Adventures in Childcare

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Back to reality!

Well, it’s the 10th January already, I had hoped to get this posted before but what with recovering from Christmas and getting kids ready for school and getting back into routine and supporting my cousin through the end of her pregnancy and the start of her labour, time just slipped away!


Many aupairs start new positions at this time of year.  Children are going back to school and parents realise that they need an extra set of hands and wheels to manage the busy social and educational lives of their ‘mini-me’s’.  Many aupairs have never done this before.  They might have baby sat or helped out with younger siblings, many are studying, but nothing can really prepare you for the reality of working with young children until you’re in the deep end.

Working as an aupair isn’t just about playing with children. As much as we don’t like to think about it as a job, it is one, and as such we are employees with right and responsibilities.

One of the most important things you should do when considering being an aupair is to make sure your reasons are good.  Not for easy pay, not because you cannot get any other job, but because you truly do like working with children.    You should also make a list of what is most important to you in a job, what age groups are you comfortable caring for, what hours are you happy to work, what type of income do you need?

Then there’s interviews.  ALWAYS interview.  You cannot start a position without knowing something about it and the family you will be working for.  Ask to meet the children.  Ask about the children! (you would be surprised how many people forget to speak about the children!  No point in taking a job if all they want to do is play soccer and you prefer knitting.)  Once you’ve accepted a position, get a contract or work agreement.  This should protect both parties equally.   Your contract should detail your hours, your pay (per hour or salary), your overtime, HOW and WHEN you will be paid, your duties (in detail, and little things like are you expected to answer the house phone? are you expected to sign for deliveries? are you supposed to hand wash or stack dishes in the dishwasher?), your leave (by law, you are allowed paid holiday leave, paid sick leave, paid family responsibility leave etc and don’t forget to have maternity leave written into your contract as you never know what will happen (you’re allowed 4 months unpaid time off and your job waiting for you), your re-imbursement for any job related driving that you do, discipline measures, notice periods, are you expected to use your personal cell-phone for work related calls? If so, how will you be re-imbursed, if you drive a lot for work, will they consider paying for your car to be valeted every few months, will they contribute to your AA memberhip?, if you use their car, what happens if you have an accident? Who pays the deductable?…anything you can think of.

Here is a link to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.  Your contract cannot over-ride these conditions.  And once the formalities are all in place, relax and enjoy being paid to play 🙂 knowing that if an issue crops up, it should be covered by your contract and should be quickly and easily sorted out.


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Attached Nanny’s Guide to Raising Happy, Secure Children

Start before you even fall pregnant (if possible!)

Get yourself and your partner in good shape, adjust your diets, get fit.  If you’ve been on birth control it’s always a good idea to see your health care provider.

Discuss your thoughts and fears with your partner – thing like number of children you want, how you want them spaced, your thoughts on discipline, how were YOU raised?, thoughts on raising children, what is negotiable and what will you not budge on, birth options, working mum or stay-at-home parent (mom or dad)?, childcare options? Remember that EVERYTHING you decided on can and probably will change in some way or another and you have every right to change your mind and re-evaluate how you want to do things but bear in mind that your partner can have the same change of heart.  Starting now to discuss things and approach as a united front is good practise for later on.

Relax and enjoy yourselves!  Making a baby should be a joyous event.


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Holiday Crafts: Gingerbread

Not exactly South African, but who doesn’t like baking with their charges? And which kids don’t like getting all messy with dough and icing? Gingerbread is such a Christmasy thing to do!


Gingerbread (houses, biscuits, people) are a tradition in many parts of the world dating back to ancient Greece it seems, but more commonly heard of in Europe.  Why not make your own?  You can make gingerbread people with your toddlers, more complex gingerbread houses with older charges and for yourself and your employers why not some mini gingerbread house biscuits or some gingerbread drinks.  Why not make some gingerbread playdough too?  And of course, read Hansel and Gretel.



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Summer is here!

And so is the heat.  Please remember several important things:

* Stay out of the sun between 10am and 3pm as much as possible

* Use a non-toxic sunscreen designed specifically for children (commercial sunscreens contain all sorts of rubbish).  Try here: and here:

* Remember your car WILL get hot,so when possible have windows open, park in the shade or garage etc.

How long does it take for temperatures in a car to reach dangerous levels?

In direct sunlight in a closed car:
Outside temp 26C ~ rises to 38C in 5 mins
Outside temp 28C ~ rises to 45C in 8 mins
Outside temp 35C ~ rises to 71C in 20 mins

In direct sunlight in an open car:
Outside temp 26C ~ rises to 31C in 5 mins
Outside temp 28C ~ rises to 37C in 5 mins
Outside temp 35C ~ rises to 43C in 20 mins

In shaded area in closed car:
Outside temp 26C ~ rises to 31C in 5 mins
Outside temp 28C ~ rises to 37C in 8 mins
Outside temp 35C ~ rises to 43C in 20 mins

In shaded area in open car:
Outside temp 26C ~ rises to 27C in 5 mins
Outside temp 28C ~ rises to 31C in 8 mins
Outside temp 35C ~ rises to 40C in 20 mins


Please don’t leave your children (or animals) in the car for unattended for any period of time. Not even for 5 mins!

* Keep hydrated – both you and the children.  Easy access to clean water for children over 6 months is your best option, you can also make your own ice-lollies from freshly squeezed fruit juices, home-made fruit puree etc  Remember that sugars and salts draw liquid out of the cells, not something you want, so stay away from sweets, chips. sugary drinks and so on!

* If a child in your care is dehydrated, off to the hospital you go, especially if the child is under 5 years old.

Home-made rehydrate solution (NOT a substitute for medical care) is 1 litre cooled boiled water, 6 level teaspoons sugar (30ml), half teaspoon (2.5ml) salt.  Use within 24 hours.

* Remember that surfaces can get hot – roads, paving, metal surfaces etc.  Take care of your child’s feet.

* HATS and sunglasses for everyone!!!

* Sun reflects off water(and shiny surfaces like glass) so take extra caution when around swimming pools and the sea.

* Take extra care as you spend more time around the pool.  Drowning doesn’t always look like drowning.  and 8 Quiet signs of drowning.

* Refresh your CPR.  Here is an online option, but it is NOT a substitute for hands-on, in-person training.

Have fun and take lots of photos of your summer fun to share with your charges parents 🙂

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Ginekoloog, really?!

I had a funny moment this week with my charges.   They are Afrikaans and I’m English, so sometimes things get a bit lost in translation but  this week I had to laugh…6yr and I were talking and somehow we got onto the subjects of our parents jobs (yes, even nannies have parents who have jobs lol! She was amazed).  She was adamant that her parents were both a ‘ginekoloog’ (gynaecologist).  I was trying not to laugh out loud, but because I was laughing I couldn’t think of the proper word for Geologist (their real profession!) in Afrikaans.  It is ‘Geoloog’ in case you were wondering, easy to see why a 6yr old could get mixed up.  MB and DB had a good laugh about it later that evening…

I think this is one to write down and bring out at her 21st 🙂

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November 2012

Sometimes life throws us a curveball. We might feel like everything is right in the world and then suddenly, we’re faced with something we didn’t expect to happen.  As aupairs, our jobs are usually precarious.  We often work on 1-year contracts and have no stability from one year to the next. For many, this is not a problem as they are merely doing this as a means to occupy themselves or earn a little pocket money whilst studying.  Some of us though, see this as a life-long career.  Unlike many careers, our employers usually do not contribute towards medical aid or pension schemes for us and it is up to us to ensure that we are providing for our future.  With the rising costs of living, it is vital that you get into a routine of paying towards your future NOW, whilst you’re still young and of (hopefully!) sound body and mind.  If you have a child or dependant, you should also look into life insurance.  I suggest you ask your friends, parents, employers etc who manages their retirement funds and speak to someone who can explain to you what is available and best suited to you and your situation.  There are many options, many companies and a broker can do all the hard work of reading the small print and explaining to you exactly what you’re getting.  You don’t have to pay in a lot, even R150/month will help in the long run, and if it goes off as a debit order, you most likely won’t even know that it’s not there!  Do it, today 🙂


EDITED to add 2 links I found, specifically aimed at domestic employees (which we are 🙂 )


And they’re on my links and downloads page on my website.

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Safety 1st

October 2012

Right, I’ve decided that I HAVE to get this started, otherwise it is just a waste of space!

A topic that is bugging me at the moment is safety.  Yes, I know everyone harps on about it all the time, but it obviously isn’t making much of a difference because I still see people doing stupid things.

1) insist on age appropriate, up to date (yes, car seats ‘expire’, usually after 5 years), good condition car seats to use with your charges.  Children should be rear facing till 2 years old/13kg minimum, in a harness till 18kg minimum and then in a booster seat till they are tall enough to use a seatbelt properly (between 8 and 12 years old)
2) hold hands and teach children how to cross roads properly
3) use bicycle helmets when riding bikes
4) NO cellphones whilst driving
5) keep up-to-date on your first aid and cpr
6) always have medical information of your charges at hand, including medical aid cards and a written letter from the parents allowing you to administer first aid, cpr and seek and give permission for potentially life-threatening conditions should they not be available.