First Timers: Navigating Kindergarten Like a Pro

2014 June 9
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by Michelle

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kindergartenschool First Timers: Navigating Kindergarten Like a ProFor many children, the temptation to hang on to mom or the nanny’s leg on that first day of school is too much to overcome. It’s the first time they have the opportunity to take charge and jump into the responsibility of school, but the comfort of home and the comfort of their caregiver or parents is something that seems much more comfortable when scanning a sea of new faces at a new school.

If your little one is apprehensive and nervous about this new experience, there are many ways you can prepare her to navigate kindergarten like a pro.

Build Excitement and Prepare

It’s likely that your 5- or 6-year old does not take well to surprises. Because of this, the school year should not creep up on her either. Instead, prepare for the first day with discussions well before the night before her first day of kindergarten, recommends Jerri King, head of the Springmont School in Atlanta, Georgia. “It’s advisable to have a couple of conversations or mention it a few days ahead,” says King.

Phrases such as “Tomorrow morning we’ll be getting up to go to school” or “Next week we will be getting up to go and see your teacher” help prepare your child mentally for the new experience. Try not to overdo it so your child does not feel anxious; instead, casual mentions in a fun tone will help your child keep it in the back of her mind.

A visit to your child’s school before the first day will also help ease any concerns she may have. Check to see if the school offers a meet and greet session or an open house a few weeks before the first day of classes. Ask for a list of your child’s classmates and possibly plan a meet and greet at a local park or host one in your home so your child can get to know her classmates. Seeing a familiar face on that first day can do wonders for your child’s self-esteem and willingness to walk in the door that first day.

Build a Routine

Establishing a school routine long before the bell rings that first day can go a long way, says King. “Early bedtime is so important,” she says. “It’s a fundamental that is often overlooked.”

Think small when it comes to establishing routines. “Often as a parent or nanny we want to hear big ideas for getting our children ready for school, but in actuality, the small ideas are the best place to start,” says King. “An early bedtime routine, dinner time with the family together and activities at a regular time helps to establish school routines.”

Once school begins, establish routines in the morning, too. “I highly recommend on the way to school having a conversation about the day or what the family is seeing out the window as opposed to sticking in a video in the car,” says King. “It’s a distraction in some ways and it’s not as much a preparation as opposed to a distraction.”

A family meeting to discuss school routines is also a helpful way to prepare your little one for that first day. “It’s great to discuss what’s expected, responsibilities and procedures when leaving the house,” says King. “The car leaves at 8 a.m., so remind your children that it is their responsibility to have their things, shoes on and everything they need in the car by 8 a.m.”

Making the morning schedule crystal clear can help families avoid the chaos that often results on rushed school days. “There’s often such a power struggle that ensues in the morning, and as both the parent or nanny and the driver, the consequences should not fall on the parent or nanny – it is the responsibility of the child.”

All of the routines may take a bit of time to run smoothly, but it only happens with planning. “It doesn’t just happen magically,” says King. “It requires a conversation ahead of time and sometimes it requires the parent or nanny to facilitate or initiate that plan.”

When Good Jobs Go Bad

2014 June 2
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by Michelle

frustrated When Good Jobs Go BadIn print, the new job might have seemed like perfection, or perhaps you started with the new family and everything was going swimmingly, until suddenly things went unexpectedly sour. When this happens, a nanny, whether live-in or live-out, can find herself in a particularly vulnerable position, especially as many jobs are geographically far from home and your support network of family and friends. It’s important to make plans in advance should things go badly, so you don’t end up in an uncomfortable situation or downright stuck.

Know Your Rights

Some situations are unforeseeable. The family could have suffered a personal tragedy that required an unexpected move to care for elderly parents. Or, a family’s breadwinner or even secondary earner could have lost their job and income required to support your services. It could even be a matter of a personal situation, such as a separation or divorce developing while you are in their employ. As sympathetic as you might be to these situations, it’s important to ensure you have a signed Nanny Work Agreement going into the position. Doing so will give provide you with some rights should the household dynamic shift. Being able to refer to an objective contract that states how you should be compensated in a no-fault situation makes the conversation far less awkward and personal and lets you protect your own needs without adding further upset.

Emergency Exit

Some situations can be so uncomfortable or unhealthy that you might just need to cut your losses and remove yourself immediately. If you are in a household where you see abuse of some sort or feel unsafe, or if one of your employers acts in an inappropriate manner toward you, it is not the time to demand a full month notice so you can sort out your affairs before you’re on your way, regardless of what any agreement might have stipulated. While a few video chats wouldn’t have revealed these problems, checking references might have tipped you off. However, if parents are aware of the issues, they might have tweaked just who they were giving you access to speak to or suggested you would be their first nanny.  Have an escape plan in place. Scope out local affordable lodging options in advance and keep an account with enough money to cover you should you need somewhere to go without notice. If you’ve been in the area for some time, you might even have good friends you could go to for help.

It’s Not You, It’s Them

In a position where personalities can have a serious effect on day-to-day life, you can’t always guarantee a comfortable mesh going in, particularly when you are traveling for the job or being hired from out of the state or country. Staying on when you have strong negative feelings about the parenting philosophies you are asked to uphold, when the kids (or parents) have been conditioned to treat the nanny as their personal servant and your efforts to reeducate in that regard are failing, or even simply when you feel ill at ease in the household may make life so miserable that it leads you to be the one who wants to sever the relationship and resign.

A nanny in this situation must remain professional and tough it out for an appropriate amount of time so the family can find a replacement and you can preserve your reputation as a quality caregiver. In such circumstances where there is nothing concrete the family has done wrong and it’s just not a good fit, they can’t be expected to foot the extra costs involved in an unplanned departure. Although it’s likely they will need time to sort out alternative care, be prepared for your giving notice to be met with an immediate request that you move along to avoid furthering any bonds with the kids. You should make plans with a local friend to stay the night or until you can arrange a flight and consider purchasing an open-ended ticket or finding an airline with generous change policies and fees. A round trip ticket will generally be of similar cost to a one way flight (or even less in some cases), so make the initial purchase with a distant date for the return. You can suggest it as a cost saving measure for a visit home, should the family ask.

100 Tips for Families Preparing for their First Baby

2014 May 28
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by Michelle

firstbaby 100 Tips for Families Preparing for their First BabyFinding out your expecting your first child brings about a whirlwind of emotions, ranging from excitement to unconditional happiness to fear over how you’re going to adjust to being a family of three. Worry not, though. For every parent out there who has suddenly realized they have no idea what to do, we’ve compiled a list of 100 tips to help you prepare for your first child.

Get Your Finances in Order

If everyone waited to have a child until they could afford one, the human race would die out, so don’t stress if you feel like your finances aren’t quite where you want them. These 10 posts are full of advice and suggestions for saving money and cutting down on any debt you may have accumulated.

  • Carpool to work. Daily Finance offers some out of the box ideas for saving big money during the nine months prior to your baby’s arrival.
  • Reduce your luxuries. Read about this nine-month saving plan from Parents that describes how to pay down your debt.
  • Take a look at your insurance coverage. USA Today recommends taking a close look at your insurance and making sure your child is added to your insurance plan.
  • Pay off major debts. Consider paying off whatever debt you can before the baby comes, advises Wise Bread.
  • Avoid splurging on baby supplies. Redbook Mag says that even though many new parents don’t plan on overspending on baby items, they often do anyway.
  • Set up an emergency fund. Essential Baby recommends having an emergency fund that is equal to three months of expenses.
  • Sell the stuff you don’t need. The Guardian suggests selling stuff to make room for baby and make a little extra money for baby stuff.
  • Don’t overspend on maternity clothes. Focus on the Family points out that you don’t need a whole new wardrobe since maternity clothes will only fit for a few months.
  • Update your will. Consumerism Commentary advises creating or updating your will to include the baby.
  • Budget to live on one salary. Today Money recommends trying to live on one income during the pregnancy.

Plan the Nursery

Planning the nursery is one of the biggest projects you’ll undertake during pregnancy, and the possibilities are endless. If you’re not sure where to start, use these 10 sites for inspiration.

  • Start with the basics. She Knows recommends starting with just a crib, changing table, dresser and a rocker in the nursery.
  • Paint the walls well in advance. Everyday How To suggests painting before you register for gifts so that you have a color scheme in mind and won’t need to move furniture around to paint.
  • Choose a nightlight for the nursery. Yahoo Voices advises having minimal light on at night in the baby room so you can check on or nurse the baby without waking him up.
  • Relax about the details. One of the most important things you can do when expecting a new baby is to relax and stop worrying about the nursery being perfect, says Becoming Minimalist.
  • Nursery theme ideas to grow with the baby. The Bump shares examples of nurseries that will grow with your child so that you don’t have to redecorate repeatedly.
  • Carpet the floor. Millennial Living suggests carpeting the nursery so that your child doesn’t skin his knees if he falls once he starts walking.
  • Frame pictures from old children’s books. HGTV loves this inexpensive way to decorate the nursery walls.
  • Pick paint colors last. Decide on fabrics and designs before painting, recommends Project Nursery.
  • Think about a unisex nursery. If you are waiting to find out the sex of the baby, use the ideas from Baby Zone for a neutral design.
  • Use the baby’s name when decorating. Tia and Tamera give tips on designing a nursery, one of which is using the baby’s name in several areas around the room.

Buy Furniture

While taking hand-me-down furniture may save you a nice chunk of change, it’s important to take the age of furniture and any recalls into consideration. Before accepting or purchasing any furniture, read through the recommendations on these 10 posts.

  • Make sure the rocker is comfortable. According to 3D Pregnancy, picking out a comfortable rocker is an integral part of the furniture buying process.
  • Buy a firm crib mattress. Baby Center explains that babies need a firm mattress to avoid suffocation and sleep soundly.
  • Save money by getting unfinished furniture. Money Crashers suggests buying unfinished furniture to save some cash and make it your own.
  • Avoid buying a used crib. Consumer Reports urges new parents to buy a new crib to avoid having one that has been previously recalled.
  • Plan for the future. Fresh Home recommends thinking about convertible furniture that will last for years.
  • Make sure the furniture is safe. Mommy Noire says that the most important thing to keep in mind when buying nursery furniture is safety.
  • Know the size of your nursery. The worst mistake you can make is buying furniture that is too big to fit in your nursery, explains Metro Mag.
  • Finding just the right changing table. Changing tables are not essential, but they do come in handy when you need to change or dress the baby. Bounty mentions that some changing tables come with added storage, which could come in handy.
  • You don’t really need to buy furniture until after the baby is born. Everyday Family explains that many parents opt for a bassinet in their bedroom for the first couple of months, so the nursery furniture isn’t truly needed right away.
  • It is possible to have an eco-friendly nursery. Disney Baby suggests upcycling used furniture when you can and buying naturally dyed crib bedding.

Baby Supply Checklists

The plethora of baby checklists out there can be overwhelming at first glance, but can also be helpful in determining what you need and what you don’t. Use these 10 lists to help narrow down items to what’s essential, good to have and unnecessary.

  • Look over this newborn checklist. Today’s Parent offers up a list of the things you will most likely need for your newborn.
  • A list to use when stocking up for baby. Dummies offers this list of items to stock up on for your newborn.
  • Here’s a list you can use for the gift registry. Crayzee Chick has an attractive list that you can use to keep track of the items you get and those that you still need.
  • Nursing needs and more are available on this list. Nurture Center compiled an extensive list for all your nursing needs and more.
  • Find a list of baby’s bath needs. Kidspot shares a list of items you may need for your new baby, including bath stuff.
  • Use this list for packing for the hospital. Along with other items you may want to purchase, Baby and Bump has supplied a checklist for your hospital bag.
  • Take a look at this list of bare necessities. Baby Products provides a list of the things you will absolutely need for you and the baby.
  • Items that you need during the first few weeks. Mom 365 gives you a list of items that she feels you’ll need during the first few weeks after bringing the baby home.
  • Diapering will be very important for your newborn. Live Strong narrows the checklist down into categories to easily break down what you’ll need.
  • Use this Babyproofing Checklist when making your home safe for baby. Tot Safe lists everything that you need to think about when childproofing your home.

Big Ticket Items

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking your baby needs the most expensive products on the market, but not all big ticket items are essential. For tips on determining what’s worth the splurge and what’s not, check out these 10 posts.

  • Consider the wheel type when buying a jogging stroller. Overstock explains what you should look for to find the best jogging stroller for your needs.
  • Essentials for your stroller. Babies R Us lists things to consider when buying a stroller.
  • Find a car seat that fits your car. If you have a smaller car, some car seats may not fit. The Car Seat Lady explains the differences in car seats so you can buy the right one.
  • Make sure the wheels on the bassinet lock to avoid accidents. Parent Dish explains the differences between bassinets so you can find the best one.
  • The more bells and whistles a swing has doesn’t make it better. Baby Med explains what you really need in a baby swing.
  • Decide how much you want to spend on a breast pump. Mayo Clinic lists different things to consider when buying a breast pump.
  • It’s important to find a baby carrier that is comfortable. Baby Gear Lab tested 15 baby carriers and put together a list for you to consider before you buy.
  • Before buying a pack n’ play, try it out. Suite 101 suggests taking the pack n’ play off the display and trying to close it and open it as well as move it around before purchasing.
  • Make sure your bouncer is made of washable fabric. What Babies Need looks at the many features a bouncer can have and points out that the high end models can cost as much as $160.
  • It’s important that your high chair is safe. How Stuff Works explains how high chairs work and what you should look for when buying one.

Cook Ahead

Preparing some meals ahead of time can help streamline your first days back from the hospital, so you can focus on your new baby instead of what to make for dinner. Consider making these 10 freezer meals before you head to the hospital.

  • Chocolate muffins. Fit Pregnancy shares a recipe for chocolate muffins that freeze perfectly and are high in fiber.
  • Tomato sauce. You can use this tomato sauce from Everyday Occasions over pasta or as a quick dipping sauce.
  • Mac n’ cheese. Try this tasty recipe from Foodness Gracious for a grown up version of mac n’ cheese.
  • Soup.  Spoon Fork Bacon shares a recipe for Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil soup.
  • Mexican Lasagna. The recipe for this tasty meal can be found on Rachel Voorhees.
  • Black Bean and Brown Rice Cakes. Vegetarians can freeze ahead meals too, as shown on Martha Stewart.
  • Beef Stew. Try this recipe for Easy Beef Stew with Sweet Potato Topping found on BBC Good Food.
  • Baked Chicken Kiev. This recipe is just one of many from What’s Cookin’ Chicago that can be frozen and baked later.
  • Quiche with Whole Wheat Pie Crust. This quiche from Tammy’s Recipes is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Zucchini and Eggplant Parmesan. Family Education explains how to put together this vegetarian dish that freezes beautifully.

Baby Shower

Planning the perfect baby shower requires quite a bit of prep work. Whether you’re putting on your own shower or helping to host one for a friend, these 10 posts can make throwing a baby shower a breeze.

  • Set a date. Pampers suggests holding the shower 4 to 8 weeks before the due date just in case the baby comes early.
  • Choose a theme. The Party Pail has many themes to choose from and they put together the paper goods for you.
  • Send the invitations. Tiny Prints has tons of innovative invitations to choose from on their site.
  • Plan the food. Tie in the food to the theme when you can. On to Baby shows how to create a Little Man theme with bow tie pasta salad and mustache cupcakes.
  • Decide on decorations. Design Dazzle explains how to create paper rosettes that you can use as inexpensive decorations for the baby shower.
  • Make sure there’s plenty of seating. Baby Shower Seeker has several ideas on how to decorate and find seating for a baby shower.
  • Figure out some games to play. Beau Coup explains 20 different baby shower games.
  • Offer the new mom advice. The House of Smiths shares a shower she threw for her big sister that had a flip book where everyone could offer advice for the new mom.
  • Decorate the dessert table. Real Simple gives several creative ideas for decorating the dessert table.
  • Pick party favors. The Corner Stork has tons of party favor ideas that you can buy and send home with your guests.

Baby Proof the House

Safety should be your top priority in all things baby. The ideas shared on these 10 sites will help you think of everything when you start babyproofing your home.

  • Get down on the floor and look at your home from your baby’s perspective. iVillage suggests taking a look at your home in a new way when deciding how to baby proof it.
  • Remove any items small enough to fit in a cardboard tube. Babble recommends figuring out what items need to be picked up out of baby’s reach.
  • Turn down the temperature on the water heater. WebMD says to turn down the water temperature to make sure that the baby doesn’t get burned during a bath.
  • Put outlet covers in all of your outlets. Lowes explains you should cover all open outlets so that baby doesn’t stick his little fingers into them.
  • Pad the hard edges of tables and hearths. Lifehacker urges parents to put some padding on any pointy or hard edges a child could fall on or bump into.
  • Secure heavy items, like bookcases and televisions, to the wall. The University of Michigan suggests finding a way to anchor large items so that they can’t tip over.
  • Put a baby gate across the stairs. Kids’ Health says one of the leading causes of injury to a child is falls, so be sure that stairways are blocked.
  • Make sure all poisons and medications are locked up or out of the reach of children. Safe Kids explains that accidental poisoning is a leading cause of death in kids under 5.
  • Be leery of the strings on toys and blinds. The National Safety Council reports that cords can become wrapped around a baby’s neck and suffocate him.
  • Keep an eye on your child. The best way to keep your baby safe is by keeping a watchful eye on him at all times, says Pop Sugar.

Breast or Bottle?

To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? This one is a hot topic for parents! However, it’s a very personal decision only you can make. In the 10 posts below you will see advantages to both breastfeeding and bottle feeding.

  • An advantage of breastfeeding is that the milk is always the right temperature. Not Milk points out that you don’t have to mess with warming breast milk because it’s always the perfect temperature when it comes from Mom.
  • Breastfeeding moms save money over buying formula. Kelly Mom gives examples of the cost difference in breastfeeding versus bottle feeding.
  • Breastfed babies tend to have fewer ear infections. The University of Maryland Medical Center points out several health reasons that breastfeeding is better for your baby.
  • Breast milk is the preferred food for babies. Medicine Net reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that breast milk is the best food for infants.
  • Breastfeeding helps the mother lose weight after birth. Natural Resources Defense Council explains that the calories expended to produce milk will help a new mom lose weight.
  • Bottle fed babies need to be fed less often. Tommee Tippee believes you will save time by not having to feed your baby as often.
  • When bottle feeding, you can tell how much your baby is drinking. Palo Alto Patch says that mothers are comforted by knowing that their baby is drinking enough.
  • Other family members can have a chance to feed the baby with a bottle. Breastfeeding Problems discusses the advantages to bottle feeding.
  • Bottle feeding can allow you to get more sleep. According to New Republic, when anyone can feed the baby, it takes the stress off of the mom being the one who always needs to get up with the baby in the middle of the night.
  • It is easier to distinguish food intolerances when bottle feeding. Stay at Home Mum explains that you know exactly what your child is eating when you’re bottle feeding.

Gender Reveal Party Tips

One of the newest trends is having a gender reveal party, either to tell friends and family the sex of the baby or to have them tell you the sex of the baby. Read the ideas in the 10 posts below for ways to reveal the baby’s sex and what games to play at the party.

  • Try a circus theme party. Check out the seven theme choices for a gender reveal party on What to Expect, so you can party with your friends while telling everyone the baby’s sex.
  • Cover cans of silly spray. This tip can be added to any party. Cover appropriate cans of silly spray and then when it’s time to reveal start spraying, says CRAFT.
  • Have a Parisian reveal party. Spoonful gives dessert ideas for keeping the gender a mystery until it’s time for the reveal.
  • Learn how to make gender reveal cupcakes. Iowa Girl explains how to make your own cupcakes for the reveal party.
  • Find out how to make your own scratch off card. If you want to share the news by letting friends and family scratch off the answer, use the scratch off cards from Make it Cozee.
  • Share the news with a gender reveal balloon box. Diary of a Fit Mommy describes how to put together a balloon box that allows you to get just the right picture.
  • Try these reveal piñatas for an outdoor party. Bubbly Nature Creations takes you through the steps on how to turn Chinese take-out boxes into reveal piñatas.
  • How about throwing a Craving party? Amy Atlas shows pictures of how she put together a gender reveal party using different foods.
  • Play old wives tale games. Use common ways to figure out what the sex of the baby is and have fun seeing which work and which don’t, says Parentables.
  • Have guests vote on names and guess a gender. Miss Party Mom suggests having plenty of games for your friends to do at the party and saving the reveal for the end.