Each month, Au Pair in America provides a calendar full of fun activities and helpful information for everyone in the family.
In the northern hemisphere, December 21 is the first day of winter. Also called the winter solstice, it’s the shortest day of the year. In Washington, DC, the sun will set at 4:49 PM on December 21, 2016.
Animals handle cold winter weather in a variety of ways: some travel to a warmer climate while others grow thicker fur coats so they can stay warm and active during the winter. Many animals hibernate during the coldest weather – they spend the warmer months eating and storing as much body fat as they can and then live off this extra weight as they sleep.
Even though it’s tempting to stay inside when it’s cold and dark, it’s important to get outside in the daylight. Eating healthy, exercising, and keeping a regular sleep schedule will also help you keep up your energy. Au pairs DO NOT hibernate this winter! Call a new au pair and meet her for hot chocolate. Bundle up, get outside, and enjoy the cold weather.
During the last weeks of December, many host kids will have between ten days to two weeks off from school for winter vacation. The thought of having the kids home for multiple days during the winter can send even the most seasoned childcare giver into a panic. Cold weather, shorter days, extra sugar, later bedtimes, and visiting relatives can be a challenge, but with some pre-planning, you can provide your host kids with a vacation to remember.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead
- Take advantage of your host children’s free time. Pull out your calendar and read the Capital City Au Pair’s Winter Fun for DC Kids (2017-2018) post for hundreds of holiday and winter-themed events going on right here in DC.
- Play tourist with your host kids. Again, use the free time to explore DC. (Use the DC Guides section to help.) We live in an amazing city!
Tip #2: Dress the Part
Winter has finally arrived in DC. It’s important to dress for cold weather and to make sure that your host children are dressed warmly too. If this is your first experience with really cold weather, ask your host parents for advice on staying warm. For more info, read this blog post from October: It’s Cold Out There! A 2017 Guide to DC Winter Weather.
Tip #3: Plan a Cozy Day Indoors
- Staying home for the day? APIA’s Pinterest boards have loads of winter fun and holiday crafts and activities.
- Help the kids organize their toys and rooms with these suggestions. With mom and dad’s permission, perhaps your host kids can donate some of the toys they have outgrown. This will create more room for the new toys from Santa.
- Looking for a fun baking activity? Gingerbread is a delicious way to celebrate the season!
Tip #4: Make a Date
Playdates can be a great way for kids to socialize and work on the important skills necessary to being a good friend. Talk with your host family about planning a playdate over winter vacation. With their permission, you can use our cluster list to find an au pair who lives near you and has host kids who are compatible ages with your host kids. If hosting doesn’t work, you can also make plans to meet up at the library for a free story hour or crafting session.
Brr! In need of some ideas to keep the kids entertained this winter? Here’s a roundup of several great local blogs full of suggestions for spending the day exploring DC both before and after the holidays. Continue reading
Gingerbread is an important part of many cultures’ holiday celebrations. Gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, and even gingerbread-flavored coffee are just a few of the yummy treats available this time of year. DC-based cookie guru Meaghan Mountford details the history of gingerbread cookies on her fabulous website, The Decorated Cookie.
The story of the Gingerbread Boy has been retold in many versions. Head to your local library and check out a few of these fun books:
- Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.
- The Cajun Gingerbread Boy illustrated by Berthe Amoss
- The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski
- The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone
- The Gingerbread Man: An Old English Folktale illustrated by John A. Rowe
- The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Karen Schmidt
- The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Pam Adams
- The Gingerbread Man by Eric Kimmel
- The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth
Make Your Own Gingerbread Cookies
Excited to make some of your very own gingerbread? Below is a recipe for gingerbread cookies. (Don’t forget to use American measurements and temperature settings!)
Preheat oven to 350F
In a large bowl, sift together:
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
In a smaller bowl beat together:
- ¾ cups brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup of molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out cookies. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. Place on a rack to cool. Decorate.
Gingerbread Fun Without the Baking
If you aren’t a baker, head to almost any store (Target, 5 & Below, Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter are just a few) to buy a kit to make a gingerbread house, It will include everything you need ~ just add your imagination!
Even More Gingerbread Ideas
Or if you’re ready to take your gingerbread to the next level, The Decorated Cookie has loads of fun ideas. If you decide to try any of these projects out, be sure to post pictures on our cluster group page on Facebook.
- Gingerbread Man Marshmallows
Homesickness can be a problem during the holidays, even if it hasn’t been at any other time of the year. Au pairs often miss their friends and family, familiar places and their own traditions and customs. The holiday activities in the United States seem, and may actually be, different just at a time when an au pair would welcome something familiar.
It is common for au pairs’ emotions to be close to the surface during the holidays. Her highs are higher, her lows are lower. The enormity of what she has done–actually living in another country (which is an amazing thing when you think about it!)–hits her and throws her into a self-protective mode.
Host parents can help her through this unfamiliar territory by talking to her about what your specific family activities will be (gifts, meals, visitors, religious services, in-home traditions, or none of these, as the case may be.) In the spirit of cultural exchange, ask her if she has any favorite holiday traditions or foods that you might be able to incorporate into your family’s celebration of the season. Let her know what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, and what she can expect. Talk to her about what has to be accomplished and get her involved and interested. Don’t expect her to just “know” what needs to be done. Give her some clear, agreed upon assignments. Make her feel a part of things. And, let her know her contribution is needed and appreciated.
Photo: Sheila Sund (Flickr)