Monday, December 18, 2006

Reading to children

As Christmas approaches, I remember the days when we were stuck indoors most of the day. The best activity to occupy the children was to read books. Thankfully, all children I looked after loved books as much as I do. Parents had a ton of books for us to read and look through on these cold winter days. Even the babies love colorful books with interesting shapes. I could tell how much they liked them by their facial expressions as I turned a new page.

I think reading and books should be a big part of every child's life. Adults raise good readers by surrounding the kids with books and reading them out loud. Older children can understand stories and I always ask questions about the books I read to the kids. It is wonderful to see they get something out of the stories and learn to concentrate. Their imagination improves by each story and one day they surprise you by showing how much they learn from books. I spend a lot of time reading to my nieces as well. My youngest niece bring me her favorite book whenever I visit. It's so cute. It's rewarding to see them absurb so much information at such young age.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Baby care

Caring for a baby is different than caring for older children. I learned more about babies after my nieces were born. It was a great experience and tons of fun to take babysit for them. I have to admit it is not always fun and easy to take care of a baby. They cannot talk for one thing, only way they can communicate is to cry when they need something.

First tool you need to take care of a baby is patience. You will be hearing some cries. In my experience, the young the baby is, the more he cries. First things to check on a crying baby: diapers and food. Does the baby have a wet diaper? Is he hungry? If the diaper is dry, I would offer a bottle.

Of course, sometimes they just cry without an obvious reason. Cuddling and walking around seem to work most of the time if this is the case. Babies like to be held, especially closely. Newborns need an adjustment period to the outside world. Cuddling is the best way to soothe them.

Taking care of a baby all day might be isolating. Playgroups and long walks are always a good way to get out of the house. Babies like activities just like anyone else. You may think they don't understand anything, but scientists are convinced that babies start learning long before they can talk. They also need the attention and activities that older kids need.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Au pair age

Countries with established au pair programs limit the age of au pairs they accept. Usually, this age is 28. Au pair programs are designed for young people who want to improve their language skills and learn about the country's culture. I realize many young women want to participate in au pair programs. If there is an age limit for a country, getting au pair visa won't be possible. Some of these countries may have other visas for caregivers. Someone over 30 who wants to be an au pair should talk to the embassy or consulate in their city to find out about these visas. They are the best source to get information. Host family may need to do more paperwork to invite you in this case.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Summer activities and safety around pool

With summer arriving in the northern hemisphere, a lot of us go to the pool to cool off. I love water and swimming, I don't know anyone who doesn't. Children are especially very fund of water, but can be very dangerous around the pool. When I take them to the pool, I take every precaution I can to male sure they are safe at all times. What does that mean? I never take my eyes off of them. Even better I am in the water with them at all times even if there is a lifeguard around. I recommend all au pairs to do the same to prevent any accidents.

I probably don't need to say this but I will: Babies can not go in the pool alone. Au pair has to be with them in the water, holding them at all times. Deep areas must be avoided. I recommended no more than 1 meter of water. Make sure the babies head is above the water at all times. Most aupairs will find themselves in the separate baby pool as the babies are not allowed in adult pools due to diaper accidents and safety reasons. Of course, sunscreen is very important as well. It should be applied all over the baby before putting a bathing suit/diaper on. It should be applied several times a day as instructed on the box. Be careful holding the sunscreened baby in the pool, he will be slippery!!!

How about the bigger children who don't want to be in the baby pool? I recommended an au pair to be with the child or watch him at all times! Sunscreen rules also apply to the older children.

What if you have a baby and an older child in your care? I am afraid it is not possible to watch them together. Au pair should not be taking care of kids who swim in the different pools. It is not possible. Remember you can't do two things at the same time and around water you can never be too careful. Ask the parents to help you out on pool days, they will understand and be happy with your concern about their children.

Older kids can be good swimmers and sometimes parents may say they don't need constant watching. In that case, you would follow their instructions, but you have to make sure there is a lifeguard on duty.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cultural differences

For me the au pair experience is first about cultural exchange. Of course, a good au pair must love children and take care of them very well. However, when you live in another country with a host family you don't really know very well there will be differences. I said differences not issues or problems because I think most "problems" or "issues" stem from cultural differences. Of course, there might be valid problems as well with a host family or au pair such as parents who do not discipline their children or an au pair who is very homesick. Noone can disregard these and they should be addressed.

Every culture/society in the world has different ways to do different things. Even in Europe itself, people have different driving habits in Italy than in UK. In most mediterranean countries, people eat dinner late, live more laidback lifestyles and are more family oriented.

My best suggestion for au pairs and families is to research each other's culture very well. After all, hosting an au pair or being an au pair centers around cultural exchange. Children must fully participate in learning about au pair's culture if they are not too young. People who understand the cultural differences have better luck with the au pair program than people do not. Learn about the world and have fun!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Taking care of babies

Babies can be a lot of fun to take care of. After all Don't forget to added responsibility that comes with taking care of a baby. Au pairs usually are not supposed to take care of very young babies. Families should keep in mind that au pair is generally a young person and not an experienced childcare worker like a nanny.

Some important points for au pairs who are looking after infants:
Never leave the infant alone unless he is asleep
Be always very close to the infant when he is on a changing table or any other high place
Buckle the infant very well in car seats and high chairs
Do not give infant any food that can choke him
Only give him toys approved for his age, no little parts that come apart

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Successful match

If the au pair and the family are a great match, au pair experience can be a lot of fun. People can be hesitant at first, but usually relax as they get to know each other. Families are leaving their children with practically a stranger, au pair is moving to another country for this family she hardly knows... I understand both parties and everyone should try to make it work for a successful year. To my experience, people give up too quickly. They don't realize this is not very easy and little sacrifice can bring great results. Keep in mind that cultural differences, language, home sickness are normal parts of the au pair experience. Most successful au pair and family teams overcome these obstacles by open communication and patience.