Thursday, February 28, 2013

Parents Guide to Nanny Taxes

How to Pay Nannies Legally

To hire a nanny without a diligent background check puts a family, their house, and children at risk. To hire a nanny without doing a diligent search of applicable tax rules and hiring regulations puts the parents' reputation and finances at risk.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines a nanny as an employee. Click here to see the definition. It does not matter if the employee is hired full-time, part-time, or for seasonal work. It also does not matter whether the nanny is paid on an hourly, daily, weekly, bi-monthly basis, or by the job. Tax law does not distinguish whether the nanny is hired through an agency or any other source.

Parents must file certain forms to report their nanny’s wages and the federal employment taxes for the employee if they pay any of the following wages to the employee.

  1. Social security and Medicare wages.
  2. Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) wages.
  3. Wages from which you withhold federal income tax.
The employment tax forms and instructions they need for 2012 should have been sent automatically by January 31, 2012. For information on ordering forms contact the Taxpayer Advocate at: 1-877-777-4778 or visit www.irs.gov/advocate.

Employment Identification Number (EIN).
Parents must include an employer identification number (EIN) on the forms they file for their nanny. An EIN is a 9-digit number issued by the IRS. It is not the same as a social security number.

If parents do not have an EIN, they should get Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number.
The instructions for Form SS-4 explain how you can get an EIN immediately by telephone or in about four weeks by mail. In addition, the IRS is now accepting applications through its web site at www.irs.gov/businesses/small.

Form W-2. File a separate 2012 Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, for each household employee.
Visit the SSA’s Employer Reporting and Information web site at www.socialsecurity.gov/ for guidelines to file electronically. If the nanny stops working before the end of a tax yeat, parents can file Form W-2 and provide copies to the nanny immediately after they make the final payment of wages.

Schedule H.
Parents use a Schedule H to report nanny taxes if the employers pay any of the following wages to the employee.

  1. Cash wages of $1,800 or more.
  2. Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) wages.
  3. Wages from which they withhold federal income tax.
Parents should file Schedule H with their 2012 federal income tax return by April 15, 2013. If they get an extension to file their return, the extension also will apply to the Schedule H.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Green Eggs (and Ham!)

Wednesdays with Whitney

Dr. Seuss’ birthday is March 2nd and it is National Read Across America week, which means you only have a few days left to prep for the most rhyme-tastic celebration of the year.

 Add a special touch to the day by making (and playing) with some green eggs. Sounds suspicious? Don’t think you’ll like them? Try them! Try them! And you may! Try them and you may I say!




Ingredients

1.  Marshmallows
2. Green M&M’s

Directions

1. Smash up your marshmallow. You’ll want to flatten them as much as possible while still leaving some fluff.

2. Stick a green M&M smack dab in the middle of your marshmallow. It should stick simply from the exposed gelatin of the marshmallow.

3. Serve with a side of silliness. Only let the kids eat the “eggs” in the dark, in a box, or with their favorite stuffed fox!

Reference: Whitney shares this project courtesy of her mother who she used to do this project with as a child. Don't forget to stop by next Wednesday for another fun project by Whitney and to check out her personal blog at http://thenaptimenook.com/

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nanny Confessions: I Don’t Like Children’s TV Shows

What are Your Favorite and Least Favorite Children's Television Shows?
By Elizabeth Hawksworth

Unless it’s raining or a child in my care doesn’t feel well I do not turn the television on while working. There are many other things I can be doing with my charges, like crafts, reading books, going to the park, or playing imaginative games.

I never allow young children to view more than a half hour of TV per day or more than an hour for older kids. I don’t allow babies or toddlers to watch television at all.

My nanny confession this week is that I don’t like my charges to watch TV in part because I can’t stand a lot of today’s children’s shows. I don’t like the frenetic pace of shows like “Wow Wow Wubbzy” and I can’t stand the whining that shows like “Caillou” exhibit. And what’s up with “Max and Ruby”?

These children’s shows are irritating and I find that they inspire bad behavior in my charges. I can find much more productive things for the kids to do -- like drawing pictures of our favorite TV show characters instead!

Unless the children specifically ask to watch their favorite show, I usually choose TV shows that are gentle and educational. Limited television viewing should only be used as a quiet break in which I can get some chores done, put a baby down for a nap, or to have some downtime if we have had a busy day. I don’t want to wind my charges up by allowing them to view shows encourage unwanted behavior during our precious TV time!

What are your least favorite children’s shows? What shows do the children in your care love to watch?

Stop by next Tuesday for another Nanny Confession by Elizabeth Hawksworth.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Respecting Professional Boundaries for Nannies

You are a Nanny, Not a Family Member

When the nanny-child-parent relationship is satisfactory for everyone it is easy for parents to praise their employees and affectionately call them "members of the family." But, the reality is that being a nanny is a job. To keep nannies hard-working, reliable, and respectful of the employers' wishes, the parents must not forget that working as a nanny can be a difficult job.

No matter how much nannies love the children left in their charge, typically childcare providers leave jobs because of their relationships with the parents. Loving the children isn't enough for nannies to stay at a job if they are disrespected or underpaid. Nannies will leave jobs to find employment where their efforts and wallets are rewarded.

When parents show random acts of kindness, the caregivers do the same for the parents. When parents arrive home early from work, they should let their nannies go home early too -- with full pay. When parents overlook the playroom not being perfectly tidy, because they notice the kids are happy, it helps nannies overlook their pet-peeves with their jobs as well. In fact, nannies will happily volunteer to run an extra errand for the parents and may even refuse extra money offered to them in an emergency when they appreciate their jobs and their employers.

If parents are reasonable and conscientious about respecting job boundaries of their caregivers, they will get better job performance from their nannies.

10 Ways for Parents to Respect Nanny Professional Boundaries:

1. Sign a work agreement. 
Detail the job responsibilities, house rules, emergency procedures, work schedule, vacation and sick time procedures, compensation, pay frequency, communication and review procedures, and anything else you can think of in a work agreement.

2. Follow the work agreement.
Don't change the terms of the job unexpectedly.

3. Don't be cheap.
No one wants to work for cheap parents. Pay nannies on time, provide enough petty cash to enjoy outings with the kids. Give nannies paid days off, pay them legally, pay them above average, and provide benefits. Give regular and fair raises and bonuses.

4. Compensate for all overtime.
Do your best not to arrive home late. When you arrive home late be sure to call to let the nanny you will be late, thanking them for the inconvenience, and providing the overtime pay.

5. Respect the nanny's privacy.
Don't invade a live-in nanny's private space. Don't gossip with other parents about their salary, benefits, and work habits with friends.

6. Respect the nanny's time-off.
It's especially hard for live-in caregivers to feel like they have time-off. Make sure all family members allow nannies their own space on time-off. Don't consistently text, email, or call live-in or live-out nannies on their time-off.

7. Don't overwhelm the nanny with too many chores.
Nannies are childcare providers. Caring for the children should be their priority.

8. Pet-sitting can be a pet-peeve.
Unless pet-sitting duties are already discussed in the work agreement parents must pay their nannies for walking, feeding, and training pets or hire a separate dog walker to do so.

9. Don't contradict your nanny.
Respect your nanny and don't undermine her decisions in front of the children or you decrease all her power in the children's eyes.

10. Say thank you.

Stop by next Monday for more advice on how to Respect Professional Boundaries for Nannies and Parents.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Nannies Must Use a Medicine Safe

One in Five Teens Has Abused Prescription Medication Found in the Medicine Cabinet

The Number One Cause of Drug Addiction is Medical Prescriptions Given Legally by Physicians, Not Illicit Drugs


I just had a very sobering talk with a local pediatrician. Now that one of my charges has started dating I asked the doctor about my concerns on the subject.

The doctor said to me, "Don't worry so much about dating and sex, worry about drugs that are in the medicine cabinet. Do you know how many 16-years-olds I see that are addicted to prescription medications in your town?"

The pediatrician continued, "The best advice I can give you is to make sure all prescription medications and cough medicine are kept in a medicine safe."

And the research proves she is right. In the United States, it is estimated that about 2,500 teens daily abuse prescription "legal" drugs for the first time. Most of them get those drugs from the family medicine cabinet.

According to The Partnership for a Drug-Free America one in five (20%) of teens have abused a prescription pain medication. One in five teens report they have abused prescription stimulants and tranquilizers. One in ten teens has abused cough medicine.

The bathroom medicine cabinet is the first place kids will look for drugs. Teens wanting to get "high" will visit the homes of friends, ask to use the bathroom, and go straight for the medicine cabinet. Remove prescription medications from the family medicine cabinet and secure them in a medicine safe.

Children are known take medication to get "high" at as young as 12-years-old. So, the discussion about the dangers of prescription medications should start when children are young.

If someone in the household is taking pain killers, tranquilizers, stimulants, or cough medicine secure the medications in a medicine safe.





Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Book Reviews by Kids for Kids
Review by Isabella, 9-Years-Old

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballsby Judi Barrett is a story that takes place in a small town called Chewandswallow (chew and swallow). The food falls from the sky. In the morning it rains orange juice, sunny-side-up eggs, and pieces of toast. They still have restaurants but they have big holes in the roofs.

One day the sky began to rain bad food. For example, some of these bad foods were bread honey and soda sandwich, moldy bread, and plain Gorgonzola cheese. Then things got worse. Meatballs started out the regular size, then they become the size of a Burger King store, then the size of a mountain. There was so much food was coming down that the workers that pick up all of the leftover food quit their jobs.

Everyone had to move to a new land. They had to get used to buying food from the supermarket.

My favorite part is when everyone has to go outside with their forks, spoons, plates, knives, and napkins so they can catch their food while they're walking or driving somewhere. I love the illustrations showing the people catching the food.

I got this book and movie together as a birthday gift and I think it makes a great gift. After reading the book, watch the movie!




Friday, February 22, 2013

How to Check if Your Nanny Can Legally Work in the United States

Parents Guide to Nanny Taxes

Yesterday we asked if immigrant reform will affect nannies working in America. It is unlawful for parents to knowingly hire or continue to employ an alien who cannot work legally in the United States.

When parents hire a nanny to work for them on a regular basis, they must complete the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. No later than the first day of work, the nanny must complete the employee section of the form by providing the necessary information.

Parents must complete the employer section by examining the documents presented by the nanny as evidence of their identity and employment eligibility. Some documents parents will need to photocopy may include: a social security card, U.S, passport, driver’s license, or Alien Registration Receipt Card (also known as an Immigrant Visa or Permanent Visa).

Parents should keep the Form I-9 in their records. The form does not need to be submitted to the IRS it simply must be kept available for review upon notice by an authorized U.S. Government official.

Visit www.uscis.gov to get the Form I-9.

Nanny employers should call the USCIS at 1-800-870-3676 to order the Handbook for Employers; or you may download the handbook at www.uscis.gov. If parents have questions about the employment eligibility verification process or other immigration-related employment matters, contact the USCIS Office of Business Liaison at 1-800-357-2099.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Will Immigration Reform Help the Nanny Industry?

Tax Evasion by American Citizens Hurts the Economy as Much as Hiring Illegal Immigrants

Yesterday, President Barack Obama promised that Congress will pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Immigration reform will affect the nanny industry in America because a large number of nannies working in America are illegal immigrants.

In April 2012, the results of a Be the Best Nanny Newsletter monthly poll showed that nannies blame illegal immigrants working at nanny jobs as the number one reason American citizens are having a hard time finding great nanny jobs. With fear of deportation, illegal immigrants are less likely to demand workers rights such as minimum wage, overtime, sick days, or raises. Our survey indicated that many American nannies feel that the willingness of illegals to work at dramatically lower rates drags down the compensation for all workers and/or steals jobs from American workers.

But, Nannygate (tax evasion by American nannies) is also a huge problem for nannies and the U.S. economy. It is estimated that more than 90-percent of American citizens working as nannies do not pay taxes. When American citizens are paid in cash (don't pay taxes) the workers cannot benefit from paying taxes and having a record of salary and that drags down the American economy and infrastructure as well.

Bloomberg Businessweek Government's Director of Research Robert Litan explains millions of undocumented workers are already working in America. They will not be stealing jobs they already have. When immigrants become legal citizens they pay taxes, open bank accounts, and gain dignity and incentives to advance their own lives by obtaining further education and higher wages.

Kathy Webb of 4nannytaxes.com explains that to make it easier for immigrants to gain citizen status the workers will need a work history, file back employment taxes, and have a clean record to obtain legal status.

In fact, more will be asked of the immigrants seeking citizen status than of the 90% of citizens working as nannies that don't pay taxes.

Immigrants wishing to become citizens are required to pay taxes, have a work history, and have clean records to become legal citizens. Immigrants are also good for the economy because they spend their incomes on American goods and services and help raise the productivity of U.S. businesses. Experience shows that legalized workers also buy homes and start businesses, further stimulating the U.S. economy.

To truly reform the nanny industry and improve working conditions for domestic workers, American citizens must insist on being paid legally, just as their ancestors did when they came to this country. Making citizens pay taxes is just as important as creating comprehensive immigrant reform.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Baking Cup Flowers

Wednesdays with Whitney

We’re in that terrible last stretch of winter. Everything is so cold and dreary looking – it’s no wonder so many people suffer from seasonal depression. Brighten up your day with these colorful baking cup flowers. Below are directions on making these flowers for a cork board, but you can use an array of craft supplies to make different versions of these early spring bloomers.





Supplies

• Baking Cups
• Paint
• Cork Board
• Colorful Push Pins

Directions

1. Start by letting the kids paint their baking cups. Encourage bright summery colors!
2. Once the baking cups dry, have the kids pin them up to the cork board! To create a flower design, be sure to include the stigma and a stem if you can wrangle up green push pins.
3. While you are helping the kids pin up their flowers, be sure to explain the anatomy of the flower and how the different parts interact with each other. Check out the flower Wikipedia page to give yourself a refresher! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nanny Confessions: Leave Special Toys At Home

Does a Child in Your Care Bring a Special Toy or Stuffed Animal With Them Everywhere They Go?
By Elizabeth Hawksworth

For this week’s nanny confession I asked one of my good friends who works at a daycare center to chime-in on some of the things she wishes daycare parents knew. She mentioned that children often want to bring toys from home to daycare and that it can make the day harder. Here’s what she has to say:

“I don’t mind if a child wants to bring a toy to comfort him during a nap or a rough transition, but special toys at daycare can make everyone’s lives harder. What happens if the toy gets lost or broken? Toys at daycare are often very distracting to our daily rhythm. If a child would like to bring a comfort item for naps, I require the toy to stay in the child’s cubby until nap time. And preferably, I’d like the special toy to stay at home after a reasonable transition time. I don’t want to have to console a broken-hearted child at the end of the day because his favorite teddy bear got ripped or dirty. It helps me when parents are on board with our policies regarding special toys. When we have help to gently persuade the child to leave his favorite items at home or in his cubby, the day runs much more smoothly.”

As a nanny, I can sympathize with not wanting children to bring their favorite stuffed animals or toys with them on outings. I usually allow children to pick out one toy to play with in the wagon or stroller when we’re walking to an activity. But, once the activity begins, it goes into the diaper bag or the bottom of the stroller.

There’s a time and place for special toys – what’s your policy regarding toys from home? How do you deal with a child who wants to bring a favorite toy everywhere? Sound off in the comments!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Parents Want Nannies to File 1099 to Avoid Paying Employment Taxes

Parents Ask Nannies to File as Self-Employed to Help Themselves, Not Their Nannies

Parents that ask their nannies to file a 1099 are helping themselves, not the nannies they employ. Parents ask nannies to file a 1099 to avoid paying employment taxes. The IRS defines nannies as employees so parents that employ nannies must provide their employees a W-2.

In an article at 4nannytaxes.com it reads, "Worker misclassification - the practice by an employer of treating an employee as an independent contractor for purposes of avoiding employment taxes - is a constant issue in the field of household employment. Many household employers - and employees - simply feel this is easier, that the tax forms are too complicated, or the tax expense too high."

Tom Breedlove of Breedlove and Associates explains, "The IRS has ruled definitively that nannies and most other domestic workers should be classified as employees. Misclassifying them as independent contractors is considered tax evasion and offenders are saddled with back taxes, penalties, and interest. If caught, it is an extremely expensive mistake for families. Being classified as an independent contractor is not only illegal, it's financially bad for the nanny. That's because independent contractors are required by law to pay for both halves of the FICA taxes (social security and medicare)."

In another article at 4nannytaxes.com it clarifies, "Your nanny must be provided a Form W-2 every year for wage and tax reporting, and you must make payments to the Internal Revenue Service for Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as the Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA). It is improper to issue a Form 1099 to a nanny who earned $1800 or more (2012) in the year. Prosecution for willful misclassification of employees as contractors is an enforcement priority of the US Department of Labor, and the Internal Revenue Service has entered into information sharing agreements with many states, including New York, California and Virginia, to facilitate enforcement."

Nannies must file a W-2. If nannies aren't provided a W-2 the nanny should explain to the parents of the error and ask for a W-2  to be mailed or issued to them. If the parents fail to provide a W-2 the nanny should call the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 1-800-829-1040 and provide the employer's name, address, telephone number, and if available, an employer identification number (FEIN). The IRS will contact the parents and request a substitute W-2.

Missing W-2s are not an excuse to delay filing a tax return. If a W-2 or reissued statement cannot be obtained by the tax filing deadline, employees can use Form 4852, or "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." This form and instructions are available online at the IRS website. Complete the form using information from your paycheck stubs and banking records. Answer all the questions. Attach Form 4852 to your tax return in the place of the missing W-2. Using a Form 4852 may delay a refund because the IRS will need to verify information.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Products Nannies Love: Blooming Bath

Product Review Sunday

It's difficult to bath an infant in a typical bathtub so most nannies and parents bath infants in a sink.

When bathing a baby in a sink, Blooming Bathcreates an adorable, safe, fun, and convenient bath time experience for babies. The Blooming Bath’s plush materials cradle and cushion babies like no other baby tub can. Forget about those hard plastic baby bath tubs or baby bath seats that are uncomfortable and don't cradle your child during bath time. It’s a unique, easy, hassle-free experience that allows you to enjoy those special moments bathing infants.

Using and caring for Blooming Bath couldn’t be easier. Push it into a sink and it creates the perfect cushioned cradle to wash babies. The Blooming Bath surrounds babies keeping them warm and feeling safe.

When finished, gently squeeze out the excess water and throw it in the dryer for 10-minutes or use the hanging loop to hang it to dry in the shower. Blooming bath is made using antimicrobial foam and a mesh back so there is no risk of mildew or mold. The only complaint I have heard about this product is that it is large when trying to store it flat.

But, older kids enjoy using the dry Blooming Bath as a floor pillow to lay down and read books or watch a movie on.

I highly recommend Blooming Bath and feel that it is priced just right. It makes a perfect baby shower gift too.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett

Weekly Trip to the Library
Review by Whitney Ziebarth

The best part of being around children is hearing them giggle. It’s the perfect balance between those fine dining hearty squeals and the “you think I’m going to laugh at that?” silent chuckle. Children’s giggles are infused with everything happy in this world and can chase away even the scariest of monsters. Unless, of course, that monster is the Tickle Monster. Instead of giggles chasing him away, he chases giggles away, making sure every last one is out of your little one’s tummy.

Josie Bisett captures this sneaky guy within the confines of a 36-page book for just long enough to get the inside scoop on the curious little monster we all invite into our homes on a daily basis. While he sticks around, we learn that he has big furry paws, comes from Outer Space (Planet Tickle to be exact), and has an insatiable appetite for little footsies (necks, knees, and tum-tums are also to his particular liking).

The best part about this book is that every time your little one opens it up, the Tickle Monster is bound to be close by. So lay out your welcome mat and strap on your tickle hands (no, seriously….any Tickle Monster Laughing Kit comes with a pair of tickle mitts), for Bissett’s book is a great way to get the giggles out of your own squirmy little monsters!








Friday, February 15, 2013

Does the Family You Work for Have an Emergency Plan?

What to Include in an Emergency Plan
By Allen Miller 

It’s never comfortable to think about what your family should do or how you should prepare in the event of an emergency, natural disaster or crisis, but the safety and well being of your household could very well depend upon your forethought. Making a definitive plan for how everyone should proceed and what to expect in case an emergency arises could easily mean the difference between surviving it unscathed and suffering devastating loss. In addition to making sure that you have enough non-perishable food, water and first aid supplies to last your family for several days, you should also have a plan in place that includes certain information so that everyone is on the same page and no one is ever left behind.

Chosen Family Contact Information
Every member of your family should have the information of two dedicated contacts in the event of an emergency; one locally-based loved one or family friend, and one that does not live in the area. These contacts can serve as a liaison, making sure that everyone is accounted for should a disaster or emergency situation strike during the hours of the day when you’re separated. Making sure that you have a local contact who can provide assistance for emergency situations that do not affect your entire city can help you reunite your family, but it’s important to also have another that lives far from your area, who wouldn’t be likely to suffer the effects of a natural disaster or catastrophic weather event that affects your household. Everyone should know how and when to make contact with these individuals, even if it means providing younger children with a card to carry with them that contains the pertinent information.

Safe Places
If your home is rendered unsafe by an emergency situation or natural disaster, you should have an appointed “safe place” that everyone in your family can reach, even if you’re not all together when the emergency arises. Settling on your safe place as a family and discussing when everyone should make their way to that location ensures that everyone is equipped with the information they need to make a proactive effort to help themselves and reconnect with the rest of the family.

Evacuation Plans
In case of fire or other emergencies that would require you to evacuate your home, you’ll need to determine the best and most effective routes for each member of your family to take. Make sure that younger children have someone that’s designated to help them, and that you practice fire and emergency drills periodically to ensure that everyone knows their role and how to escape safely.

Pet Care Plans
The four-legged members of your family will require attention and care in the event of an emergency, which is why you should make sure that there is a plan in place for their rescue and protection. Arranging a safe haven for your pets may be necessary, as not all Red Cross disaster shelters will allow you to bring yours with you. Your local animal shelter or veterinarian can provide you with information for preferred boarding facilities and kennels, as well as emergency shelters for pets.

Home Care Instructions
Adults and older children in your family should be apprised of basic home care information, including how to properly shut off water, natural gas and other utilities in the event of catastrophic weather. Before providing an older child with instruction in regard to such things, however, you need to ensure that she’s mature enough and capable enough to handle these tasks. Your child should know how to handle the utilities, but should also know that she’s only responsible for them if an adult asks her directly to take care of the situation because they’re not able to do so themselves.

Emergency-Specific Information
By knowing the kinds of natural disasters, severe weather and other emergencies that your area is particularly prone to, you can tailor your emergency plan to fit the most likely situations. For instance, families in the Midwest probably shouldn’t concern themselves with hurricane disaster management, but should have a focused and comprehensive tornado plan in place. Make sure that you’re aware of the most likely emergency situations in your area and that your family is prepared accordingly.

When explaining emergency preparedness to children, it’s important to strike a balance between making the situation seem so dire that it causes them anxiety, and so unlikely that they don’t actually have to remember the specifics of an emergency plan. Explaining the importance of being ready for scary situations even though they probably won’t happen, can help little ones pay proper attention to the information you’re giving them without being afraid that a disaster is lurking around every corner.

Reference: Allen Miller of parttimenanny.org asked us to post this article and gave us permission to do so.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Don't Spend a Dime Celebrating Valentine's Day with Kids

What Are You Doing With Your Charges This Valentine's Day?

Nannies and au pairs can have a lot of fun with their charges without spending a dime of their own money. Although some in-home caregivers like to buy their charges presents and cards I am not even spending my own money on gifts. Instead, I am just going to make some fun meals and yummy treats with the children, borrowing books from the library, and helping the kids make homemade cards for their family.

Helping the kids make their own Valentines has many advantages. Not only are they inexpensive to make, they can become treasured mementos. Simply gather glue sticks, glitter, markers, paint, crayons, construction and craft paper, doilies, rubber stamps, and anything else the kids like to use to make  their own heartfelt Valentine's Day cards.

Breakfast:
I will start my Valentine’s Day celebration at breakfast. It’s easy to make pancakes, then use heart shaped cookie cutters to cut out a Valentine shaped breakfast. I plan to top the pancakes with strawberries. I actually prefer using a thawed bag of frozen strawberries with the juice than fresh strawberries if available. If the parents allow you to, cover the strawberries with plenty of whipped cream.

Lunch:
For lunch I am using the same heart shaped cookie cutters to make Valentine shaped sandwiches. First, use a rolling pin on the bread to make it easier to cut. Spread peanut butter and red jelly or jam on the bread. I don't recommend cold cuts as they are difficult to cut with a cookie cutter. Use cookie cutters to make the sandwiches fun heart shapes.

Dinner:
For dinner, I plan to let the children make their own heart shaped pizzas. I like to buy pre-made pizza dough from the grocery store but you can find mixes in the baking aisle at the store or find dough recipes online. First, I form the dough into hearts. I fill little bowls with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and other toppings the children like. I let them add their toppings to the dough and cook it.


Treats:
If the children love baking you can make a sugar cookie recipe from scratch. But, it is fine to use pre-packaged cookie dough when making Valentine’s cookies with children. Roll the dough out on a non-stick surface. Add a touch of flour to the rolling pin before you try to roll the dough or it will stick. I let the children place the cookie cutters on the dough to cut out Valentine’s shapes. After the cookies cool, allow the children to decorate with white and pink frosting and sprinkles.

Cupcakes are easy to make with a box cake mix instead of making the recipe from scratch. Red velvet cake is great for Valentine’s cupcakes, but any flavor will work. Mini muffin pans create bite size cupcakes for the family to enjoy after dinner. Decorate the cupcakes with creamy icing. White icing can be turned into pink with a bit of red food coloring. Allow the children to stir the white icing and food coloring so they can see the frosting change colors. Use candy sprinkles and cinnamon red hot candies to decorate the cupcakes.

Drinks:
For Valentine’s Day, serve the children red juice. You can find 100% fruit punch juice in any grocery store.

Children's Books for Valentine's Day:

You're Lovable to Me by Kat Yeh
With a rhythmic text and whimsical illustrations, You're Lovable to Me celebrates the love between parent and child that transcends behavior and time and enables a mother rabbit to tell each of her six bunnies that, no matter what, "You're lovable to me." Later, she hears the same words from her own father who stresses that even though she is an adult, "When a papa loves a bunny, that's the way it will always be." Kit Weh's gentle story and Sue Anderson's lively ink and colored pencil illustrations in soft and strong pastels reflect a "big day" and "hard night" in a houseful of love. You're Lovable to Me is recommended for ages two-years old to five-years-old.



Love, Splat by Rob Scotton
Splat, the lovable fluffy black cat with the skinny legs, is back. Splat was first introduced in Rob Scotten's picture book Love, Splat (Splat the Cat). In Love, Splat (Splat the Cat) Splat has a crush on a Kitten, a pretty fluffy white kitten who is in his class. He makes her a Valentine despite the fact that every time she saw him, Kitten "pulled his ears and poked his belly, tied his tail and called him smelly." Shyness, insecurity, and a rival confront Splat, but he conquers them all and finds out, to his delight, the real reason Kitten keeps bothering him. Throughout his adventures, Splat is accompanied by his mouse friend Seymour. This is a funny, yet sweet, Valentine's Day story, recommended for three- to eight-year-olds.



Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
This children's Valentine's Day book is from the Nate the Great detective series for beginning readers by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Nate the Great starts out with one case, finding out who gave his dog a Valentine, and then, his friend Annie asks him to help her find a missing Valentine. This entertaining story, with lots of illustrations by Marc Simont, is both a good read-aloud for four- to eight-year-olds and a good book for beginning readers, in grades two and three.



Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat



Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
The Valentine's Day picture book Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch (paperback), by Eileen Spinelli, wonderfully illustrates the power of love and would make an excellent Valentine's Day gift for a four- to eight-year old. Colorless Mr. Hatch -- who works in a shoelace factory and eats a cheese and mustard sandwich for lunch every day with, just occasionally, a prune -- receives a huge Valentine box of candy with a card that says only, "Somebody loves you.'' Amazed, he samples it, shares it at work and, buoyed by his friendly reception, sympathetically helps several people out on the way home (e.g., he watches the newspaper stall so that its proprietor can take his cold to the doctor). He's soon baking brownies, hosting a neighborhood picnic, and reading to the local kids. Then the postman arrives with the news that the candy was delivered to the wrong address, putting poor Mr. Hatch into a funk; but his devoted new friends rally round to bring him back into their cheerful society. It is a charming book with a powerful message. The importance of love and kindness comes through loud and clear. Even very young children will understand how good it is to feel loved and how important it is to help others feel loved.



References:
Elizabeth Kennedy
Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Card Holder

Wednesdays with Whitney: Hungry Heart Holder

If you care for children that go to school you know what that means…. It means hoards of Valentines coming home on the 14th of February. Make collecting those Valentines a little bit easier this year (and fun) by creating this Hungry Heart Monster with your kiddos. It’s easy for little ones to carry, it’s large enough to keep track of all those Valentines, and it’s a great new addition to your temporary family.





Supplies
  • Clean Milk Jug
  • Paint
  • Marbles
  • Knife
  • Sharpies
  • Paper
  • Ribbon
Directions

1. Start by painting a milk jug. Instead of using paintbrushes on the outside, let the little ones have some fun by shaking around marbles and paint on the inside. Just make sure the cap is on! When the jug is fully colored, empty out the marbles and let the jug dry.

2. Cut out a large mouth for the child’s monster. You can give it teeth, no teeth, a tongue, or even a surprised expression. Just make sure the hole is big enough for little hands and Valentines to fit through. While you’re busy cutting, be sure to make slits for the ears on the sides.

3. Now you can let the little ones cut out ears and hair for their monster. Our ears are made out of two half hearts, but let the kiddos get creative. For the hair, I found it easiest to make slits in a full sheet of paper and then roll it up before placing it through the top of the jug. This way it can hold itself without glue or any adhesives.

4. After you put the hair in, slide the ears through the slits and continue on with the rest of the monster’s facial features. Once again, let the kids get creative.

5. Use ribbon to put some finishing touches on it. Hair ribbons, neck ties, snake like tongues – the monster is your child’s canvas!

This monster will be a well loved household pet for at least a week and he’ll be eager to make an appearance next year for some new alterations.

Reference: Whitney shares this project courtesy of her mother who she used to do this project with as a child. Don't forget to stop by next Wednesday for another fun project by Whitney and to check out her personal blog at http://thenaptimenook.com/

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nanny Confessions: Children Need Regular Naptimes

Meltdowns Solved – Take a Nap
By Elizabeth Hawksworth

One of the biggest concerns for parents and nannies is naptime. Some families advise nannies to let their children nap when they want to sleep, while other parents prefer to prescribe how long their children should nap.
My nanny confession this week is: naptime routines are essential to help children get the sleep they need and prescribed naptimes often don’t work.

Some children get enough sleep when they have a set naptime in which they sleep from a specific time and wake up at another specific time. However, more often than not, waking up children from their naps before they are ready can have unwanted consequences such as tantrums, emotional meltdowns, and lethargy. Sleep deprived, cranky children make nannies impatient and cranky as well.

Well rested children are happier, learn better, eat better, and sleep better at night. Naptime routines are helpful when putting recalcitrant children down to rest. Look for signs that children are tired (such as rubbing their eyes) and put them down at the same time every day to create a naptime routine. Make sure toddlers are dry, full, and warm when putting them down to nap.

Here is a chart to help determine whether the children need one long nap or several shorter naps during the day from The No-Cry Nap Solution: Guaranteed Gentle Ways to Solve All Your Naptime Problems by Elizabeth Pantley.
 

Age
"Happily Awake" span
of time between naps
Newborn
1-2 hours
6 months old
2-3 hours
12 months old
3-4 hours
18 months old
4-6 hours
2 years old
5-7 hours
3 years old
6-8 hours
4 years old
6-12 hours

What do you do to help your charges or children nap better? What works for the kids you look after?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Should Nannies Carry Guns?

Tactical Nanny: Security Guard and Nanny in One

Julia Marsh of The New York Post interviewed Jonathan Gilliam, a former Navy SEAL, who is developing a new nanny agency, Tactical Nanny, offering female military veterans as caregivers. Gilliam came up with the idea, according to the Post, after the horrific slaying of two children in the Upper West side of Manhattan last year allegedly by their nanny.

Gilliam told the Post the former military women being recruited for Tactical Nanny are already trained to protect people and in crisis management. They’ll even come armed if that’s what their client wants.

In the Post he says the military veteran nannies can keep tragedy from happening. The service costs at least $1,500 a week, or about $30.75 a hour, reports the Post.

When asked about mental illness in veterans, in the report below from Pix 11, Gilliam says his program will screen the veterans for post traumatic stress syndrome. Pix 11 explains Tactical Nanny is just a test program right now with just a few military veteran nannies signed on.

Do you think providing female military veterans as caregivers will give parents a peace of mind?

Check out this link for a television interview with Jonathan Gilliam. http://landing.newsinc.com/shared/video.html?freewheel=69016&sitesection=theblaze&VID=24313239

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Baby GoGo is Perfect for Siblings of Newborns

Products Nannies Love

If you know, or work for, someone about to bring a newborn home the Baby GoGo is a perfect gift for the older sibling.

The Baby GoGo dolls are a valuable tool for teaching kids how to nurture and adjust to changes in family life, especially in welcoming a new sibling. Children love to imitate their parents, and a doll gives a child the opportunity to care for something of their very own. Baby GoGo is reinventing the look of the baby doll for the 21st century. Outfitted in bright, gender-neutral colors and patterns, the 13-inch doll is the perfect playmate for a girl or a boy.

The Baby GoGo line includes illustrated storybooks, outfits, and accessories featuring rich, contemporary colors that children will recognize from their own wardrobes and surroundings.

The first book, "Baby GoGo Goes Home"tells children the story of Baby GoGo leaving the hospital after being born and meeting siblings for the first time! The book comes packaged with Baby GoGo dressed in our sleepytime outfit and a cozy, soft blankie. This package is an ideal tool for helping a child prepare for and adjust to a new baby in the house.

The accessories and outfits extend the play value with a diaper bag for children to carry, a bed for baby's naps, an outfit for playtime, and many more to come. Baby GoGo offers children, parents and grandparents the value of classic pretend play, while giving a fresh new look in line with 21st century life.

Every child should have the opportunity to learn to nurture. By removing the traditional ruffles and pastel pink and blue, the makers of Baby GoGo is working to remove gender-bias in toys. Baby GoGo meets toy safety requirements and is packaged in recycled materials, helping to make it a purchase to feel good about. Together we can make our world kinder, cleaner, and safer for our children.






Saturday, February 9, 2013

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Weekly Trip to the Library
Review By Eve Morse

Frog and Toad Are Friends is one of those books that when read for the first time as an adult makes you marvel at the subtleties and humor it contains. It definitely makes you wonder if the subtleties passed us by as children or if we understood them as only children can. Children, and adults, cannot help but be charmed by its humor and gentle story telling. This book is full of learning experiences that children can take with them as they grow up.

Frog and Toad Are Friends is one of four books in the Frog and Toad series. Frog and Toad Are Friends is a collection of five tales about the two friends going about their daily lives encountering small trials and how they deal with them. The major theme is one of enduring friendship and helping others. The Scholastic website recommends it for 8- to 10-year-olds, however it shouldn’t be omitted from the collection parents and caregivers read to younger children and pre-readers. It is never too soon to read stories to children, especially if they can contribute to the many building blocks that make up their future. They will always learn something from a book, no matter how young they are.

Old fashioned humor that never goes out of date

There are so many fantastic books written nowadays but the humor tends to be more obvious and sometimes screaming out of the page at children. Arnold Lobel was a master at quiet, knowing humor. Books with humor help children to learn in a positive way and humor is crucial to creating happy and secure lives and relationships.

In one of the tales in this book called The Story Toad tells Frog who is lying prone in bed that he looks a bit green and Frog says, “But I always look green...I am a frog.” Toad then decides he is going to tell Frog a story in the hope that his condition will improve but he can’t think of a story. So he proceeds to stand on his head, pour a glass of water over his head many times, bang his head against a wall and so on waiting for inspiration, but still no story will come and in the end he starts to feel unsurprisingly poorly and swaps places with Frog who is starting to feel better. Frog then tells Toad a story based on Toad’s unusual attempts at inspiration and then asks him what he thought of the story, but there is no answer as Toad has fallen asleep.

Toad’s attempts to tell the story may have been fruitless but he provided some inspiration and material for his friend. Children will be equally inspired by these tales of perseverance and patience. Reading to children is crucial as excellent literacy skills are an early indicator of future success in their lives and careers.

Frog and Toad can equip children with skills for life

There are many tales of human weakness in these simple stories and children can learn from these and take away ideas and skills for dealing with problems they encounter in life. Julia Donaldson, one of the most successful children’s authors of recent times, has spoken of her envy of the way Arnold Lobel wrote and she cites him as a hero.

Donaldson sees the stories as modern fables about human weaknesses such as greed, self-consciousness and laziness. She sees Toad as the child in the stories and this is the crucial point about these stories, children will recognize themselves and learn from their own mistakes as well as Toad’s, an essential part of maturing and growing up.

In A Lost Button Toad gets very cross and angry that he cannot find his button and despite Frog doing his best to help him, ends up having a tantrum episode screaming, “The Whole World is covered with buttons, and not one of them is mine!” He runs home and slams the door and finds the button at home all along and then feels rather contrite and sorry for Frog. He sews all of the buttons he collected all over his jacket and presents it as a beautiful present to Frog who jumps for joy. This is a good example of how children can take real life lessons from books and put them into practice in their own lives serving them well in the future.

It is crucial that we build on the early foundations of children’s lives by investing in their future, through early reading experiences and longer term financial security through savings. Reading is one of the best ways we can do this, and this book sets a great example as Frog and Toad tell each other stories and write each other letters to read.

However, we also need to ensure that these early years lead to fruitful lives throughout school and college by ensuring children not only learn about money and how to use it wisely, but have access to it when they need it most. The State Treasurer’s Office in Vermont offers a fantastic way of teaching children financial literacy. From kindergarten right through to the 6th grade children learn about personal finance through high quality children’s books in a program calledReading is an Investment.” The books explore financial subjects that with input from the teachers help the children to make a connection between the stories and their individual lives.

This seems a far cry from the idyllic world of Frog and Toad but it is exactly the same concept that Arnold Lobel employed all those years ago helping children relate problems to their own lives. Reading to children every day is such a simple act so we must ensure that it pays dividends in their future education and career by implementing practical measures like saving for their future. By learning from Frog and Toad, who teach each other about friendship and coping with challenges, and through parental financial foresight, children will come away with skills and resources for life and access to a great education funded by long term savings.

Unsentimental tales for children to appreciate

Frog and Toad Are Friends is a perfect book for late afternoon or bedtime reading. It may contain deep themes of friendship and human failings but they are told in a very unsentimental and simple way. This kind of book is always a pleasure to read, and soothing for the child as well as the reader, especially at the end of a busy day for parent or carer. Children will be learning how to cope with seemingly trivial trials in life from Frog and Toad but this is how children learn about how to cope with the bigger challenges in life that you can only prepare them for to a certain extent. You can however rest assured that the children will probably go to sleep calm and thoughtful, dreaming about Frog and Toad and long lasting friendships before grown-up life begins.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Caring for a Newborn

Helpful Hints for Newborn Care Specialists
By Amanda Carlson

Caring for a newborn child can be one of the most strenuous and emotionally draining experiences anyone can face. This life that has been recently brought into this world is dependent on the care specialist for everything. There is no room for error and great attention needs to be paid to every minuscule detail. Although this may be frightening for some, it is a wondrous experience for others. And caring for a newborn requires a great deal of knowledge and work.

1. Carrying and Holding - Always realize that a newborn child does not have the ability to support its own weight in any fashion. Proper support for the head and neck are vital when holding or carrying the baby. Improper lifting of the newborn can cause a severe amount of damage to the infant. Essentially, the baby's muscles need time to develop in order to support and move his or her head about.

2. Feeding - A newborn child can eat every two to four hours depending on the type of meal. Breast milk is easier to digest for an infant which could cause the baby to eat more frequently. Many mothers will leave breast milk behind for the care specialist. If the infant becomes fussy, ensure that it's time to be fed as he or she can be hungry.

3. Sleeping - Sleeping schedules are hard to pinpoint for a newborn. As the infant really doesn't know any better, they break up their own sleeping patterns in a seemingly random time. As a newborn can sleep anywhere from 10 to 20 hours per day, developing a napping schedule may help increase the chances of baby sleeping throughout the night. Try not to let the infant sleep longer than three to four hours per day by waking them up gently and playing with them. Before long, you can create a sleeping pattern for the child.

4. Relentless Crying - An infant will cry in order to express itself. Since the newborn doesn't understand languages, crying is its only true method of communication. There are several things to try if the infant is relentless about crying:

  • Is it time for feeding?
  • Is the diaper full or needs changing?
  • Does the infant need to pass some gas? Burping usually does the trick.
  • Do they need to be comforted? It's a big scary world at that point in time and the infant may simply need someone to comfort them by holding and rocking the child. Music can also be helpful as the child is being comforted.

5. Emergency - Always have the parent contact information on hand in your immediate area. Emergency numbers should also be programmed into your phone and ready with just a touch of the keypad. We would like to think that all will go well on a regular basis, but sometimes the unthinkable happens and you need the emergency information on hand for a quick response.

These are just a few items to be aware of out of many. Entire books are written on the subject of newborn care and new techniques are being developed regularly. This child is relying on you to know how to do what needs to be done. It very well could mean the difference between life and death.

Author Bio:
Amanda Carlson, a blogger as well as a former newborn care nurse contributed this post. To stay connected to her previous career and share the knowledge she gained, she began writing for www.newborncare.com. You can reach her at amanda.newborncare @ gmail.com.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Should Nannies Insist On Use of Nanny Cams to Protect Themselves?

Nanny Arrested Abusing Infant on Nanny Cams

Yesterday we learned of another nanny had been arrested after slapping and shaking an infant was caught on video in Staten Island.

Nannies and au pairs don't want to be video taped while working and many in-home caregivers are insulted if parents install nanny cams. But video surveillance is common place in daycares, corporate businesses, and even department stores. And, when caregivers are arrested after parents and police see abuse of a child on video surveillance, like what was reported yesterday, it's easy to see why parents use nanny cams.

There are other technologies parents may use to track their caregivers as well. Global positioning systems (GPS) may be in the cars used by nannies to transport children. Employer supplied cell phones may also be used to locate the nannies. Using GPS systems to monitor where nannies and children go is legal.

Parents may also require nannies to be photographed and fingerprinted. A few may even ask nanny candidates to be screened for drugs.

Nannies often complain about the use of nanny cams but I wonder if it wouldn't be smart to insist on the use of nanny cams to protect ourselves from suspicion of abuse or theft? Wouldn't it be better if we had proof that when a baby trips and bruises himself at play or if the mother misplaces jewelry, that the proof were on video surveillance and the nanny wouldn't be suspect?

As long as the parents are upfront about use of nanny cams in public areas of their homes and never use nanny cams in personal areas such as the bathroom or caregiver's bedroom it might actually protect caregivers from suspicion.

But, the best defense against child endangerment is for parents to do conduct comprehensive interviews, run diligent background checks, criminal checks, and speak personally with references. The goal is to never have the need for nanny cams in the first place.

Even after conducting thorough interviews, background checks, and reference checks some parents may still feel uneasy or suspicious leaving their children alone at home with a new caregiver or worry about damages to their homes or theft of personal property. Whether nannies and au pairs like it or not, video surveillance is a part of our work place. Plus, the development of new technologies is something that we must accept.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Boogie Bucket

Wednesdays with Whitney
By Whitney Ziebarth

This time of year everyone is getting sick. Whether it be the flu, a sinus infection, or just the common cold, kids everywhere are coughing and sneezing. Help the little ones you nanny do something special for their sick friends by making a Boogie Bucket. This twist on a gift basket holds the same thoughtfulness of a get well card, but packs so much more usefulness!

Filled with germ fighting aids and feel good items, this gift basket is sure to get little friends feeling better quickly. What's more is that once emptied, the bucket is the perfect storage unit for all those boogies! Remembering to make it to the garbage can is tough, but a bucket with an easy to grab handle can be carried everywhere and used for those nearly forgetful tissues.

Let the little ones decorate a sand pail for their friends and consider filling it with these suggested items:

• Tissues
• Boogie Wipes
• Orange Juice
• Chicken Noodle Soup
• A Favorite Book
• Small Toy
• Chocolate

The list is endless and each bucket awaits your imagination to fill it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Be Clear About How to Medicate Your Child

Have You Disagreed with the Parents on How to Treat a Sick Child?
By Elizabeth Hawksworth

I was reading my local nanny group’s Facebook page the other day when there was a discussion about giving children medication. It got me thinking about how many children I have looked after who have needed medication for anything from a life-threatening illness to a generic cold or cough, and how much easier it is to care for them when I have clear instructions from the parents about how they would like me to treat their children.

I have worked for families who don’t like to medicate their children, which has made it hard to care for a very sick little person. It’s hard when a baby is teething and I am not allowed to give the child Tylenol or Motrin. It’s hard when a six-year-old has a bad cough and I can’t give him cough medicine. But, as a nanny, I must follow the parents’ directions, despite my own thoughts to the matter.

It is most difficult to treat a sick child when the parents say, “Use your best judgment.” I once medicated a teething baby and was scolded by the mother when she came home. I didn’t realize that she would rather I try other remedies first before medicating the child. I felt like I had failed at my job.

Parents need to provide detailed written instructions on how to care for their children. Nannies must be able to assist doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, or other health care providers with vital information regarding the children. Nannies should keep a record of the children’s allergies, medications they take on a regular basis, pre-existing illnesses, immunizations, and weight handy.

Parents and nannies should keep all emergency contact numbers, health insurance cards, prescription cards, and emergency release forms in a central place in the home (such as in the kitchen and near the phone) in case of emergency. Make sure the parents have signed an Authorization to Treat a Minor Consent Form which provides caregivers written permission allowing them to seek treatment, to authorize treatment, and to discuss treatment with health care providers. Click here to download an Authorization to Treat a Minor Consent Form. Parents will need a signature from a notary public to make the document legal.

It makes a nanny’s job a lot easier when parents provide detailed instruction on how to care for their children.

What do you do when you have a sick child that may or may not need medication? How have you dealt with families that want you to care for your child in a different way than you agree with?