Saturday, March 29, 2014

Read Mo Willems Books!

Weekly Trip to the Library

Mo Willems is a genius author for preschool and elementary school-aged children.

Please visit to see the book reviews.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Blueberry Bread

Cooking with Kids

Children love to bake. They can help gather the supplies needed, measure the ingredients, mix, and pour the batter when making this easy blueberry bread recipe. This blueberry bread is great to eat with breakfast or as an after school snack. Although the recipe suggests letting the bread to rest an hour before eating, my charges gobbled it up right out of the oven. Here's what to do:

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice

What to Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir in blueberries.

2. Whisk together sugar and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl until thoroughly blended. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Pour batter into a lightly greased 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

3. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).


Recipe from Southern Living, October 2008
Photo by Stephanie Felzenberg

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Color Mixing: Making a Chem Lab in the Kitchen

Fun Project to Do With Kids

Here's a quick way to make your employer's kitchen into a junior chemistry lab. Provide containers of various sizes, bottles of food coloring, and various "lab" implements such as eye droppers, turkey basters, spoons, measuring cups. Before turning the kids loose in Chemistry 101, though, be sure to explain that it only takes a drop or two of food coloring to do the job at hand.

Young kids will simply enjoy making colors and pouring colored liquid from container to container. Depending on the child's age and abilities, you can also use the activity as an opportunity to explain the primary colors and how to use red, yellow, and blue to make other colors. Help them make purple from mixing blue and red, make green by mixing yellow and blue, and make orange from mixing red and yellow.

Use color mixing as a way to teach kids about measurements. Help them learn how many ounces are in a cup. Help older kids make a "lab notebook" and record what happens when you mix twice as much red as blue to make purple.

You Will Need:

Food Coloring
Eye Dropper
Turkey Baster
Measuring Cups


Photos from and

365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do with Your Child (365 Activities):

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Parents: Never Criticize Your Nanny in Front of Your Children

Nanny Confessions

I confess, when working as a nanny there is nothing more embarrassing, patronizing, or demoralizing then when a parent criticizes me in front of the kids.

Each and every day each parent and nanny is called upon to make decisions regarding the raising of children. Not only may two parents have different parenting styles, different hot buttons, and different expectations than their spouse, when they hire a nanny there’s a third personality that has been raised by different parents and taught different values and discipline methods that helped shape who they are.

Both nannies and parents make mistakes every single day. Parents and nannies need to communicate about differences and issues they have with one another. But, when parents need to discuss issues with their nannies they ought to do so privately -- not in front of the children.

Undoubtedly, parents and nannies can never agree all the time. But here's how parents and nannies should communicate, to avoid criticizing the other in front of the kids:

1. Have Regular Discussions About the Kids Without the Kids Present
Most nanny industry experts suggest the parents and the nanny have a weekly meeting. In my experience this just isn’t possible. When parents come home tired from a hard day of work, they are bombarded by their kids who miss them and need their parents’ undivided attention. Instead, simply have open lines of communication when needed. The meetings need not be in-person. Nannies and parents should determine what is the most effective way to communicate. Some may find texting works fine, or emailing might be most convenient, and daily logs are always a great way for nannies to communicate with the parents.

2. Support Each Other Publicly in Front of the Kids
Adults must present a united front so children can’t divide and conquer. It also undermines the parental authority if one parent or the nanny doesn’t support the other.

3. Check With the Parents to See What They Have Decided
Many children will use the one-liner, “Dad said that I could” to get what they want. There are few discipline decisions that can’t wait for a few minutes. The nanny should ask the source. The nanny should always call or text the parent and confirm if what the child is saying is true. Plus, the parents may have other discipline ideas for the nanny to consider. Again, this demonstrates to the children that the parents and nanny support each other. There is always more than one way to do discipline , potty train, and raise children properly.

4. Respect the Parents No Matter What
It doesn’t matter if the nanny disagrees with the choices made by the parents, or if she is mad at them for unrelated issues, she must never speak harshly about the parents in front of the children. Nannies should always discuss their concerns respectfully with the parents, but also listen to their opinions and try to incorporate the parents’ choices and decisions when it comes to raising their children.

5. Parents Trump All
No matter how strongly a nanny feels about her style of child-rearing, she is not the parent. Parents make the major decisions in raising their children. Nannies are hired to support the parents’ wishes.

6. All Parents are Doing the Best They Can
I’ve never met a parent that doesn’t love their children. And, all parents are doing the best they can (and of course hopefully the nanny is too). Each child is an individual and no child-rearing technique works the same way every day for every child. It takes a lot of work and creativity to raise children, with new challenges popping up daily. Parents don’t deserve to be scrutinized under a microscope, but neither do nannies.

Raising kids is never easy. But, no matter hard it gets, parents and nannies must work hard, be creative, communicate openly, and support one another so that children in their care develop to their best potential.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What to Do with Kids for Saint Patrick's Day

Holiday Fun

By far my favorite activity to do with kids on Saint Patrick's Day is a game in which I have the kids follow the leprechaun foot prints. All you need to do is cut out foot prints from green construction paper or spray your footprints in the snow with green water. Then hide small treasures of gold coin candy around the house or yard. Sprinkle the footprints as a trail for the kids to follow to find the treats the leprechaun left them for St. Patrick’s Day.

cccAnother fun activity I will be doing with the kids today is have a Pot O' Gold Scavenger Hunt. Older kids can help you make a treasure chest for their younger siblings to find full of Saint Patrick's Day gifts.

At any age, making Shamrock necklaces is simple and fun. Click this link to see how to make a leprechaun hat for chips we made a few years ago. Just last week we showed our readers how to make shamrock stamps out of bell peppers.

There are many Irish recipes to make with and for the kids in your care today. For breakfast or snacks it's easy and fun to make rainbow toast and shamrock-shaped pancakes. For dinner pick from some of the traditional Irish recipes including corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, Muliigan stew,
or shepherd's pie.

Don't forget to read some children's books written for Saint Patrick's Day. Here are some children's books we recommend for Saint Patrick's Day.

References include:

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Holiday Crafts

Saturday, March 15, 2014

It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Weekly Trip to the Library

Working as nannies and au pairs the readers of this blog already know they play an important role in helping raise happy, healthy, secure, and thriving children. This week I recommend caregivers read It Takes a Village because it further validates the importance of people outside the family unit play in cultivating children.

It Takes a Village was first published in 1996 (and a revised edition in 2006) by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Although Clinton is a former First Lady I am recommending this book for nannies to read not because of politics, but because of the message it offers to caregivers and parents. All nannies will feel validated by her message that for working parents, (and most American parents work), quality caregivers outside of the family are essential in raising their children.

In the book Clinton focuses on the impact individuals and groups outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child's well-being, and advocates a society which meets all of a child's needs.

Clinton understands the enormous lists of concerns working parents have from finding the right baby sitter, nanny, or daycare if their kids are sick. They worry how they will be able to afford to send their kids to college. They worry about a popular culture that glamorizes sex and violence, smoking and drinking, and teaches children that the logos on their clothes are more valued than the generosity in their hearts. They worry about drugs, alcohol, sex, and gangs.

But she also reminds us that there are dedicated teachers preparing their lessons for the new school year. There are volunteers tutoring and coaching children. There are doctors and nurses caring for sick children, police officers working to help kids stay out of trouble and off drugs.

Of course, parents are first and foremost responsible for their children. But, she strongly explains that we are all responsible for ensuring that children are raised in a nation that doesn't just talk about family values, but acts in ways that values families. She believes (just like nannies, au pairs, and parents do), that each child who comes into this world should feel special -- every boy and every girl.

And to raise a happy, healthy, and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes nannies, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us.

In 2006, Clinton wrote a new Introduction to the book reflecting on how the American village has changed since she first wrote the book. Things changed in those ten years including the use of the Internet and new research in early child development and education. In the more recent edition of the book she raises issues of increasing concern for security, the environment, and the national debt. She also discusses where we have made progress and where there is still work to be done.

It makes no difference if you consider yourself as a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or don't vote at all. All nannies and parents can find value in It Takes a Village.

You can purchase your own copy by clicking a link above or below:
It Takes a Village, Tenth Anniversary Edition

Friday, March 14, 2014

Shamrock Pancakes

Cooking With Kids

Monday is Saint Patrick's Day. So make sure you have the ingredients you will need to make shamrock pancakes for the kids for breakfast next week. You can use a box of pancake mix and green food coloring, but the children will have more fun measuring and mixing all the ingredients if you follow the simple recipe listed below.

You Will Need:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Green food coloring
Shamrock cookie cutter

What to Do:

1. Mix all the ingredients adding a few drops of green food coloring. Don't over mix, it's okay to have lumpy batter. If you over mix the batter the pancakes will come out too heavy.
2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.
3. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle or enough batter to fit your clover-shaped cookie cutter on the pancake.
4. When the bubbles on the pancake begin to pop flip the pancake over so that they are brown on each side.
5. Remove pancakes and place on a cutting board or plate and press the shamrock cookie cutter into one pancake at a time to create green clover-shaped pancakes.


Photo by Stephanie Felzenberg. Recipe from her mother's recipe book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bell Pepper Shamrock Stamps

eeeSt. Patrick's Day Project

St. Patrick's Day is coming up so there is no better time to start doing green crafts for the popular Irish holiday. The shamrock is known as a symbol of Ireland, with St. Patrick having used it as a metaphor for the Christian Trinity, according to legend. The four-leaf clover is more uncommon than the three-leaf clover so tradition says four-leaf clovers bring good luck to those who find one. In this easy project we used bell pepper to make a shamrock stamp. Project adapted from

Check out how to make this project at our new blog address at

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why Nannies Should Read to Kids Each Day

Nanny Confessions: We Must Teach Kids to Love Books

I confess, it is sometimes hard for me to make time to read to kids everyday. But, no matter how busy the day gets, it's vital to read aloud to children to help them learn to love reading.

You don't have to like reading yourself. You don't have to read on your own time. But, since reading aloud to children is so important, I urge every nanny make the effort to read aloud to your charges each and every day.

There is much debate as to whether children can learn to read, or not, before two-years of age. Despite that argument, we can all agree that one of the most important tools for learning starts with a love of books. To nurture that love, we must read books aloud to children. Here are10 benefits of reading aloud to babies.

Reading books aloud to children is so simple. According to Esme Raji Codell, author of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading,reading doesn't require any special training. Ms. Codell explains, "In fact, it is so easy on everyone's part that it hard to believe an activity only slightly more kinetic than television viewing could yield results that verge on the miraculous."

In the book, Baby Read-Aloud Basics,Caroline J. Blackmore and Barbara Weston Ramirez describe ways babies benefit from a daily read-aloud routine. They explain that the emotional, mental, physical, and sensory benefits of daily reading to a baby are to great to ignore! The authors explain that the baby’s brain is equipped to absorb enormous amounts of information.

For example, new evidence shares that seemingly passive babies are, in terms of brain activity, more active than adults. They share that not only the time from birth to two-years-old critical for language development, but the foundation of learning development and future academic success.

In his book, The Read-Aloud Handbook,Jim Trelease lists the benefits of reading aloud to children.

Research by Jim Trelease shows that sharing books:
  • Conditions the child to associate reading with pleasure, which is necessary to maintain reading as a lifelong activity.
  • Contributes to background knowledge for all other subjects including science, history, geography, math, and social studies.
  • Provides the child with a reading model.
  • Creates empathy toward other people because books offer insight into different lifestyles, values, and humanity.
  • Increases a child's vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills.
  • Improves a child's chances of staying in school.
  • Improves future probability of employment.
  • Increases life span by higher education, better employment, and higher quality of life.
  • Lowers probability of imprisonment.
  • Improves problem-solving and critical-thinking skills needed for all other areas of learning.
  • Offers information.
  • Offers laughter and entertainment and an alternative to television
  • Improves attention span.
  • Stimulates the imagination.
  • Nurtures emotional development and improves self-esteem.
  • Reading skills are necessary for academic success.

How to Get Your Child to Love Reading
The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition
Baby Read-Aloud Basics: Fun and Interactive Ways to Help Your Little One Discover the World of Words

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reduce Stress by Not Overreacting

Nannies Help Reduce Parental and Child Stress

When adults are stressed-out, the kids in their care get stressed-out. Raising a family is stressful. When nannies help parents, they help reduce both their employer's and their charges' stress levels.

Stress in children can be detrimental to a child's health and development. The body reacts to stressful situations by producing adrenaline. The problem is, when this chemical is released into the body long term, on a regular basis, it can cause problems in both adults and children.

And now a study shows (see article "Inheriting Stess?" from that parental stress may effect children biologically. Kids may actually inherit stress from their parents.

In The Child Care Textbook: Required Reading in the Nation's First Tuition-free, College Credit, Child Care Training Program Anne Merchant Geissler explains that a common obstacle for nannies is the tendency to overreact. The way nannies communicate is essential to reducing stress and the author says, "When issues are blown out of proportion communication is blocked."

She explains, "This occurs when nannies focus on the negative aspects of an issue, compounding them, rather than dealing with them directly, honestly, and in a timely manner."

Ms. Merchant Geissler continues, "Some people can work themselves up to a negative, non-productive state of mind when the issues are exaggerated. It is far better to focus on a solution to an issue right from the start."

The author points out, "A good example of blocked communication is the nanny who feels that her boss doesn’t appreciate her. She can easily escalate her anxiety about a situation."

"Directing your attention towards a solution right away requires much less energy. By doing so you will feel better psychologically since you will be positive and feel better," says the author.

To keep from overreacting -- reduce stress. Professional nannies don't overreact.

To help reduce nanny workplace stress:

1. Make sure your basic needs are being met. Eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and exercise. Nannies spend hours bottle-feeding newborns and preparing healthy snacks and meals for children, yet often neglect sitting down themselves to eat with the children. If your basic needs are not being met and you feel tired, hungry, and cranky you are less likely to deal with problems at work effectively.

2. Focus on one task at a time. Multi-tasking is good. All in-home childcare providers juggle many responsibilities. Nannies wear many different hats simultaneously. But beware of burn-out from too much multitasking over an extended period. Work at maintaining a balanced schedule and don't over commit yourself. It is perfectly okay to say, "No," to a playdate if you feel you cannot handle the extra work of having the visitor at the house.

3. Take short breaks. While babies nap, nannies use the time to wash and fold laundry and tidy kitchens, children's bedrooms, and playrooms. But, sometimes nannies need to rest too. There is nothing wrong with closing your eyes for 15-minutes, reading a book, having a healthy snack, writing in a journal, or even emailing friends back home (but check the clock or set a timer so you do not spend too much time on computer during working hours), to give yourself a chance to recharge on a long, busy day, caring for children.

4. Resist negative thinking. If you see the downside of every situation and interaction, you'll find yourself frequently irritated and this will eventually drain you of energy. Consciously try to be positive and find humor where you can. It works.

5. Take care of yourself on time-off. Get out of the house and socialize with friends (especially important for live-in caregivers). The better you feel, the better you will be able to manage work stress without becoming overwhelmed. The better you feel the better you will communicate with your employer's when problems pop-up.


"Inheriting Stress"

The Child Care Textbook: Required Reading in the Nation's First Tuition-free, College Credit, Child Care Training Program

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bubble Bum Inflatable Car Booster Seat

Product Review Sunday: Products Nannies Love

As all nannies and au pairs that have traveled with families know, lugging bulky and heavy car seats along for kids is frustrating and cumbersome. That's why I absolutely love, and highly recommend, using the BubbleBum Inflatable Car Booster Seatwhen traveling with children.

The BubbleBum Inflatable Car Booster Seatis a great product for caregivers and parents to take with them when traveling and using taxis, planes, buses, and rental cars. It weighs merely one pound and inflates and deflates quickly to fit in your diaper bag, backpack, or handbag. In fact, I inflated the booster in 20 seconds using my mouth. When finished, just roll up the seat to expel the air and it packs into it's own stretchy bag. I also love that it's surface washable.

The inflatable booster is for children ages four to 11-years-old and 40 to 100 pounds. It has a belt positioning clip and you can easily fit three car seats across the back seat with BubbleBum because it's just 13-inches wide.

If you are worried about using a backless, inflatable booster, there is a piece of mind that the BubbleBum Inflatable Car Booster Seathas been rated a "Best Bet" Booster by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,second place winner in the Best in Child Road Safety 2013, and may other awards.

You can purchase your own BubbleBum Car Booster Seat by clicking the links above or below:

BubbleBum Inflatable Car Booster Seat

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss

Book Review by Kids for Kids
Book Review by Alena 10-Years-Old

Can you imagine being locked up, hiding from the Nazis in the time of the Holocaust? If you read The Upstairs Roomby Johanna Reiss you will learn that's what two Jewish sisters, Annie and Sini, had to do for years.

The sisters had to live in mostly silence, eating limited amounts of food. It was hard for them to stay alive and keep in touch with the outside world. They worried about their family and friends that are separated from them and hiding out in other places. There are tears of happiness and sadness as the sisters struggle with their lives in an upstairs room of a Gentile farmhouse. Will they survive until the war is over?

I like the book The Upstairs Roombecause it has tons of exciting parts. You never really know what's going to happen next.

I found the character Annie interesting because she can be sometimes positive and sometimes negative about her situation. I like how Annie changes from being a shy, scared eight-year-old to a mature young adult.

The story make me feel sad for the people who went through the Holocaust, and it made me wonder what other Jewish people did to keep safe around that time.

I would recommend The Upstairs Roomto readers over the age of nine. It would help to know a little about World War II. If you are very emotional this may not be the book for you.

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

The Upstairs Room (Trophy Newbery)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Irish Shepherd's Pie

Cooking for Kids

Shepherd's Pie has always been a staple of traditional Irish cooking. With Saint Patrick's Day coming up there is no better time to make this nutritionally sound casserole. Traditionally the pie is made with ground lamb. But we used ground beef and you could substitute the recipe with ground chicken or turkey. Feel free to throw in any leftover vegetables you happen to have in the fridge. You can also make individual Shepherd's pies for the kids. Here's an easy Shepherd's Pie recipe adapted from 

You Will Need:

1 1/2 lbs ground round beef
1 onion chopped
1-2 cups vegetables - chopped carrots, corn, peas
1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice
A little shredded cheddar cheese for topping

What to Do:

1. Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick) in large frying pan.
3. Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.
4. Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add Worcestershire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.
5. Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter, season to taste.
6. Place beef and onions in baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.
7. Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.
8. We added a little shredded cheddar cheese to the top of the casserole the last 10 minutes of baking.

Photos by Stephanie Felzenberg

Irish Traditional Cooking: Over 300 Recipes from Ireland's Heritage

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve