Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fall Tree and Leaf Hanging

Wednesdays with Whitney

Getting toddlers to practice fine motor skills can be difficult – most kids just aren’t interested in holding a pencil correctly at the age of three. Why not stretch those motor skills in something a little bit more fun, seasonal, and interactive? This tree and leaf activity allows children to make their own holiday decoration while they unknowingly put those little fingers to work.

• Paper bag
(large or small)
• Paper
• Scissors
• Ornament hangers (or string)
• Ribbon (optional)

1. To make the paper bag tree you will need to start by letting the kids twist the bag real tight and then untwist it. This loosens up the stiffness and allows for easier twisting later.

2. Next take your scissors and make three or four lengthwise cuts from the top of the bag down about ¾ of the way. The flappy lengthwise pieces are going to be your branches.

3. Now start twisting from the base up. Once you get up to the cuts you can wrap a ribbon around the trunk to keep it secure while you proceed with the branches.

4. Twist each branch tightly. The tighter you twist them the sturdier they will be. What’s great about all this twisting is that there is no right or wrong way to twist, so the more kids help out the better!

5. Once the tree is done, take a break from twisting and cut some leaves out of colorful paper. They can be any size and any color – let the little ones get creative!

6. Next comes the fun part – decorating! Poke your ornament hangers through the bottom of the leaf and let the little ones start hanging. Hanging decorations refines fine motor skills and is sure to add a hint of seasonal joy throughout the house.

The twisty tree was a common craft in my childhood household around the fall holidays. The leaf hanging addition is something I added to the mix when Abby (the toddler I nanny) ignored all of my attempts to put her little fingers to work on a pencil. The decorating activity strengthened her finger grip without her even noticing!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to Talk to Kids About Hurricanes

Children's Books About Hurricanes!

Although I live in New Jersey and keep losing power due to trees falling and power line damage due to the high winds of Hurricane Sandy I decided to use up a few minutes of my laptop battery to post on my blog.

Reading children's books is always a great way to teach children about difficult topics. Today I am sharing some children's books to help nannies, au pairs, and parents have age-appropriate discussions about hurricanes with children. I found these book reviews a year ago by Elizabeth Kennedy and Susan Larson during another storm that hit the East Coast. Below is a list of both fiction and nonfiction stories that focus on preparing for hurricanes, living through them, and dealing with the aftermath.

Yesterday We Had A Hurricane, (appropriate for three- to six-year-olds) is a bilingual picture book in English and Spanish, provides an introduction to the effects of a hurricane. The author, Deidre McLaughlin Mercier, a teacher and counselor, has done an excellent job of presenting information in an age appropriate manner for children three- to six-years-old. Narrated by a child living in Florida, the book is illustrated with wonderful bright fabric and paper collages that effectively illustrate the damage a hurricane can do in a way that will not frighten small children. With humor and emotion, the child describes the loud wind, trees falling, the driving rain, and the good and bad aspects of being without electricity. Yesterday We Had A Hurricane is a good book for young children. Review by Elizabeth Kennedy.

Molly the Pony (appropriate for four- to eight-year-olds) is a true story by Pam Kaster. This is the story is about a pony that waits in her stall for her owner to return during a hurricane. The abandoned pony was rescued from a south Louisiana barn and relocated to a farm. But Molly's story took another turn when she was attacked by a dog on the farm and her leg had to be amputated. Fitted with a prosthetic leg, Molly now travels to children's hospitals and retirement homes. Kaster, who lives in Zachary, is also the author of Zydeco Goes to Horse Camp and is an editor of the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association newsletter. Review by Susan Larson.

Set in San Juan, Sergio and the Hurricane (appropriate for five-to eight-year-olds) tells the story of Sergio, a Puerto Rico boy, and his family and how they prepare for a hurricane, experience the hurricane, and clean up after the hurricane. When he first hears that a hurricane is coming, Sergio is very excited, although several adults warn him, “A hurricane is a very serious thing.” The story emphasizes all of the preparations the family makes in order to get through the storm safely and the change in Sergio’s feelings as he moves from the excitement of preparing for the storm to his fear during the storm and shock at the damage caused by the storm. The gouache artwork by author and illustrator Alexandra Wallner gives a real sense of Puerto Rico and the effects of a hurricane. At the end of the book, there is a page of facts about hurricanes. Review by Elizabeth Kennedy.

The children's picture book Hurricane! (appropriate for six- to nine-year-olds) by Jonathan London and Henri Sorensen tells the dramatic story of two brothers and their parents who, with little notice, have to flee their home for an inland shelter. It starts as a beautiful morning in Puerto Rico. The two boys walk from their home on stilts down to the ocean where they go snorkeling. Just as they realize the weather has changed, their mother rushes to tell them a hurricane is on its way. The weather gets progressively worse, and the family packs and flees their home just as sheets of rain begin to fall. Author Jonathan London’s dramatic language and artist Henri Sorenson’s double-page oil paintings capture all of the drama and fear of the family’s evacuation and the waiting in the shelter until the hurricane ends. The book ends with storm cleanup and the return of good weather and regular daily activities. Review by Elizabeth Kennedy.

Hurricane is a novel by Terry Trueman (appropriate for ages 10 and up) is a book that is not about Katrina (though the book offers a postscript about what happened here) but about Hurricane Mitch, which devastated Honduras in 1998. Thirteen-year-old Jose must care for his family -- and his village -- in the horrific aftermath of the storm. This book would be useful for young Katrina survivors, who will see that they're not alone, and that children are far from powerless. Review by Susan Larson.

Hurricane Song is a novel about New Orleans by Paul Volpone (appropriate for ages 12 and up) about a young football star and his father, a musician, who seek refuge in the Superdome together during Katrina and later return to rebuild their lives in New Orleans. The novel ends on a triumphant note, when the Saints -- and Miles and his father -- return to the Dome. Review by Susan Larson.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to Have Fun with Kids When the Power Goes Out

Coping With Hurricane Sandy
1. Show kids how to make shadow puppets using flashlights.

2. Play board games.

3. Play musical instruments.

4. Read a book by candle light or kerosene lantern.

5. Sing songs. Little kids love singing. Come up with funny songs you sang as a kid and teach them to the children. Let the kids teach you some of the songs they sing in school.

6. Play card games. If you're alone - play solitaire. There are lots of card games you can play. This is a good time to learn a new game or teach someone a card game they've been wanting to learn.

7. Work on a jigsaw puzzle. This can be done alone or with others, and can be extra challenging in the darkened conditions.

8. Play charades by candlelight (flashlights are safer around kids). It will add a whole new dimension to the game when you have to stay in a tiny circle of light.

9. Build a tent in the house by putting blankets over tables and furniture. Use flashlights and pretend you're camping.

Nannies and Au Pairs Are You Prepared to Care for the Kids During Hurricane Sandy?

EMA Basic Disaster Supplies Kit
Hurricane Sandy is on it's way and expected to affect over 24-million Americans. Last year at this time in the North East we had a freak snow storm that pulled down power lines and my family and many others didn't have power for many weeks. I am packing a bag to take with me to work on Monday in case I cannot make it home Monday night. And after experiencing the stress of last year's storm I want to be prepared for power loss and possible contaminated water.

Here is a list of a basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items from FEMA:
  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation

  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Whistle to signal for help

  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place

  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

  • Manual can opener for food

  • Local maps

  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

  • Additional Emergency Supplies

    Once you have gathered the supplies for a basic emergency kit, you may want to consider adding the following items:
    • Prescription medications and glasses

    • Infant formula and diapers

    • Pet food and extra water for your pet

    • Cash or traveler's checks and change

    • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) (PDF - 977Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.

    • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or free information from this web site. (See Publications)

    • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.

    • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.

    • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted, nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.

    • Fire extinguisher

    • Matches in a waterproof container

    • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items

    • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils

    • Paper and pencil

    • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

    • Remember the unique needs of your family members, including growing children, when making your emergency supply kit and family emergency plan.

      For Baby:

    • Formula

    • Diapers

    • Bottles

    • Powdered milk

    • Medications

    • Moist towelettes

    • Diaper rash ointment

    • For more information about the care and feeding of infants and young children during an emergency, visit the California Dept. of Public Health website.

      For Adults:
      • Denture needs

      • Contact lenses and supplies

      • Extra eye glasses

      • Ask your doctor about storing prescription medications such as heart and high blood pressure medication, insulin and other prescription drugs.

        If you live in a cold climate, you must think about warmth. It is possible that you will not have heat. Think about your clothing and bedding supplies. Be sure to include one complete change of clothing and shoes per person, including:
        • Jacket or coat

        • Long pants

        • Long sleeve shirt

        • Saturday, October 27, 2012

          The Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook

          Weekly Trip to the Library

          Do you want to make some changes? Would you like to learn more how to adopt some healthier habits? Does relationship or job stress find you feeling misunderstood or defensive, reluctant to ask others for help, reluctant to say "No," or unable to set limits? Do you ever feel you don't have enough time and there are too many demands on you?

          If you ever feel like you can answer "Yes" to the questions above I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook by David S. Sobel, MD and Robert Ornstein, PhD.

          Years ago, after college and before working as a nanny, I held jobs in the field of psychology. One of the best resources for both the counselors and patients when I worked in that career field was The Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook. 

          Throughout the years I continue to reference this book for topics of interest to nannies and au pairs such as effective communication, how to say "No," and the book also gives tips on how to relieve stress, improve your mood, deal with time pressure, and sleep better.

          The book stresses that an overall sense of well-being and a positive outlook are very important to physical and mental health. This book not only explains the important benefits of a healthy mind and body in simple, understandable language, but gives practical ways to actually improve how you feel today.

          The book is easy to read. It is organized into three sections: staying well, common problems, and medical care. There are 23 important topics to keeping healthy.

          Within the self-help pages, the authors warn against unhealthy humor and includes what research shows about mood, immunity, and the common cold. But, I particularly like the worksheets to use to help determine how assertive you are, if you have hostile feelings, if are an optimist or pessimist, and the tips to taming your anger.

          Despite the fact that my copy of The Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook was published in 1996, I still find the material useful in my nanny work today. I recommend getting your copy if you are looking for assistance in making some healthy changes in your personal or work relationships.

          Friday, October 26, 2012

          Fun and Educational Activities for Nannies and Au Pairs

          It's Easy to Have Fun While Learning

          Keeping children active and engaged is an important responsibility for nannies. However, it can sometimes be challenging to come up with new and exciting activities that children will enjoy. When planning activities, it is always important to keep in mind the ages of the children as well as their interests and abilities. Therefore, the following activities are described in order to help nannies plan for some fun ways to keep little hands busy while also encouraging a child’s educational development.

          1. Outdoor Art - When the weather is nice, it is always great to find some time for the children to play outside. In order to keep children from running everywhere, it is important to have a few ideas in mind. Young children can enjoy using a paintbrush and a cup of water to paint lovely designs on the sidewalk, and older children can use chalk to decorate driveways and outdoor porches.

          2. Author Study - Children of all ages enjoy reading books. Select a few books from a child’s favorite author, and explore how they use engaging dialogue and colorful art to tell their story. Then, the child can create a picture of their own depicting their favorite scene from the books.

          3. Letter Lunch - Surprise the children in your care with pancakes or sandwiches made in the shape of letters. Not only will this help to bolster their letter knowledge, but it will also encourage them to eat their meals. Try only one letter a week, or a child’s entire name can be spelled to put a unique twist on mealtimes.

          4. Cooking Experiences - During a cooking experience, children are exposed to important reading, math and science concepts. For pre-readers, choose simple recipes that can be supplemented with pictures. Older children will enjoy selecting their favorite recipes and can help to measure, mix and stir. Be sure to also discuss safety rules for the kitchen in order to ensure that cooking will be a safe experience.

          5. Community Outings - If the children’s parents are comfortable with the children going on outings, then these can be used to enhance their educational experiences. Be sure to choose age-appropriate locations, such as libraries and zoos that also offer activities geared to the children’s interests. Even a visit to a local park can provide a chance to discuss native plants and animals.

          6. Open-Ended Crafts - Some of the best activities are unplanned and allow for the children to express their own creativity. Try bringing along a bag of craft materials that the children can use to make their own projects. It is amazing to discover what children can do with a few scraps of ribbon, colored paper and glue.

          When children are busy, then they are also more likely to stay out of trouble. For this reason, the best nannies always have a few ideas in mind for keeping children active and engaged. By including a mixture of both indoor and outdoor educational opportunities, a nanny can be certain that the children in their care will be happy and engaged in intellectually stimulating activities.

          Author Bio:
          Jason Miner an expert freelance writer loves writing articles on different categories. He is approaching different bloggers to recognize each other's efforts through “” He can be contacted through e-mail at jasonminer8atgmaildotcom.

          Thursday, October 25, 2012

          Do You Care for a Child That Bites?

          What to Do When a Child Bites Other Kids
          From the Children's Physician Network

          Establish a rule: "We never bite people."
          Give the child a reason for the rule, namely that biting hurts.

          Suggest a safe alternative behavior.
          Tell the child that if he wants something he should come to you and ask for help or point to it. He should not bite the person who has it. If the child bites when he is angry, tell him, "If you are mad, come to me and tell me. Don’t bite anyone."

          Interrupt biting with a sharp "No."
          Be sure to use an unfriendly voice and look the child straight in the eye. Try to interrupt her when she looks as if she might bite someone before she actually does it. Especially close supervision of the child may be necessary until you are sure she will no longer bite people.

          Give the child a time-out when he bites people.
          Send him to a boring place for approximately one minute per year of age. If he tries to bite you while you are holding him, say "No." Always put him down immediately and walk away (a form of time-out). If time-out does not work, take away a favorite toy for the rest of the day.

          Never bite a child for biting someone else.
          Do not be a hypocrite and bite the child back, do not wash the child's mouth out with soap, do not spank. Eliminate all physical punishment and also eliminate "love-bites" because the child will not understand how they are different from painful biting.

          Praise the child for not biting.
          Praise the child especially when he is in situations in which he used to bite. Tell the child gently not to bite before you embark on a high-risk visit. Then if he doesn't bite, praise him afterward for good behavior.

          Reference: Children's Physician Network

          Wednesday, October 24, 2012

          Transform Your Table: Project for Nannies and Au Pairs

          Wednesdays With Whitney

          If you care for a toddler, you know that no craft stays contained. Paint will get in their hair, glue will get on your toes, and glitter will adorn the cracks of the dining room table for life.

          But don’t let that stop you from all the crafting fun! Follow these easy directions to make a table cover that can alleviate some of your messy fears while encouraging your charge’s creativity.


          • Butcher Paper
          • Tape
          • Paints and Markers


          1. Start with covering the dining room table with butcher paper. Tape it down to ensure it stays in place

          2. Add a theme to your table. Whether it be fall, Christmas, or a Birthday, the kiddos will appreciate the simple addition to their festivities

          3. Make sections on the table to encourage various educational activities. Make a section for the little ones to practice their letters, a corner for them to free paint, and even a portion devoted to mazes. It turns a table cover into an activity center for the kiddos!

          This project is by Whitney Ziebarth who also shares these activities with readers daily at The Naptime Nook.

          Tuesday, October 23, 2012

          7 Safety Classes Nannies Should Consider Taking

          What Safety Classes Should Nannies Take?
          By Martina Keyhell from

          In addition to classes related to early childhood education and care, nannies can benefit from expanding their knowledge base by taking safety related courses, as well as increase their marketability and make themselves more attractive to potential families.

          CPR and First Aid

          Every nanny should have current CPR and first aid training and should update their training every two years at a minimum, or as often as called for from the organization that issued the certification. While it can be tempting to simply take an online certification course or refresher, there’s no replacement for a hands-on class where techniques can be practiced and trained instructors can answer questions. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer CPR and first aid trainings throughout the country.

          Child Abuse Prevention

          Nannies have an obligation to report abuse, and according to the International Nanny Association are mandated to do so. Sometimes the line between bad parenting and abuse is a fine one. Nannies who understand the laws surrounding child abuse, know what constitutes abuse and what does not, and are able to identify signs of abuse and how to protect the child from abuse are empowered to act appropriately when child safety concerns arise.

          Self Defense

          Self defense classes not only prepare a nanny to physically defend herself should the need arise, they also teach and empower her not to be a victim. Knowing how to assess any environment and situation she finds herself in, with or without her charges, is a valuable skill that most potential employers would appreciate their nanny having.

          Defensive Driving

          A majority of nannies are charged with transporting children to and from different activities and appointments, so it only makes sense that a qualified nanny with defensive driving training would be a desirable caregiver. In a defensive driving course, nannies not only enhance their driving skills, they learn crash prevention techniques, the importance of safe driving, and how to identify driving risks. Nannies come away from defensive driving training with practical skills and information they are able to put to use to increase the safety of themselves and their charges.

          Executive Protection

          For nannies who work for celebrity families or families where there is an elevated concern about the safety of the family’s children due to the nature of the parents work, status or wealth, a nanny who can double as a personal body guard will be highly sought after. Knowing how to ensure the safety of those entrusted to her, whether as a formal body guard or not, is an extremely attractive trait for a caregiver to have.

          Water Safety

          Families who live on or near beaches or lakes, have swimming pools or spas, or travel frequently and enjoy water activities should require their nanny to have water safety or life guard training. The International Nanny Association recommends that nannies only take a child swimming if she has successfully completed a credible water safety and rescue course, or if there is a lifeguard present.

          Child Passenger Safety

          While not every nanny needs to become a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, those who do tend to gain a new respect in households where child passenger safety is considered a high priority. As Child Passenger Safety Technicians, nannies not only learn how to choose and use an appropriate car seat for the children in their care, they also learn how to install them and how to teach parents to properly install them. Since it is estimated that 80-90% of car seats are installed incorrectly, a nanny who knows how to properly install and use car seats will be highly valued.

          In the United States, the in-home childcare industry is highly unregulated. In fact, an individual is not required to take any specific coursework to become employed as a nanny. That said, many nannies opt to enroll in various classes to continue their education and to expand their knowledge base. Those who take safety related courses open the door to new job opportunities and become marketable to those parents who require specialized safety training.

          Before enrolling in any course, nannies should carefully evaluate the credentials of the trainer, the curriculum or course agenda, the cost, the reputation of the trainer or training program, the weight the certification holds and the individual or training programs affiliation with any professional associations or governing bodies that regulate the type of training being offered.

          Reference: Visit to see the original article which we reprinted with permission from Martina Keyhell

          Monday, October 22, 2012

          Importance of Nanny Mentors

          Do You Have What it Takes to be a Nanny Mentor?
          By Marni Kent

          Nurturing and mentoring seem to come naturally to nannies. Working as a nanny for more than two decades I understand the isolation and lack of support that can overwhelm full-time nannies. That's why I believe all nannies need a mentor.

          I began mentoring many years ago and authored the International Nanny Association (INA) Mentor Program in 2002 and chaired the committee for a few years.

          The Internet and Facebook provide outlets for nannies questions, frustrations, and support. But, when nannies feel isolated during their job search, need guidance on how to handle a job interview, or advice about working with job placement agencies, nannies still crave in-person, one-to-one, personal support.

          Personal experiences provide powerful lessons for nannies. Mentors should make an extraordinary effort to coach, model, and share both their failures and their success stories with their protégé. Mentors who can talk about themselves and their experiences establish a rapport with other caregivers that need their encouragement.

          Mentoring is a joint venture that works best as continuous learning. Successful mentoring requires shared responsibility that helps both he teacher nanny and the student nanny. Learning never ends when working as a nanny or when supporting others as a mentor.

          Do you have good coaching skills, are an effective communicator, and are a positive role model to novice nannies? Then you have what it takes to be a mentor. Who has been your mentor in your nanny career?

          Marni Kent has been working as a nanny for 26-years and was awarded the 2002 International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year. She is currently working and living in San Francisco, California. Marni has been the mentor for Stephanie Felzenberg, the editor of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter and this blog.

          Sunday, October 21, 2012

          The Best Shopping Bags: IKEA Shopping Bags

          Product Review Sunday

          Each Sunday I review a product that nannies and au pairs love. Today I am recommending a product I fell in love with because I live in an apartment building, not because I first used it at my nanny job. But recently I realized IKEA shopping bags are very useful at my nanny job as well in my personal life.

          I love IKEA shopping bags for lugging groceries up and down the stairs to my apartment. They are also a favorite for carrying loads of laundry to the laundromat for city dwellers like myself.

          When purchasing food, I still allow the baggers at the grocery store to put the food in either the store's bags or my own reusable shopping bags. Then, I put the grocery bags into my IKEA bag as I unload the food from the shopping cart into the car.

          When I arrive home, or to my employer's house, I simply sling the IKEA bag over my shoulder and both hands are still free to have my keys ready to open the door or carry other bags or supplies.

          If you don't have an IKEA store near you, simply buy some at amazon by clicking the links below. I am certain you won't be disappointed. And if you are a friend or family member of mine you will be getting these for your Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. I love my inexpensive IKEA shopping bags and highly recommend them for nannies and au pairs as well.

          Saturday, October 20, 2012

          Leaf Projects, Children's Books and Lesson Plans

          It's Storytime with Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

          For storytime this week we recommend reading books about autumn leaves. We visited the Scholastic web site for lesson plans about leaves in the Fall. Scholastic recommends reading Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall.

          In Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall, two brothers enjoy everybody's favorite autumn activities: chasing leaves through the air, stomping on them, raking them into piles, and jumping in! While reading this book children will learn how leaves change in autumn. Told Children will be provided with examples of how they can explore and learn about leaves. The last page of the book illustrates how leaves grow and change throughout the year. (Scroll down to end of article to see more children's books about autumn leaves).

          Here are activities to do with children after reading Fall Leaves Fall and other children's books about leaves:

          1. Stomp on leaves, rake them into piles, and jump in!
          Be sure to do what the brothers do in the book Fall leaves Fall and have fun with leaves.

          2. A Fall Leaves Collage
          Also read Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

          You will need paper, markers or crayons, glue, and a variety of leaves. Read the two pages in the book Fall Leaves Fall that depict the brothers holding collages. Have the chidlren use leaves and drawing materials to create their own collages and explain what they did on their collage.

          3. Leaf Rubbings
          Give the child a paper bag and go on a nature hike to collect different types of sturdy leaves. Remove the paper wrapper from several crayons. Place a small piece of tape on stem of leaves and tape to the table. Place a piece of paper over the leaves and use a little tape to hold the paper firmly on the leaves. Have the child rub the side of the crayon over the paper. The leaves shape and features will appear.

          4. Leaf Snack
          Make sandwiches and use leaf cookie cutters to create leaf shaped sandwiches. Alternatively use Jell-O to make Leafy Jigglers

          5. Scavengur Hunt
          Also read We're Going On A Leaf Huntand Leaf Man

          Take the kids on a walk outside with a paper bag and find the items listed below:

          1 red leaf
          1 brown leaf
          Small stones
          Small twigs
          Any other interesting items you can find

          After you have collected your items, take the piece of paper and create a "Nature Creature."

          6. Leaf Sun Catcher

          You will need:
          Wax Paper
          Fall Leaves
          Crayon Shavings
          Iron (do not allow children to iron)

          Cover work surface with newspapers. Sprinkle a small amount of crayon shavings on a piece of wax paper. Arrange leaves on top. Sprinkle more crayon shavings and cover with another piece of wax paper. Place a piece of newspaper on top and iron with a warm iron until crayon shavings melt. Trim and hang in the window.

          7. Songs

          Up on the Treetop
          (to the tune of "Up on the Housetop")

          Up on the treetop
          Watch the leaves.
          They are changing.
          You can see.
          Red and orange,
          Yellow and brown.
          Pretty soon they'll all fall down.

          Cruch, crunch, crunch!
          Walk through the leaves.
          Crunch, crucnch, crunch!
          Walk through the leaves.
          Up on the treetop
          In the fall,
          Leaves are changing
          Watch them all!

          Leaves on the Tree
          (to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus)

          The leaves on the trees turn orange and brown. . .orange and brown. .. .orange and brown
          The leaves on the trees turn orange and brown
          In the town.
          The leaves on the ground go swish, swish, swish. .. swish, swish, swish.. . .Swish, swish, swish
          The leaves on the ground go swish, swish, swish
          Down to the ground
          The leaves on the trees come tumbling down, tumbling down, tumbling down
          The leaves on the trees coming tumbling down
          Down to the ground

          Reference: Scholastic lesson plans

          Friday, October 19, 2012

          Ways to Ensure Your Nanny is a Safe Fit for Your Family

          It’s unlikely that you’ll hire the very first nanny you come across without doing some sort of background research first. After all, you want to make sure that your nanny is someone that you feel comfortable bringing into your home and leaving alone with your kids all day. To help quell any uneasiness you may have about hiring a nanny, run these three different checks on any potential new hire before signing her on as your childcare provider:

          1. Background check: Running a background check on your nanny will uncover any criminal records, tickets, or general misconduct she may have on her record, which will allow you to make a more informed decision about whether you feel comfortable letting her into your home and around your kids or not.

          2. Driving record check: If you expect your nanny to drive your children to and from different activities they’re involved in, take them and pick them up from school, and go on outings and to play dates, then you’ll want to make sure that she has a clean driving record and is safe behind the wheel. Getting a driving record check done will alert you to any speeding or traffic violations she may have so that you can assess if your children will be safe as she drives them around.

          3. Reference check: Following up with her past employers and any other professional references your potential nanny has can help paint a picture of what type of employee she was for her previous employers and what you can expect from her if you were to hire her. If she has a particularly bad reference, however, you still want to give her a chance to explain what went wrong before ruling her out, especially if it’s just one bad reference among several other glowing ones. There’s a chance that her and the employer simply didn’t jive, so you don’t want to put all your stock in one poor reference.

          In addition to these different types of background checks, you’ll also want to interview her a couple times, usually over the phone, in person with just you and then again in person where you observe her interacting with your children, so that you can see if you think she’ll be a good fit for your family or not. By running these three different checks and going through several different interviews with a nanny you’re considering hiring you can move forward knowing that you’re making a safe, solid choice in childcare for your family.

          Author Bio:
          Jack Meyer is a regular contributor for As a detective he wants to spread the knowledge of terrible things that can happen when people don’t fully verify the credentials of a caregiver or any employee. He also writes for various law enforcement blogs and sites.

          Thursday, October 18, 2012

          Kellogg's Mini-Wheats Recalled for Metal Fragments

          The Kellogg Company has voluntarily recalled 2.8 million boxes of Frosted and Unfrosted Mini-Wheats due to a possible metal mesh in the cereal from a faulty manufacturing part, the company said this past week.

          According to the Wall Street Journal the recall will cost Kellog $30 million.

          Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size Original cereal recalled are marked:

          •UPC 3800031829 - 18-ounce carton with Better if Used Before Dates between APR 01 2013 KB - SEP 21 2013 KB
          •UPC 3800073444 - 18-ounce carton with Better if Used Before Dates between APR 01 2013 KB - SEP 21 2013 KB
          •UPC 3800031834 - 24-ounce carton with Better if Used Before Dates between APR 01 2013 KB - SEP 21 2013 KB
          •UPC 3800046954 - 30-ounce carton with Better if Used Before Dates between APR 01 2013 KB - SEP 21 2013 KB
          •UPC 3800031921 - 70-ounce club store carton with Better if Used Before Dates APR 01 2013 KB - JUL 29 2013 KB
          •UPC 3800004961 - single-serve bowl with Better if Used Before Dates between 04013 KB - 09213 KB
          •UPC 3800021993 - single-serve carton with Better if Used Before Dates between AP 04013 - AP 09213 or FK 04013 - FK 09213

          Kellogg's Mini-Wheats Unfrosted Bite Size cereal recalled are marked:

          •UPC 3800021983 - single serve carton with Better if Used Before Dates between FK 04013 - FK 09213
          •UPC 3800035982 -18-ounce carton with Better if Used Before Dates between APR 01 2013 KB - SEP 21 2013 KB

          Consumers with affected products or who have questions should use the "Contact Us" feature on or call 800-962-1413 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday to Friday.

          Wednesday, October 17, 2012

          Add Some Character to Your Pumpkins

          Wednesdays With Whitney
          Fall is all about pumpkins. Pumpkin patches, pumpkin pie, and especially pumpkin carving! However, carving can be a little difficult for the little ones we care for. Let them get more involved with these cute character pumpkins, inspired by Parenting Magazine’s 2012 Halloween Edition.

          ·         Pumpkins
          ·         Glue
          ·         Paint
          ·         Foam
          ·         Googly Eyes
          ·         Toilet Paper
          ·         Fairy Sticker

           Mummy: Create your mummy with toilet paper. Depending on the size of your pumpkin you may need to cut the paper in half lengthwise. Paint your pumpkin with glue and the start wrapping the toilet paper around it. Leave a small strip untouched in the front of the pumpkin to glue on some googly eyes.  

          Frankenstein: Take a plain pumpkin and paint it green to get a good Frankenstein base.  While your paint is drying, create hair and head bolts out of foam to glue to your pumpkin. Add some googly eyes and a stitched up mouth to finish the look.

          Spider Web: Start with a white pumpkin, whether it’s painted or not. Next use the indented vertical grooves on your pumpkin as a guide to paint vertical black spider web lines. Once the paint dries, make a painted black spiral that starts and the stem and ends at the bottom of your pumpkin. Add a foam spider to make it extra spooky.
          Tinkerbell: Start by placing a well-defined fairy sticker in the middle of your pumpkin. Now paint over it with a bright green color, covering the entire pumpkin. While the pumpkin is still wet, sprinkle green glitter on it to add a sparkle of fairy dust to your creation. Now remove the sticker and let the pumpkin dry for a magical Halloween.

          Tuesday, October 16, 2012

          Do You Have Written Reference Letters?

          How Have You Asked for Written References?

          An anonymous nanny contacted Be the Best Nanny Newsletter asking how she should ask the parents who employ her for a written reference letter without worrying her employers that she's leaving the job. So, we want to ask our readers to help answer her question. Do you have written references and how have you asked for written references from your current and former employers?

          To land a great nanny job, you need great references from former employers. Be sure to ask parents directly if they are willing to be contacted for a job reference before sharing their contact information with potential employers. Also contact your references to let them know they will be receiving phone calls to verify your work history. Do not list someone as a reference unless you have their permission.

          Although parents should always speak directly to some of your job references, written references are important since many of your references may not remember key information included at the time they write the reference letter.

          Many nanny placement agencies and experienced nannies recommend asking for written references from employers annually or during your job performance evaluation. At the very least, you should ask for a written letter of reference every time you change employment. Make a point of asking for a reference letter from the parent. They won't write the letter unless you ask them to do it.

          Some experienced nannies recommend providing the parents with some questions to answer in the written the reference. For example, here are some questions you might ask your employers to answer in your written reference letter:

          1. Can you describe how I have been a reliable employee and have a good work ethic?
          2. Am I able to take direction well?
          3. Can you describe how I interact with the children?
          4. How have I supported you as a parent?
          5. Can you describe how I handled an emergency?
          6. How have I stood out as a nanny?
          7. How have I gone above and beyond being the best nanny for your family?

          Please share with us how you have asked for written reference from your employers? If you asked them to ask specific questions, what questions did you ask the parents to answer?

          Monday, October 15, 2012

          Should Nannies and Au Pairs Speak to a Family’s Former Nanny or Au Pair?

          Have You Ever Spoken to the Former Nanny or Au Pair that Worked for a Family Before Accepting a Nanny Job?

          On our list of questions to ask parents during a nanny interview we recommend asking the parents if you can speak with their former nanny or au pair. But, when I ask my nanny friends if they ever spoke to a former employee of a family before accepting a new nanny job, they all said they haven't asked the parents if they can speak to their former employee.

          Speaking with a former childcare provider hired by the parents can help you get an in-depth view of what it’s like working for the family. The hope is that the former, or current, employee will share important information about the job. Hopefully the caregiver will confirm that the parents will pay you promptly, treat you fairly, and they treat their domestic employees with respect. But, it is most beneficial if the former or current nanny can share specific tips on caring for the children.
          Unfortunately, there is always a risk that a disgruntled employee might give an undeserved bad reference of the family. You should also consider that just because one nanny doesn’t like working as a nanny for a family doesn’t mean that you won’t like the job.

          Do you think nanny candidates should be allowed to speak with a former nanny or au pair who worked for the family?

          Sunday, October 14, 2012

          Just 9-Days Left to Help Nanny Raise Money to Get Her Children's Book Published

          Fornax, the Friendly Toothbrush by Tiffaney Stoehr

          The children's book Fornax, the Friendly Toothbrush takes kids inside a young boys fantasy, wherein he imagines his teeth as an amazing playground that needs to b cleaned.

          The author, Tiffaney Stoehr, has been in the professional child care business for over 15-years. After writing educational and training manuals for companies, she is now writing her own children's book.

          She wrote Fornax, the Friendly Toothbrush  because while working as a nanny she always had a hard time getting the kids she cared for to brush their teeth. She started telling the kids the story about Fornax the friendly toothbrush, to get them to brush their teeth. She has been telling this story for many years and has finally decided to write it down so that she can share it with everyone.

          With your support, she hopes to make it into a book that can shipped out to kids all over the world. The money raised will cover the illustration, printing, binding, publishing, and the fulfillment of the rewards. If she raises more money then the $7000, she can make an animated ebook for kids to enjoy.

          She had 30-days to raise $7,000, but now there are only nine-days left. If she raises $7,000 the money will be used to publish her book.

          Saturday, October 13, 2012

          The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

          Apple Activities to Do With Kids

          This week I borrowed The Season's of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons from the library and did the following activities with the toddler in my care.

          The Season's of Arnold's Apple Tree is about a little boy named Arnold, and his little brown dog. He has an apple tree in his yard, and the story takes the reader through the four seasons based on what happens to Arnold's apple tree.

          Arnold likes to climb up into the tree because he can see far away in every direction. In the summer time he climbs the tree and plays in it and he hangs a swing off of it's branches. When fall approaches the apples start to grow and ripen. Arnold puts a ladder up into the tree and climbs it so he can pick the apples.

          Of course, after the apples are picked, the family makes them into apple pie and there is even a recipe for apple pie included in the story. The story talks about how you make apple cider with a cider press, and talks a little bit about honey bees and how they pollinate plants.

          1.While Reading the Book Ask These Questions:
          What happens to the apple tree in the fall?
          What does the tree look like in winter?
          Do different types of apples come from the same tree?
          What other fruits grow on trees?

          2. Make the Apple Pie Recipe Found in The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree

          3. Blind Apple Taste Test: Buy two very different tasting and looking apples such as red delicious apples and granny smith apples. The red delicious apple is red and has a mild flavor while the green granny smith apple is tangy and sometimes sour. Cut up the apples in cubes. Have the kids close their eyes and put a tiny piece of apple in their mouth and have them guess if they are eating the red apple or the green apple.

          4. Smelling Apples: Place one of each type of apple in a small basket or container. Tell the class that they will each have a turn to smell the different types of apples. Ask them to compare the different apple smells. Do the different-color apples all smell similar? It is important to encourage hands-on sensory exploration of the apples.

          5. Apple Stamps: Click here to see how to make apple stamps.

          6. Hand Print Apple Tree Craft: Click here for a simple craft to make apple trees with the kids.
          7. More Apple Recipes: Cook with apples. At breakfast you can serve apple pancakes or apple muffins. Serve apple sauce with lunch or pack it in their lunchbox. For snacks simply slice up an apple and let kids dip it in peanut butter. Kids love making baked apples. You can even make an apple crisp or an apple pie for dessert after dinner. Click here for our recipe for candy apples.

          Friday, October 12, 2012

          What Not to Post About Yourself on Social Media

          What have you seen nannies and au pairs post on social media that would turn off a potential employer?

          Yesterday we discussed what you should never post on the Internet about the children you care for at your nanny or au pair job. Today we list information you should never post on social media about yourself.

          With the presidential election only a few weeks away what shocks me most is when I see nannies that are unemployed posting radical images and comments about politics. Even if a potential employer will be voting for the same presidential candidate as you, when the google your name they should only find positive comments and professional images of you as a caregiver. Parents don't want to see that a potential caregiver of their children spends their time sharing hateful images or comments about politics, or any topic, when they google your name.

          You also want employers see appropriate photos of you online. I recommend not posting suggestive photos of yourself on the Internet. Photos of with friends and family are fine to post on Facebook and Twitter, but I don't think posting images of partying creates a positive image of anyone to any future employer.

          Of course, there are safety issues regarding identity theft and not giving clues to potential burglars to rob your home to avoid online as well.

          Here is my list of what not to post on social media that I’ve seen in articles by others over the past few years:
          • Don’t post issues you have with your job or complaints about your boss
          • Don’t post seductive photos or images of partying which may turn off potential employers
          • Don’t post extreme views on race, religion, or politics
          • Don’t link personal sites to professional business sites like LinkedIn
          • Don't post your street address as it is an invitation to burglars
          • Don’t post answers that are used as security questions or passwords online or for your bank, utilities, or other personal accounts such as: your place of birth, your mother's maiden name, the name of your first pet, what street you grew up on, and so on
          • Don’t post financial information such as how much money you make
          • Don’t post when you are leaving on a vacation
          • Don’t post your daily schedule because burglars have been known to use these little hints to their advantage
          • Don’t post any information about court dates or if you are being sued as that can be used against you in court or in legal issues
          What did we forget? What have you seen nannies and au pairs post on social media that would turn off a potential employer?

          Thursday, October 11, 2012

          Nanny Starts Petition After Seeing Man Watching Porn in Library

          Should adults be able to watch porn at the library?

          CBS News explains adults are protected, under the First Amendment, to watch legal pornography at public libraries. The only thing off-limits is child porn. See CBS News clip below.

          Are You Sharing Too Much About the Kids Online?

          Have You Ever Regretted Something You Posted About a Child On Social Media?

          When is posting photos and information about the kids you care for on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube too much?

          To answer that question you may want to start by asking the parents if you are allowed to share the information or image of the child. That's right, as nannies and au pairs we are employees, not the parents of the children in our care. We must respect the parents wishes when it comes to sharing information and image of their kids on the Internet, even if we think all of our friends and family are safe and kind and would never be a risk to the children or family.

          Ask yourself if the parents or the children would be embarrassed or hurt if you posted a comment or image of the kids online. Are you posting something that should remain private? Is what you are posting hurtful to someone else?

          Below is a list of information that shouldn't be posted about kids online. Please let me know what I forgot in the list.

          Don't post the following about your charges anywhere online:
          • Their names
          • Their ages
          • Their contact information such as their home address, phone number, or email address
          • The name and address of the school they attend
          • Their parents names
          • Don't use a child's name in photo tags or captions
          • When, where, and how long the kids and their family will be on vacation
          • Photos of the children without parental permission

          Wednesday, October 10, 2012

          Creative Fall Painting

          Wednesdays With Whitney

          Do you ever feel like painting can be monotonous with toddlers? Giant blobs here, tiny scribbles there. Young children get bored easily with the same old paintbrushes and the same old pictures. Change up your painting this fall with by adding some texture and creativity to your children’s masterpieces.


          • Apples
          • Small or Medium Sized Pumpkin
          • Paint
          • Craft Sticks


          1. Pumpkin Bowl:

          Cut your pumpkin in half and let the little ones help you scrape out all the stringy insides. Take off the stem and you can use both halves as paint bowls. It’s a great way to spruce up a painting activity at your child’s Halloween party, especially if you use lots of blacks, oranges, and purples.

          2. Pumpkin Painting:
          Get more creative with the pumpkins by chopping them up even further. You can cut up pumpkin pieces into little shapes for stamps and add a craft stick as a handle. Or you can even let the kids paint with the pumpkin stem as a paintbrush!

          3. Apple Stamps:

          Cut the apples in half and insert a craft stick on the skin side as a handle. Now let your little ones create their own painted apple trees with real apples! Use markers or paintbrushes to add stems and leaves.

          Reference: Whitney adapted this project she used to do as a child, courtesy of her mother, into a fun project for nannies to do with kids. Don't forget to check out Whitney's personal blog at

          Tuesday, October 9, 2012

          Concussions: Do Your Charges Play Team Sports?

          No Head Trauma is Good Head Trauma

          The obesity rate in the United Sates is among the highest in the world. Even the first lady, Michelle Obama, created the Let's Move campaign to help tackle the issue of childhood obesity.

          The Let's Move initiative states "Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight."

          Clearly, physical activity, including team sports, are essential to decreasing childhood obesity.
          But, there are dangers for children when playing team sports. In the article Preventing Sports Concussions Among Children from The New York Times we learn that tackle football isn't the only dangerous team sport for kids to play.

          We recommend that caregivers check out the article by Robert C. Cantu, to see the rules he would like changed in team sports to help protect children from head trauma and other injuries.

          The other dangerous sports he discusses include:

          Ice Hockey
          Field Hockey
          Girls' Lacrosse

          Do the kids in your care play team sports?

          Don't forget to see the changes the author would like to see written into the rules of team sports across the country, click here.

          Check out the author's new book Concussions and Our Kids: America's Leading Expert on How to Protect Young Athletes and Keep Sports Safe.

          Monday, October 8, 2012

          If You Are (or Were) a Parent Would You Hire a Manny?

          Scott Cartmill of "Beverly Hills Nannies"
          Do You Personally Know Any Male Au Pairs or Nannies?

          When I saw the title of this article The First Manny is Admitted to a Top Nanny College in England
          from ABC News I thought, "It's about time."

          When I first started working as a nanny in the 1990s I knew a few male au pairs and they were excellent child care providers and great people.

          While watching the American television reality show Beverly Hills Nannies I fell in love with the male nannies on the show. When the program started I asked parents in the town I work in if they would ever hire a male nanny. Almost all of the responses were clouded by articles about sex offenders and pedophiles and they blurted out "No!"

          But, when I specifically asked if they would hire a nanny like Scott on Beverly Hills Nannies they all agreed that they would like a Manny like Scott.

          So, I think if parents actually took the time to actually meet some of the wonderful, educated men that work as nannies, their opinion would change.

          Do you know any male nannies or au pairs personally?

          Sunday, October 7, 2012

          Kids Love Easy-to-Make Ebelskivers

          photo from Nordic Ware
          Product Review Sunday

          The family I work for has an ebelskiver pan and mix and I tried it out with tremendous success. So, this Product Review Sunday, I highly recommend a cast-iron ebelskiver pan, ebelskiver mix, and a fun cookbook with recipes for some delicious ebelskivers.

          A tradition in Danish homes, aebleskivers or ebelskivers are a type of pancake cooked in a special stove-top pan made with half-round molds. The center is soft and fluffy and the outside is crispy and slightly browned. In Europe, ebleskivers are traditionally plated in threes, dusted with powdered sugar or filled with berry jams and served with hot coffee. They are a standard for afternoon coffee breaks or late night snacks.

          But, I have found it simple to use for breakfast and snacks here in America for the kids in my care. The kids I care for love blueberries in the round pancakes for breakfast and hazelnt spread for dessert.

          1. Ebelskivers: Danish-Style Filled Pancakes And Other Sweet And Savory Treatsby Kevin Crafts

          Ebelskivers cookbook offers 40 mouthwatering recipes for the Danish-style pancakes, ranging from traditional to whimsical and everything in between. This book includes everything you need to know to make and fill these treats, plus step-by-step photographs and recipes for sauces, toppings, and glazes.

          2. Nordic Ware Danish Ebelskiver Pan

          The shape defines ebelskiver, not the ingredients, and only an ebelskiver pan delivers. Safe on gas or electric stovetops, this one is made from heavy cast aluminum so it won't warp. And it's nonstick, to make flipping the pancakes easy and cleanup a snap. I love that the wood handles stays cool to the touch making it easier to make ebleskivers.

          3. Stonewall Kitchen Ebelskiver Mix

          This ebelskiver mix makes it simple to create the perfect round pancake with a soft and fluffy center and a crispy and slightly browned outside. Experiment with different fillings and toppings – jam or berries for breakfast or cheese and herbs for a uniquely delicious appetizer or snack.