INA Weekly Brief

Nanny Resources: 100 Ways to Connect with Your Charges

July 14, 2014
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Once you get your nanny job you will need to connect with the kids you will be watching.  Depending on the ages of the children, this task can be simple or very challenging.  It may also depend on if the kids have previously had a nanny and how they felt about her.  The best thing you can do is get to know the kids and the routine while mom or dad are around.  Talk to the parents about doing some fun activities as a group so that the kids can warm up to you gradually.  It may also be helpful to play some getting to know you games as a group.  Surely your employer would like to get to know you as much as you would like to get to know them.  Another way to connect is to get involved in some fun activities together like games outside, craft projects or cooking in the kitchen.  Here are 100 ideas on ways that you can connect with your charges.  Hopefully, at least some will work for you.

Family and Nanny Joint Activities

When you first arrive the kids will probably be shy because you are a total stranger.  The idea behind doing activities as a group is to let the kids know that their parents trust and welcome you into the family unit.  Once you’re around for a while the kids will warm up to you and start trusting you.  There are certain steps like shadowing that are helpful so that you can keep the kids’ routine the same as what they are used to.  If the parent doesn’t have a lot of time you may be able to meet her at the park for a picnic lunch.  Little things will help break the ice and help improve your nanny/charge relationship.  These twenty ideas are things that you can do with the family unit.

  1. Shadow the mom for a few days to learn the routineParenting recommends hanging out with the family as a whole before being alone with the kids.
  2. Get to know the kids while mom is still at homePEPS suggest getting to know the kids while they are relaxed with mom or the previous nanny.
  3. Spend an afternoon playing with the toys togetherNanny points out that if the child sees that his mom trusts you he will too.
  4. Go for a picnic with the kids and parent.  Nanny Reviews explain that time spent with the child and the parent will help the child get to know you in a relaxed setting.
  5. Play at the park with the child and parentModern Mom encourages everyone to have fun together at the beginning of the relationship to help create a positive connection.
  6. Do a brand new activity with your charge while the parent is otherwise occupiedBaby Center Community offers up a suggestion to do an activity that the child will like, but has never done before alone with you while the parent is in another room.
  7. Feed the infant while the mother is thereEvolutionary Parenting explains that the child will be comforted by the presence of mom, but learn to be okay with someone else doing the feeding.
  8. Try to make time to be in the home for a week before the mom goes back to work.  According to eHow this transition time will allow you to get comfortable with the household routines so that the baby can connect to you without missing mom too much.
  9. Keep the schedule as close to the same as you canNannies and Nanny Blog suggest that you learn the routine so that there is a smoother transition.
  10. Talk to your employer about participating in milestone eventsModern Ghana points out that you can have a better connection with the child if you are at his important events.
  11. Have dinner together.  Make some Butter Chicken, green beans and toasted garlic bread for the whole family as described on Moms Who Think.
  12. Go on a hike.  Make and Takes offer ten tips for taking kids on a hike that you might want to try so that everyone has a fun time.
  13. Try a bike ride with the whole family.  Adult Bicycling offers several tips on planning the perfect bike ride for the family.
  14. Go on a scavenger hunt.  Family Capers suggests going on a mall scavenger hunt where everyone has to find different things in the mall.  You can break into teams.
  15. Take a trip to the museum.  Many cities have children’s museums like the one listed on Minitime.  This can be a fun and educational trip for the family and the nanny.
  16. Plan an afternoon at the beach.  Depending on how old the kids are, going to the beach can be quite the adventure.  Said Kristin offers a few ideas for taking toddlers to the beach.
  17. Scope out the zoo together.  Everyone loves animals so going to the zoo together with the family will give you some down time to get to know everyone.   The Examiner shares ideas for going to the Miami zoo.
  18. Try letterboxing as a group.  If you have never been, Letterboxing will answer some of your questions before you take off, it’s kind of like a treasure hunt.
  19. Go to a local festival.  Explore a local festival together.  If you’re not sure where to go try Festival Network to find festivals near you.
  20. Drive around the city.  Earnest Parenting explains that long drives will give everyone a chance to bond and the nanny can learn about her new city.

Get to Know You Activities

If you are a live-in nanny you might want to try some ice breaker types of games to learn about the family and for them to learn about you.  You may need to play some of these games off the clock, but it will be worth it because you can start to bond with the family.  The closer you can get to the family the sooner you will pass that stressful awkward period.  Living with a stranger is difficult and will take a little time.  Even if you are a live-out nanny, playing ice breaker games can help you and your charges get to know each other better.  Take a look at these twenty ideas and see if any of them seem appropriate for your situation.

  1. Ask some questionsShe’s Crafty has come up with a getting to know you game where you ask each other questions and try to guess the answers.
  2. Prompt a response with worksheetsWhat the Teacher Wants has worksheets that may help you open the conversation to get to know each other.
  3. Play Human BingoFamily Reunion Success suggests filling a bingo board with facts about different people in the family and you have to walk around and discover facts in order to fill the board and win the game.
  4. Try Hot Potato Camera GameAdventure suggests a variation on Hot Potato where the first person sets the camera’s timer and then the camera is passed around the circle until the picture goes off.
  5. Host a family talk showiMom suggests going around and asking a series of questions of all of the family members and then sharing the answers.
  6. Give everyone a quizSpoonful recommends this game for step-moms to get to know their new step kids so it should also work for the nanny to get to know her charges.
  7. Play the string gameIce Breakers explains how to play the game and how to prepare for the game so that you can get to know everyone better.
  8. Bowl of namesThe Red Headed Hostess suggests a game where everyone has to write ten names on ten slips of paper and put them in a bowl.  The game has three rounds and each round is played differently.
  9. Use conversation starters.  Sometimes it’s hard to get the conversations going.  Aha Parenting lists 150 conversation starters you may want to try.
  10. Play the name game.  Ask each person where their name came from.  The kids may not know so mom or dad can fill in the blanks with this game from Evite.
  11. Two Truths and a Lie.  If the kids are old enough to know the difference between truth and a lie this would be a fun game suggested by Crupress Green.
  12. Spin a web.  Scholastic has an interesting idea for students getting to know each other, but it can work for a nanny and family too.
  13. Play the relationship game.  Life Learning Today has come up with a list of questions you can ask and many are geared to young children.  You can incorporate drawing, charades or tossing a bean bag around the circle.
  14. Try this funny game called, “Honey I Love You”.  Urbanext explains the rules on how to play this game that will make people smile.
  15. Act it out.  Highlight suggests Charades as a fun family game to get everyone laughing and having a good time.
  16. What If? Extension recommends this to help families laugh and get to know each other better.
  17.  Wrap a mummy.  Get the family giggling by breaking into teams and wrapping one member of the team with toilet paper.  More explanation about the game from eHow.
  18. Play a tasty game of Rainbow of FunPerfect Party Games suggests getting a bag of colorful candy and asking everyone to take a certain number and based on the color of candy that person has to say something about themselves.  This works better for kids who know their colors.
  19. Play online games togetherYahoo Games has tons of games for all ages that you can enjoy together and bond.
  20. Slap the deck.  Learn the rules from Tips 4 Families.  Playing games together can give you time to bond and learn about each other.

Be Active Together

Another way to bond with your charges is by getting active with them.  Show the kids that you are willing to run around and play with them.  Parents are often busy with work and when they do have time at home they are trying to multi-task doing housework while watching the kids play.  Instead of watching the kids play, you need to play with the kids.  Here are twenty different ways to be active with the kids and even the parents if they are willing.  Maybe you can show the parents ways that they can play with their kids.

  1. Go to a different park than the child normally goes toBlogher explains that sometimes reserving something special just for you and your charges will get them to be excited for when you arrive.
  2. Do family Olympics.  Purple Trail explains how to put together different obstacles for each person to do.
  3. Play Catch my Tail.  Family Games Treasure House explains the rules to this game of chase.  You will need bandanas or something to use for tails.
  4. Do the Hokie PokieKids’ Health suggests games that are appropriate for toddlers.  This funny game should get everyone laughing.
  5. Kick the ballKidspot explains that toddlers need at least 2 hours of exercise each day.  Getting the kids active and having fun is also a way you can bond with them.
  6. Get musical. Mom 365 explains how you can get toddlers to play with musical instruments.
  7. Play ‘roll the ball’Parents suggest rolling the ball back and forth with 2 and 3 year olds.  This play can build skills while building your relationship.
  8. Sing and dance to Allouette.  Find the words and make up actions for this French song that goes over the body parts from Dragon.
  9. Watch and sing the Sleepy Bunny song.  Rainy Day Mum includes an animated video to help you learn the words and tune to this funny song.
  10. Make wet footprints.  Family Education describes how to make wet footprints and get the kids outside and moving around.
  11. Go ride a trike.  Walk around with your charge while he rides his trike and gets some exercise recommends Disney Baby.
  12. Chase the bubbles.  If your charge is a toddler you can blow bubbles and let him chase them, but if he’s older he can blow his own bubbles to chase says Everyday Family.
  13. Teach the kids to play hide-and-seek.  Older kids may know this game, but younger ones may need some help explains Early Childhood.
  14. Freeze dance with your charges.  Pull out your iPod and play some kid-friendly music and let the kids dance and then freeze like statues as explained on Wired.
  15. Create a back yard maze.  Best Kids’ Games explains how to set up a maze that the kids have to get through in the back yard.
  16. Play in the water.  If you are a nanny for a baby six months or older you can put some water in a low box and float some boats or duckies in it recommends Just Mommies.
  17. Color hop.  Learn Play Imagine suggests creating colored spots with sidewalk chalk in a circle and encouraging your charge to hop from spot to spot and say the color.
  18. Go sledding.  If you are in an area where there’s snow you can bundle up your walking charge and head for the closest hill says Mom Meet Mom and ride on the sled together.
  19. Ready, Aim, Learn.  Toddler Approved has come up with a game where the child throws a ball at a number that’s been taped to the fence.  This way the child can learn while being active.
  20. Run and play in the sandBaby Center urges kids to run around and play in the sand whether it’s at the beach or a local park sand box.

Spend Time Being Creative

As the nanny you will have plenty of time to do crafts with the kids, but some of these ideas are specifically about getting to know each other.  You can make collages with the kids and you can learn about each other through the craft.  The same thing goes for the personality flag.  Even playing dress-up can tell you something about the kids.  Other craft projects are just fun an allow you to get messy with the kids and interact with them while their guard is down.  Read through these twenty ideas and see if you can use any of them in your job.

  1. Play dress-up with your charges and dress in the funniest outfit you can figure outNanny Net encourages you to interact with your charges and make them laugh to make a strong connection.
  2. Make an All About Me Collage.  Back-to-School suggests everyone create a collage using magazine pictures that tells about their likes and dislikes.
  3. Create personality flagsInsight suggests giving everyone a big piece of paper and crayons and asking them to draw a flag with symbols that represent them.
  4. Make sensory bottles.  Toddlers are so curious that making these interesting bottles will keep them interested for a while as explained on Step by Step CC.
  5. Whip up some cloud dough for your charge to play with.  Juggling with Kids gives the recipe for making this medium that the kids can play in.
  6. Do a sticker painting.  Buzzfeed explains how to use foam stickers and finger paint to make a one-of-a-kind art piece.
  7. Create some paint and put it in a squeeze bottle.  The paint is non-toxic and inexpensive to make and the squeeze bottles make the painting simple enough for toddlers says My Buddies and I.
  8. Try to create wrapping paper with flyswatters. No Time for Flashcards suggests laying out a big sheet of brown paper, paint and a flyswatter and let your charge swat with paint.
  9. Paint the snow.  Just because it’s snowy outside doesn’t mean you can’t let the kids be creative and get some fresh air at the same time.  Simple Fun for Kids has an idea for keeping the paint portable as well.
  10. Make a ladybug hand puppet.  Enchanted Learning explains how to use paper plates and construction paper to make this craft.
  11. Send a hug through the mail.  Toddler Toddler shares a craft where the child lies on the floor and you measure out ribbon or a streamer the length of their arms and then add traced hand prints to each end to create a mailable hug.
  12. Make a cartoon character.  Nick Jr. describes this clay craft to make a pizza dog from the cartoons.
  13. Create a handprint fishing picture.  Busy Bee Kids Crafts explains that you can trace your charge’s hand and arm and cut it out to use in this fishing picture.
  14. Stitch up a letter.  Family Crafts shows how to cut out a letter and make it into a lacing shape so that kids can learn while they lace.
  15. Sit down with the kids and create some colorful chicks.  iVillage explains how to color an egg carton cup and combine it with a plastic egg and feathers to create this amazingly colorful creature.
  16. Learn and paint like Jackson Pollock.  Mama’s Little Muse explains how to “splat paint” so that the painting comes out a little like a famous painter.
  17. Let the kids sand paint.  Lifescript describes how to mix food coloring into water so that the kids can paint the sand.
  18. Make a bookmark.  DLTK shares how simple it is to make your own bookmark.  Once it’s done you can read a book together.
  19. Try your hand at making raised salt painting with your charge.  Netmums have come up with a unique way to paint with this craft.
  20. Create some suncatchers.  Fun at Home with Kids recommends using inexpensive coffee filters from the dollar store and some water colors to create a sun catcher.

Have Fun in the Kitchen

Baking and being in the kitchen can be a lot of fun for kids.  This is especially true if they’ve never been allowed into the kitchen before.  Getting into the kitchen with the kids will serve several purposes.  First, it’s fun and the kids will enjoy it.  Second, you can use the activity as a way to teach the kids various lessons in math and science.  Third, you will end up with a tasty treat at the end of the fun.  These twenty ideas range in difficulty and ingredients in case your charge has any dietary restrictions.  Try this activity and see if you can form a closer bond with your charge while you are forming that loaf of bread.

  1. Bake some ice cream cone cakes.  Better Crocker talks about teachable moments and suggests you explain the difference between hot and cold during this baking session.
  2. Teach the kids to whisk.  Very Best Baking explains how to teach kids to whisk some egg whites and then use them in a recipe.
  3. Let the kids cream the butter with their hands.  Most recipes start by creaming butter and sugar.  Kids can have a lot of fun by getting their hands in there says Food Network.
  4. Make some no-bake peanut butter bars.  These yummy bars are simple to mix together and press into the pan with little hands from Six Sister’s Stuff.
  5. Help the kids put together these healthy oatmeal cookies.  Simple Bites explains the recipe and how to modify it for kids.
  6. Thrill and amaze the kids by letting them help make bread alligators.  Become a Better Baker explains the steps for making this yeasty creature.
  7. Whip together some Snickerdoodle Muffins with the kids.  She Knows explains that this recipe is simple and quick to do so the kids can get in there and help.
  8. Knock out some tried and true chocolate chip cookies.  Kids and adults alike tend to love a basic chocolate chip cookie and King Arthur has written detailed directions with kids in mind.
  9. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge anyone?  Sally’s Baking Addiction describes this fudge as almost as good as raw cookie dough.
  10. As American as apple pie.  Mighty Nest explains how to show the kids techniques for making pie crust and putting together a tasty pie.
  11. Tuck into some Pigs in a Blanket with this recipe.  The recipe with the funny name is simple enough for kids to help with especially if you have a bread machine says Red Star Yeast.
  12. How about a salty snack of soft pretzels?  Show the kids how to create the traditional pretzel shape and then let them create their own shape with directions from Food 52.
  13. Get scientific in the kitchen and have some fun at the same time.  Just because you’re in the kitchen doesn’t mean that you have to make something to eat.  PBS Kids explains a baking soda experiment that the kids will love.
  14. Bake some bread with your preschool charge.  Something Edible shares how simple making bread can be by using only four ingredients and a zippered storage bag.
  15. It’s okay to play with your food.  Better Homes and Gardens explain how to create snackable snowman out of marshmallows.
  16. Teddy bears aren’t just for cuddling.  Land O Lakes shares this simple recipe for making Teddy bear cookies with kids.
  17. Include the kids when making their favorite mac’n cheese.  Try this recipe for Bacon Infused Macaroni and Cheese and let the kids help says Chef Druck.
  18. How about a snack?  Cozi shares ten simple snacks that kids can make by themselves or with minimal supervision.
  19. Let the kids help with dinner.  Put together this quick dinner of Peanut Butter and Chicken Noodles with Carrot and Cucumber Ribbons says Real Simple.
  20. Toss together this strawberry salad with the kids.  You can be a hero to your charges by making them feel like they are big and responsible enough to help make supper for the family, recipe from Parade.

A special thank you to INA member Kenney Myers for contributing this article. Ken is a Christian, father, husband and entrepreneur; he has combined his passion for helping families find nannies with writing to make a difference in the World.   Ken is very active in social media participating in industry Facebook groups as well as active on Twitter @KenneyMyers.  It’s his goal to listen to nannies, clients and other agency owners to get a better understanding of how business in this industry should function in order to work better for everyone involved.  Most importantly, everything we do is focused around providing safe, quality in-home childcare to families across the U.S. 

Ken is the owner of Morningside Nannies, Houston and eNannySource.com.