Author Archives: Christine Connally

Camp Au Pair – Art Experiences

This week’s Camp Au Pair theme is Art Experiences.

Crafts, recipes, activities, and games related to art can all be found here on the Camp Au Pair – Art Experiences pinboard.

Culture Sharing – Share any specific forms of art that are popular in your home country (mosaics, origami, murals, fabric dying, etc.) Are there any famous artists from your country that you could share their works with your host kids?

Field Trips can be a great way for kids to learn and have new experiences. Get permission from your host parents before any outings. Check the websites before you go to be sure you understand the hours, costs, and whether advance tickets/reservations are required.

Online Art Fun – Here is a great website with lots of art activities including ones for older kids.

Webcams – You can do a google search for art websites with webcams. Here are a few to get you started:

Videos – Look for fun videos on YouTube about drawing and all kinds of art.

Books – Stop by your local library and look for books on famous artists and art.

Check YouTube for books on art being read aloud:

Image: teachkidsart.com

Camp Au Pair – Nature Exploration

This week’s Camp Au Pair theme is Nature Exploration.

Crafts, recipes, activities, and games can all be found here on the Camp Au Pair – Nature Exploration pinboard.

Field Trips can be a great way for kids to learn and have new experiences. You can start observing nature at any local park or in your own backyard. If you want to take it a step further,  Below is a list of other local places to go explore nature. Get permission from your host parents before any outings and check websites before you go for hours and information.

Safety note: When coming inside after you have been outside exploring nature, it’s always a good idea to check the children and yourself for ticks. For more information, take a look at this post.

  • Aviary
  • Farms
  • Nature Preserve
  • Parks
  • Consider joining the Free Forest School to find outings near you.

Virtual Field Trips:

Webcams – You can do a Google search for websites with webcams that allow you to observe nature.

Videos – Look for fun videos on YouTube about nature.

Books – Check your bookshelves and/or stop by your local library and look for books on nature.  You can also find many read aloud book videos on YouTube. Here are a few to get you started.

Image: toddleratplay.com

Welcome to Camp Au Pair in America!

When kids are out of school for the summer, it doesn’t take long for them to become bored and sometimes that leads to sibling squabbles and mischief. Even though they don’t realize it, they are usually missing routine and predictability in their daily schedule. One solution is to make fun plans to keep them busy! 

Each week this summer we will share a different Camp Au Pair theme. These weekly themes are designed to give you ideas to keep your host kids occupied and engaged all summer long. They will also be learning. (But shhhh, don’t tell them that part.) Check back each Friday, for the next week’s theme. This gives you a chance to make plans and gather materials for the next week. For each theme there will be crafts, games, snacks and activities. You can just use these ideas or add your own and customize the themes to fit the ages and interests of your host children.

Here are the themes you can look forward to:

  • Nature Exploration
  • Art Experiences
  • Under the Sea
  • Science (STEM)
  • Bugs & Butterflies
  • Cars and Trucks
  • Backyard Safari
  • Dinosaurs
  • Explore the World
  • Outer Space
  • Pirate Adventures
  • Princesses & Knights

Check out Summer Fun & Summer Holidays pin boards for even more ideas.

If you get some great pictures doing these activities with your host kids, please send those to your community counselor. We love to share your accomplishments and inspire other au pairs!

Let’s make this an amazing summer!

Preventing Dehydration in Hot Weather

Dehydration means that the body lacks the necessary amount of fluid. Infants and small children are more likely to become dehydrated than older children or adults, because they can lose relatively more fluid quickly.

Here are some steps to take to make sure children remain hydrated in the summer months:

  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of water. On hot days, children should drink significantly more water than usual, as they are losing more due to the heat.
  • Do not wait until your child is thirsty to give him water. By the time they feel thirsty, they are already becoming dehydrated.
  • If your child is resistant to drinking enough water, have other liquids on hand for your child to drink throughout the day.
  • Be alert to changes in behavior. A child may act confused or more irritable when they are becoming dehydrated/overheated. Get them into cooler temperatures and drinking more fluids.
  • Dress your child in lightweight clothing in the summer months, particularly if she’ll be playing outdoors in warm weather. You may also consider clothes that are well ventilated as they do not trap heat close to the body.
  • When there are heat and/or air quality advisories because the weather is dangerously hot, you should avoid taking the children outdoors. Check with your host parents for further guidance on this topic.

Remember to follow these tips for yourself too, so you stay well hydrated.

Photo: Moyerphotos (Flickr)

Snow Days are Here!

Looking for ideas to keep the kids busy on a snow day (when they are home from school for winter weather?)

Here is a simple snow day game plan…

  1. Play in the snow. Do you wanna build a snowman? Here’s a great how-to video.
  2. Come inside and warm up with hot chocolate (don’t forget the marshmallows.)
  3. Make your own play dough.
  4. Play board games or legos together.
  5. Try some Winter Science experiments.
  6. Look for more fun things to do on the APIA Pinterest Boards:
  7. Bake cookies together or make some other fun recipe.
  8. Play in the snow again.
  9. Warm up inside taking turns on the Make a Snowflake Website.
  10. Make a blanket fort.

Stay warm & have fun!

Photo: Yuli Salinas

9 Winter Driving Tips to Stay Safe in the Ice & Snow

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it. Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared, and that you know how to handle road conditions. It’s a good idea to always keep at least a half tank of gas in your car, especially in winter months where you could get stranded. It’s helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you’re familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Driving Safely on Icy Roads

  1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  6. Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  8. Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  9. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

Photo: Steve Pisano (Flickr)

Avoiding Homesickness in the Holiday Season

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.

Au Pairs, there are things you can do to reduce homesickness during the holidays. It is important to balance your activities to feel connected to your family back home and your traditions but also embrace new customs and experiences here in the U.S.

Lina and her friend enjoying one of the most popular celebrations of the year in Colombia. “Every December 7, Colombian families get together with very close friends to light several candles thinking about wishes for the coming year such as health, prosperity, love and happiness. It is also very traditional to share typical food from the region, and what can never be missing is wine and cookies.”

Share your traditions with your host family and friends. Each country has its own special holiday customs. Being friends with other au pairs, you can not only learn about the U.S. but also how other countries celebrate. When you talk with your family back home, you can share some of the new holiday experiences you are having. That can help lessen the feeling of missing out on moments at home by reminding you that you are here in the U.S. for a short time and you are making memories that will last a lifetime.

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: Lina Cabeza Paez

Winter Sports & Sports Insurance

Trying out winter sports like ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding can be very exciting, especially if this is your first time experiencing winter weather. However, you should also know the risks and be prepared.

Is it risky to do winter sports without sports insurance?

Yes. If you have to pay your own hospital bills for a broken bone, you might be shocked at how much that would cost. I checked this website for some cost estimates.

Here are a couple examples:

  • Without medical coverage, treating a broken arm or leg (that does not require surgery) could cost up to $2,500.
  • Without medical coverage, treating a broken arm or leg (requiring surgery) could cost $16,000 or more.

You must understand how your medical coverage works for sports-related injuries. There is a list of “high-risk sports/activities” that are not covered by basic or upgrade medical insurance plans. Those activities are only covered by the Sports Insurance Package. (Snowtubing is the only snow sport that you already have coverage for without the sports insurance package.)

The Sports Insurance was available pre-departure and may also be purchased at any time during your year. It takes effect within 48 hours of your enrollment and is good for 12 months. The cost will be the same ($110 as of this posting) whether you have a month left or your whole year ahead of you. I recommend you pay for it early on if you haven’t already purchased it. You never know when an opportunity might present itself and you don’t want to miss out on an adventure. You also don’t want to risk getting injured and being responsible for the bill on your own.

Below is a partial list of sports that are only covered by the sports insurance package:
Football, Rugby, Scuba diving, Ski-doo, Wakeboarding, Skydiving, Parachuting, Rock climbing, Zipline, Skateboarding, Rollerblading, Roller skating,  Ice Skating, Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowmobiles and Snowshoeing.  View the full list on your insurance brochure.

Note: Injuries sustained while partaking in these sports are ONLY covered with the purchase of Sports Insurance.

How to register for the Sports Insurance

To enroll in sports insurance, use the link found in the email sent to you with the subject “Au Pair in America Sports Insurance Upgrade Option”. Ask your community counselor if you are having trouble finding the email with the sports insurance enrollment link.

If you think you will be doing any of these sports, you should get it now.

Making Thanksgiving Memories Together

Thanksgiving is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November every year in the United States. It started as a harvest festival and has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789.  The most important part of Thanksgiving for American families is to spend family time together.

Martin Cathrae

 

 “My favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. Firstly, it was my first holiday with the whole family in America. Secondly, the whole family came together. All aunts and uncles and their kids came to grandma’s. We played football with all of them, including grandma and grandpa. It was the first time I played it and it was so much fun for all. We had a great dinner with all the typical things you can imagine … it was deeeelicious! It was so great to be with such a big family and I really enjoyed that day. I will remember it my whole life, I hope.” – Swantje from Germany

Here are a few tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience.

Host Parents
Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. If you are traveling or will not be able to invite your au pair to join you for Thanksgiving, give her plenty of notice and help her make alternate plans. You don’t want to leave your au pair alone over the holiday.

Au Pairs
If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend, so they may make plans. If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans, so I can assist.

Make sure to discuss time off during this holiday weekend. Many host families work the Friday after Thanksgiving so do not assume you have this day off or the entire weekend. Talk to your host family, BEFORE you make any plans.

Bonus Tip for the Kids
If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cookies. Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.

Surviving & Thriving in the Holiday Season

The fall/winter holiday season is most often a time of joy and excitement. However, it can also be a time of stress and disappointment for both host families and au pairs.

Here are some ideas and insights that will hopefully help you avoid stress and disappointment and share more of the joy and excitement!

Holiday Work Schedules

Miscommunication over the schedule is the #1 issue for host families and au pairs over the holidays. As a reminder to assist with scheduling, program guidelines state an au pair can work up to 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. Hours cannot be carried from week to week. Please take the time to discuss your schedules and expectations.

The au pair program regulations do not have requirements for au pairs to be given holidays off. However, in the spirit of the program and since most parents will be at home spending time with their children, the majority of host families give au pairs some or all of the winter holidays off Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Please discuss this so that everyone is clear about the schedule when making holiday plans.

Religion

For au pairs with religious beliefs different from your own, you may choose to encourage her to share the associated traditions with your family. If you are not comfortable with this aspect of cultural exchange, your au pair may need your help as well as appropriate time off to participate in her own holiday traditions. Enabling her to do this is very important. Her holiday or her time to celebrate the holiday may not be the same as yours; try to take this into consideration if you can when you make her work schedule. You may find that there is no conflict in giving her time off if her traditions are different, and it can relieve a great deal of anxiety to take her preferences into consideration. If you do need your au pair to work during the holiday, please tell her way in advance so that it is not a surprise. Help her to see this as a positive aspect of the cultural exchange if she will be actively sharing in the holiday celebration.

Changes to Routine

The dynamics of established relationships and routines change during the holiday. The high emotions and energy of the children (compared to their more reasonable behavior during the rest of the year) may seem like craziness to the au pair. Assure her that this new set of behaviors is temporary and the household will be back to normal soon. In the meantime, suggest specific things she can do to help. Encourage her to roll with the punches and enjoy the craziness. Also, the number of gifts, food, decorations, etc., can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. Try to include the au pair in some quiet, meaningful time together when the true spirit of the holidays is shared.

These are important days ahead. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity of the year to respect and learn about cultural differences, which is, indeed, one of the basic elements of the Au Pair in America program. There will be fun-filled memories. This should be a time of love and understanding. Please do your part to make that happen.

Wishing you every happiness of the season!

Photo: Sean Hobson