Author Archives: Christine Connally

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.

Important Summer Safety Tips

  1. Remember to bring along drinks, especially water. Try to get children to drink water every 20 minutes when they are outside in hot weather.
  2. Pay attention to surfaces that can be hot against children’s skin, such as metal slides and other playground equipment in the sun.
  3. Safety around water is particularly important. A child can drown in just a few inches of water. Whenever you are near water you must never leave a child alone – if the phone rings, take them with you or let it ring! Always stay within arm’s reach when the children are in or near water.
  4. Young babies should be kept out of direct sunlight. Keep the baby in the shade or under a tree, umbrella, or stroller canopy.
  5. Dress babies in lightweight clothing and use brimmed hats.
  6. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, even if it appears overcast (cloudy).
  7. Try to keep children out of the sun in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest.
  8. Learn what poison ivy looks like and keep children out of it. A good rule to teach the children is “leaves of three, let it be.”
  9. Use insect repellent spray to keep away mosquitos and ticks. Ask your host parents before applying.
  10. Check for ticks when you bring children in from playing outside, especially if you’ve been in tall grass or the woods.

Photo: Scott97006 (Flickr)

Handling Problems or Poor Customer Service

Places like the DMV and Social Security office can be challenging for Americans, so I can understand how difficult it could be for an au pair to run into problems there.

If you encounter a problem in one of these locations or at other places like college enrollment, store, bank, etc., here are some tips:

  • Remain calm and polite, even if the person you are dealing with doesn’t. You don’t want to be viewed as being unreasonable or out of control, because that will not help your situation.
  • Ask to speak with a supervisor, if you are being told something that goes against the procedure you have been told (by your counselor, host parent, Au Pair in America or a previous encounter with the office you are visiting).
  • Ask for the name of the person with whom you are speaking. It is a reasonable question and can help if you need to reference this conversation later. It also adds some accountability for the person who gave you the answer.

If the supervisor is still unable to help you, please discuss the problem with your host parents and/or your community counselor. Maybe there has been a change in the procedure. If there has not been a change and you just got unlucky with the person with which you were dealing, you may find success going back another day.

Positive Discipline – Rewarding Good Behavior

Years ago when my kids were younger, I had a cluster meeting at my house and a few au pairs commented on the chore and behavior charts I had posted in my family room. With four kids, I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of who had done what and who had gained or lost various privileges. So, over the years, I have used charts to keep everything on track.  I have also created charts for host families and au pairs dealing with behavior the children may be having.

I uploaded a few of these charts in case you may find them helpful.

Positive Behavior – Recognizing and rewarding positive behavior can often be a good way to reduce negative behavior. The goal behind lots of children’s actions is the same, attention seeking. Try to show them more positive attention when they do well and make less of a fuss over negative behaviors.

Explain how the chart will work and then look for times when you can call their attention to something they did that was kind or helpful. It is nice to have short term and longer term goals. For example, the thrill of putting a sticker on the chart can be exciting for toddlers and preschoolers and that along with your words of praise are instant gratification. Saying when you get 5 stickers you get a larger reward (trip to the park, extra story or video, special activity) is intended to make them want to keep up the positive behavior. Positive Behavior Chart

Tracking Privileges – For school aged children it can be helpful to tie how they are behaving to privileges they want to have. I used this chart with different colored push pins, so my children could see where they were on the ladder and I could remember who I had told they could do what. The ladder style chart is based on an idea of the Dilley Family (famous parents of sextuplets.) I figured if it worked for them with six kids, it might work for me- and it has for many years. You can make this chart your own by substituting the kinds of activities your kids enjoy.  Ladder Chart 

Chores – Having chores teaches children that they are an important part of the family and their efforts count. This teaches responsibility and promotes positive self-esteem.  Chore Chart with Basic Chores

These are just a starting point, you can make your own charts and even involve the children in the process.

#1 Tip – Be Consistent!

All adults in the house need to be on the same page. It takes time to change behavior. Don’t expect instant results.

 

Host Family Hints to Help Your Au Pair Match Flourish

Host parents have many responsibilities and are often very busy. Hosting an au pair can provide help with a large part of the childcare related responsibilities. Below are a few simple things you can do to help your au pair match flourish.

Treat Your Au Pair Like a Family Member – Au pairs who feel appreciated and included as a member of their host family tend to see their host children as family members and feel very invested in their happiness and success.

Stay on Top of Payments –  Au pairs can feel very uncomfortable if they need to ask for their weekly stipend payment. This can also make them feel like their work is not appreciated or you are unconcerned about their needs. Add a recurring weekly event on your calendar, use payment apps or automatic bank transfer to schedule your au pair’s stipend payment and give yourself one less thing to remember.

The same is true for their transportation costs to cluster meetings and classes. Au pairs let their host family know about the costs but some host parents don’t always follow through and reimburse them. Here’s a blog post with information and tips on how to handle transportation costs.

Communication – Make time every couple of weeks for a check-in conversation. This provides your au pair a time to bring up questions or concerns which she may be hesitant to bring up when she see’s how busy you are day to day. It’s also a good time for discussing any concerns you have as well as planning for upcoming events or schedule changes. 

Photo: Shared by an APIA Host Family

 

Au Pair Hint For Success – Finish your Year Strong

In the final months of your au pair year, it can be tempting to become relaxed in the way you complete your duties. You may be thinking about your travel month, returning home and the next chapter of your life. That can be exciting and sometimes a little overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to talk with your host family, community counselor and friends if you need support.

You have done a wonderful job and made it so far! Don’t forget you are still an important part of your host family and they are still counting on you in these final months of your program.