those of an adult. There are "critical periods" in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual's biological system operates. Children may be exposed more to certain pesticides because often they eat different foods than adults.

    For instance, children typically consume larger quantities of milk, applesauce, and orange juice per pound of body weight than do adults. Children's behaviors, such as playing on the floor or on the lawn where pesticides are commonly applied, or putting objects in their mouths, increase their chances of exposure to pesticides.

    Adverse effects of pesticide exposure range from mild symptoms of dizziness and nausea to serious, long-term neurological, developmental and reproductive disorders. Americans use more than a billion pounds of pesticides each year to combat pests on farm crops, in homes, places of business, schools, parks, hospitals, and other public places.

    Because pesticides have many uses, we may be exposed to them in a variety of ways -- through food, water, and air. You may reduce the amount of pesticides you consume by:

    WASHING: Wash and scrub all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Running water has an abrasive effect that soaking does not have. This will help remove bacteria and traces of chemicals from the surface of fruits vegetables and dirt from crevices. Not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing.

    PEELING AND TRIMMING: Peel fruits and vegetables when possible to reduce dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Trim fat from meat and skin from poultry and fish because some pesticides residues collect in fat

    SELECTING A VARIETY OF FOODS: Eat a variety of foods from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Would You Eat a Tomato Sprayed in Windex?

    Painting by Matthis Grunsky
    Why You Should Serve Organic Fruits and Vegetables to Children
    By Jacqueline Astete

    Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the comfort of your employer’s kitchen, making the kids lasagna. Imagine you are just about to add your final ingredient, the pièce de résistance, a tomato.  Now, take a bottle of Windex and generously spray the tomato with the blue glass cleanser. Next, take another tomato and don’t spray it with glass cleaner.

    With just one tomato to add to your lasagna, which tomato would you choose?  Which tomato would you eat or serve to the children in your care?

    Obviously, you would choose the tomato without window cleaner on it.  Whenever you reach for a fruit or vegetable (to eat yourself or to serve to children) I urge you to remember this image of Windex being sprayed on the fruits and vegetables you are about to serve.  

    Organic foods are produced using methods that do not involve synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.  

    Some synthetic pesticides have been linked to causing cancer. When farmers spray carcinogens on their fruit and vegetable crops, those chemicals are later served to the children in our care. If you wouldn’t serve a tomato with Windex sprayed on it to a child, why would you serve foods with carcinogens on them to children?

    “The Dirty Dozen” is a popular term for the 12 fruits and vegetables found with the most synthetic pesticides on them. With Earth Day coming up this Sunday, April 22, 2012 I urge you to consider making one simple change this week. Just consider choosing organically grown fruits and vegetables this week, especially those listed as the Dirty Dozen below.

    The Dirty Dozen:

    1. Apples
    2. Celery
    3. Strawberries
    4. Peaches
    5. Spinach
    6. Nectarines
    7. Imported Grapes
    8. Imported Sweet Bell Peppers
    9. Potatoes
    10. Blueberries
    11. Domestic Lettuce
    12. Kale/Collard Greens

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Kaboost Chair Booster

    Products Nannies Love  

    When the two-year-old and I visit her friends' houses and her grandparents' house they don't have a second high chair for her to use when eating. That's why I think the Kaboost Portable Chair Boosteris such an incredible product for nannies, au pairs, and the kids in their care. This portable chair booster fits under almost any dining chair to raise it up so kids don't have to sit on their knees or a telephone book to be at the right height for dinner.

    Rather than boosting the child from the top of the chair, Kaboost fits underneath dining chairs to raise the overall height of the chair, so kids can sit in the chair just like an adult and be a part of the family table. This product is best suited to older toddlers and young school age kids, as it does not have any straps to hold the child in the chair.

    Using an adjustable spring system, Kaboost snaps-on to chairs in mere seconds. The spring-loaded arms firmly grip chair legs into place, and Kaboost stays attached even when the chair is moved or repositioned.

    Kaboost offers two height positions, which are changed simply by turning the booster portion over. The arms of the Kaboost stretch out and are spring loaded so that they snap back against the chair legs and stay put once you fit it to the chair. The part of the booster that the chair legs sit in is rubbery, so your dining chairs won't be scratched or dented by using Kaboost. The bottom of the Kaboost is also rubbery, so it won't slide around when your child climbs up, and it won't scratch floors. When the Kaboost is on the chair, you can move the chair around, and the Kaboost will stay on the chair thanks to the spring-loaded arms.

    The Kaboost also widens the base of the dining chair, which adds to the stability of the chair and makes it less likely to tip over when a child climbs up. Kaboost folds up fairly small for travel or for storage. Some other great features include: it fits most dining chairs, it stays on chair even if you move the chair around, it holds up to 300 lbs.so it won't break if an adult accidentally sits on the boosted chair.

    I highly recommend the Kaboost Chair Booster for toddlers that no longer need a seat belt to sit in a chair and elementary school-aged children that need a boost to reach the dinner table.

    Saturday, April 14, 2012

    How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children By Gerald Newmark, Ph.D.

    Weekly Trip to the Library for Nannies and Au Pairs

    A dear nanny friend loaned me How To Raise Emotionally Healthy Children by Gerard Newmark on my Amazon Kindle Fire last week. The book helps childcare providers to interact with children and with each other in emotionally healthy ways. Although it is a short book, I hope that some of the lessons about improving relationships with kids in the book will stick with me for the rest of my life.

    The author opens the book explaining that all children, at all ages, have five critical needs in common which stay with them throughout their lives -- the need to feel respected, important, accepted, included, and secure. When satisfied, they are the key to developing an emotionally healthy child.

    People do not, at a certain age, magically develop good judgement and become expert decision-makers. To help kids gain confidence we must allow them to problem-solve and make decisions. This is a way children can learn about their strengths and weaknesses and grow in decision-making ability and confidence.

    One of the most important lessons I learned reading this book is we often try to talk kids of our their feelings. But by doing so our message isn't comforting or enlightening but conveys the idea that being upset when something negative happens is bad. We shouldn't try to talk kids out of bad feelings, but just listen and understand their feelings.

    The author writes, "We need to recognize that feelings are not right are wrong; they just are. Acceptance does not imply liking or agreeing, nor does it have anything to do with condoning behavior. Accepting a child's feelings is simply recognition that all individuals, children have feelings too, and that a child's feelings are not to be suppressed or feared but rather to be understood and discussed."

    The appendixes list family activities to do with kids to get to know kids better, a journal for parents to learn to monitor their own feelings and behaviors, a family meeting worksheet, children's well-being survey, and so much more. I think this a great book for all childcare providers to read.

    Friday, April 13, 2012

    Nannies Do You Have a Written Contract?

    Why Has It Been Harder for Nannies to Find Great Nanny Jobs?

    This week we have been discussing the results of the Be the Best Nanny Newsletter monthly poll in which we asked nannies why they think it's harder to find great nanny jobs?

    Those who participated in our poll answered that illegal immigrants are the number one reason nannies can't find stellar nanny positions. Next, nannies blame the bleak job market on the economy and American citizens that are paid illegally in cash, working off-the-books, for hurting the credibility of nannies in general. The results of our survey show that nannies think so many teachers being laid-off nationwide has led many educators to join the nanny job market as well.

    The next reason nannies who to our survey think great nanny jobs are harder to find today is because so many in-home childcare providers don't have written contracts.

    A guest blogger, Nathan Hammons, Esq. shared the following reasons nannies should have written work agreements with our readers below. Click here to see more about written work agreements.

    Why Nannies Need Written Work Agreements:

    # 1: Legal Protection

    When a nanny and one or both parents sign a nanny contract, it becomes legally binding. That means one side can sue the other for failing to live up to a promise in the contract.

    For example, a nanny could sue for not being given agreed to wages or benefits (e.g., time off, health insurance, etc.). Or the parents could sue if a nanny discloses family secrets or quits without notifying the parents as required by the contract.

    It’s worth noting that, in many situations, a lawsuit is not worth the time or money. Nevertheless, people are more likely to fulfill a promise when it’s in a legally binding contract. For that reason, it’s much better to have a nanny contract than not to have one.

    # 2: Prevent Disputes

    What’s the number one reason why parents and nannies get into disputes? Miscommunication.

    You know the story. One person says something, and a month later the other person remembers having heard something else. Or they don’t even remember a particular detail of the conversation.

    While there isn’t a cure for miscommunication, having things in writing is an excellent start.

    That’s why a nanny contract is a great tool for preventing disputes. First, it helps ensure that everyone is on the same page for the important issues (e.g., job duties, wages, scheduling, etc.). Second, if a question later arises, it can often be answered by re-reading the nanny contract. Even if it can’t, the process of reviewing the contract – calmly and professionally – can help ease tensions.

    # 3: Address Important Issues

    Parents and their nanny naturally want to discuss the most important thing of nanny care – the children.

    But nanny care involves much more than that. It also things that aren’t exciting – like scheduling, benefits, preparing for emergencies, transporting the children, and more.

    Having a good nanny contract can help ensure you don’t miss something important. For example, does the nanny have to work Veteran’s Day? The nanny contract can answer that. Whose car insurance will the nanny go under? The nanny contract can answer that, too, as well as the many other important questions that arise with nanny care.

    Stated another way, a good nanny contract acts like a checklist – go through it from beginning to end, and you’re much less likely to miss an important issue.

    # 4: Promote Mutual Respect

    A thriving parent/nanny relationship is based on mutual respect. The parents respect the nanny as a professional caregiver with needs and wants, and the nanny respects the parents as individuals who, while busy, care deeply about how their children are raised and cared for.

    A nanny contract enhances mutual respect. It sets roles for parents as the employer and the nanny as both the employee and professional caregiver. It helps everyone plan ahead through the setting of work hours, schedules, etc. Lastly, because it is a legal document (see above), it raises the level of professionalism.

    In sum, the benefits of having a nanny contract far outweigh the pains of putting one in place.

    This post is the first 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 MyNannyContract.com, a website with information about the legal issues of nanny care and providing a professionally written nanny contract. He can be contacted at nathan@mynannycontract.com.
    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.