5 Tips To Success With Your Au Pair

The idea of welcoming an au pair into your home can be both exciting and scary. The first few weeks of getting to know each other personally and professionally is a very important time. Here are some tips for getting things off on the right foot and continuing to keep you, your au pair and your children happy!

1. Create a written list of rules/expectations.

Give the au pair clear direction on your childcare practices and your house rules. The handbook should contain everything from what to do with the kids (e.g., what they can eat, washing hands, how much screen time) to house rules (e.g., no shoes in the house, dishes should be washed after a meal).

2. Help with communication.

One of the biggest challenges with an au pair can be the language barrier. Take her to a local language school and help her enroll in classes. Teach her how to use apps like Munchkin Report and have her log children’s activities throughout the day. This is super helpful because it eliminates any confusion on what took place during the day.

3. Make sure she is comfortable with the area.

Take her around the local area so she can see where the kids can play (parks, playgrounds) and where she might like to go during her time off (coffee shops, movie theaters).

4. Include you au pair in family activities.

This will help her feel comfortable around you and the kids. It also gives her a chance to see how you interact with as a family.

5. Provide feedback.

Set time so you can provide feedback on what is going well and what areas might need attention. This is critical in the early days when you are still getting to know each other. You might start with weekly meetings and then move to monthly as you get more comfortable with each other.

What are some challenges you’ve faced hiring or onboarding your au pairs? Leave a comment below!

How to Differentiate Your Preschool

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Preschool

When I talk to early childhood educators and ask them what makes their learning centers different from the rest, most inevitably say the quality of their staff. As a parent, I wholeheartedly applaud this, but at the same time I fear it.

I love my daughter’s pre-school teacher so much that when she has a well-deserved vacation I secretly wonder: Is she interviewing for another job? What would we do if she left?

There’s a danger in having your school’s entire brand tied up in the people because when I ask educators their biggest challenge, they say retention of staff.

Here are 5 easy ways to differentiate your school beyond the importance of attracting top talent.

1. Create a community

Having events outside of the standard back to school night where parents and children can spend time together helps bond the community that is your school.

Our daughter’s school does a Fall and Spring outing. And (wait for it…) they do it on a Saturday!!! This allows working parents who are usually rushed during pick up and drop off to attend as well.

Often times they get families together at a local pizza place or a park to keep costs down. As a working parent I really look forward to these outings because I get a chance to know the other kids and their families.

2. Increase Communication

Historically this has been done through daily activity sheets, but with the advent of online childcare reports, parents don’t need to wait until the end of the day to get an update on their child’s day. Getting daily reports via email or in real-time on their smartphone allows parents to feel more connected.

Online activity tracking also helps teachers save time by logging items on a computer or smartphone rather than writing details on a sheet for each child. Look for an app with a multi-log feature so that teachers can log an activity one time for the whole class (e.g., at 10am everyone sat for circle time).

3. Create an ‘ask me about’ prompt each day

How many times have a parent picked up their child and asked “What did you to at school today?” only to be met with a blank stare?

Creating a specific question for parents to ask their kids helps them feel connected to the school and being specific makes it easier for children to share something about their day. An added bonus to the teachers is it helps enforce lessons from the classroom at home.

The question can be sent in the child’s daily activity report so it’s sure to get to the parent each day.

4. Post Pictures

I love receiving pictures of what my daughter is up to throughout the day. Not only is it another great way to prompt dialogue about things she did, but it also makes me feel great to see her happy and playing. I like to save these pictures as a timeline and look back to see how she’s grown over the school year!

5. Connect Parents with Each Other

One of the many challenges with the rush of pick up and drop is getting to know the other parents. I remember when my daughter started school and saying she wanted to have a play date with a little boy in her class. I had no idea who his parents were or how to contact them. In fact, I didn’t even know his last name!

Consider creating an online community for your class where parents can connect. You could also send out mini bios of the family so that parents get to know one another.

6 Questions to ask on a Daycare Tour

I remember being 8 months pregnant, touring a daycare that seemed like a great option for our new baby girl.

Our tour guide was great! She was rattling off important information about ratios and food allergies and fire drills.

Even with what I thought was a very thorough list of my questions, there were things I did not anticipate needing to know as a first time parent.

To give you a head start, here are 6 questions to ask on every daycare tour.

1. What are the child to teacher ratios?

While these numbers are state regulated in the US, it’s important to ensure the prospective school is in compliance. It’s also important to ask if these ratios can change and under what circumstance. Some standard ratios include:

  • 4:1 from 6 weeks to 3 years old
  • 10:1 from 3 years to 6 years
  • 15:1 for kindergarten

2. What are the qualifications of the staff?

Ideally staff will have would have degrees and experience in Early Childhood Education. It is also important to confirm that all staff members are CPR and First Aid certified and that these skills are retested every year.

3. Do you conduct background checks on all staff members?

Many parents ask this questions regarding the teachers, but it is critical to confirm all staff that have access to the school (cleaning service and kitchen staff for example) are checked as well.

4. What will children eat and is the school nut free?

Even if your child doesn’t have an allergy, it’s important to know the rules. If you’re packing lunch, you will have to be aware of the labels. Nut-free includes any product that is made in a factory with nuts. This may include many granola bars, breads, crackers, etc.

Any time I start to get frustrated with having to double-check everything, I put myself in the shoes of the parents who have a child with allergies and imagine the stress they feel.

5. What type of discipline policies are in place?

It’s most common that day care centers will use time outs as a method of discipline, but you should understand what circumstances warrant a time out and what they do about repeat offenders (ie: the child who bites repeatedly). Every school should have a documented discipline policy which they normally distribute as part of their enrollment packet. Not distributing this to a perspective parent should raise a red flag.

6. How will the school communicate my child’s daily progress?

Many schools will provide you with a paper daily sheet at the end of the day. This can be a life-saver, especially for parents with infants. When you pick up your child after a long day at work, you want to know their status. Did she eat her bottles? How many ounces? What about naps? Did my toddler have any accidents? Is he being respectful?

Online daily sheets are a big bonus, and are a great sign that the daycare really values parent-teacher communication. There’s nothing like getting an email update on my phone each day (with photos!) and being able to quickly look back in time and find trends.

If the school your touring doesn’t do online tracking, tell them about Munchkin Report! It would mean the world to us! ?

The Quantified Parent

Everything in moderation. This is sound advice for most things and it is the adage that ran through my mind while reading The Quantified Baby by Anna Prushinskaya.

There is no doubt that in today’s society there are a number of distractions. The Quantified Baby describes the potential distractions of tracking your baby, but for me tracking has provided freedom. Tracking has not only given me the information needed to understand my child’s sleep habits and establish healthy routines, it has also helped me promote healthy eating and optimize play schedules.

The article suggests that tracking may take the human element out of understanding your child’s day. I feel quite the opposite. Because everything is tracked I can let our nanny go more quickly in the evening and get right to spending time with my children. In my pre-tracking days, I spent a lot of time asking questions about the day. Now I check Munchkin Report before I leave the office and know when I get home who has napped, who has eaten, and can even begin to engage right away with “Tell me about going on the swings that looked like so much fun!”

There is no doubt that technology can be a distraction. I know many parents who, in my opinion, spend too much time editing their online lives on Facebook and Instagram rather than focussing on the real life happening in front of them. They are the same people who might say that the 30 seconds it takes to write down the length of a nap is distracting, then provide their children with 2 hours of screen time while they read magazines.

I’ve even used tracking to help teach my 4 year-old things like organization, scheduling, time and numbers. She loves to help me log her little brother’s activities. We talk about the length of his nap (how many hours was that), food intake (how many ounces) and (her favorite) his moods (why was he so cranky!). And of course she loves to see her own tracking (both then and now).

Tracking is a “distraction” that yields positive benefits while so many other distractions (like TV or video games) have virtually no upside. For me, it’s all about incorporating tracking into my routine–like making my weekly shopping list because without I know my Sunday trip to the food store will be less efficient.

Happy Tracking!

How to Find and Hire a Trustworthy Nanny

Hiring a responsible, caring, and trustworthy nanny is one of the most important things you can do for your little one, but it can be painstaking, too. This free guide is designed to save you time and give you an action plan for finding and hiring your super nanny.

Grab the guide now

Topics we cover:

  • What to do before you start your search
  • Where to look
  • Interviewing
  • Doing a trial day
  • Finding your sweet spot
  • …and more!

Letters to My Daughter

There are many things I worry my daughter will miss out on as a result of technology — holding a book, flipping through a magazine, rushing to see her favorite show on a particular day at a particular time. But perhaps the one that saddens me the most is writing and reading letters.

My husband will tell you this is because I’m obsessed with stationary, which I cannot deny, but there is much more to writing real, physical letters than quality stock paper with pretty patterns. It is the personal touch of seeing someone’s handwriting, the excitement when it arrives in the mail among its sad counterparts like bills and circulars.

My high school sweetheart used to go away to summer camp and we spent three long months with no way to correspond but through letters. It was perhaps the greatest thing that defined our young romance — these long love letters which still sit in a shoebox tucked away in my closet. They remind me of who I was before life got too busy to sit and describe not only scenery and activities but the depth of feelings captured at a moment in time.

I’ve been determined to give this gift to my daughter and so I write letters to her a few times a year. I write them on her birthday or at particular milestones (like her first day of school). I keep them stored away for her to read someday. She is too young yet for me to know how she’ll feel about them, and I realize she may not become a lover of letters or be inclined to write ones of her own, but I do hope it will connect us in a way that helps her understand how profoundly she has changed my life and how deeply I love her. Tonight’s homework, write a love letter to your child.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/

The Break Up

I’m 37 years old, standing in my kitchen being dumped and I’m just as emotional now as I was at 16. I feel a wave of heat come over me almost like I might pass out. I can’t believe this is happening even though I feared it was coming for months.

I immediately become the victim. “I’ll be fine” I say, knowing it’s not true. “It’s for the best” I lie, deep down wanting to scream “But I love you, you can’t go!”

Our nanny just broke up with us.

I can’t get back out there. The thought of searching the web, awkward first meetings, and the careful dance of letting them go if it doesn’t work out — it’s all so dreadful to me.

Who ever thought our nanny’s resignation would hurt more than a high school breakup? Finding a new nanny is far worse than any dating scene I’ve ever been a part of. Yet here I am, after a year of the most wonderful courtship that caused me, my husband and our two year-old daughter to fall head over heels in love, is over.

Our amazing nanny was unattainable from the start. She let us know from the beginning that she always wanted to be a teacher. And, like any unattainable love, we were lucky to have what we did for one amazing year.

My daughter will be heartbroken, which is without a doubt the saddest part to me. Cupcakes for birthdays, crafts each week, she even made a mother’s day gift for my mother-in-law. No one can top that — not even the most elite preschool!

There will be tears and heartache and a mad frenzy to replace her (three weeks and three days to be exact). Can I start a new relationship that fast? I guess am going to find out.

We’ve consistently used care.com or sittercity.com, but I’m wondering if there are any other hidden gems out there I’m missing. Thanks for your advice and support!

Desperately Seeking Super Nanny.

Image credit (cc): http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaderli/2265098258/