Friday, November 29, 2013

Latkes for Hanukkah

Cooking with Kids: Everyone Loves Potato Pancakes

Many families are still celebrating Hanukkah. Latkes, or potato pancakes, are the traditional Hanukkah dish for Eastern European Jews. But, all children like latkes so all nannies and au pairs should consider making the children latkes during Hanukkah, even if the kids in their care don't celebrate Hanukkah.

The reason that latkes are a traditional Hanukkah dish is because of the oil the latkes are fried in. When the Jerusalem Temple was recaptured and reconsecrated by the Maccabbees, only one night's worth of oil remained to light the temple. Miraculously, though, the oil lasted eight nights, or enough time to make more oil. That's the miracle of Hanukkah. This recipe makes about two dozen small latkes.

We adjusted the recipe slightly but the recipe can be found at

What You Need:
  • 3 large baking potatoes
  • salt
  • 2 T. matzoh meal or flour
  • 1/2 onion
  • black pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
What to Do:

1. Grate the potatoes and the onion. The easiest way to do this is using a food processor.

2 . Mix the grated potatoes and onion, beaten egg, salt and pepper, and matzoh meal or flour in a bowl.

3. Heat a skillet over a medium flame.

4. Add 1 to 2 T. oil.

5. Form the potato mixture into small cakes of about two or three T. per cake. Don't make the cakes too big since they're easier to turn when small.

6. Flatten the cakes slightly with a spatula.

7. Cook until the cakes are nice and brown on the bottom, then turn and cook the other side. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture.

8. Drain on paper towel and serve warm.

9. Applesauce and sour cream are traditional accompaniments for latkes. To make latkes that are kosher for Passover, don't use flour, only matzoh meal.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Au Pair Learns the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Why a Japanese Au Pair Loves an American Thanksgiving
By Nanami

A few years ago I came to America from Japan to work as an au pair for a family with two girls in Morristown, NJ. It was a difficult adjustment. Not only was there a language barrier, but I owned just a few non-Western clothes and I was not used to the American diet. In fact, the first dinner I ate in America was a half of one slice of pizza and my stomach was full. Today I can easily fit three slices (why I have gained nearly 15-pounds since coming to America).

The American family that hired me lives in a large home with more toys than I have ever seen in one place, even in a toy store in Japan. The girls’ closets were filled with clothes, some they had never worn before they had outgrown the outfits. The family with only four members had two refrigerators packed with food.

In Japan, my three sisters and I shared one bed in a small room. The home in America had extra rooms for guests, a room just for playing piano, two for the kids to play, one room for each parent to use as an office, another for movie watching, one for doing laundry, and so on.

The selection of food at the grocery store was overwhelming. I still do not understand why Americans won’t eat a bruised piece of fruit or need so many brands of the same product (for example, just think of how brands of toilet paper there are to choose from). It is also shocking how much perfectly good food the family I work for throws away.

I had to learn how to make pancakes, cheesy scrambled eggs, French toast, bacon, and waffles for the girls’ breakfast. All I have ever had for breakfast in Japan is Miso soup. On a great morning we might add rice to the soup. Yet, even with so many breakfast choices the girls in America would complain. And it is the complaining and whining by the children who have so much that has been the hardest adjustment of becoming an au pair working in America.

If I make pancakes and the girls don't feel like eating pancakes on that particular morning their mother simply throws out the pancakes and will make another meal. It is still upsetting to me that children can be offered such lavish meals, only to complain and then turn-them-down. I think of my clear Miso soup that I typically drink each morning in Japan, and I never even thought to complain.

Coming from such a modest life, to the American culture was difficult mostly because the children are so ungrateful. They seem to lack thankfulness. Having to listen to the two privileged girls whine and complain, despite having so much is very difficult. They have so much: nutrition, material possessions, love and nurturing -- but they always want more. They always compare themselves to each other and then to their friends.

That is why I was so pleasantly surprised about celebrating my first Thanksgiving in the United States of America! What a great way to be thankful. Family and friends come together without sharing any material gifts –- just a lot of food. Unlike the American birthdays or Christmas that I have witnessed in America, during Thanksgiving week the girls' negative attitude changed due to the hard work of their mother. Their mother made an effort to have her children focus on their blessings and on others instead of just themselves.

Here are some of the activities the mother did with the girls to prepare, celebrate, and conclude Thanksgiving week:

1. For a week before Thanksgiving she took the girls to donate ten frozen turkeys and all the side dishes to a local food bank for ten complete Thanksgiving dinners for those that might not be able to afford the meal that year.

2. Each night before bed for that week leading up to Thanksgiving she helped the girls list reasons why they are thankful for each guest they had invited to Thanksgiving dinner. They made lovely cards and listed on the cards the reasons they are thankful for the person. Then, during the meal, they asked everyone at the table to voice at least three things they are thankful for as well.

3. The week of Thanksgiving she also helped her children clear out their playroom and closets to donate old toys and clothes to the Salvation Army.

4. Then, on Thanksgiving day the family invited a few elderly guests to join their extended family for dinner. The seniors were members of their church who have children or other family living far away.

I just loved that each guest brought a dish to share at the Thanksgiving dinner. I loved that the mother asked everyone to say what they are thankful for. I loved that we packed up food for each guest to bring home with them after dinner.

I was also pleasantly surprised that on the day after Thanksgiving (which is known as America’s busiest shopping day of the year) the mother took me with the girls shopping to make holiday care packages for American soldiers. The packages included soap, razors, toothbrushes, and travel-sized toiletries. But the most fun was packing cards and games (like crossword puzzles) and books and magazines for the soldiers.

I am thankful the family opened their hearts, home, and minds and invited me into their home. The mother bought me American style clothes to help me fit in, I gained nearly 15-pounds (I just love French fries and pizza), and have made friends with a great family. I hope I will be able to come to America to visit them again and someday they can me in Japan.

Most of all, I loved Thanksgiving. I hope all nannies and au pairs reading this will incorporate some of the activities my Host Mom did with her girls for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Cornucopias

Cooking With Kids

Cornucopias, sometimes called Horn of Plenties, are a common symbol of Thanksgiving. Typically cornucopias are filled with the produce, flowers, and foods of the harvest. Here's a quick and easy cornucopia made with ice cream cones for the kids for Thanksgiving.

What You Need:

Waffle Cones or Large Sugar Ice Cream Cones
Favorite Little Snacks (We used Goldfish, Mini Pretzels, Chez-It's, Chex Cereal, and Mini M & M's)
White Chocolate Chips or Melting Chocolate from Craft Store
Waxed Paper
Plastic Wrap
Rubber Bands

What to Do:

1. Set up a work station assembly line on a counter close to the microwave. Set up waxed paper, ice cream cones, a bowl of chocolate, and a bowl of sprinkles so they are ready to use.
2. Soften about one-cup of white chocolate chips or melting chocolate from craft store in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave on high in 30-second intervals. Stir the chocolate often until the chocolate is melted. Simply repeat the process of softening chocolate in small batches since it hardens quickly.
3. Once the chocolate is softened you will need to work quickly before the chocolate hardens. Dip the wide tip of an ice cream cone in the softened chocolate, then roll in the sprinkles before the chocolate hardens. Place the cone on the waxed paper until it hardens. Repeat with other ice cream cones.
4. After the cone has hardened completely, fill with candies and small treats.
5. To transport simply cover the cornucopias with plastic wrap and use the rubber band to secure the wrap. Tie a ribbon around to hide the rubber band.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Apple Dumpling Dessert

Cooking With Kids

Kids love this easy apple dumpling dessert found on Food Network because it tastes like apple pie but they each can enjoy their own individual dessert. Simply core and peel apples and wrap them in their own pastry shell before baking.

See how to  make this easy dessert by visiting our new blog address at

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Starting a New Nanny Job

What You Need to Know When Starting a New Nanny Job

Before starting a new nanny position caregivers and parents should sign a work agreement, fill out necessary tax paperwork such as Form W-4, and fill out and submit any applications for benefits being offered to the new employee.

Most nanny placement agencies should be able to provide employees and employers with essential paperwork such as a sample work agreement, daily logs, permission for treatment forms, and emergency phone number forms. You can find our list of essential paperwork by clicking here or feel free to contact us on Facebook for our newsletter archive with most of the needed essential paperwork.

Keep an emergency phone number listing near the phones in the home and in your purse or pocket at all times. Nannies should carry health insurance numbers for the children and permission to treat forms with her at all times.

Parents should show new employees where they keep their fire extinguishers, where the main water can be turned off, how to use the fuse box, and alarm systems. The first week on the job is also a great time to do a fire drill with the family. Parents should also show new nannies how to adjust the heat and air conditioning in the home.

Nannies should be informed about any and all allergies and treatment protocol needed for each child they will provide care.

Caregivers should also ask the parents for each child's favorite songs, foods, security blanket or doll, games, and activities to help them bond with the children the first few days and weeks on the job.

A parent should stay home a day or two on the nanny's first days to introduce the new nanny to neighbors, friends, and other nannies. The parent should show their new nanny the local parks,  grocery stores, schools, and the pediatrician's office to make her feel comfortable with the new environment. The parent and nanny can run errands together and the new nanny should also have an opportunity to go it alone.

Parents should be accommodating and patient and invite their new nanny to ask any questions they may have when starting a new job.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cooking Painting

Cooking With Kids

All kids love to paint and all kids love cookies. Combine these two loves by having the children paint cookies. These cookies can be made year round for any reason. Don't forget to let the kids measure the ingredients, mix, sift, roll out the dough, and use cookie cutters before painting the cookies. To make the project even easier feel free to use a sugar cookie mix. Buy small paint brushes to use only for cookie painting or when preparing food. Never use paint brushes that have been used for arts and crafts when cooking or baking. We recommend trying both the egg white and yolk based edible paints below. The egg white based paint will appear shiny after baking and the yolk based paints will be matte.

Sugar Cookie Recipe:

3/4 Cup Butter
1 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp. Vanilla
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt

What to Do:
  1. Mix the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until creamy.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and slowly add it to the butter mixture.
  3. Separate the dough into two flat discs and cover with plastic wrap. Cool the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  4. Roll dough and cut into shapes.
  5. Allow the kids to paint the cookies with one of the recipes below.
  6. Arrange the cookie canvasses on a non-stick cookie sheet.
  7. Bake cookies at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Edible Paint Recipes:

Egg White Based Paint

2 or 3 Egg Whites
Food Coloring
Whisk or Fork
Ramekins or Small Bowls

What to Do:

  1. Separate the egg whites and egg yolks and whisk the egg whites.
  2. Divide the egg whites into three or four separate bowls or ramekins.
  3. Add a few drops of different colored food coloring into the separate bowls or ramekins.
  4. Allow the kids to use paint brushes into the paint colors and paint their cookies.

Egg Yolk Based Paint Recipe

2 or 3 Egg Yolks
1 Teaspoon of Water or Evaporated Milk
Food Coloring
Whisk or Fork
Ramekins or Small Bowls

What to Do:
  1. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
  2. Pour the yolk into a cup and add the water or evaporated milk. Beat the mixture with a fork or whisk until smooth.
  3. Divide the egg yolk mixture into three or four separate bowls or ramekins.
  4. Add 5 to 6 drops of food coloring and beat until the color is evenly blended.
  5. Allow the kids to dip the paint brushes into the yolk mixture to paint their cookies and bake the cookies as described above.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Games to Play with Kids to Help Them Listen

How Do You Get Kids to Listen?
Listening skills can be practiced in fun ways in the home. Since kids learn through play, here are fun ways to teach your charges to listen better.

Story Chain
Play a story game with the child or with the whole family. The Babycenter web site suggests that one person begins a story with the sentence of his choice, and the next person adds a sentence that continues that thought. You can set a limit ahead of time for how long the story should last -- for example, five-minutes or 10 sentences. The game helps develop listening skills because children must concentrate on someone else's words so they can form a logical sequel.

Verbal Scavenger Hunt
DISNEY FAMILY FUN recommends engaging children in a verbal scavenger hunt to help kids learn to have good listening skills. Have children listen as you say a list of three or four items they need to find in a room. Never repeat the list. Send them to find the items. As they become more successful listeners you can increase the number of items on the list, suggests DISNEY FAMILY FUN.

Identify a Sound
Sharpen children's listening skills by using familiar household items, recommends the SchoolFamily website. Blindfold the kids, or ask them to close their eyes. Use a common item to make a noise -- for instance, run the vacuum, chop carrots with a knife, or fill a bowl with water from the sink. See whether the little ones can identify the sound; if they can't, offer some help such as, "What do I do when Fido is thirsty?"

Play Musical Follow-The-Leader!
Univeral Preschool recommends making two identical musical instruments out of recycled products -- one for you, and one for each child. Then, make one, simple noise with your instrument and ask the kids to try to imitate it with their instrument. Then, make two noises, then three, and have the children in your care attempt to repeat the patterns you create. Let the kids make up a sound pattern so that you can repeat what they do. Variation: Sing or hum a portion of a song or tune, and ask the children to repeat it.

Reading Games
When you read to the kids, turn it into a listening game, suggests SchoolFamily. Before you start reading, tell them you are going to zip their lips so they can listen but not talk. When they want to say something or ask a question, they can give you a signal to unzip their lips. When they read aloud to you, reverse roles and let the kids zip your lips.

Reading and Repeating
Read aloud to kids to encourage active listening. Baby Center suggests pausing during the last few pages of a book and ask the kids how they think the story will end. Discuss their theories and how they relate to what they heard of the story so far. This will encourage the children to listen closely and reflect upon what they have heard. Another strategy is to take out an old, familiar storybook and change a few key elements of the story while reading it to the kids. This is a fun way of testing how well those in your care are listening. Kids usually enjoy correcting "silly" adult errors.

Directions Games
Play games that include giving directions. Simon Says is a popular one in which kids have to listen to the directions -- and to whether you precede it with the words "Simon Says." SchoolFamily recommends another listening game that starts with a two-direction command. Tell the kids to walk to the couch and run back to their chairs. When they master two-step directions, add more. For example, tell the kids to pick up a pencil, write their names, and draw a circle around it.

Star Chart
Develop a star chart to reinforce good listening skills. Reinforcing children's listening skills will help increase their occurrence. Include specific listening skills on the chart. When they engage that skill, they will earn a star. Allow the children to add stars to the chart themselves and always tell them what they did to earn the stars. Provide a larger reward to kids once they obtains a specific amount of stars.

How Many Times Do I Need to Tell You?
My idea is simply to gather some index cards. Tell the children in your care that you are going to play a game to see if they can listen and follow directions. Whenever you give them a direction, count how many times it takes the kids to do the task, and write that number on an index card. For example, if you ask them to: "Put your homework in your backpack," or, "brush your teeth and hair," record how many times it takes to remind them until he actually accomplishes the task.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Changing Jobs Doesn't Change You

Simple Secrets of Successful People

In his book 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People David Niven, Ph. D. explains that transitions intimidate us because everything seems so different. But, even though our work environment changes when we switch jobs, we don't.

In his book the author states that we all need some stability in our lives to be able to function. When we undertake new things we really on that stability of how we are to provide us with comfort and confidence.

Nearly everyone feels some anxiety when starting a new job. However, people who focus their attention on their own identity rather than their uncertain surroundings feel less stress and report becoming comfortable in their position in half as much time.

You can purchase your own copy of the book by clicking a link above or below:

100 Simple Secrets of Successful People, The: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Inspiring Learning Thru Everyday Activities

Supporting Success in School at Home

Success at school starts at home. We can help children too young for school to develop motivation and curiosity that will help the succeed once they attend school. Dorothy Rich of Megaskills: Building Our Children's Character and Achievement for School and Life lists the following activities to do at home to help children develop curiosity, initiative, and motivation to learn.

To see the entire article please visit our new blog address at 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Line Dropping

Art with Kids

To help kids develop a love of art history this week I introduced my preschooler the works of Franz Kline. All children begin to express themselves by using line. Given a writing implement all kids scribble and upon examination of the lines the kids draw it is often possible to determine what the young child is feeling. For instance, vertical lines often indicate strength and purpose, whereas horizontal lines are more calm and serene. Bold, diagonal, or jagged lines can connote agitation, action, or anger; curvy lines tend to suggest something whimsical or serious.

You Will Need:

Franz Kline
Various widths and lengths of black construction paper
White construction paper (preferably big paper 18" c 24")

What to Do:

1. Show the kids reproductions of Franz Kline's black and white abstract compositions by clicking this link or by clicking here and see an example to the right. Discuss the kids of lines used.

2. Have the kids cut lines of different widths and lengths from black paper.

Dropping Lines
3. Have some fun showing them how to hold the black lines of paper they cut out in a fist and allow them to fall and spread them on the white paper as they open their fist.

4. Have kids paint glue onto the white paper and place the white paper on the floor.

5. From a standing position have the kids drop the black lines onto the white paper. Have the children try this several times until they get the design they like.

6. For more fun with lines try this activity with pretzels, twigs, straws, or licorice sticks.


Photos by Stephanie Felzenberg

Art for the Very Young

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Beat the Clock: Helping Kids be Responsible

Teaching Delayed Gratification

Doing homework often requires the mature concept of delayed gratification. We all hate some of our responsibilities, but we still need to do them. That's why Dorothy Rich of Megaskills: Building Our Children's Character and Achievement for School and Liferecommends setting a time limit on how much time kids will spend on what they hate to do as a great way to motivate them to get their responsibilities finished.

Rich recommends making up a game to beat the clock when asking the kids to pick up their toys. For example, set an egg timer for three-minutes and see how many they can put away in that time. Once the bell rings, stop cleaning, no matter if all the toys are put away or not. Move on to a fun activity the child looks forward to.

Not only does this activity teach the concept of delayed gratification but it accomplishes a task that needs to be done.

You can get your own copy of the book by clicking links above or below:

Megaskills: Building Our Children's Character and Achievement for School and Life

Monday, November 11, 2013

Online Nanny Resources
What is Your Favorite Nanny Blog?

I hope you enjoy visiting How to Be the Best Nanny Blog regularly. We aren't the only nanny blog available. There are tons of resources for nannies online but it’s really hard to find blogs specifically written for nannies that post regularly. If a blog hasn’t posted at least one article or idea in the past two-months I’ve decided to skip over them and not list them today. Here are my favorite resources and blogs for nannies and a couple of promising resources just starting out.

Regarding Nannies

Regarding Nannies was created by some of the most well-known, influential, veteran, professional nannies in America. Regarding Nannies provides resources to all levels of nannies with the hopes of helping them develop a strong, professional nanny foundation. Not only do they post articles and ideas from nannies, they interview nanny industry experts, and provide advertising for businesses on their blog.

In 1993 Kathleen Webb co-founded HomeWork Solutions and they have been an authority on all nanny issues for 20-years. The company’s blog at addresses nanny payroll and tax issues and provides readers with updates and tips that affect nannies and those who employ them.

Sittercity’s Compendium

I love the compendium on the sittercity site. At this link nannies and sitters share their own kid-friendly activities and projects.

Nanny Reviews

A parent, Nate Pepco, wanted to create a free online support system for parents, nannies, and caregivers across the country to connect and swap recommendations. Granted the blog lists a lot of links simply found on Google News Alerts, but the site looks amazing and has tons to see if you skip around and see what they have posted.

Nanny Trainings

With 25-years nanny experience Kellie Geres developed this site to help nannies and other domestic employees of all levels find education and training at one concise spot.

New Upcoming Blogs and Resources for Nannies

Nanny Magazine

Jennifer Kuhn and Whitney Tang (Whitney is a columnist for our Be the Best Nanny Blog) will start publishing Nanny Magazine in January 2014. Nanny Magazine plans to provide crafts, recipes, surveys, advice, and support for readers. They already have content available online and I can't wait to see the first issue in January 2014.

West Coast Nanny

The author of this new blog asked that I share the blog. I look forward to seeing her start posting articles shortly.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Importance of Using Parentese, Not Baby Talk

Reading to Babies

In the book Baby Read-Aloud Basicsthe authors Caroline J. Blakemore and Barbara Weston Ramirez explain the importance of reading to babies and using parentese when speaking to babies.

The explain, "If you think reading to babies is having a quiet baby on your lap as you read straight from a book, think again. Reading to babies looks and feels very different from reading to older children."

While reading the book we learn that the principle difference in reading to babies is the way you interrelate using your voice and a baby book. This way of talking to newborns is called parentese.

The book notes that parents from every culture from everywhere on the globe speak to their babies in a singsongy, higher pitched, slower, louder voice.

Studies show that starting at about five-weeks old, babies prefer parentese, rather than regular adult conversation. Parentese is the best way for babies to hear and learn language.

With parentese you speak more slowly so babies can hear the individual sounds and words in the stream of speech. This helps them distinguish the unique rhythm of the language spoken in the home.

The more parentese talk babies hear before the ate of two. The more words they’ll learn. A large vocabulary will lead to higher intelligence and academic achievement in school. Parentese aids in the process of learning the sounds. Grammar, and structure of language, necessary for effective speaking, reading, and writing.

Parentese is not baby talk. Baby talk is the actual altering of the spelling of the words, bordering on nonsense. It can turn a sentence like, “Look at the cute little baby,” into “Wook at zu coot wittle “babykins.” Baby talk is very distorted and would actually delay infant language development if that is what babies usually heard.

Main Features of Parentese

• Put your face close to the baby’s face
• Use shorter utterances
• Speak in a melodious tone
• Articulate clearly
• Vary and raise their pitch
• Frequently use repetition
• Use exaggerated facial expressions (eye contact, raising of eyebrows, and big smiles)
• Move their bodies rhythmically
• Lengthen vowels (soooo cuuuute)
• Use shorter sentences
• Use longer pauses

Listening in the first few months of life is a key building block in the formation of good language. Parentese helps babies hear and learn their parent’s language. Parents, nannies, siblings, and grandparents will find that speaking parentese is part of the natural bonding process. In fact, most adults don’t even notice they are using their voice in this new way since it is often instinctual.

You can purchase your own copy of the book by clicking link above or below:

Baby Read-Aloud Basics: Fun and Interactive Ways to Help Your Little One Discover the World of Words

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Art with Kids

Child's Tree
Kandinsky Tree

I always loved the subject of Art History. I hope to help the kids I care for to develop a love of Art History as well. So, I decided to start introducing my three-year-old charge to abstract art by showing her Kandinsky Trees. Wassily Kandisnsky was a famous Russian artist who had a gift called synaesthesia cognate which gives him the ability to hear colors and see sounds. Using his unusual gift of sense he used color to express emotion rather than reflect nature. He is recognized as the pioneer of abstract art. I loved using Kandinsky Trees because it is easy to do.

Kandinsky Tree
You Will Need:

Colorful Construction Paper
Safety Scissors
Paste or Glue
Round Objects to Trace (optional)

What to Do:

1. Click here or show the kids the Kandinsky Tree to the right to allow the kids to identify the colors and shapes used in a Kandinsky Tree. Explain to them they will be making a Kandinsky Tree of their very own.

2. I cut a tree trunk from brown construction paper for the three-year-old I care for, but older kids can certainly draw and cut out their tree trunks without your help. For older kids tell them to create the trunk by considering the shape of a long hand with five outstretched fingers as the branches.

3. Allow the kids to paste the brown tree trunk to yellow construction paper.

4. Allow the kids to trace various sized circles on various colored construction paper. Allow them to cut out the circles that don't have to be perfect by any means. If you look at Kandinsky Trees you will see he did not use perfectly formed circles at all.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Using Music with Kids: Even Newborn Babies Recognize Songs Played to Them in the Womb

What Is Your Favorite Lullaby?

In an article by Meeri Kim published by the Washington Post this weekend we learn of a study  that was published online in the journal PLOS One that babies in utero hear music and recognize it after birth. In the study, babies who had a lullaby played to them regularly while still in the womb recognized the song months after birth.

In her book, Super Baby: Boost Your Baby's Potential from Conception to Year Dr. Sarah Brewer of Cambridge University notes that a baby's ears "are fully formed around the 20th week of development, and a baby's brain will begin to show electrical responses to sounds heard outside the womb before 24-weeks." Additionally, researchers at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom discovered that babies will even breathe in time to music selections they enjoy---and "can remember and prefer music heard before birth over a year later.

Working with children full-time I am amazed by how children learn language and respond to music. By singing a lullaby to babies caregivers initiate the child’s introduction to language. Other studies suggest that infants start picking up elements of what will be their first language before they are even born and recognize their mother’s voice to a stranger’s voice, learn part of their native language, and are born crying in their native accent. In otherwords, they are hearing and learning before they are born.

Nannies should use music with the kids in my care to help them learn the alphabet, how to learn to spell their names, to follow directions and to structure their day. Caregivers should use music to encourage fitness.

In my interview with Dr. Harry Steckman of the Steckman Studio of Music in Oak Park, Illinois, nannies should use age-appropriate musical activities to aid in child development.

Steckman recommends as children learn to grasp, sit up, crawl, and walk caregivers should offer them musical materials to play with to encourage eye and hand coordination. For example, offer them rattles, maracas, or wooden spoons to hit pots.

He explains that young children love short songs. He recommends playing and singing songs like, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” He also suggests palm tickles, party games, Mother Goose rhymes, and songs with limited pitches that are directly tied to movement and action games to use with children from one- to four-year-olds. Songs such as the “Eency Weency Spider,” “Humpty Dumpty,” “Ring Around the Rosy,” and “London Bridge” are good songs to use with children of this age. Most six- to nine-year-olds like songs that involve counting, spelling, or remembering.
The more nannies engage themselves in active music making, the more likely a child will be motivated to practice. If children see their parents and caregivers involved in the music making process, they will usually want to do the same.

Fingerplays and Songs for the Very Young by Carolyn Croll is a cute book I picked up with the preschooler at the library this week that includes more than 25 of my favorite fingerplays and action songs guaranteed to get giggles and have babies and toddlers playing along.

Some of the fingerplays include:

1. This Little Piggy

This little piggy went to market, (Wiggle the child's big toe)

This little piggy stayed home, (Wiggle their 2nd toe)

This little piggy had roast beef, (Wiggle their middle toe)

This little piggy had none, (Wiggle the toe next to the smallest toe)

And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home. (Start wiggling the smallest toe and on "wee wee wee" let go of the toe and run your fingers up and down the baby's side. Bigger kids love being tickled during this fingerplay)

2. Ring Around the Rosie

Ring-a-round a rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down

Have the kids hold hands and dance in a circle. On the last line, let go of hands and collapse on the ground.

3. Where is Thumbkin?

Where is Thumbkin?
Where is Thumbkin?
(Hide thumbs behind your back)

Here I am!
(Bring right hand to front, with thumb up)

Here I am!
(Bring left hand to front, with thumb up)

How are you this morning?
Very well, I thank you.
(Wiggle thumbs as if they're 'talking' to each other)

Run away
(Hide right hand behind back)

Run away.
(Hide left hand behind back)

4. If You're Happy and You Know It!

If you're happy and you know it
Clap your hands. (Clap, Clap)
If you're happy and you know it
Clap your hands. (Clap, Clap)
If you're happy and you know it
and you really want to show it
If you're happy and you know it
Clap your hands. (Clap, Clap)

If you're angry and you know it
Stomp your feet. (Stomp, Stomp)
If you're angry and you know it
Stomp your feet. (Stomp, Stomp)
If you're angry and you know it
and you really want to show it
If you're angry and you know it
Stomp your feet. (Stomp, Stomp)

If you're sad and you know it
Cry out loud. (Boo hoo)
If you're sad and you know it
Cry out loud. (Boo hoo)
If you're sad and you know it
and you really want to show it
If you're sad and you know it
Cry out loud. (Boo hoo)

Make up new verses as you go along.

5. Six Little Ducks

Six little ducks
That I once knew
(Hold up six fingers to suggest six little ducks)

Fat ones, skinny ones,
Fair ones, too
(Use arm to mime "fat" and "skinny")

But the one little duck
(Hold up one finger on "But the one little duck")

With the feather on his back
(Place hand behind head to suggest a feather)

He led the others
With a quack, quack, quack
(Walk six fingers along with one leading)

Quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack
(Flap your arms like wings while quacking)

He led the others
With a quack, quack, quack

6. I'm a Little Teapot

I'm a little teapot,
Short and stout,
Here is my handle (One hand on hip to suggest a handle),
Here is my spout (Extend the other arm out with elbow and wrist bent)
When I get all steamed up,
Hear me shout,
Tip me over and pour me out! (Tip sideways in direction of extended arm like a spout)

7. Open, Shut Them

Shut them.
(Open and shut both hands in front of you)

Shut them.
(Open and shut both hands in front of you)

Give a little clap.
(Clap hands)

Shut them.

Shut them.

Place them in your lap.
(Place hand in your lap encouraging child to follow)

Creep them, creep them,
Right up to your chin.
(Walk your fingers up baby's body to their chin)

Open wide your little mouth,
But do not let them in.
(Open your mouth really side and comically close your mouth with your hands over your mouth)

8. Pat-a-Cake
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.

Roll it and pat it and mark it with a B.
And put it in the oven for Baby and me!

(Clap hands with baby on first two lines. Roll, then pat, hand as if shaping a ball of dough. Draw a "B" in the air and tickle the baby's tummy on the last line)

You can buy the books mentioned in the article by clicking the links above and below: 

 Fingerplays and Songs for the Very Young (Lap Library)



Super Baby: Boost Your Baby's Potential from Conception to Year 1