Category Archives: Au Pair Tips

TOP TEN ACTIVITIES FOR FALL

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Summer is over, and in many places the air is turning colder. As the weather changes be sure to take advantage of what the fall season has to offer. Even if you don’t live in a place that sees a lot colorful leaves, there are fun family-friendly ways to get outdoors this fall:

• Go apple picking. Sure, most of us can get apples year-round from the grocery store, but there’s nothing quite like orchard fresh apples, picked straight from the tree during harvest season. That crunchy, tangy, sweet apple flavor is at its peak during this time of year. Many commercial orchards will let you pick your own. It’s not only fun, it’s also a great way to show kids where their food comes from. Get extras for canning applesauce, or making pies. When you’re done, warm up with a delicious mulled cider.

• Go on a nature hike. Bring along a field guide to identify different kinds of trees. Look for wildlife collecting food for winter. Explain to kids how animals are starting to fatten up and grow thick, protective winter coats. Watch for migrating birds.

• Collect fall leaves. Press them into books or preserve them in glycerin. Paste them onto handmade paper to create greeting cards, or glue them between two pieces of wax paper to make an attractive sun catcher. Go lightly on the glue, or substitute crayon shavings to add color; use a warm iron to melt the shavings and hold the paper together.

• Take a hayride. Many farms offer hayrides during the fall. This is a great way to kick back and enjoy nature with smaller kids who may not be up for a long walk.

• Visit the pumpkin patch. Don’t buy your Halloween pumpkin from the grocery store. Go straight to the source. Kids will love wandering around the patch to pick out the perfect pumpkin. Choose a couple of big ones for jack-o-lanterns, and grab a few smaller ones for painting or general household decorations. Smaller pumpkins make great additions to fall centerpieces. Roast the seeds in your oven with a sprinkling of tasty spices, and grab a few to make pumpkin pies.

• Visit a corn maze. Many farms earn extra income for the winter by turning their cornfields into large mazes. Test your directional sense, and get some fresh air in the process. Corn mazes are fun or all ages.

• Stuff a scarecrow. Dig out an old shirt and overalls, and stuff it with leaves until firm. Add a pumpkin head (from your trip to the pumpkin patch) and you’ve got a great fall decoration.

• Fly a kite. The gusty, brisk air makes autumn a great time for flying kites. Buy one from the store, or make your own from two long sticks, strong paper, and string.

• Have a bonfire. Invite some friends over for a backyard bonfire. The chill in the air makes fall the perfect time to sit together by the warmth of a blazing fire with a nice warm mug of cocoa or cider. Be sure to get any necessary permits from your town first.

• Make a leaf pile and jump in!

Photo: Lecates

September is Baby Safety Month

Baby Safety Month – There are many safety tips on the Au Pair in America website.

sleeping baby

In honor of Baby Safety Month, here are some more specific baby tips:

  • If you must leave the baby alone for a few moments, be sure she is safely in a crib or play pen.
  • Check condition and sturdiness of toys. Discard any with sharp edges or that are broken or falling apart.
  • Check clothing for loose buttons and remove strings.
  • Is baby’s pacifier still in good condition? Be sure it isn’t coming apart. Never use strings to attach the pacifier to baby’s clothes or crib.
  • Where do you set baby’s carrier when she’s in it? Not on the counter or any high surface, please. Babies can wiggle and tip themselves over.
  • Stroller check. If your stroller is collapsible, be sure latches are secure before putting baby in. Always check that your child’s arms are out of the way when reversing handle directions so they won’t get pinched. Be sure to use that safety strap. Don’t hang overloaded or heavy bags on the handle of the stroller, as this may cause it to tip over.
  • Can you name the 12 most common choking foods for kids under five? Popcorn, hot dogs, chunks of meat, raisins, ice cubes, chunky peanut butter, peanuts (nuts of any kind), hard candy, grapes, raw carrots, potato chips and corn chips.
  • Don’t leave toddlers alone while eating; if they begin to choke, you need to be nearby to assist.
  • Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub. If the phone rings, let the machine get it, or bring a cordless phone into the bathroom with you. Wait until baby can sit alone to give baths in the tub. It’s easier in the sink until then.
  • Enroll in an infant/child CPR and first aid class. This will be a valuable investment of your time, and Au Pair in America will pay for it.

Photo: Lisa Rosario

THE BACK PACK!

7651703666_b36702cfccThe back pack is very important to review every day. This is one of the links between school and home for the student. Backpacks quickly become disorganized and notices missed if you do not empty it every day! Here is what we suggest you do every day:

  • After the student arrives home, empty the backpack on a table.
  • Find the homework. Set it out in the homework area with all the supplies needed to complete the homework.
  • Put the lunch box in the kitchen. Empty it, discard the garbage, and see if the child actually ate the lunch that was packed. Wipe out the lunch box. Let the parents know what was not eaten!
  • Find all notices sent home with the child. Find anything that needs to be filled out by the parents. If it is your responsibility to keep track of activities, put them on the calendar now. If not, make sure the parents see them.
  • Make sure permission slips, fundraisers, book orders, photo notices and anything else that must be signed is done on time. Make sure these items get back in the backpack and the child turns them in on time. If the signed form and money is in the back pack at the end of the day, the child forgot to give it to the teacher. Remind the child, tell the parent!!
  • All completed homework must be put in the homework folder in the backpack as soon as the homework is completed. Make sure there is a sturdy folder to put the homework in; the child knows where it is when he or she arrives at school. The homework will stay neater this way!!
  • In the morning, recheck for homework. Is it in the folder? Are all permission slips and notices requiring money in the folder in the backpack?
  • Make lunch and put the lunch box in the backpack. If the lunch box is in the backpack there is less chance it will be left on the bus!!
  • Does the child need to bring anything else to school that day? Maybe he or she needs gym clothes, or something for show and tell. Put it in the backpack!
  • At the end of the week, make sure all work sent home is placed out for the parents to see. Any dirty gym clothes are taken out of the backpack and put in the laundry. The back pack and the lunch box should be wiped out and kept clean!!

Source:  Cindy Garruba – CC in Long Island, NY

Photo: Jens Rost

In Case of an Emergency: Dial 9-1-1

dialing 911 on the phone will connect you with an operator trained to handle and dispatch emergency services.  It is used all across the country.  School-aged children should know to call 911 also – discuss when it would be appropriate such as fire (but don’t call from the house that is burning!) or when someone seems to be seriously hurt and there is no adult to help.

Photo: BenSpark

National Grandparents Day

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Take some time today to make a surprise for Grandparents Day.  This is not a widely celebrated holiday, so grandparents will appreciate being remembered and would particularly enjoy a homemade gift or card.

Stopping for School Buses

With schools starting soon and many new au pairs who have recently arrived, we wanted to remind everyone about what to do in different situations with school buses. If you have questions, please ask us or your host parents.

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The rules regarding stopping for school buses are:

  • It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus while its lights are flashing and its’ stop arm is extended.
  • On undivided roadways, with no physical barrier or median, vehicles must stop on both sides of the roadway.
  • Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
  • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and children are getting on or off. Motorists approaching from either direction must wait until the red lights stop flashing before proceeding.

Police, who observe a motorist failing to stop and remained stopped for a school bus, can issue the violator a citation. Drivers failing to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk and drivers failing to exercise due caution when encountering children can be issued a citation.

Going Unplugged During Work Hours

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 computer 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 our 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.  Accidents happen, but when an adult care giver 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
-Talking to friends on the phone
-Chatting with friends online
-Using Skype
-IMing
-Emailing
-Updating your status on Facebook
-Checking in on Orkut, Studivz, SiempreGente or any other social media site
-Watching videos on YouTube (even my really fabulous ones)
-Tweeting on your Twitter
-Uploading photos
-Anything else on the computer unless it is going to Nickjr.com together with your host children

Think about this — 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.)

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 new 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.

Homesickness and Culture Shock

If you have a hard day, feel homesick or lonely, please listen to this wonderful song written by a German au pair who had a tough time but successfully completed her year.  She recorded this song with the help of her host child.

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

Here are some 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 normally makes homesickness worse. Try emailing 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 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 Facebook group to find others who may want to join you on your adventures. Try volunteering, there are so many opportunities in the area.

6. Tell your Host Family- they want to know how you are doing, and it helps to let them know.

Preventing Dehydration in Hot Weather

Step 1
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.

Step 2
Do not wait until your child is thirsty to give him water. By the time they feel thirsty, they are already becoming dehydrated.

Step 3
Have other liquids on hand for your child to drink throughout the day. Juices also help with hydration.

Step 4
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.

Step 5
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.

Additional Safety Note: 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.

Photo: darwin Bell (Flickr)

Health and Safety – What 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.

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

Where are ticks commonly found? – Ticks are normally 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 (their skin and scalp) for ticks.

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 may help you 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.

Photo: Misko – Flickr