So, maybe you are wanting to be an au pair, or you are a family wanting to employ one?

There seems to be an upward trend across New Zealand  and other countries for families to employ an au pair to support them in their busy modern lives, as dual working families with multiple children. Employing an au pair often represents a cost-effective way for families to juggle these multiple needs, and they come with the added benefit of offering cultural exchange, becoming part of the family, as well as the possibility of forming of close enduring relationships your family and children may enjoy well after the au pair has left. Au pairs are generally young woman (sometimes men, or “mannies”!), sometimes on their gap year, wanting to improve their English, experience a different culture, and to become part of a family overseas. Very commonly au pairs will want to combine work with a bit of travel and exploring.  For many, this might represent the first time they have left home or travelled abroad.

So, what does a family need to know and be able to offer an au pair to ensure a successful stay? What does an au pair role typically looklike?

As a guiding thought, it is important to remember that these au pairs are often young, fresh out of school, and this experience will often be their first major step away from the comfort of home. These au pairs are someone’s daughter or sons, they could be yours – a valuable lens to approach this engagement.

First, it is expected that a family will be able to provide an au pair with a bedroom of their own and personal or shared bathroom. It is important this is a beautiful and welcoming space, as this will be your aupairs “home- away-from-home”! This space needs to be an inviting, relaxing, and private space where they can unwind.

Guidelines around expected hours of work are ideally no more than 30 or 40 hours per week. Respectfully, an au pair should have weekends or at least two consecutive days off, and most evenings free. Remember, an au pair is also entitled to a holiday/breaks away. Respect the au pair as a young human being that will need rest and recovery in order to offer the best quality of care and support to a family. It is important to discuss the expectations around hours and duties in detail prior to the au pair accepting the role with a family. The more detail discussed the better! Remember, an au pair is primarily there for your children, and yes, they can certainly help with household tasks, but it is unfair to expect them to be a full-time cleaner, or part-time farm worker. Clarity and communication around this at the beginning can prevent all sorts of problems. It is a great idea to offer the au pair a family “hand book” outlining tasks/duties/expectations that can be a point of discussion for both parties.

Remember, an au pair may not have great English and families will need to be patient and supportive around this. Simple daily written instructions are gold. Guidance and communication around your family values and childcare practices are also very important. Help them to get to know your family, your child, and what works for the children in terms of routines, food, behaviour guidance etc.,

Don’t forget, looking after children alone can be tiring and lonely at times. An au pair may feel isolated and vulnerable. It is valuable to help connect an au pair to a wider au pair network – there are many great social media sites that foster this. Supporting an au pair to connect with a wider network is part of the responsibility as a host family.

We would highly recommend that whether you are an au pair,or a family seeking an au pair, that you go through an agency. Apart from the assurance that an au pair sourced through and agency will be brought through a rigorous recruitment process including at least an interview, reference checks, and police vetting and visa requirements, both parties benefit from the ongoing on-call support of a qualified team. If an issue arises on either side, there is someone to talk to and provide guidance. Agencies, like Rockmybaby® can also facilitate in connecting an au pair to a network, minimising a sense of loneliness an isolation. Facilitated by an agency, neither party need feel totally alone and have the comfort and framework and agency provides.

This can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime! Good au pair- family relationships can endure well after the au pair leaves, and what a wonderful opportunity for children to be exposed to other languages and cultures!

If you are thinking about employing an au pair, please contact our friendly consultant team http://www.rockmybaby.co.nz or call 0800 762 569

Life Without a Rubbish Bin, with Lucie & Dylan

Hannah and I, along with some of our educators went along to the Hawkes Bay Environmental Centre to listen to a talk about how to live without a rubbish bin. Lucie and Dylan live in Napier, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand and were inspired to live without a rubbish bin after they went to a talk about sustainability. Their journey was challenging, and definitely didn’t happen overnight, but in the end proved worth it for the feeling they get that they are caring for the planet and educating others to make simple small steps one at a time. Their dedication to the cause was certainly impressive!

Here are some of the ideas and take away messages from this professional evening:

  • Take little steps to start with – aim for something achievable
  • Think about all the bins you have at home (office, bathroom, bedroom, kitchen) – do you need all these bins?
  • To reduce your waste, shop in bulk or shop loose i.e. vegetable/fruit shops, butchery, local markets. Bring your own reusable bags or containers to carry your food home in.
  • Take a reusable coffee cup with you when you travel or visit your local café. Those bio-degradable cups are not what you think they are!
  • Shop with your $ and make good choices with your food/product packaging – have you thought about a shampoo bar?
  • Try using a vinegar and baking soda mix to replace all your cleaning products.
  • Think about this time of year and the amount we consume and buy. Think of ways to reduce your waste by making your own gifts. Homemade gifts are much more meaningful than something store bought anyway! How about the gift of “time”, an experience with your children instead of yet another toy.

If you would like more you can follow Lucie and Dylan on their Facebook page “Plastic free Hawkes Bay”, 

Written by Angela from Rockmybaby

Toddlers

From crawling comes walking, and with walking comes a sense of independence and freedom.

Children have a natural sense of curiosity and wonder about the world, and the ability to walk makes exploring and investigating all that much easier for them.

This is generally when children enter what is commonly known as “terrible two’s”. Although we know that toddlers aren’t terrible, they are just learning and trying to make sense of the big wide world. They are full of energy, wonder, passion and motivation.

Toddler hood is a small window of opportunity and the amount of care, patience, and love received during these years will pave the foundation for lifelong learning.

Common challenges for toddlers include;

  • Learning boundaries
  • Developing verbal communication
  • Gaining control of their bodies
  • Discovering and developing ways to be creative and expressive
  • Learning how to navigate their emotions.

Toddler hood is a fine balance between their growing independence and their dependence on adults to take care of their needs. Managing this balance can be tricky and daunting for some but take some comfort in knowing that toddlers thrive on challenges, comforting rituals and loving care moments.

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Take a deep breath, then breathe some more

Lower your voice, then lower some more

Soften your hands, then soften some more

Find your sense of calm, then find some more

Open your heart, then open it some more”

THE HEART SCHOOL

Once we understand and get to know toddlers, we are then able to respond to what they are telling us. Te Whāriki ( New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum)  provides some key curriculum requirements for toddlers.

These are:

  • A secure environment and a programme that provides both challenge and predictable routines
  • Opportunities for independent exploration and movement
  • A flexible approach – with spontaneity and a pace that allows toddlers to try things themselves
  • Adults who encourage toddlers’ cognitive skills and language development
  • Responsive and predictable adults who understand and accept their developmental swings.

Research also shows that toddlers need to develop secure relationships to promote cognitive and emotional growth, small group sizes and an environment that is calm, relaxed, and unhurried. Based on this, home-based care ticks all the boxes. Educators are able to really get to know the children, can offer flexibility in their day and provide loving spaces for children to explore and play.

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe” THE HEART SCHOOL

Observing children at play is one of the easiest ways to really get to know the child. Sometimes as adults, we are rushing around multitasking but by simply slowing down and watching children at play it is easy so see what they are trying to tell us.  In Early childhood education we call this a holistic approach. Toddlers have a lot going on and sometimes we miss what they are trying to communicate to us.

The environment plays a big part in ensuring a smooth transition through toddler hood. Having lots of one object is ideal, as this stops children arguing about who’s is who. Loose parts are preferred as this encourages imagination and creativity. Loose parts and open-ended resources also allow children to take control of their learning, empowering them to follow their own ideas, interests and urges.

When you are setting up your environment for toddlers, keep their motor development in mind. Ensure that the learning environment has plenty of space for (usually VERY) active exploration and constantly scan for possible hazards.

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It is impossible to prevent all accidents and injuries, but it is crucial that we create an environment, where toddlers feel safe and secure, so that their energy can all be channeled towards their learning and development.

“Toddlers with a zest for life need carers with a zest for toddlers”

THE HEART SCHOOL

Care Moments

Throughout a child’s day, children experience many moments of care between them and
their parent/educator/caregiver. These special moments are commonly referred to as routines, but at a much deeper level, these are sacred moments shared with a loving, respectful adult who is fully present and engaged in the moment. Care moments can be a change of nappy, sitting down to eat, getting dressed, being supported to sleep, or any other intimate moment that requires care for a child.

While engaging in care moments, we as adults need to be mindful of our own movements, slow down and ensure the child feels involved and respected. The child is then more engaged, and will enjoy spending this special time with you. Imagine attending a doctor’s appointment where the doctor checked you over with no thought about your feelings, no conversation, no care? How would this make you feel? It is the same with children.

♥ Children who are consistently handled with kind hands and good humour are far more likely to radiate those gifts back to the world – Brainwave Trust ♥

We need to ensure we give them the respect they deserve and show love and kindness.
When this happens, the child becomes emotionally satisfied and the relationship between the caregiver and the child is cemented in trust and reciprocity.

An emotionally satisfied child feels secure in themselves and is happy to explore, play, and be involved, as they know all their needs will be met from a responsive adult.

The presence of respectful care, natural unfolding, and offering an unhurried pace, is especially crucial in a child’s early learning stage when they are developing a sense of self, as well as making sense of the world around them.

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By offering choice and our calm respectful presence, we empower children and communicate that their needs, feelings, and interests are important and worthy of respect – setting them up for life-long learning and a healthy self-esteem.

Take a nappy change for example – it is estimated that a child may have up to 5,000 changes in their lifetime! Imagine if all these opportunities for relationship building and learning were wasted or lost? Inviting the child to transition from playing into a care moment is a way to show that you respect what they are doing in their play.

Imagine if you were deep in thought and someone whipped you away, and plopped you
on a nappy changing table. An invitation can be as simple as getting down  to the child’s level, asking them if they are ready to engage in the care moment, or simply outstretching your hands with palms facing up. This works particularly well with infants. All you need to do is simply pause and wait for a response, whether this is verbal or non-verbal.

A young child may shake their head and tell you they are not ready, whereas an infant may turn their body towards you or hold their hands out to you. By taking this approach, slowly in time, you will find you will begin to read children’s non-verbal cues, listen to what they are saying, and respect them as little people with feelings and emotions, just like us.

For infants, care and education are inseparable because valuable learning is taking place during routine care times and this learning is hindered if the child does not have a strong reciprocal and consistent relationship with the person who is caring for them. In being cared for, the infant is learning to care for others.

The Pikler Collection

Freedom of Movement

As children grow, they experience many developmental changes and milestones. As they reach each of these milestones, they begin a new stage of learning and development. Navigating these transitions can be tricky for children, families, whānau, and educators.
“Knowing about children’s development can help us understand how children respond to transition. In addition, when educators collaborate with families, they can learn how individual children experience change. Educators can also learn how to help children feel secure and comfortable during transition.”

Ko te Tamaiti te Pu – take o te Kaupapa
The Child – the Heart of the Matter
ERO, 2015

Learning how to move their body is one of the biggest and ongoing developmental challenges children face. From learning to roll from side to side, crawling, walking,
running and jumping, all requires development of gross motor skills, co-ordination, concentration, confidence and determination.

In order for children to master these skills, it is fundamental that they experience as much freedom of movement as possible during their day. One of the key principles of Dr Emmi Pikler was that infants are never put into a position which they cannot get into by themselves. This includes resisting the urge to prop infants up into a sitting position, before they have the strength to do this on their own.

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“Whilst learning to turn on the belly, to roll, creep, sit, stand and walk, (the baby) is not only learning those movements but also how to learn. He learns to do something on his own, to be interested, to try out, to experiment. He learns to overcome difficulties. He comes to know the joy and satisfaction which is derived from this success, the result of his patience and persistence.”
Dr Emmi Pikler

With a vast array of infant ‘equipment’ available on the market, it is easy to get confused as to what an infant may need. While there is definitely a need for this ‘equipment’ ie: a car seat while traveling in a car, sometimes it can be more about convenience as opposed to what is good for an infant’s development. As famously said by the Beatles, “All you need is love”, is actually quite true. All infants really need to foster their physical
development is loving attentive parents/whānau and caregivers, a safe space on the floor to explore how their body moves, and time.

According to Emmi Pikler, the natural rhythm of how nature intended an infant to learn how to move is;

  • Turning the head from side to side
  • Practices movements of the hands
  • Turns on the side
  • Turning on the belly
  • Turns back
  • Stretching
  • Rolling
  • Creeping on the belly and on all fours
  • Getting up into the vertical
  • Sitting
  • Standing up
  • Standing up alone – without holding on
  • Walking about on their own

Written by Rockmybaby

A ritual or a routine? What is the difference?

A routine is something you HAVE to do. It does not have any thought, or love, and you end up on auto-pilot just doing something because you have to.

A ritual is something more meaningful, beautiful, well thought out, delivered with care, kindness, and something that children enjoy and want to be actively involved in.

If you think back to your own childhood, it is the rituals that are imprinted into your memory because it was something you looked forward to and enjoyed. It was special and meaningful.

cute child girl on cozy outdoor tea party in spring garden with

Do you  often smell a particular smell, or hear a particular song and it instantly takes you back to a joyful time? What was it that made it special? Think about when you have a bath. Do you just jump in, with the lights on? Or do you add in bubble bath, light candles, a face mask, and sink in to soak with a good book? How does this make you feel?

A ritual is something that happens regularly and is what you look forward to. This is the same for children in our care. Children don’t choose to be in care, and even though they are having a great time, it is up to us to take the boring every day and inject a little bit of sparkle and magic. After all, children deserve the best.

As educators, teachers, parents, and caregivers, we need to ensure every day is special and that children have something special to look forward to.

“It is not enough to say we love the child, they must feel the results of the care”
EMMI PIKLER

What does a ritual look like?

Rituals require a little bit of thoughtful planning and time, but they are easy and fun to introduce.

Meal times are one of the easiest ways to inject a bit of magic into the mundane. Imagine sitting down to lunch with just your lunch box on the table. BORING! How about taking the extra few minutes to be prepared and lay out a table cloth, some warm lavender infused flannels for washing the face, a beautiful centre-piece, some calm lighting, some herbal tea, and real crockery (yes glass).
Involve the children in this process also and let them help set the table. This allows children to contribute to their environment and gives them a sense a belonging within the group. You’ll be amazed at how the authentic conversations and sense of calm will follow!

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One-on-one rituals such as a nappy change or sleep time, can also be transformed from something clinical, to a time that a child looks forward to. Try singing the same special song, setting a relaxing environment, allowing the child to be involved, drawing the curtains, a special foot massage before bed, having a child’s special cuddly ready, essential oils in a diffuser or calming relaxing music. In the words of Kimberley Crisp… “It is about being prepared in head, heart, and hands”.

Written by Angela StoneRockmybaby

Wellness programme for our staff

Rockmybaby® values the importance of our team taking care of themselves and each other and keeping emotional intelligence in check.

Rockmybaby® started in 2006, a kiwi initiative born out of friends and families asking for childcare solutions.  Rockmybaby® is a forward-thinking and innovative agency that prides itself in the careful and considered selection of staff, and the ongoing support and care provided to ensure the well-being and care of each employee.

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Our team goes to Pilates weekly at  The Works Wellness Centre

Rockmybaby® provides a welcoming and warm environment that creates a relaxed atmosphere, creating a space for productivity and creativity.  Each week staff attend a Pilates class which is pre-booked by the company and there is a freedom for staff to take time to step outside into the sunshine away from technology when they need to.  Spontaneous home-cooked meals arrive at the office and locally brewed coffee is always ready, along with a lunch break at a time that works for you.  Our staff feel valued and supported.

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Example of one of our lunches – yummy fish pie

It’s important for our team to have a good work-life balance and time to focus on their well-being and personal development.

As a Kiwi owned and operated agency, we understand and have a culture that meets the needs of our people.