Lessons from the Childcare Pros

Last month, I attended a teacher’s workshop focusing on helping preschool and daycare workers improve their teaching style and classroom setting. So much of what I learned can translate over to the nanny and parenting worlds.  Here are 2 highlights:

Teach kids to be their own critic (and not look to you for their sense of accomplishment)

When working on a project with a young child, help the child process how they feel about their work with questions like, “How do you think you did?”  and “What do you like about this?”  For example, if Susie is drawing a picture of a giraffe in a zoo ask her for her opinion about her work before offering your own. A natural tendency of parents and caregivers is to tell a child they did a good job (even if they possibly didn’t…)  Kids catch on to the fact that you are humoring them and would rather hear the (gentle) truth.  By asking the child how they feel about the work or what they like about it, you give them the opportunity to judge their work critically and look for things they think they succeeded on. If the child is very harsh towards themselves, this is a great opportunity to encourage practice and sticking with a project. You can also show affirmation by sharing what you like about it, For example, “I love how long and skinny you made the giraffe’s neck,” without oohing and aahing over ever detail. Through this, kids can learn to judge their own work and find their own sense of success.

Teach kids to care for themselves, others and objects

One educator shared her classroom rules which were very simple, direct and easy to remember. These would work both in a classroom setting and in the home. Here rules were:

Take care of ME

Take care of MY FRIENDS

Take care of THINGS

By teaching these 3 simple concepts, she noted that the children learned quickly to judge the appropriateness of their actions based on 3 concrete ideas.

For example, if a child is choosing to stand up on the kitchen table or try to sneak candy out of the candy jar, this is not a good example of “Taking care of ME”. The child can learn to make good decisions that will keep him/her safe and healthy.

If a child starts arguing with a friend or sibling to the point that harsh words or even physical actions occur, the child can be reminded that they are not following rule 2: Take care of MY FRIENDS (siblings).

If a child is choosing to throw a toy or grind playdoh into the carpeting, this is a failure to follow rule 3: Take care of THINGS.  We can remind our child that we want to take good care of the objects we have been given so that they stay in good condition and we can continue to play with them for a long time.

While a home setting might not have a need for “rules” listed on the wall or discussed on a regular basis, I enjoyed this simple starting point for easy explanations of what children should be paying attention to in order to be safe and get along well with others.


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Off to the Forest Hills Expo

Rockford ExpoThis Saturday, March 19, Jeff and I have the opportunity to take part in the Forest Hills Expo at Ada Christian School from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm. This is a great event allowing families to learn more about local businesses, play some games and possibly win some prizes.

We set up our table with a  game and some prizes and have a chance to meet the families and children of the area.   In case you can’t make it to the expo, here are several of the questions we are often asked:

How do your services work?  We hire nannies to go to your own home to care for your children. By hiring the nannies on your behalf, we can take care of all the tax issues like withholding and W-2s and make your life simple with a bill for hours worked 2 times per month.   If you use our On Call services for an evening out, you won’t ever have to stress about having cash to pay the babysitter, you can simply pay by check when you get your bill.

Do you work in Belmont? Rockford? Ada? Forest Hills?  We serve families in the greater Grand Rapids area. When taking on a family we want to make sure we are going to be able to provide great service through their primary nanny and have good options for back-up care if the need arises. Therefore we focus on attention on Grand Rapids and it’s surrounding communities. However, please feel free to call and find out if we have coverage in a certain area. It never hurts to ask.

What screening process do you use? When finding a nanny, we uses a multi-step process to ensure we are providing a great nanny for your family. Once an application is received, we complete a phone interview, in-office interview, contact references and run a nation-wide background check.

How old are your nannies? We hire a broad range of nannies. Some of our nannies are college students with the flexible class schedule needed to serve in a part-time nanny position. Others are college graduates or young adults without a college degree who are passionate about childcare. Still others are women with grown children who are eager to have some time with young ones.  During our in-home consultations, some families share a preference for what age they are looking for in a nanny, we are happy to keep that in mind during our search.

What happens when a nanny quits? If a nanny has to give up her position with a family due to college graduation, moving etc, we take on the roll of filling that nanny position for the family. We ask all of our nannies to commit to a certain time frame when hired and provide notice before they need to leave the position. Therefore, we do our best to provide a seamless transition for the family as they meet and get to know their new nanny.

We would love to have a chance to meet you or answer any additional questions you have at the expo this weekend.  Stop on by!

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Children and Chores

I just read a great article about children and chores. If you would like to read the whole thing for yourself head here, but let me share some of my questions and answers it provided for me.

Should I ask my children to do chores? Aren’t they meant to just “be kids” and enjoy life?

Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic website, says we all need to feel needed and to know that we’re making a contribution — even kids. “But they can’t feel that way if they don’t have chores and make contributions to the family,” Fay says.

I love this affirmation that chores are not simply Mom or Dad using their children to get work done around the house, but giving children an opportunity to feel they are making an important addition to the family.

How do I get my children to do the chores in the first place?

Don’t be scared to start with chores at a young age.  This will allow the habits to fall into place and already give those children the sense of accomplishment. Don’t insist on perfection. Work with the children as they learn the steps of each chore and then step back to an observation role. If it’s not perfect, that’s ok! Do offer consistent and true praise for the work they are doing.

If you missed the opportunity to start with chores at a young age (as I have), don’t be scared to start now.  It might take some extra encouragement and determination, but everyone can learn this new habit.

How do we decide who gets what chores?

The article suggested sitting down with the kids with a list of jobs that need to be accomplished around the house.  Allow the kids to share input into which jobs they would like to have and then give them the understanding they will also get some jobs they would rather not have.  If children are similar in age and can handle rotating jobs, consider some sort of rotation in which they won’t be taking care of the same chore forever.

I really like this idea of letting the children have input into what chores they would like to take on. If they see the positives of getting that job done, they will be much more likely to do it willingly.

Finally – what chores are age appropriate?

Here are some examples from Elizabeth Pantley, author of parenting books including Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging, and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate

Chores for children ages 2 to 3

  • Put toys away
  • Fill pet’s food dish
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Wipe up spills
  • Dust
  • Pile books and magazines

Chores for children ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make their bed
  • Empty wastebaskets
  • Bring in mail or newspaper
  • Clear table
  • Pull weeds, if you have a garden
  • Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs
  • Water flowers
  • Unload utensils from dishwasher
  • Wash plastic dishes at sink
  • Fix bowl of cereal

Chores for children ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry
  • Sweep floors
  • Set and clear table
  • Help make and pack lunch
  • Weed and rake leaves
  • Keep bedroom tidy

Chores for children ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Load dishwasher
  • Put away groceries
  • Vacuum
  • Help make dinner
  • Make own snacks
  • Wash table after meals
  • Put away own laundry
  • Sew buttons
  • Make own breakfast
  • Peel vegetables
  • Cook simple foods, such as toast
  • Mop floor
  • Take pet for a walk

Chores for children ages 10 and older.

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Unload dishwasher
  • Fold laundry
  • Clean bathroom
  • Wash windows
  • Wash car
  • Cook simple meal with supervision
  • Iron clothes
  • Do laundry
  • Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)
  • Clean kitchen
  • Change their bed sheets
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Northlight Nannies – Meet and Greet

Childcare Services, Part time or Full time, Need a NannyHiring a nanny can be a daunting task.  Jeff invests hours of his time interviewing, screening, and training nannies to be hired for our Northlight families.  Nannies all have different passions, specific skill sets and personality types, but the wonderful part of our job is meeting all of those potential nannies and finding the right match for specific families.  Meet just a few of our nannies to see what we mean when we brag that we have amazing nannies here at Northlight!

Meet Barbara – Barbara is a local college student studying english and spanish. Barbara has worked with a summer theater camp for children and also tutored refugee students. She speaks spanish and loves animals, making her a great fit for families who have children and that furry child that needs some attention as well.  A favorite quote from her application is, “I would love to be a nanny because taking care of children is an extremely important job, not only for care taking, but for fostering education and imagination amongst other things.” We love her passion to help encourage children to see opportunities to learn in the world around them.

Meet Kaylor  – Kaylor is a local college student studying speech pathology.  Kaylor spent her teen years babysitting for siblings and neighbors and is excited to continue that care in her college years.  She is excited to work with young children helping them get an early start to learning their letters and sounds. Kaylor comments, “I am a very positive person who loves encouraging others to be the best version of themselves. I work hard at whatever I put my mind to and make sure I always try my best. I love the thought of being a role model for children!”

Meet Jane  – Jane came to Northlight Nannies looking for some extra time with children now that her high school age children can care for themselves more. Jane loves spending time with young children having worked in the school systems as a para/educator sub. The following quote shares Jane’s desire to be a good role model, “My children have grown up in a very loving, caring and secure environment.  As the adult you become a role model for children by setting examples on how you interact with others.  Good manners, a friendly disposition and a sound but “gentle” way on how to deal with conflicts.”

Meet Hayley – Hayley has worked for Northlight Nannies for several years. She came to us with lots of knowledge and experience interacting with children through her volunteer position in a middle school youth program and serving in a preschool Sunday school class.  Hayley comments, “I love kids and love to babysit, I think that it is the perfect job for me. I value respect and compassion the most. I think it is very important to set a good example for young children because they are going to be the role models for the next generation.”

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Media and Kids

I have watched friends and family raise their kids and they have all had different approaches with supervising media and television watching. One family created a token system to help the children police their own habits, others simply set a daily max, others felt that if the homework and chores were completed, go ahead and play/watch what you would like.

Kids are great at creative play. My kids love Legos, arts, crafts, playing board games and running around outdoors.  And yet, there is also so much fun that can be had on devices and watching tv! I found myself trying to supervise a daily max, but as our kids get older and like to watch different shows or play different games on their device, I found myself overwhelmed keeping track of their minutes. Suddenly I had a child watching one show on a computer, another playing games on a device and yet another who was reading or playing without using up media time. HOW COULD I KEEP TRACK?

Over Christmas break, I devised my own chart system.  Kids had a certain number of minutes that they could spend per day on media/tv. We made a chart with 25 minute blocks of time and then made individualized magnets for each child  (a fun craft time). The kids place their magnet on the appropriate square when they’ve used up that amount of time.

I was able to sneak some expecations into the system with some chores or homework they needed to complete before earning more media time. For example, the first 30 minutes of media/tv are free, but then they need to make sure their bed is made and clothes picked up in their room.  They can then mark off the “Clean Room” square on the chart.

After their next use of a media/tv slot, they need to make sure their homework and reading are done for the day. Then the homework/reading slot can be marked off.  This allows the older kids to earn a few extra minutes of play while they listen to audio books in their room before bed.

The kids LOVED it! They love marking off the squares with their colored magnets. They love seeing how much time they have left in the day.  I love telling them when they ask the question, “Can I play/watch…..?”

“Do you have any time left on the chart? Then yes! If not, go find something else to do!”

We are enjoying this chart system. This will help us keep track of our media/tv time and allow us to enjoy them for the fun they are, but also enjoy all the other great activities our house and the outdoors can offer.

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I Trust You

I. Trust. You. These are words I try to use more and more as my children are growing older and able to make decisions for themselves.  I spent so many years of their childhood making every decision for them, but now as we enter into upper elementary years it is time to let them make more decisions and affirm those decisions.

DSC_0219Some of the situations are physical challenges in which the kids are asking me if they can climb a certain tree, go down a certain sledding hill, take on a jump or obstacle at the park.  I, of course, look at the situation through my mom-filter and decide if I feel the situation is a smart move, but what the children hear is, “What do you think? Do you feel that you can do it safely?  I trust you to make this decision.”  I want kids that learn their own abilities (and limitations) so that they can also make smart decisions when I am not there.

Some of the situations are social challenges in which the kids are asking me to put together an outfit for them for school or which  friend to invite over for a playdate. Here, we talk through together what they want to look like or what questions they need to ask themselves about the playdate, but I ask them to make the final decision. “I trust you. Whatever you decide will work out.” (Even if some school outfits have been a little crazy…)

Some of the situations are simple decisions the kids need to make about which activity they want to do next or how they want to organize their time. “Should I play legos or go biking?” “Should I do my homework first or second?” Here, I have the opportunity to help the kids think through what they are feeling at the moment and what the pros and cons are of different choices.  And I always end with, “I trust you. You can make a good decision about what to do next.”

…And if they make a poor decision, they need to learn that is okay too. We can try again next time.

I Trust You is a simple way to let my children know that I believe in them. I believe they can make good decisions. I believe that they can understand the consequences of their decisions. I believe that they can do it themselves.  They can, they have and they will.  And I will be right there cheering them on.

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Is it Tuesday?

My 5-year-old son wakes up and calls for me every morning. I go in to say good morning and the first sleepy words out of his mouth are often, “Is it Tuesday?”  You might ask why my son cares whether or not it is Tuesday, a day that doesn’t usually get too much attention in the week.

However, in my son’s world Tuesday equals “Grandma day”.  The day that his grandma has set aside to spend some time with him.  When he was not in school, Grandma day meant an entire morning with Grandma doing puzzles, going out for “coffee” (and chocolate milk), running errands together and special outings.

Now that he is in school, Grandma day has had to shift to a quick lunch or a bonus school pick-up, but it still holds a special place in his heart and mind.

Not everyone has an entire day/morning that they can dedicate to spending time with a special child in their life, but we can think through ways that we can create an “Is it Tuesday?” moment in that child’s life.

Some ideas could be:

A special food that you eat as a family every week that is well loved. Cinnamon Roll Saturday,  Pizza Friday, Taco Thursday etc…

Pajama Night: Pick a date every month that everyone gets to put on their PJs as soon as they get home. Eat dinner in PJs, do homework in PJs, play a game together in PJs.

Date Night: Work out the chance to take each of your kids on a one-on-one date to an event of their choosing.  Try to do one date night every couple of months so the kids each get a few chances per year.

Sports Day: Does your family have a special sport you love to watch? During that season, set aside time to watch as a family.

Child Choice Night:  Pick a night each week that the kids get to make their own choices (within reason) regarding what order they do their evening routine in. Eat, Play, Homework, Stories or Homework, Eat, Stories, Play etc.

Is it Tuesday? Is it Taco Thursday? Is it my Date Night?  All of these simple options can create a lot of excitement and wonderful memories in your child’s life. I am sure my children will someday tell their kids about the fun of Grandma Tuesday. What memories will your kids share?

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Temperament 101

Have you ever considered how your temperament and the temperament of your child(ren) can affect how you interact with each other? Temperament can be defined as how we relate and interact with the world. There are many different dimensions of temperament. Some examples could be:

Activity Level





and more….

Each of these can have a HIGH or LOW rating for the person being considered.  A child with a HIGH activity level wants to be on the move. A child with a LOW adaptability level may have trouble transitioning from one event/activity to another.

As parents, we figure all of these things out pretty quickly, learning what helps your baby settle into new situations, how much activity they enjoy, what their emotional reaction is to situations,etc. However, looking at the specific parts of temperament and  taking the time to understand your temperament and the temperament of the child you are spending time with, can help you feel even more confident about directing play, reading cues for needs and helping both of you enjoy your time together to the utmost.

An article I read recently also added the idea that understanding your own temperament qualities will also help you interact with children more successfully. Perhaps you are a low activity person spending time with a high activity child. Or perhaps you are a high adaptability person who has trouble understanding why your low adaptability child can’t easily transition from one activity to another.

I found the pages in this article very helpful. They will help you think through your own temperament and that of your child and then give you concrete examples of ways that a HIGH/HIGH or HIGH/LOW or LOW/HIGH or LOW/LOW personality can make the most of their time together.

Click here to read the article for yourself.

The Infant Toddler Temperament Tool (IT3) was developed for the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, an Innovation and Improvement Project funded by the Office of Head Start. (Grant #90YD026B)




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Play is a child’s work

Growing up is a lot of work.  Children are learning and developing and seeking to understand their environment each and every day. As adults, we have reached the point where some things feel so intuitive: left vs right, how to read stoplight, how to roll a ball out of play dough. And yet, in reality – all of those things were learned at some point in our lives. Some items are memorized, like left and right; others are developed through experience and practice, like how to roll the best play dough ball.

I have heard it said many times that “play is a child’s work”. This means that it is essentially a child’s job to be playing. This is where they experience their world, see what happens when they take certain actions and learn how to deal with the results. Here are some great forms of “play” that will help a child do their “work”.

Craft Time: I have said it many times that I believe in offering a wide variety of supplies for children to use as they choose for creations.  Paper Towel Tubes, cereal boxes, googly eyes, scissors, duct tape, masking tape etc can turn into cardboard robots, merry-go-rounds, anything the child can think of.

Dress Up: Old Halloween costumes, left over hats and scarves from Mom and Dad or picking up some crazy glasses or props at a toy store can allow the children to have some great creative playtime.

Gross Motor Skills: It feels like play, but anytime you and a child are kicking a ball, playing catch, playing hopscotch, walking on a line taped to the floor, their body is learning how to work as a unit.  There is also something great for our brains and bodies when you complete tasks that require arms to cross over the vertical midline of your body. Challenge your child to cross arms and touch their ear lobes or cross arms and touch their knees.

Fine Motor Skills: Get out those crayons and colored pencils and have coloring time. Instead of pre-defined coloring sheets, offer a blank sheet of paper and see what they want to create. Using small thin crayons will actually help children work on their pencil grip better than the fat, chubby ones, so be sure to give those a try.

Story Telling: Children that are pre-writers still have a lot to share.  Challenge your young children to “tell a story” with a picture – no words needed. After they draw the story have them tell you what happens.

So – give some of these a try and help your children do a little more of their “work” every day!

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Encouragement for Kids

I came across this sign the other day and loved its examples of ways to encourage a child.  These words seem to equally appreciate a job well done and a job well tried which can be so vital for kids to hear.  Just yesterday, I was doing craft time with my children and a craft was not going the way my daughter expected it to go…

My problem-solving side immediately wanted to jump in and do the craft for her to get her past the tough part and keep the project moving, but she quickly pointed out that she didn’t want a craft that I had made, she wanted a craft that SHE had made. Perhaps #41 would have been a good choice, “I know it’s hard, but you are almost there.” or #36, “You are really persisting with this.”

We chose to work together with her doing the majority of the work and getting a parent-assist when requested. In the end, I was able to wrap up with #38, “You did it!”

Encouraging successes and good tries can be so helpful in forming confident children. Read the list below and see which ones you want to add to your daily vocabulary.



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