Tag Archives: childcare

Three Ways for Au Pairs to Stay Red Cross Ready

Being knowledgeable in basic first aid and CPR is important for au pairs (and anyone else caring for children). Au Pair in America’s commitment to infant/child safety begins before au pairs arrive to the U.S., with pre-arrival training and continue throughout the au pair year.

#1 Training At Orientation

Our orientation includes seminars by American Red Cross instructors who provide hands-on demonstrations in infant/child CPR and safety. Printed materials are provided that reinforce the safety information and can be used to review from time to time.

#2 Enroll in a Red Cross Certification Class

After settling into their host community, all au pairs are encouraged to complete an Infant/Child CPR and First Aid certification program. Au Pair in America will pay for this training through the American Red Cross.

Classes are available through the Red Cross. Au Pair in America will pay for the cost of a class providing an au pair has at least six months left on her visa and is taking one of several approved childcare/child safety-related classes, such as Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED. Au pairs should check with their community counselor and host family before signing up. Au Pair in America will register the au pair directly.

To locate a class, visit www.redcross.org/takeaclass. For step-by-step instructions on how to locate a class and have Au Pair in America complete enrollment, click here.

#3 Stay Current on Safety Information

The Official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, this app gives you instant access to the information you need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice, it’s never been easier to know first aid. Download the app for free from the American Red Cross website or in your app store.

Photos: Robin Leon

Back to School Planning

Back to school time is here. This can mean changes to the au pair schedule and possibly to the duties.  It is very important to communicate these changes to avoid problems.

Here is a list of topics to consider discussing:

  • Au pair’s work schedule
  • The children’s school and activity schedules
  • Where the children get dropped off and picked up and who will be doing this
  • What to do if a child is staying home sick, late to school, does not get off the bus (if they are supposed to)
  • Driving laws regarding stopping for school buses
  • How to tell if school has been canceled or delayed for bad weather
  • Add the au pair to your list of people allowed to pick up the kids from school and explain the process
  • What to pack for lunch
  • The routine after school (do they have free time before starting homework, what to give for a snack, any chores, where do they put their backpacks & lunchboxes)
  • How to communicate about what’s going on at school. Your Kids in Care logbook from Au Pair in America can be a great two-way communication tool for keeping track of schedules, afterschool activities and day to day info that needs to be transferred between host parents and au pair.
  • If your au pair will be the one going through the children’s backpack and helping with homework, consider designating an area for putting things that need to be read and/or signed by parents.

Here are some Printable Fill-in-the-Blank School Notes for parents. You can print these out and have them ready for times when the kids are absent, late, have an early dismissal or you need to give permission for something.

Check out Au Pair in America’s Pinterest School Tips and Ideas pinboard for things like organization ideas, back to school traditions, printable lunch box notes, and fun lunch recipes.

 

Child Proofing

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With shorter days and colder weather, you and the children are probably spending more time inside the house. Please be sure that the house is “childproof” with these simple tips:

  • Children are curious; many small children put everything into their mouths. Be sure no small objects are within the child’s reach.
  • Plastic bags, long cords and very soft pillows can be dangerous to children.
  • If a toy gets broken and has sharp edges, keep it away from children!
  • Be sure that laundry soap and other cleaners are out of reach of the children.
  • Don’t leave any medicines in reach of children, not even vitamins.
  • Keep scissors and knives out of reach.
  • Store the toys that belong to older children out of reach of babies and toddlers.
  • Many cosmetic items and toiletries, such as mouthwash, perfume, nail polish, and hair spray, are poisonous. Keep them out of children’s reach.

National Peanut Butter Day

Today is National Peanut Butter Day.  Who would have guessed you can make Peanut Butter Lover’s Day a Craft Day!

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Other Things To Do:

  • Find out more about where peanuts come from.
  • Make home-made peanut butter.
  • Talk about the color brown/tan.
  • Try one of these Open-Faced Peanut Butter Sandwiches.
  • Go on a peanut hunt (hide peanuts all around the room for someone to search for).

How to Say Goodbye Around the World

 

How to Say Goodbye

The English word “goodbye” is derived from the pharse “God be with you.”  Parting words in other languages are similar. In Spanish, it’s adios (ah-dee-ohs), in French adieu (ah-dyur).  Both words literally mean “to God”.

There are other ways to “goodbye”, however.  English children shout “Cheerio” when parting and in Switzerland. Germany and Italy they say ciao (chow) which is the informal way of saying “goodbye” in Italian.

A wave  of the hand accompanies most goodbyes, at least in the West.  In Japan, people bow when they part, and Hindus press their hands together and say “Namaste”, just as they do when greeting one another.

In some households, in India, it’s considered a bad omen to say “goodbye”.  Instead people say, “go and come back”.  If you are the one leaving , you announce, “I’m going and I will be back.”

How many languages can you teach your host kids to say “goodbye”.  Amaze your host parents at by having the kids say goodbye from around the world at the dinner table.

 

Happy Birthday Au Pair In America

Happy Birthday Au Pair in America!

25 years

Au Pair in America Celebrates 25 Years!

Au Pair in America was established in 1986 as the first federally approved au pair program in the United States.  We have established high standards of excellence, partnering with the U.S. government, international partners, our U.S. field network, AIFS staff and orientation team to provide a quality cross-cultural experience for over 87,000 au pairs from around the world and thousands of American families.  Join us in celebration.

Miscellaneous Expenses

There are different ways to handle the little expenses that may come up.  Things like when an au pair takes the kids out for ice cream or picks up a gallon of milk.  Some families keep a cookie jar fund, a little cash that they set aside weekly or monthly for this kind of expenses.  Here are some suggestions for avoiding problems with that.

Host Families

  • It’s important to be clear about how long this money should last and what types of expenses are approved.
  • Let the au pair know whether or not you expect receipts.

Au Pairs

  • Only spend the money on approved expenses.
  • If it is something you are not sure about, ask first.
  • Put your receipts in the cookie jar in place of the money to avoid any confusion.

Gas and Fare Cards

Host families are responsible for the au pair’s transportation costs:

  • to and from classes and cluster meetings
  • driving the kids

It is a good idea to figure out how much gas an au pair will use for these trips and either put gas in the car or give a gas allowance.   If your au pair is riding to classes or cluster meetings with another au pair, you should offer to share the cost of gas.

Au pairs are responsible for their own transportation at all other times.  You should replace the amount of gas used for personal use.

Who’s in charge?

Au pairs and host parents are most often together with the children at the most stressful times of the day – the morning and at the end of the day.  Getting through the stressful times of the day is best done with a consistent approach.  Planning ahead about division of labor and delegation of responsibility, as well as developing routines that both the au pair and the parents will adhere to, is essential.

Another particularly challenging time of day is when the transition is made from parent to au pair or from au pair to parent.  Focusing the transition on a particular activity and consistently following that procedure may ease the confusion for the children. for example, Mommy will help you get dressed; then you will go downstairs and the au pair will give you breakfast while Mommy gets ready for her day; or the au pair will give you a bath, and when you are done, she will say goodnight and Daddy will read you a story.

The children will benefit when the au pair and the parents remember to work cooperativley, keep communication open and exercise authority when necessary.

Halloween History

A Brief History of Halloween in America

posted by Hellion | 10/9/2007 6:49:45 PM | Permalink | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

By Hellion

Of all the holidays, Halloween stands out as the best example of the quintessential American “melting pot,” that is, a melange of beliefs, rituals, or traditions, both religious or pagan, that stem from all cultures living in America.

October 31 marks the observation of Halloween or Hallowe’en, a short variation of All-hallow-even, the evening before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, on November 1. After the Romans conquered the Celts in 43AD, they adopted many of their festivals and incorporated them into their own religious celebrations. All Hallows Day was one such example. Originally the day that celebrated numerous pagan festivals, but Pope Gregory III would eventually designate November 1 to mark the Christian feast of All Saints Day, which had moved from May 13. According to the Church, a day started at sunset, which is why celebrations typically started on October 31, the eve of the holiday, All Hallows Day.

Halloween’s Celtic Origins
Jack O LanternsOne of most poignant pagan celebrations was Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en,”) a Celtic holiday, which marked the end of the harvest and the end of summer. Samhain is sometimes also regarded as the “Celtic New Year.” Celts believed this was a very important day to celebrate, as this was the day when two worlds, the living and the dead, came together. Spirits were believed to be mischievous and caused trouble, sometimes damaging crops. So the Celts would leave food, gather together and set huge bonfires of burning crops, believing the light would drive away evil spirits away. Sometimes they lit candles or carved lanterns out of vegetables such as squash to light the way for good spirits. In the Americas, those lanterns would be carved out of pumpkins, also known as Jack O’Lanterns. There are also some accounts of people making animal sacrifices to Celtic deities and even dressing in costumes made of animal hides to fool evil spirits. These days, Samhain is celebrated more has a harvest festival but still uses many of the same rituals.

Halloween Traditions in the 1800s
European immigrants brought their rituals and customs with them to America. There are actually few accounts of Halloween in colonial American history due in part to the large Protestant presences in the Northern colonies and their strict religious beliefs. However, down in the Southern colonies where larger, more mixed European communities had settled, there are some accounts of Halloween celebrations mixing with Native American harvest celebrations.

In the mid 1800s, nearly two million Irish immigrants fleeing potato famine helped shape Halloween into an even more widely celebrated event. Scottish immigrants celebrated with fireworks, telling ghost stories, playing games and making mischief. There were games such as bobbing for apples, dooking, the dropping of forks on apples without using hands, and Puicini, an Irish fortune-telling game using saucers. Young women were frequently told if they sat in dark rooms and gazed into a mirror, the face of their future husbands would appear, however, if a skull appeared, the poor girl would be destined to die before marriage. The English observation of Guy Fawkes Day on November 5 had also become intertwined with Halloween. Most pranks and mischief were the work of naughty children rather than spirits as once believed.

Halloween As A Communal Celebration
By the 1900s, the focus had shifted from a religious holiday to a more communal celebration. “Guising” was actually a practice dating back to the middle ages, when the poor would go around asking for food or money. Borrowing from the English and Irish traditions, children adopted the practice of guising and would dress up in costumes, but there are only isolated references to children actually going door to door asking for food or money during Halloween. Instead parties were held and had a more festive atmosphere with colorful costumes. The frightening and superstitious aspects of Halloween had diminished somewhat, and Halloween in America was slowly shedding some of the old European traditions favoring more light-hearted celebrations.

Trick or Treat
Despite the good natures of some people, Halloween pranks and mischief had become a huge problem in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly because the pranks often turned into vandalism, property damage and even physical assaults. Bad kids and even organizations such as the KKK, used the Halloween as an excuse to engage in criminal activity. Schools and communities did the best they could to curb vandalism by encouraging the “trick or treat” concept. The Boy Scouts got into the act by organizing safe events like school carnivals and local neighborhood trick or treat outings for children, hoping this would stir troublemakers away. But the Trick or Treat idea did face some controversy, as some parents and community leaders would take a stance that Trick or Treat was along the same lines as extortion, either the homes gave children “treats” or the families would be maliciously targeted with “tricks” for not complying. Regardless, by the late 30s, vandalism was decreasing as more and more children opted to partake in Trick or Treat.

Trick or TreatThe earliest known print of the words “Trick or Treat” did not occur until 1934, when a Portland, Oregon newspaper ran an article about how Halloween pranks kept local police officers on their toes. There would be sporadic instances of the phrase “Trick or Treat” used in the media during the 1930s, eventually making its way onto Halloween cards. But the practice we see today, children dressed in costume, going house to house saying “Trick or Treat” did not really come about until the mid 1940s. Today, those original vintage Halloween cards depicting the “Trick or Treat” words are collector’s items.

The First Halloween Celebrations
Anoka, Minnesota, a.k.a the “Halloween Capital of the World,” was the first city in America to officially hold a Halloween celebration, in an effort to divert kids from pulling pranks like tipping outhouses and letting cows loose to run around on Main Street. The town organized a parade and spent the weeks prior planning and making costumes. Treats of popcorn, peanuts and candy to any children who participated in the parade, followed by a huge bonfire in the town square. The event grew over time and has been held every year since 1920 except 1942 and 1943 when festivities were cancelled due to World War II. These days Anoka, holds elaborate Halloween festivals with a parade, carnivals, costume contests, house decorating, and other community celebrations, living up to its self-proclaimed title of “Halloween Capital of the World.” Salem, Massachusetts, associated mostly with witches due in part to its long and sometimes torrid history, also lays claim to the title. Many historians quietly back away from that debate leaving the two cities to duke it out for themselves.

Halloween in Modern America
The popularity of Halloween has increased year after year. Television, movies, and other media outlets have helped Halloween grow into America’s second largest commercial holiday, which brings in an estimated $6.9 billion dollars annually. Watching horror movies and visiting haunted attractions, real haunts or haunted theme parks is a popular modern way to celebrate the evening. Just as it was in the colonial times, Halloween in America is a melting pot of everything that is Halloween. There is no correct way to celebrate the holiday. Overzealous religious and social organizations have unsuccessfully tried to squash the holiday by spreading lies or rumors hoping to tarnish the image of Halloween by associating it with evil. The truth is there are many unsubstantiated reports and rare attacks on ordinary citizens in the way of razorblades in apples or kidnappings and killings for Satanic rituals. Most myths are created to simply prey on human fears, sometimes for fun and sometimes to railroad thoughts and beliefs to serve the purpose of a select few.

The biggest challenge facing today’s 38 million trick or treaters is staying safe in a world where the criminal types use Halloween as an excuse to act on deviant behavior. Many school and local communities will organize trick or treating in shopping malls, especially in neighborhoods where gang activity is prevalent. Parent worries in even the safe neighborhoods have adopted this practice as well. It saves money in the long run and is safe for all those involved and is slowly becoming the preferred way to celebrate in these volatile times.

Some have argued that Halloween has lost its spiritual meaning due to all the corporate and media influences. In this technology driven world, it’s important to remember that along with society, even holidays are subject to evolution. No matter what people choose to do, no matter what cultural, spiritual or material way, as long as people celebrate in a safe and happy way, the spirit of Halloween in America will endure for ages. But it’s always nice to take a look back at history and learn how it all began.

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