The INA's Weekly Brief

The Nanny Tax Conversation: Nanny Agency Tips

You are helping a new client family do a needs assessment prior to beginning the nanny search.  During the course of the conversation you query them about their childcare budget. How much do they plan to spend on their nanny? The family throws out a weekly number that sounds reasonable. You clarify that this is the nanny’s weekly wage, and that this is before taxes? The parents look at each other in puzzled manner, then turn to you and ask “What taxes?

Nanny Agency Tip: Talking About the Nanny TaxEvery nanny agency faces this situation, and how you respond to it can either help you build trust with this family or undermine their faith that your nanny agency is a good resource for their family. You specialize in recruitment. Your primary focus is to match this family with a nanny that they will be delighted with long term. You are not an accountant, nor do you want to be! The nanny tax is complicated. What do you do?

  1. ALIGN YOUR NANNY AGENCY WITH ONE OR MORE INA-MEMBER PAYROLL FIRMS THAT SPECIALIZE IN NANNY TAX COMPLIANCE. These businesses can facilitate the conversations with your clients, answer their questions in detail, connect them with Workers’ Compensation Insurance firms, and help draft a FLSA compliant compensation offers to the nanny.
  2. MAKE SURE YOU AND YOUR NANNY AGENCY TEAM KNOW THE BASICS, AND TRAIN YOUR AGENCY STAFF TO REFER CLIENTS TO YOUR PAYROLL PARTNER(S). Take the time to prepare a quick script for staff to address key points.  The basics include:
    • A nanny is an employee, not an independent contractor. This is established under law, and is not a matter of opinion or a decision that the family and nanny can make together. There are online tools, videos and written advice you can steer your clients too.
    • A family is responsible to report and pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes for their employee, and to contribute to unemployment insurance. The nanny cannot do this herself. Nanny tax compliance is the lawFor budgeting purposes the family can expect to pay roughly 10-12% in employment taxes above the gross agreed upon wage, depending on the state.
    • Workers’ Compensation Insurance protects the family from financial liability should the nanny suffer an accident on the job. (Your nanny tax partners can connect your client with appropriate insurance agencies.)
    • Paying cash under the table is risky for families because when and if the nanny’s job ends the nanny can file for unemployment benefits, which can result in audit and hefty penalties once the state is able to determine the nanny worked for the family.
  1. FACILITATE THE WRITING OF AN FLSA COMPLIANT COMPENSATION AGREEMENT. Federal law establishes that all nannies are hourly employees, and that live-out or come-and-go nannies are entitled to overtime. Your state may have stricter overtime definitions. Putting these details down in writing when the job offer is extended protects all parties – the family, your nanny agency and the nanny – from misunderstandings or even unwitting violations of Federal or state law. Lean on your nanny payroll tax partners for help here – their staff will be happy to help you.
  2. REMIND THE FAMILY THAT A PROFESSIONAL NANNY EXPECTS TO RECEIVE HER WEEKLY PAY IN FULL EVERY WEEK SHE IS AVAILABLE TO WORK, WHETHER THE FAMILY DECIDES TO TAKE A HOLIDAY OR NOT. Follow that up by including this in the compensation agreement. All too many ‘good’ nanny job matches fall apart because there was not clarity at time of hire on this point. The family trusts your nanny agency to provide the necessary guidance that results in a satisfying, long term relationship with their nanny.
  3. FACILITATE THE DOCUMENTATION OF BENEFITS SUCH AS PAID HOLIDAYS AND PAID TIME OFF. Define which Federal holidays the nanny will be paid for. Define vacation and sick time pay if included. A key component of a ‘good’ nanny job match is mutual understanding on benefits and household ‘policies.’ Your nanny agency’s reputation is reinforced when you help the family work through these issues in advance.

A nanny agency builds trust and credibility when the agency provides the client with the advice, tools and partners that both manage the family’s risk and saves the family valuable time. Your agency reputation is enhanced when you guide the family through the hiring process and minimize their time spent on research. Your valuable knowledge and access to expert assistance differentiates your nanny agency from the less professional agency across town and from the national, online databases. Your clients have better things to do with their time!

The following INA-Member Nanny Payroll and Tax Services provide Sponsor Support to our Annual Conference:

GTM Associates
Care.com HomePay, Provided by Breedlove
HomeWork Solutions Inc.

Find INA-member Nanny Payroll and Tax Services online in our member directory.

INA Nanny Payroll and Tax Services

 


HomeWork Solutions Nanny Payroll and Tax ServicesA special thank you to INA-member HomeWork Solutions for providing this guidance. HomeWork Solutions offers both household payroll and household payroll tax compliance services to US families on a nationwide basis and has partnered with INA nanny agencies since 1993.

Do you have specialized knowledge, experience or resources that you want to share with your fellow INA members? We encourage you to submit original, informational articles to the INA to be considered for publication. Authors of selected articles will receive attribution in the post. Email your submissions to the INA Office.

Emotional Behaviors in ChildrenBeing a beacon of light for families that need guidance and resources to cope with everyday stress and difficult periods raising young children is a task that is not listed on many nanny job descriptions.  However, parents, nannies and children cannot escape stress or mend a broken heart with a magic band-aid.  During these times, many extended family members, friends and neighbors are eager to help and offer advice and ways to help “fix” the problem.  How can you know who has the “right” advice for your family or your charges? Are there nanny resources available?

Family physicians, pediatricians, therapists and medical professionals are certainly the most credible voices of reason and a first line of defense against serious mental health issues.  Except many matters may fall short of a traumatic event that demands medical attention.

INA-Band-aidWhat can nannies do when a medical doctor is too much and a band-aid is not enough?  What nanny resources exist for caregivers? At Vanderbilt’s Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, educators, researchers and therapists have created a storehouse of resources to address the social and emotional developmental needs of young children.   These resources include practical strategies, family tools, videos and opportunities to participate in chat sessions. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention  also recently released an online resource center Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers that also has videos, coaching and practical advice for parents and caregivers. At difficult times, turn to credible resources for advice where the focus addresses on the foundation of what is developmentally age appropriate for young children.


Thank you to INA member Angela Riggs, Early Childhood Education Associate Dean, Sullivan University, Louisville KY for sharing these resources with the INA.

Use caution hiring nanniesThe International Nanny Association is aware of a recent incident involving a nanny in New Jersey who was hired to care for a child for 4 hours. According to sources, the mother found the nanny passed-out, drunk and the child crying and in a soiled diaper. The child was physically uninjured and the nanny was arrested. The family hired the nanny through an online service.

The International Nanny Association acknowledges that online child care services provide a quick and cost efficient way to secure child care. Parents using these online resources, however, assume total responsibility for all caregiver vetting – the websites have iron clad disclaimers that clearly state this. An interview, even an in-person interview, is not sufficient. It is imperative that thorough nanny background screening checks be run on any person one chooses to care for their children and that the caregiver’s references must be scrupulously checked.

The International Nanny Association suggests that parents seeking qualified and extensively screened child care providers consider a professional nanny referral agency in their local area. INA-member agencies are listed in our online membership directory. Experienced nanny referral agencies have deep expertise in caregiver screening, the kind of experience that comes from daily nanny interviewing, screening, and reference checking. Background screening will only reveal when an applicant has been caught and convicted of a crime. Putting a recruiting professional in your corner dramatically reduces the risks of a bad hire.

Emotionally and physically safe and secure in-home childcare is our mutual goal.

INA Nanny Background Screening Resources:

INA Recommended Practices for Nanny Background Screening
Download free INA Nanny Employer Handbook 

INA Nanny Employer Handbook - a Free download

 

Many, many professional nannies work for families whose children have special needs. But what about the situation when the Mom or Dad is actually the family member with a special need? Author and blogger Elizabeth Christy shares tips for nannies on caring for the family as a whole when a parent has chronic pain or illness.

by Elizabeth M. Christy

Why Does Mommy Hurt?

credit: Becky A. Gardner Photography

I am a 32 year old mother living with severe chronic pain stemming from autoimmune disease. I am unable to clean my house, care for my garden, and I also need a lot of helping caring for my 3 year old son, Jimmy (pictured with me). As a mom, I want to give him the world- take him to interesting places, go on hikes, pick him up and squeeze him.. but unfortunately, I am routinely unable to do many of even the most basic tasks of parenting. If you work for a family like mine, there are many simple things that you can do to help them; and earn their deepest gratitude and trust in the process.

Take the children on outings.

Children learn by exploring their environment. When a parent you work for has chronic pain or illness, they are likely unable to regularly do “special” activities with their child, or even basics, like simply walking their child to the playground, or pushing them on the swing.  Make outings and “special” trips – family friendly farms, museums, markets, fairs, nature walks.. anything that gets the child out of the house and doing something active!  Take pictures on your phone of the child during the outings.  When you’re done; write a short note about the joyful time the kids had, and share photos.  Hearing about their children’s experiences; even if they were notable to share them, is something that will be treasured and remembered; for years to come.

Teach and encourage organization and picking-up.

Picking up toys is probably the most difficult chore for a parent with chronic pain or illness.  Even if they have a house cleaning service, children, as you know, can tear a room apart in a matter of minutes!  Better yet, teach and encourage the children to pick up after themselves; even small toddlers are able to help clean up.  That way, you will give the parents a gift that will last! Click here for a guide on how toddlers can help out around the house. *Pulling up weeds may also make a parent weep tears of gratitude!

Educate yourself, listen and support.

Google the condition that the parent has, so you can better understand how to help them.  Demonstrate your support: People with chronic pain and illness often are afraid to be seen as “complainers,” or to be judged to be “a burden,” or “lazy.” Make it clear that you believe their pain is real (chronic pain is often invisible; the parent may look completely healthy). Ask them how they’re feeling that day, and if there’s anything special that you can do to help them. Even if they don’t specify anything, keep asking; once they gain your trust, they will be more likely to open up.  Having someone that truly listens is pure gold to someone with chronic pain or illness.  Support the children. Encourage them to talk about their parents illness; ask them how they feel, and validate them. The children may have feelings of sadness, or even anger.  Read them books like “Why Does Mommy Hurt? Helping Children Cope with the Challenges of having a Parent or Caregiver with Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, or Autoimmune Disease.” Opening up communication in the family about a parent’s condition is another gift that could last a lifetime!


Elizabeth M. Christy is the author of many freelance and online publications, and the best-selling childrens book, “Why Does Mommy Hurt?” She writes a blog for parents with chronic pain and disease: parentswithpain.com.  Elizabeth is a autoimmune disease and Fibromyalgia “ninja,” and lives in Sterling, VA with her growing family.  She also runs the non-profit “Books and Bottles,” supporting needy children and infants.  

INA Nanny of the Year Award

Are you an all-star nanny? Do your employers tell you they don’t know what they would do without you?  Have you had parents at the playground say they wish they had a nanny like you?  Do you have friends and family members come to you for parenting advice?  If this sounds like you, then you would make a fantastic Nanny of the Year Nominee.

The International Nanny Association’s Nanny of the Year (INA NOTY) award is presented annually to a deserving in-home childcare provider. This person must work full time as a nanny or a specialty nanny such as a Newborn Care Specialist, Night-time Nanny or Traveling Nanny.  If you meet the eligibility requirements, talk to your employer, local agency owner, family member or even a friend about nominating you.  Our 2015 NOTY Packet includes all you need to know about the process.  If you have further questions you can contact the NOTY Chair, Marcia Hall.

The INA Nanny of the Year award has a 25 year legacy, and prior honorees have strengthened public awareness and perception the in-home childcare industry and raised the bar for professional nannies.  A common thread all INA Nanny of the Year Nominees possess is their dedication to excellence in their career.  We hope that you will consider a nomination to NOTY or consider the nannies you know who would be a great nominee.

The 2015 INA Nanny of the Year honoree will be announced at our 30th Annual Conference, April 23-26 in Cancun Mexico.

NOTY Portfolio’s are due to the INA office by January 10, 2015.  Find details on what submissions need to look like in the 2015 Packet.  Nominees will need to be registered for the 2015 Annual Conference, April 23-26th in Cancun, Mexico by February 1, 2015.  INA’s 2015 NOTY will be introduced to the membership BEFORE conference this year but all NOTY Nominees will be celebrated before and after conference.

INA 2015 Annual Conference Cancun Mexico

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST – GREAT WORKSHOPS WANTED!

Deadline September 15, 2014

The International Nanny Association is planning its 30th Annual Conference, to be held April 23, 26, 2015 in Cancun Mexico. This will be a gala celebration of INA’s achievements over the last 30 years, specifically in the areas of nanny education, standards and recommended practices in the in-home child care industry.

Do you have an idea for a great workshop that you would like to share? Do you know a professional whose knowledge and skills would benefit our conference attendees? Workshop Proposals are being accepted now through September 15, 2014. Find more information on our website!

This year our conference structure will change due to the unique opportunities we have in Mexico. For the INA 2015 Annual Conference the workshops will be longer in length (about 2 hours each) allowing for a more in depth presentation on the topics chosen. We encourage proposals that include hands-on learning opportunities, including skills practice, role playing, and other attendee engagement.

If you would like to present a workshop, please use this form to submit your idea for consideration. If your workshop is chosen you will be notified by November 1st 2014. In this electronic form you will need to include:

  • Your biography
  • Your contact information
  • A workshop title
  • A workshop description
  • A short outline explaining specifically what you will talk about in your presentation
  • Several other details regarding the specifics of your plans for a workshop

If you know of an amazing presenter who could speak to one or all of our INA Conference tracks (nanny, newborn care specialist or agency owners) please find out if they would be interested then pass their information along to the INA office or the program committee chairs.

  • Marcia Hall is the chair of the Nanny Track
  • Cortney Gibson is the chair of the Newborn Care Specialist Track
  • Kathy Webb is the chair of the Agency Track

For questions contact Kellie Geres the Conference Coordinator.

5 tips when hiring a nanny

Please note:  While some references in the article below are to Australian law, all observations and recommendations apply equally in the United States.

I was recently interviewed* about the ‘ins and outs’ of hiring a nanny, during which I summarized five important things that need to be remembered during the hiring process. While many readers will be familiar with some or all of these, I thought it might timely to go over them again, as a reminder for those who might be about to hire a new nanny, or a guide for those looking to employ their first nanny.

1. Start by being really clear about why you are hiring a nanny, and having a clear job description. A nanny is someone who will provide proactive, professional child care for your children in their own home. She is not a housekeeper, a personal assistant or a home renovator. She is not even a babysitter – in the sense of someone who passively minds the kids. It is amazing how often this is misunderstood. A clear job description is essential, right from the beginning, in order to avoid potential confusion and misunderstandings. (We can provide help with compiling this if you need it.)

2. Be careful to screen applicants properly, including reference checks. This is obviously really important but as it can be time consuming there’s a tendency to cut corners. Make sure that you are shown the originals – not copies – of documents like a current Working with Children Check and written references. It is always a good idea to check references with a phone call as well. Obviously we will check these documents ourselves if you are hiring through us, but there’s nothing to stop you asking to see them yourself as well. It’s also wise to agree on a trial period to make sure that all the various parent/nanny/child relationships look like they are going to work. This benefits everyone involved.

3. Nannies must be formally employed – by the child’s parents or an agency – and paid the award wage as a minimum. Many people don’t realize that nannies are not independent contractors working under their own ABN. This is because contractors, under the ATO definition, must be operating as if they were a business. That means setting their own working conditions, such as hours of work and job description, and replacing themselves with someone else if necessary. Obviously none of these apply to in-home child care.

4. As employees, nannies must have their superannuation payments, work cover insurance and ‘pay as you go’ tax instalments managed by their employer. All this can get complicated and time consuming, which is why many people choose to use an agency like ourselves with a full payroll service. It’s just simpler. However, whether you employ and pay your nanny yourself or through an agency, the important thing to remember is that she is an employee and so entitled to the same rights as any other employee.

5. Include plans to give your nanny professional development opportunities. Being a nanny can be a lonely experience in many ways. As much as all nannies love working with their children, they need adult conversation as well. Most don’t usually get to even speak to an adult except at the start and end of the day, and interaction with others in their profession can be very rare indeed. For this reason we put a lot of emphasis on creating frequent professional development opportunities for all our nannies. They give carers a great chance to bounce ideas off one another (while keeping details, including names, confidential), as well as keeping them in touch with all the latest thinking in child care and related areas. Professional development keeps nannies energised and excited about their work.

Of course there is so much more to employing a nanny than just these five things, but these are the most important things to consider at the start. Having hired your nanny, the single most important things to remember are respect and communication. I’ll come back and talk about these in a future issue.


INA Nanny Employer Handbook DownloadDid you know the International Nanny Association publishes the INA Nanny Employer Handbook?

Available to members and the general public, this handbook offers expert tips on:

  • Interviewing Candidates
  • Negotiating Salary and Vacation Time
  • Writing A Work Agreement
  • Identifying and Managing Problems
  • Employer Tax Obligations
  • Sample job applications, performance review forms, home emergency templates and more

Publication of the Nanny Employer Handbook supports the International Nanny Association’s educational mission. If you too support excellence in in-home child care, we invite you to support the International Nanny Association.


Louise_Dunham

A special thank you to INA member Louise Dunham for contributing this article.

Louise is the Managing Director of Placement Solutions, a nanny referral service in Melbourne Australia.

Louise also serves on the INA Board of Directors and chairs the Ethics Committee. She is the only international member to serve on the INA Board.

Download free INA Nanny Employer Handbook

Download the FREE INA Nanny Employer Handbook: Best Practices Hiring a Nanny

by Stacie Steelman

We have been asked recently to give our opinion on the case of Diane Stretton and the Bracamonte family of Upland, CA, better known as “The Nightmare Nanny” or “The Nanny Who Won’t Leave”. It is a very interesting case and not typical in nature. Room and board in exchange for childcare is not considered in the eyes of the industry to be a “professional nanny” employment arrangement. There are some legally significantly items that would better define a “professional nanny” employment arrangement that were not implemented in the process of establishing the Stretton-Bracamonte work arrangement.

Let’s review and discuss the simple steps you can take to avoid having something like this happen in your home.

As the CEO of  a Southern California Nanny and Domestic Referral Agency, and an acting Board Member for the International Nanny Association (INA) I recommend the following practices to legitimize the process of hiring a nanny or domestic employee, and most particularly a live-in household employee. Clearly neither I nor the INA are offering specific legal advice; however, these are some solid suggestions and precautions that bring assurance to the hiring process.

  1. Establishment of a Written Employment Agreement, including a valid compensation agreement that meet’s your state’s minimum wage standards.
  2. A properly worded clause in the agreement that states that the Live-In Nanny is not a tenant. Tenancy laws vary by state, and an employment attorney can assist you here.
  3. A thorough assessment of the candidate’s background should be done INCLUDING an evaluation of civil cases that the potential candidate may have in their background to better evaluate character. This particular nanny had over 36 civil cases in her background. Additional recommended searches are a local county and or state wide search if available, a DMV report, a National Criminal Records Locator, a Social Security Verification, a Sexual Offender Registry search, a social media check, and in some cases a drug test. Take advantage if your State offers a regulated live scan/fingerprint technology program similar to California’s Trustline program. Learn more about the INA’s Recommended Practices for Nanny Background Screening.
  4. Speak to the prospective household employee’s references! Reputable nanny placement agencies heavily rely on reference checks, including speaking directly to the managers or heads of the household of the potential household employee. Ideally we look for applicants with a stable work history of at least 3 long term employers when possible.
  5. Conduct a through evaluation of the candidate’s employment history and relationships including an evaluation of their address history (an essential part of a nanny background screening process).

Keep in mind, credible professional nannies can be located from a variety of sources such as personal referrals, professional nanny referral agencies, the internet, and print publications. Look for professional nanny referral agencies who belong to and support professional organizations such as the International Nanny Association.

The practices you put in place surrounding hiring, retaining, and letting go of that nanny are the most integral part in the chances of a successful process. The above list of recommendations can be greatly expanded upon; however, I feel this is a good foundation to begin with. More information is found in the INA’s Nanny Employer Handbook, available as a free download.

It is extremely unfortunate that this Upland family and Ms. Stretton found themselves in this situation. I sincerely hope they are able to reconcile the situation as quickly as possible. In the meantime, if you follow best practices in household employment you can avoid placing your family in a similar situation.


Stacie Steelman CEO Crunch Care Nanny Referral Agency Orange County San Diego County

 

Stacie Steelman is the CEO and Founder of Crunch Care, a full service nanny and domestic staffing agency in both San Diego and Orange County California. Stacie has over 10 years in the corporate staffing sector and has been in business in Southern California for almost 10 years.

Today Stacie sits on the Board of Directors for the International Nanny Association and acts as a local expert in the field of domestic employment, and acts as legal expert witness in cases that pertain to domestic employment.

The famous business management consultant Peter Drucker gave us the quote, “what gets measured, gets managed”. In your nanny agency, are your management activities focusing on what matters? What are the nanny agency metrics or measurements that DO matter?

#1 – 12 Month Trailing Revenue

Investors and savy business managers rely on the trailing 12 month (TTM) for real time representation of a business’ financial performance for a 12-month period. The TTM measurement recognizes that there are seasonal fluctuations in business revenues. Divestopedia explains that “TTM revenue of a (nanny agency) for the month of May would include the revenue from June of the prior year to May of the current year. The trailing twelve months is also sometimes referred to as the Last Twelve Months (LTM).”

A nanny agency that measures 12 month trailing revenue consistently will promptly recognize whether the agency’s revenues are growing or contracting, and whether revenue targets are being met. Often a business will additionally measure the current period’s TTM to that of the same period in the prior year.

#2 – Gross Profit Margin

The formula for Gross Profit Margin is:

TOTAL REVENUES  – DIRECT EXPENSES = GROSS PROFIT

GROSS PROFIT/TOTAL REVENUES = GROSS PROFIT MARGIN

Why do you measure gross profit margin? This is a powerful indicator to the business owner of how well direct expenses are being managed.

What are direct expenses for the nanny agency? Direct expenses will include owner’s and staff wages, including payroll taxes and benefits costs, background screening fees, workers’ compensation and staff insurance costs, advertising, training and professional development,  and office overhead.

#3 – Business Referral Sources

Tracking the leads and revenue attributable to various referral channels is an important measurement, helping the nanny agency to understand the marketing activities and channels that work, and those that do not. We all know there are numerous competing advertising and marketing channels – we get pitched a new ‘opportunity’ every week! When you track referral sources, you will learn which networking activities work (child care fairs or new/expectant parent events for example) and which are duds. Measurement of referral sources needs to balance not just what activities generated referral activity (leads) but also what activity generated revenue (sales).

#4 – Sales Close Ratios

Your nanny agency networking, marketing, and advertising activities may make the phone ring, but how are you doing converting those leads to clients? Consider:

  1. Inquiry : Family Consultation/Visit Ratios – how many families who called inquiring about your services, fees, etc. actually resulted in a family consultation or home visit?
  2. Family Consultation : Placement Listings (resulting in payment of the retainer fee) – this measures how often a family consultation results in a job order. Consider carefully what this means. A  ratio that is very high or very low may point to different problems. A low ratio may mean your agency is too quick to schedule the family consultation, without fully qualifying the prospect. A high ratio may mean your agency is too particular in the qualification process, and that you are missing opportunities because you are not getting your best closers in front of enough families.
  3. Inquiry : Placement Completions – This is without a doubt the most important sales close ratio to watch. This measures the success and effectiveness of the entire sales process.

Measurement for measurement’s sake is meaningless – you must act on what you learn. If your nanny agency is brand new or still quite small, you may have additional items that you as the business owner must measure and track, at least periodically.

These nanny agency metrics that matter are critically important, yet they should not crowd out judgment and intuition. These nanny agency measurements are by their nature lagging indicators – they report and measure on what happened historically. You must always keep yourself open to reading and recognizing leading indicators – those early detection systems that allow you to recognize changes in your market, in the industry. Leading indicators can point out problems OR opportunities, and if you are aware you can seize competitive advantages.

Peter Drucker always called for a healthy balance—between short-term needs and long-term sustainability; between profitability and other obligations; between the specific mission of individual organizations and the common good; between freedom and responsibility.

What are the nanny agency metrics that matter to you? Have you uncovered an opportunity or problem as a result of measurement? What was it and how did you act upon it?


Kathleen Webb Nanny Payroll and Tax Service

Kathleen Webb
HomeWork Solutions Inc.

A special thank you to INA member Kathleen Webb for contributing this article.

Kathy is the co-founder and President of HomeWork Solutions, a leading household payroll and payroll tax compliance service, and a member of the International Nanny Association since 1993.

Kathy serves on the INA Board of Directors as Co-President and chairs the Governmental Affairs committee.

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 homePEPSsuggest 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 parentNanny 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.

Kenney Myers Morningside Nannies HoustonA 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.

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