Why You Need A Plan

Its 2am. You sit up straight in bed because your house alarm is blaring. Do you know what to do? Do your children know what to do?


This is why you need a plan.

As scary as it is (trust me, I’ve lived it), imagine someone has broken into your house. You have no idea where or why this person is in your house. Will your kids stay in their room? Do you want them to?

I’m not saying terrify yourself and your kids so much that no one ever sleeps again. However, in modern times, it’s important to have this conversation in some context. Have a conversation where you teach your kids that when they hear that alarm go off, they know what to do, whether it be climb under their bed and hide or run to your bedroom. Run through it a few times so that it’s not something they really have to think about it. You don’t have to go into detail about why they need to hide, or why they need to run as fast as they can to your bedroom. Keep it simple – “If you hear this noise (try to get a clip of what your alarm sounds like and play it) it means it’s time to play a game. I know it can be loud and scary, but it means that you need to ________________ (hide under your bed, in your closet, or run to mommy and daddy’s room) and it’s very important that you do it. Let’s practice!” Don’t expect kids to sleep through it even though they might. And have a plan for if that happens as well.

Talk about this scenario with your spouse first to make sure you’re both on the same page and that you know what each of your roles are.

You should also have a fire emergency plan as well as a weather emergency plan, in particular if you live in a part of the country that regularly has severe storms, tornadoes, and/or hurricanes (or any other weather events). The best time to plan for these things is before they happen. You aren’t thinking clearly when you’re woken up or when you’re in a state of panic. But if you, your spouse, and your children have a plan and have practiced it before, you’ll be able to breathe a teensy bit easier.

Yes, fellow nannies, this also applies to you as well. Although you probably won’t have to deal with the middle of the night waking due to the alarm (unless you’re doing an overnight), what if it goes off during the day? Have a plan in place so that you don’t panic (as much).


One of the most talked about Super Bowl commercials

Sometimes, the important things are hard to talk about. Just because it’s hard to talk about doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. Case in point, the meaning behind the Nationwide Super Bowl commercial [I’ll put the video at the end of this post if you haven’t seen it.] The gist of the commercial is a little boy saying things he didn’t get to do because he died (from a preventable accident). The commercial shows a few of these accidents (open window on an upper floor, chemicals under the sink, a TV that has fallen over, etc). Each of these scenarios can be prevented.

While many people were in an uproar over how harsh or shocking the commercial was, the point of it is that it’s supposed to be that way. It’s meant to get a very serious message across. Think about how many people are talking about it in person and on social media. Would those people be talking about preventing deaths and injuries just in normal conversation? No way. It was definitely a commercial you watch and at the end you’re left with a strong reaction towards it. At least I was. Sure, they could have gone a different direction with the ad, and perhaps left the little boy out at the end. But would it have been as meaningful? Would it have gotten through to as many people? I’m not sure. But this one definitely did. And what better place to show a commercial that would make everyone stop and think than the Super Bowl?

At the end of the commercial, they provide a website to visit (http://makesafehappen.com/). If you go to the website, it gives you lots of safety tips categorized by age, location, and risk factor. Sure, it was made by Nationwide, but the commercial had nothing to do with insurance. It was essentially a PSA on keeping children safe. If this commercial gets through to one person and makes that person go home and add a lock to their cabinet or anchor their furniture or not go answer that phone call while their child is in the bathtub, isn’t it worth it? If one child’s life is saved, it’s worth it to me.

Now, lets get away from the hoopla about whether or not it was an “appropriate” commercial and onto the meaning behind it. A lot of parents don’t realize how many accidents can happen in their home, particularly in the instance of furniture falling over. Let’s face it. Most adults don’t climb on dressers or up shelves or climb on other furniture so we don’t think about a dresser tipping over on us. But children do climb. “In 2010…unstable furniture sent about 23,600 people – the highest number since 2006 – to emergency rooms. Most of the injured were less than 10 years old.” (Source) In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), one child dies every 2 weeks because of furniture tipping over on them. (Source) One child’s death is too many, let alone one every 2 weeks. The solution? Anchor your TV and any and all furniture that has the possibility of tipping. (dressers, bookshelves, armoires, etc) When you go to cover all your plugs to make sure little fingers don’t go into them, make sure you remember to anchor your furniture too.

A new “thing” that has been happening is children being poisoned by the dish washing or laundry detergent pods (which was one of the accidents in the commercial). I mean they’re colorful and typically smell good. Why wouldn’t a child want to taste it? Every day, over 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency department, and two children die, as a result of being poisoned. (Source) Be sure to always have a child proof lock on cabinets that contain chemicals and medicines. Also, make sure you know the national poison control hotline number (1-800-222-1222).

Overall, small things (definitely not limited to the things I talked about above) that take 5-10 minutes to do could save your child’s life. Why not do them? Hopefully this commercial made people more aware and inspired them to prevent as much as they can.


Screen Time or No Screen Time?

I am a firm believer in no screen time under the age of two. After that, I believe in as little as possible. Why, you may ask? Why would you is my answer. For technical purposes, when I say screen time I mean television, computers, tablets, and cell phones.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2. Children need the interaction, in person, with others. Particularly in the first two years, the brain is setting up a foundation for the rest of the child’s life. It is based on interactions and experiences with the world around them. How their brain is wired depends on concrete materials, not watching things happen on a screen in front of them. Children, especially young children, absolutely thrive on hands on materials and experiences. It’s how they learn best. Watching a television or playing an app on an iPad doesn’t do much for them.


Studies have shown that “each hour of television watched per day at ages 1-3 increases the risk of attention problems, such as ADHD, by almost 10 percent at age 7.” (source) There are also studies that show children who have screen time also don’t sleep as well (source). Not to mention the desensitization to violence (clearly, we’re not talking about watchers of Dora with this point), the increase of obesity, school problems, etc.

Okay, now that we have all the scientific and fact based stuff out of the way, here’s where I’m going to put my professional nanny voice on. Ahem. Do you hear the difference?

I was browsing a nanny group the other day and the question of TV came up. I was kind of astounded when more than one person said they let their nanny kids watch TV, some in unlimited amounts, as well as multiple “app times” a day (Yes, some said they didn’t allow any screen time as well). Personally, I like to do everything I can to better the lives of the children I care for. Exposing them to that much TV and screen time is not bettering their lives. There has yet to be a study that educational TV or apps actually help kids.

Also, here’s my thing. Someone is paying you a good portion of their hard earned money to care for their child and do the best you can. They are probably trusting that you are well versed and educated in all the latest studies and information regarding children and that you’ll put that information to good use. Is putting them in front of the TV or an iPad the best you can do? Sure, I’m sure an app or a TV show might be able to teach them something, but isn’t there a better way to teach them? One with actual materials and actual experiences? And yes, it is absolutely possible to not watch TV as a nanny for at least two years. I didn’t turn the TV on for the girls until they were 2 1/2 (the only reason I did was because I had what ended up being two kidney stones and was in the worst pain of my life, the TV was on for less than 30 minutes the entire day, and I ended up in the ER. So yes, it’s possible). You know how much screen time they’ve gotten with me since then? None. And no, I’m not saying that to sound like I’m trying to be better than anyone else. I’m saying that to show you that it is in fact possible and pretty easy.

There’s so much more fun you and the kiddos can have rather than plopping them in front of the TV for a good chunk of the day. I strive to do the best I can day in and day out with the kids I care for, as anyone should do in any job. Knowing all I know, and now you do as well, I find other alternatives for the kids. They enjoy it more, and so do I.


Welcome Fall!

Finally! I have my computer back. Every single thing is gone though. I’m trying to think positively and think of it as a fall cleaning for my computer. Although, I will admit, it did just hurt a bit when I went to save a picture for this post only to find none of my folders (and all of their contents) were there anymore. Lesson learned though…within the next few days I’ll be getting an external hard drive where anything remotely important will live. 
Speaking of fall, even though it’s not technically fall just yet, I’m totally in fall mode. If it weren’t for 70 degree temperatures you’d already see my boots and scarves making an appearance. I already have a ton of fall art and activities I want to do with the girls. 
Today we made our seasonal craft. At the beginning of each season we do a different one (who cares if we’re a week early for fall). For spring we did chicks/ducks, for summer we made paper ice cream cones, and today we made a handprint tree.
I started by drawing a tree trunk on a piece of cardstock and gave each of the girls a brown crayon. Once they colored the trunk to their liking I helped them put their handprints as the leaves of the tree. This was the end result – a quick, easy, fall craft you can modify just a bit to do even with the youngest of children. 


Santa Handprints (plus a salt dough recipe!)

The gift from the girls to their parents were adorable salt dough handprint ornaments, but with a little twist. The twist being the handprints were turned into Santa!

I couldn’t decide if I liked the black outline or not. In the end I gave the girls’ parents one from each girl without the outline.

To begin, make the salt dough recipe. This is a great activity to do with the children if they’re old enough. My girls (barely 12 months at the time) loved helping me stir the ingredients and were engrossed in watching me knead the dough. Here’s the a recipe for salt dough (which can be used for so many projects!:

1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup plain flour (a friend made this with whole wheat flour and it didn’t turn out for her)
1/4 cup water give or take

Mix all together, and when done your project, bake in the oven at 300 degrees for 3 hours. Be sure to use a straw to make a hole (before you bake) if you’re using the dough to make an ornament!

For the Santa handprint project, after making the dough (we doubled the recipe just in case and had enough for 4 handprints, with some dough leftover), I rolled it out to about the thickness of the crust of a pizza, maybe a tad bit thinner. Basically, you need enough to make a deep impression so that it stands out even better when painted. Stamp the child’s hand into the dough, making sure to press all fingers down along with their palm.

Next we cut out the handprint leaving about a quarter of an inch around the edge. We then used a straw to make a hole at the top of the palm. Then into the oven they go.

I took them home to paint them with regular acrylic paint. Red for the palm and thumb, white for a pom pom at the end of the thumb, pom poms at the bottom of the hat, and also for the fingers for the beard. Be sure to leave an unpainted area between the beard (fingers) and palm for Santa’s face. Add eyes and Santa’s red cherry nose. I did two coats of paint for each color. Once everything is completely dry, I sprayed it with a sealer to keep the paint from peeling for years to come. I’m not sure if it would actually peel, but like I’ve said before, I’m overly cautious like that. I added a red ribbon through the hole, and it was ready to be wrapped and given to mom and dad!


Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer

As one of our Christmas crafts, we made Rudolph onesies. They’re pretty simple to make, as long as you have a cooperative child. My girls typically don’t absolutely love making things involving their handprints, but they don’t seem to mind using their feet. This craft involves both.
We went on our first little adventure using our new Ergo carrier (a more detailed post on that to come). We first went on a hunt at Babies R Us for plain white long sleeve onesies. The only ones they had were technically boys, but really, who’s going to know? So, we picked out two of them, (and maybe got the girls a toy to play with in the next store…M is still obsessed with this toy when she’s in my car!) paid for them (yay for 50% off sales!) and headed to our next stop, Michaels Craft Store.
This store, I must admit, wasn’t as easy of a trip as Babies R Us was. You try navigating a cart with one 1 year old in it through tiny cramped aisles (really – whoever designed the layout of this store must have never actually pushed a cart through their aisles) while wearing another 1 year old! Not to mention, the aisles were cluttered with boxes of craft supplies strewn about on the floor that I had to maneuver around. The girls were great, it was just a mess of a store. Next time we’ll try another craft store instead. Anyway, enough griping. We picked out three colors of puffy fabric paint – brown, red, and black. We chose Tulip and loved it! Then we headed home and washed and dried the onesies.
When you start this project, be sure to put something flat inside the onesies – not only as something sturdy to stamp on but also to prevent the paint from bleeding onto the other side of the onesie. We used a cardboard diaper box flap. It was the perfect size. I first did the girls footprints (toes at the top) in brown, in the middle portion of the onesies (one per onesie). I let it dry for a full 24 hours to make sure it wouldn’t smudge when we did their handprints.
The next day, Thursday, I painted the girls hands and stamped them on the sides of their footprints (thumbs touching the footprint). I also added Rudolph’s eyes (in black) and red nose to their footprints, as well as each girls’ first initial onto the seam of the onesie where it snaps so we could tell which belonged to which child.
I’m sure all fabric paints will vary, but ours said to let it dry flat for 72 hours before washing. I chose to let it dry Friday through Tuesday just because I’m overly cautious like that and wanted to make sure it was fine. One cycle through the washer and dryer and they were perfect! They wore them that Wednesday and also for Christmas Eve!
I’m sure this craft could be completed not only on paper but it would also be pretty cute on a plate for Santa’s cookies!


Handprints and Footprints

Aside from finger painting, the other art/craft activity I do with babies and toddlers are handprint and footprint crafts. I pretty much do these only for gifts or special occasions because like I said in the other post, I believe all art projects with kids should be just that – art, not a craft like these since they don’t really get much out of it. Anyway, there’s a lot of stuff you can do with their handprints and footprints. Here’s a few I’ve done recently and in the past with the girls (in no particular order).

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Winter coats and Car Seat Safety

With it getting chilly outside, there’s something all parents, caregivers, and anyone who will have a child in a car seat in their car should know. When you put a child in a winter coat and then strap them into a car seat, you are actually creating an unsafe situation. During an accident, the coat will compress which in turn means the straps will be a lot looser than they should be. This could cause the child to get seriously injured or even possibly ejected from the seat. It’s somewhat hard to explain (or maybe I’m just not doing the best job!) so I’ve included a video (not made by me) that explains it much better.
Hopefully, after watching that video, you understand what I was trying to say. Also, check your owners manual for your car seat. Almost always (and if they don’t, they certainly should), they specify to remove or not use bulky clothing in a car seat. The easiest way to avoid this is to find a different option to keep your child warm in the car during the winter months. Here’s a few suggestions:

1. Start the car and warm it up before putting your child in.
2. Use a blanket on top of the child AFTER they are strapped in (so that nothing is under the straps or behind the child’s back)
3. Use a Car Seat Poncho – I have seen these personally demonstrated and they are SUCH a great idea and easy to use.
4. Put the jacket on backwards AFTER the child is strapped in (so the arms are in the sleeves, but it’s not behind them)
5. Use a polar fleece jacket. This material is known for its warmth but without the bulk that would cause loose straps when compressed.

    Here’s a few links that may be helpful as well.
             Winter Coats and Car Seats – This is an about.com article with details from a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST)
         Forum Posting – This is a forum posting with pictures demonstrating how loose straps can get.
         What Every Caregiver Should Know – This is a Yahoo article with more details. 
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    Visiting the Library

    Sometimes it’s difficult to find places to go for children under the age of two and it’s especially difficult to find places to go for children under the age of one. Typically, there aren’t many places where children that young can be “free to roam” so to speak. 
    One place where I love to take the girls is our local library. My girls love books and we read one before each nap every day as well as reading throughout the day. After a while, reading the same book over and over gets boring (to me anyway, they don’t mind!). So we like to head to the library once a week or once every other week to pick up new books. 
    Not just that, but one of our closer libraries has a room just for children. I’m pretty sure it’s geared mainly towards children 1 1/2 and up based on the toys they have, but there’s room for the girls to play on the floor and a few toys that they can play with, even if they aren’t using them the way they’re supposed to be. Plus there’s more books than I would want to count to read to them and to borrow. The girls also love older kids, and usually a few come in during our time there. 
    We’re lucky enough that we have quite a few libraries pretty close to us and we’ll be working our way through visiting them all as the year progresses. One of mine (and the girls’) favorite places to go is another library in our area that has something called “Storyville” in it. It’s a little bit of a longer drive (20 minutes or more depending on traffic) but well worth it. Storyville is basically an indoor town for children. It has a house, post office, grocery store, puppet theater, construction zone, etc in it. All child friendly and ready to be explored. Only children under age 5 are allowed. 
    The Baby Garden inside Storyville
    Photo credit: R. Schaefer, from http://bcplstoryville.org/storyville_tour_garden.html
    Right now, we stay in the Baby Garden. It’s a fenced in area specifically designed for infants and toddlers who aren’t walking. They have tons of board books, infant friendly toys (which are sanitized as needed and throughout the day at regular intervals), boppy pillows, bumbos, and even giant flowers which the children can use to practice standing. Mirrors are on both the walls and on the floor. Storyville as a whole is a wonderful place and we will definitely continue to visit on a regular basis. I can see it becoming a great place to go when the girls are older and there is bad weather outside. 
    Our libraries offer story times for different age groups as well, but we haven’t made it to one yet since baby story time is right before morning nap. The girls can usually do fine with a shorter afternoon nap, but need a decent morning nap to avoid the grumps for the rest of the day. As they get closer to a year old I’m sure they’ll be transitioning to one nap that will start later in the day so I’m looking forward to eventually making it to story time!
    Be sure to check out the library in your area to see what they have to offer your young child or children!
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    DIY – Shakers

    Here’s a little DIY project I did when the girls were around 5 months old. They still play with them today! All you need are plastic baby food containers, a hot glue gun with glue, and various “noise-makers” (I used salt, spiral pasta, and rice).

    The instructions are simple too.
    1. Fill the plastic baby food container about 1/4 to 1/2 full with whatever noise-maker you’re using.
    2. Put a ribbon of hot glue around the top edge of the container.
    3. Put the lid on and hold down for about a minute until there’s a tight seal.
    4. Remove any glue strands or glue that bubbled out.
    5. Regularly check to make sure the lid isn’t coming loose, there’s no cracks in the container, etc

    Madeline examining the new shakers.

    Both girls playing with their new toys.

    When they were this age (5 months), they weren’t capable of shaking them just yet, so they mainly looked at them, manipulated them in their hands, and rolled with them. Now, they pick them up and shake them and listen to the different noises they make. These are easily one of their top 5 favorite toys.

    In the future, I may dye the pasta and possibly the rice just to add a little extra something for them to look at.

    More DIY toys to come!