Author Archives: Christine Connally

Going Unplugged During Work Hours

Phones, tablets, and laptops are wonderful tools to stay connected and informed, but we need to be careful not to let them become distractions from real-life interactions and most importantly our responsibilities.

Au Pairs – Imagine for a moment that you went to the hospital and you were in the care of doctors and nurses. How would you feel if those doctors and nurses who were there to care for you were more interested in texting or using their personal computers than caring for you?  How would that make you feel, about yourself and about them? Would you think that you were getting the treatment you deserved?  Would you feel like paying the bill after your stay?

Life as an au pair, it is a fine balance between employee and family member. You live with your host family and participate with them as a member of the family, but you also have clear responsibilities as a childcare provider. Being a childcare provider is truly one of the most important jobs I can think of because you are helping to shape the next generation.  What message are you sending them when you would rather interact with a computer than with them? How will they feel about themselves and about you? Children feel as though everything is about them. They will see this as a rejection of them and they will be more likely to act out.

It also poses a safety concern when you are not paying enough attention to the children in your care. Injuries and accidents happen, but when an adult caregiver is close by and appropriately supervising the chances of a major injury dramatically reduce.

During work hours, the following would not be considered acceptable:

  • Texting* or talking to friends on the phone
  • Using Skype, FaceTime, or any other video chat
  • Using TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,  or any other app or social media site
  • Playing online games
  • Anything else on your phone or computer unless it is going to Nickjr.com together with your host children

*you do want to be on the lookout for texts from your host parents

Even if you work 45 hours a week, that leaves you 123 hours per week for all of that other stuff, or about 70 hours (if you are getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night.)

Phone Use in the Car – Using your phone to text or talk without Bluetooth while driving is illegal, a huge safety risk, and a bad example for the children (future drivers) in the car with you. One moment of distraction when you are driving can change someone’s life forever: your own and/or others around you. If you find the temptation to check your phone is too much for you, set up the driving mode feature on your phone.

Host Parents – You need to be clear about what you consider acceptable during work hours to avoid misunderstandings. Also, please understand that you are dealing with a generation of people who are very accustomed to being plugged in at all times. Their intention is not to be rude, they don’t necessarily realize how their actions will be perceived. Please use this information as an opportunity to begin a dialogue on the issue.

Image: Pexels.com

Make Your Own Ice Cream

Making your own ice cream is a fun summer activity to do with the kids. Here is a simple recipe. You can change it up by adding a little chocolate syrup, a few chocolate chips, or using a flavoring other than vanilla.

mixinbagIn a quart size zipper baggie, combine…
1 cup of whole milk or half and half
2 tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a gallon size zipper baggie…
Fill ½ way with ice cubes
Add 1/3 cup of rock salt (if you don’t have rock salt you can use table salt or kosher salt)

Seal the small baggie carefully and place the inside of the large bag. Seal the large bag and shake the bags until you can see the mixture thickening (about 5 minutes.) It will be cold to hold, so you may want to carefully pass it back and forth between yourself and a partner.  Remove the small baggie and wipe the top off (to remove salt water,) unzip and enjoy!

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)

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.

Field Trips can be a great way for kids to learn and have new experiences. Get permission from your host parents before any outings and be sure to take all social distancing precautions. Some museums are requiring advanced tickets or have reduced hours due to the pandemic.

Online Art FunHere 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 – Dinosaurs

This week’s Camp Au Pair theme is Dinosaurs.

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

Field Trips can be a great way for kids to learn and have new experiences. Get permission from your host parents before any outings and be sure to take all social distancing precautions.

Local Field Trips:

Virtual Field Trips:

Toys – Many kids have dinosaur toys already. See what your kids have and think of fun, new ways you can play with these toys with them. Imagine taking a plastic dinosaur and making footprints in play dough to form your own fossils.

Webcam – This NPS Paleontology Lab offers a webcam where you can watch paleontologists remove rock from around fossils. The cam is normally working 9 am-5 pm PST, so 12-8 pm our time.

Videos – Look for fun videos on YouTube about dinosaurs and fossils. Here are a few to get you started.

Movies – The Good Dinosaur, Land Before Time, and Ice Age are all great family movies that fit with this theme. For older kids, consider movies like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Jurassic Park (which is rated PG-13).

Books – Check your kids’ bookshelf for books on dinosaurs.

Photo: krojotak.com

Camp Au Pair – Bugs & Butterflies

This week’s Camp Au Pair theme is Bugs & Butterflies.

More than 100 crafts, recipes, and activities related to all kinds of bugs, insects, butterflies, and spiders can be found here on the Camp Au Pair – Bugs & Butterflies pinboard.

Outdoors – Kids today do not spend enough time outdoors. Take the kids in the backyard or another nature area (approved by your host parents) and do some activities related to this theme:

  • Allow them to search for bugs and butterflies.
  • Observe lightning bugs (also known as fireflies) in the evening. Here is a map showing what people call these little guys in different parts of the country.
  • After it rains, look for earthworms. Not bugs or butterflies, but very interesting creatures you can find in your own backyard.

NOTE: If you are outdoors with the children, be sure to check for ticks when you come back inside. Here is a blog post explaining the health risk ticks can pose and how to find and remove them safely.

Videos – You can find many great videos of butterflies and insects on YouTube. Check out these videos for kids about bees and ants. All about Insects covers lots of tiny creatures who crawl and fly. Here are a few videos to get you started.

Movies – A Bugs Life, The Bee Movie, Maya the Bee, and The Ant Bully all fit this theme.

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

Books – Make a trip to the library and/or check your kids’ bookshelf for books on bugs and butterflies. You may find some classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar or The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle. You can also find books being read aloud on YouTube videos like this one.

Image: minieco.co.uk

Camp Au Pair – Science (STEM)

This week’s Camp Au Pair theme is Science (STEM). This includes science, technology, engineering, and math.

More than 100 crafts, recipes, activities, and experiments related to science, technology, engineering, and math can be found here on the Camp Au Pair – Science (STEM) pinboard.

Field Trips can be a great way for kids to learn and have new experiences. Get permission from your host parents before any outings. Here are a few places to go, that fit this theme:

*Some but not all locations have a viewing area where you can watch the machines used to make them.

Virtual Field Trips

Videos – On YouTube, you can find many great videos of science experiments to do with kids.

The Magic School Bus is a cartoon series with episodes on lots of great science topics. You can find some episodes on YouTube and the entire series on Paramount Plus.

Bill Nye the Science Guy is science TV series for kids. There is an episode guide on his website with clips and explanations on a wide variety of science topics.

MoviesThe Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, Wall-E, and Hidden Figures all fit the STEM theme.

Webcams – You can do a google search for science websites with webcams. Here is a collection of 22 science webcams from around the world.

Books – Stop by your local library and look for books on science, technology, engineering, and math.

Remember… Science is learning about how things work through observation and experimentation. Every day is full of opportunities to encourage children’s natural curiosity about the world!

Image: sweetpaulmag.com

Camp Au Pair: Backyard Safari

This week’s Camp Au Pair theme is Backyard Safari.

Crafts, recipes, activities, and games can all be found here on the Camp Au Pair – Backyard Safari pinboard

Field Trips can be a great way for kids to learn and have new experiences. While we don’t have any animal safari parks near us, we are fortunate to live near two of the top zoos in the United States.

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

Videos – Look for fun videos about African animals on YouTube.

Books – Stop by your local library and look for books on animals you might find on a safari or in the zoo. You can also check YouTube for some books on this subject being read aloud.

Image: Jumble Tree

Make Plans for Summer Fun with the Kids!

When the kids are out of school on summer break there are soooo many possibilities. But, if you don’t make plans, you will often end up in the house with bored kids getting into trouble and arguing with their siblings.  Make plans!

Having lots of ideas ready can minimize those problems.

Looking for fun activity ideas to get the summer started off right with your host kids?

The Au Pair in America Summer Fun Pinboard is a great place to start. Together, create a Summer Bucket List. Talk with the kids about things they would like to see and do. Even toddlers and preschoolers can contribute to the conversation. Run these plans by your host parents and clear things like how much you may spend and when is best to do some of these activities.

Check back here next week for information on Camp Au Pair in America: a weekly blog series with themes for a summer break filled with fun and new adventures.

Photo: MissMessie (Flickr)

Health & Safety: Where are Ticks?

When the weather is nice, we spend more time outdoors with the children. Playing in the back yard, at the playground, or walking on nature trails are great ways to get fresh air and exercise.

kids in woods

What are ticks? – Ticks are small mites that attach to the skin and suck blood. Click HERE to see examples of ticks.

Where are ticks commonly found? – Ticks are typically found in areas with trees, bushes, or tall grass. This includes back yards, parks, nature areas, and most places you would be spending time with the children outdoors in the nice weather.

What needs to be done? – When you return home from areas where ticks might live, carefully check the children and yourself (clothing, skin, and scalp) for ticks. If you find a tick on one of your host children, notify your host parents immediately.

Most ticks do not carry diseases, and most tick bites do not cause serious health problems. But it is important to remove a tick as soon as you find it. Removing the tick completely and cleaning the area with soap and water or antiseptic spray, may help avoid diseases such as Lyme Disease that the tick may pass on during feeding, or a skin infection where it bit you.

Click HERE for Instructions on Removing a tick from WebMD.com.

How do you reduce the risk of tick bites?  – Use a repellent with DEET on the skin. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET can protect up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Adults should apply this product to their children, avoiding the hands, eyes, and mouth. When you come back in from outside, it’s best to wash the repellent off of the skin with soap and water. For detailed information about using DEET on children, see the American Academy of Pediatrics.