Category Archives: Archives

Social Distancing: Free Virtual Escape Rooms

Libraries may be closed due to COVID-19, but many librarians are coming up with creative ideas to keep people entertained and promote literacy. One of those creative ideas is free virtual escape rooms. With a variety of themes, some may be fun to do on your own, others as activities with the kids.

Sydney Krawiec, Youth Services Librarian at Peters Township Public Library in McMurray, PA created this Hogwarts Virtual Escape Room. She shared this tutorial on how to create your own virtual escape room, which seemed to spark the creativity of many other librarians.

Some amazing librarians all over the country have been busy creating virtual escape rooms with a variety of themes.

Special thanks to the Humboldt County Library in Winnemucca, Nevada for gathering info on many of these escape rooms. Follow them on Facebook for their storytimes and weekly Facebook Live Science Time on Fridays.

Image: Canva.com

Social Distancing: 5 Apps to Plan Your Future Trips

Being spontaneous and just traveling to a place and deciding what to do as you go along can be fun. But, there are benefits to doing research and planning before your trips. These ideas are to help you make general plans. You shouldn’t book any tickets or make any financial commitments until you know when travel will safely resume.

Planning can help you:

  • Save money
  • Make the best use of your time
  • Fit in more adventures
  • Visit places you might not have heard of before

It also extends the joy of the travel time. Planning all the thing you will do, gives you something to look forward to. We can all use things to look forward to right now.

If you are looking for travel inspiration and ideas or a place to keep your travel ideas organized, Pinterest is a great place to start. You can browse other people’s travel and bucket list pinboards. You can create your own pinboards for places you want to go and ones you have already visited.

These three apps are all trip planners and offer the ability to research places and create your own itinerary. Each one has its own look and feel and slightly different features. Download them and see which one is the best fit for you.

Road trips can be the ultimate adventure. You set your own pace and stop to see what you want. The journey can be as much fun as your destination.

  • Road Trippers is an app that helps you plan the ultimate road trip. It helps you determine your route and find interesting stops along the way.

We won’t be stuck inside forever. Once travel resumes, be ready with your plans!

Photo: Natacha R. from France

Social Distancing: 5 Online Adventures for Kids

Reading, playing, and doing art projects are always great ways to entertain children and keep them physically active and learning. It’s a good idea to limit screen time. But, in this time of social distancing, technology can play an important role in allowing kids to see and connect with the world outside of their homes. Many online resources are popping up to create those opportunities.

Here are five to get you started:

And if kids have questions about the coronavirus, Live Science has created an ultimate kids’ guide to the new coronavirus that has lots of information and is appropriate for school-aged kids.

Social Distancing: 10 Things You CAN Do Right Now

Social distancing is important right now to help slow the spread of coronavirus. This means avoiding places where you come in contact with lots of people (schools, movies, restaurants, museums, concerts, parties, etc.)  I am sure you keep hearing a lot about the things you should not do.

It’s also important to have ideas of things you can do. There are plenty of activities you can do at home and away from crowds.

While we can’t control many things going on right now in the world, we can choose how we deal with it.

“She turned her can’ts into cans
and her dreams into plans.” 
– Kobi Yamada

 

Here are 10 things you CAN do right now:

  • Stay connected with your friends and family via social media, texting, and Skype.
  • Go for a walk or run on your own. As long as you don’t go to a populated place, it’s fine to go out for some exercise.
  • Enjoy nature. That could be sitting outside in your backyard on a nice day or walking on a nature trail.
  • Read a book or listen to an audiobook or podcast. Getting lost in a story is a great way to take your mind off of things. Or if you pick a non-fiction book or podcast you may learn something new. You could even create an online book club or podcast discussion group with friends.
  • Do yoga. Yoga can be a great way to relieve stress and maintain your fitness. There are many free yoga videos on Youtube. Sign up here to receive daily emails for 30 Days of Yoga.
  • Take virtual tours of museums online.*
  • Make memories in the kitchen.* Cooking recipes from your home country is a great way to share your culture with your host family and give yourself a taste of home. Cooking classic American recipes is a way to continue your cultural exchange. You can find lots of recipes online. Also, you will be able to share that taste of America with your own family by cooking some of these recipes after you return home at the end of your program.
  • Have an online watch party with friends. When you watch a movie alone do you miss talking to a friend about what’s happening? Pick a time and a movie and from your individual homes you each stream the movie on Netflix at the same time. You can text or do a group chat during the movie.
  • Make top 10 lists of your favorite things like movies, foods, songs and more. Share and compare lists with your friends. You may find out some things you didn’t know about each other and get some ideas for new things to try.
  • Research and plan trips to places you want to visit while in the U.S.* This time of social distancing won’t last forever. Use this time to do some research online and make plans. This will help you make the most of those trips when you get to take them a few months from now. It will also give you something to look forward to.

*Future blog posts in this series will have more detailed information on these topics.

 

Dealing with Social Distancing

The coronavirus has caused lots of temporary changes to our daily routines. Right now, we are being asked to practice “social distancing” to reduce the spread of the virus.

What is social distancing?
Social distancing is a way to keep people from interacting as closely or frequently enough to spread the virus. Schools, sporting events and concerts are being canceled. People are being asked to stay at home more to avoid being in contact with a large number of people.

What are some ways to take care of yourself?
Some people may feel anxious, lonely or frustrated and that is totally normal. It can be very helpful to talk with friends and family about those feelings. It helps to know that others are going through these same emotions. Reach out to your community counselor if you need support during this time.

It is very important to practice good self-care. Connect with people you love via Skype and text, maintain a healthy diet, stay active, make plans for things you want to do once things get back to normal. Staying out of crowds doesn’t have to mean just staying in the home. You can go for walks and enjoy nature. Both exercise and spending time in nature are beneficial for your mental health.

Where can you get practical tips for dealing with social distancing?
We recognize that some of these changes will require patience and resourcefulness. During this time, we will be doing a series of blog posts with resources to assist you with two specific aspects of this situation:

  • Ideas for keeping the kids occupied (while they are home from school)
  • Ways to continue your cultural exchange from home

Photo: Meg Willis  

2020 Challenge: Collect Moments, Not Things

Common problem: “It’s the end of my au pair year and I have sooooo much stuff! It’s going to cost me a fortune in extra baggage fees.”

This post is about one way to prevent that problem.

I know it can be tempting. There are so many beautiful things and great sales out there. But in 2020, I challenge you to take a moment before each purchase and ask yourself:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Do I want it enough to pay extra baggage fees to get it home later?
  • What experience could I have with this money instead? For example, you might ask yourself, “Would I rather have these designer shoes or a ticket to a concert?”

Being an au pair can be an amazing time in your life where you have the opportunity to try new things and see new places. The more money you save for travel, the more of those unforgettable moments you will have to carry home with you.

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

Photo: Canva.com

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.

 

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

Top 5 Tips for Overcoming Homesickness

Almost everyone experiences culture shock when they come to a completely new environment. Everything is different: the language, the food, and the people.

When everything feels so unfamiliar, it is natural to long for the security of home. However, you don’t want to let that feeling of longing for home, make you too sad or prevent you from finding happiness in your new home.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Dealing with Homesickness

1. Make Friends – Don’t wait for other au pairs to reach out to you, reach out to them. There are other lots of new au pairs who are feeling the same way you are right now. Set a goal to reach out to a few of them each day. Some will respond and some will not. Don’t let that discourage you. No one will ever be mad at you for sending them a message to say hello or ask if they want to do something together. Make friends from various countries and you will also get a chance to practice your English skills together.

2. Stay in touch with your home country, but not too much. Skyping or talking on the phone every day with your family and/or friends back home often makes homesickness worse. Try texting instead and reduce the Skype and phone calls to once a week, until you feel stronger. It’s much harder seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those you miss.

3. Get out of the house (or your room specifically) – Go to cluster meetings, have coffee or go to movies with other au pairs, join a gym, go to the library, go for a walk, visit the mall, get a manicure, visit a museum. If someone invites you out, say “yes.” Also, don’t be afraid to do the inviting. If your host family invites you to do things with them, say “yes.” This will help you get to know each other and contribute to your overall happiness.

4. Realize that it definitely gets better – All au pairs experience homesickness and nearly all of them stay and have a successful year (some stay for two years). So, it must get better, right? Once you get past the initial homesickness, most au pairs report how quickly the year goes by.

5. Make Plans – Create your own Au Pair Bucket List (places you want to go, new foods to try, new things to experience during your year in the U.S.) and start doing them now. Post on our cluster group to find others who may want to join you on your adventures.

Photo by: Hernán Piñera (Flickr)

Big Kids Need Interaction Too

Just because a child is old enough to occupy themselves, doesn’t mean that they should be expected to do so the majority of the time.  Host families have a certain expectation of activity and involvement for their children. Get the kids engaged and active. You can be more fun than the TV or a video game.

 

Problem:
But, my kids don’t want to do anything but watch TV or play video games.

Solution:
Instead of saying,  “Would you like to (fill in the blank with any activity)?  The answer will often be, “No.”

Try this, “Now we are going to (fill in the blank with any activity.) or “Would you rather do  _____ or ______?”  Make sure both the choices are good options.
Your chances of co-operation are greatly increased. Even kids who are reluctant to try new things will usually get in the spirit of things and have fun, if you pick a good activity.

Problem:
I don’t know what to do with school age kids.

Solution:
Look for ideas online. Google “activities school age kids” or “activities tweens”. Below is a list of some ideas to get you started.

  • Cooking
  • Making things (check craft stores like Michael’s for kits and models that are age appropriate)
  • Going fun places (pottery painting, jewelry making, farms, museums, mini-golf, go-karts)
  • Sports (soccer, tennis, swimming, bicycling, roller skating, ice skating)
  • Let them teach you to do something they enjoy. Kids this age love being the expert.
  • Get outdoors and visit local parks.  You can even make a project of reviewing all the local parks (what kind of equipment they have, is there shade, water fountain?)  They can write this up and keep, so they remember which ones they want to go to again and which ones to skip in the future.
  • Let them help you search and plan some activities.
  • Check on the APIA Pinterest page and here on our cluster blog for ideas.
  • If you have a GPS, try taking them geocaching. Here is a website with all the details.

Note: Always get permission from your host parents before taking the kids places.

Photo: Killian77