Natural Sleep Rhythms for babies, toddlers and young children  

Sleep seems to be one of the hot topics of parenthood, and with good reason; we all need sleep to be happy, healthy and functional and so do children.

Nannies are often asked for advice and support with children’s sleep, so it’s important to be educated on what is normal, and expected and how we can support families to get the sleep that they need.

Sleep is especially important for children in the early years of life who are in a stage of rapid physical and cognitive growth, but their sleep doesn’t always look like we expect it to or fit neatly with their parents’ sleep needs, and this can be both tiring and frustrating.

Humans’ natural sleep rhythms change throughout our lives, so it’s unlikely that a baby, toddler or young child is being deliberately difficult, or that anything is ‘wrong’ with them or their sleeping habits. It’s more likely that their natural sleep rhythm, or ‘body clock’ is simply out of sync with the needs of the adults in their lives.

Here we explore natural sleep rhythms at different ages and what we, as nannies, can do to ‘hack’ these to support parents and get the most out of children’s sleep patterns.

What is the body clock?

Sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

The body clock is a term that we often hear as adults and a great example of how the body clock works can be seen when we consider how older adults who have spent their working lives waking at 7 am to get ready for work find that in retirement they continue to wake naturally around 7 am even though they don’t need to.

When we repeatedly wake up at the same time for work or school, our bodies fall into a rhythm of wake and sleep that coincides with this.

This is often referred to as ‘the body clock’ and it’s why we experience jet lag when travelling because when we travel to different time zones our bodies are forced into waking or sleeping at different times to those they have come to expect.

What is the science behind this?

Natural Sleep Rhythms

Behind the experience of the ‘body clock’ there are two bodily systems that largely regulate our sleep. These systems are the circadian biological clock and sleep/wake homeostasis. These two systems together mean that we experience fluctuating levels of sleepiness and alertness throughout the day and night.

Sleep/wake homeostasis is the system that helps us to feel sleepy and sense the need to sleep at night to make up for our activities during the day. This system is designed to balance our sleep and wakefulness.

The circadian biological clock, on the other hand, is responsible for regulating the timings of alertness throughout a 24-hour period. This means that we often have periods of higher and lower alertness as we go through the day and night.

For adults, the pressure to sleep is greatest between 2 and 4 am, and between 1 and 3 pm. When we are sleep-deprived, the urge to sleep in the afternoon is much stronger, but when we are well-rested we may not even notice this.

Natural sleep rhythms for newborn babies

Natural Sleep Rhythms for Babies

As nannies, when we hear the phrase “sleeping like a baby” we can conclude that whoever invented this phrase, probably didn’t have a baby.

Newborn babies, from 0 to 3 months, typically don’t have great nighttime sleep, instead for newborns, sleep can occur day or night, and most newborns will total about 18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

However, this doesn’t always occur in long blocks or exclusively at nighttime, and plenty of babies have their day and night muddled up!

Most babies need to learn the difference between daytime and nighttime, and set their circadian biological clock to meet their sleep needs.

However, newborns can’t be forced to sleep at the right time. Instead, nannies can support parents by gently encouraging newborns to differentiate between day and night.

One way to do this is to make daytime and nighttime very separate experiences; The daytime should be light and bright with all the usual comings and goings of the day, plenty of natural light in the house, and lots of interaction.

Taking a walk outside during the day will also help as even at this age exposure to different amounts and types of light affects the hormones that our bodies produce. 

Evening and nighttime on the other hand should be dimly light, and quieter with less playful interaction. This helps the body to produce melatonin, which makes humans feel sleepy.

Natural sleep rhythms for infants

Natural Sleep Rhythms for toddlers

Most nannies are familiar with, or have at least heard of, the 4-month sleep regression.

Around this time, babies will typically become more aware of their surroundings and find it more difficult to get to sleep as they are busy finding out more about the world.

This stands at odds with the fact that they still need plenty of sleep and will need to take up to 4 naps a day, gradually decreasing to just 1 or 2 as they approach their first birthday.

Some babies may begin to sleep through the night during this period of time, but this is not a universal trait, and the majority of babies still wake for feeds throughout their first year.

This is normal and a protective factor against SIDS.

In fact, humans used to have a period of time awake in the middle of the night, with 2 blocks of sleep either side up, so sometimes we see this evolutionary hard-wiring reflected in infant sleep patterns.

This can be difficult for parents to deal with, so nannies must work hard to reassure parents that this is very normal and that it is not their fault.

Natural sleep rhythms for toddlers

Natural Sleep Rhythms for toddlers

Toddlers, from about 1 to 3 years old, need about 11–14 hours of sleep per 24-hour period, but this won’t occur as one solid block of sleep, so napping in the afternoon is still important at this stage.

Having a nap in the afternoon works with the circadian biological clock, as it is around this time that we experience natural sleepiness.

An afternoon nap is a simple way to make sure that toddlers are getting the rest they need without the pressure to sleep in a huge block at night.

The nap should occur as close to the same time every day as possible to help set and keep a regular circadian biological clock.

Nannies can help parents to set and maintain a solid nap schedule to ensure that children are getting the sleep they need.

Natural sleep rhythms for young children

Natural Sleep Rhythms for young children

Between the ages of 3 and 5 young children need to sleep between 11 and 13 hours.

This might all happen at night, or they may maintain an afternoon nap, though this gradually gets shorter and generally stops before age 5. This age group is particularly sensitive to different colours of light, so this is a good way that nannies can help parents to ‘hack’ preschoolers’ sleep rhythm.

Blue light such as that from a computer, tablet or television screen can cause wakeful hormones to rise and make it more difficult for young children to sleep.

Nannies can ensure that screens are limited in general, but particularly in the hour before bedtime, in order to help young children to fall asleep more easily.

The blue light filters on devices can also be used to help keep blue light to a minimum throughout the day.

Nannies may also be familiar with the concept of ‘bedtime protest’, which is particularly characteristic of this age group and is where children refuse to go to bed at the time set by parents; this might result in children having tantrums, becoming very distressed or simply exhibiting challenging behaviour.

Some of this is likely to be a boundary-pushing behaviour, but it may also be the effect of the inbuilt circadian biological clock conflicting with modern or cultural schedules.

For example, whilst many societies expect children to go to bed at about 7 pm, other cultures, like that in Spain, allow children to stay up much later and enjoy extra time with the family whilst having an extended sleep in the afternoon called ‘siesta’.

However, since other societies are arranged to have children awake during the majority of the day and asleep all night ready to wake early, adjusting their biological circadian clock to be more compatible with our needs and expectations may be necessary.

Some of the tips here may be helpful, or you may want to check out our blog post on sleep tips to help babies, toddlers and young children to get a good night’s sleep.

International Nanny Institute

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How nannies can encourage children’s independence

Maria Montessori encouraged adults to “never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” as she had observed that often adults stifle children’s emerging independence by jumping in to ‘save the day’.

Unfortunately, not only does this rob children of the chance to try and to persevere, but it also gives children the message that they can’t do things and they need adults to help them with everything.

Whether the family you are working with has explicitly stated that they want you to use a Montessori-style approach with the children, or you just see value in promoting independence, there is plenty that you can do as a nanny that can help children to develop these self-help skills.

So, if you would like to encourage children’s independence at home, here are some good starting points;

Acknowledge children’s attempts at independence

encourage children's independence

Often we are in a hurry to get out of the door, and see the child having a tantrum about wanting to put on their own shoes as being “difficult” but if we step back and consider what is going on a little more carefully we will realise that the child is expressing a sense of frustration that we are preventing their attempt at independence.

Taking a step back, and acknowledging that this is what is going on is a great place to start thinking about how you can set up the home, and your routines with the children to allow for this growing sense of independence.

It is also worth noting here that most tantrums are a toddler or child’s manner of expressing frustration at boundaries, and lack of independence. This does not necessarily mean you should remove or reduce your boundaries; just that you should consider how you are acknowledging children’s feelings for what they are.

Creating a ‘yes’ space

Often we limit what children are allowed to do based on safety concerns, or worries about the mess and tidying up.

For example, you may tell a 3-year-old that no, they can’t play with their dolls in the lounge as it will make a mess, and no they can’t throw the frisbee inside the house as they may break something, and no they can’t jump around the house like a power ranger or a fairy or a superhero because they may hurt themselves.

Before you know it you’ve spent the morning telling them ‘no’, and if anything will frustrate a growing sense of independence it’s the word ‘no’.

As a nanny this can be a difficult line to tread when working with parents, as ultimately the house belongs to them, however, it is certainly something that could be discussed tactfully if you feel that too many rules are starting to affect a child’s growing sense of independence.

To combat this it may be a good idea to negotiate being able to set up a ‘yes’ space in the home; this might be a playroom, the child’s bedroom, or a play area.

The idea is to set the space up to be safe enough that you, as the caregiver, do not need to constantly say no. Montessori classrooms are largely yes spaces; somewhere that you can trust children to play independently and stay safe.

Encourage children’s independence with words 

encourage children's independence

What we say and how we say it can make a huge difference to children.

As we already discussed most children want to be independent and become frustrated when they are not allowed to be.

When we verbally permit, encourage and celebrate children’s attempts at being independent we validate them, and when children feel validated in their attempts at independence, they are more likely to persevere with what they’re trying and eventually succeed. 

As a nanny, you can try saying things like “You have a go” or “keep trying” to children.

You can praise the effort by saying “You’re working so hard at that” or “great trying” and acknowledge success with “well done, I knew you could do it!”

Use mealtimes as an opportunity

Meal times with little ones are a common source of stress, but they can be a great opportunity to build independence and self-help skills.

Even young babies (so long as they are over 6 months) can feed themselves at the table and using a baby-led weaning approach is a great way to promote that early independence, as a nanny this is something that can be discussed with parents.

encourage children's independence

For older children, encouraging children to serve or even help prepare their food, and pour water from a jug enhances their balance, dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

This also helps to divide responsibility at mealtimes which are perfect for promoting independence.

As a bonus, children tend to eat a wider variety of food when they select it themselves.

Avoid wardrobe battles

encourage children's independence

Children are often keen to select their own clothing and dress themselves, although their fashion choices can be questionable at times, allowing them to make attempts at dressing will pay off in the long run.

If a child’s choices are likely to be unsuitable for the day’s activities or the weather you could decide on an outfit together perhaps the night before and lay it out for them to put on themselves in the morning.

Younger toddlers and babies can be encouraged to lift their arms to put on a shirt or raise their feet to put on shoes and socks.

Use your best judgment as to when a child may be able to attempt dressing alone and remember, that wearing a tutu over a raincoat is not the end of the world.

Make sure children contribute

Involving children in running the household from a young age is great for promoting independence and also demonstrates their role in the family and enhances their sense of belonging.

It builds an understanding of working as a collective and is something that is highly emphasised in educational approaches like Montessori.

encourage children's independence

This is not to say that children need to be doing housework all day long, but small contributions add up and will help promote children’s independence too;

Little babies can be encouraged to help put their toys away in a box when they have finished playing, or wipe the highchair tray when they are done eating.

Toddlers generally love to help around the home and can use a small dustpan and brush or a handheld vacuum to clear up.

Matching socks and sorting laundry are also valuable learning opportunities for preschoolers and will help children to feel involved in the running of the home.

Encourage risk-taking

As nannies, it’s our job to keep children safe, but sometimes we can become overly worried about this responsibility and as a result, we can become very overprotective of our charges and actually hold their development back by doing so.

Healthy risk-taking is vital for children’s emerging sense of self because where there is a risk of failure, success is more valuable.

Allowing children to climb, run and jump and explore their limits is essential for the growth and development of independence, so we can consider ways to allow for healthy risk-taking that promotes children’s physical skills and sense of independence.

International Nanny Institute

We hope that some of these ideas will help you consider how to approach encouraging children’s independence.

To find out more about the natural pattern of Children’s development and how and when to support their growing independence sign up for our Child Development course.

Not only will this boost your confidence in working with children in an age-appropriate manner, but it will reassure families that you have the expertise in childhood and early years.

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Great sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

Sleep is one of the biggest concerns reported by parents with young children and one of the most common reasons that parents seek help and advice from their nanny.

It’s not hard to see why this might be; taking care of small children can be exhausting at the best of times but a lack of sleep or broken sleep makes it even harder and this can really begin to take its toll on families.

Many parents will turn to some of the countless books, sleep training programs and expensive products on the market in order to “train” a baby to sleep for longer stretches so that they can too.

The notion of Sleep Training can be controversial and something that we as nannies should encourage parents to research in-depth for themselves. Here are some tips that might help you to support families to get more sleep.

Have realistic expectations

First and foremost, we need to have realistic expectations! The fact that sleep “issues” are one of the most commonly reported concerns for parents with young children should give a bit of a clue!

Children who wake in the night are the rule, not the exception to it. In fact, most adults don’t “sleep through the night” in a solid 12-hour block, so it’s pretty unreasonable for us to expect children to.

Although it does not make it any easier to deal with a lack of sleep, sometimes reminding parents that night waking is perfectly normal can remove the emotional burden of the situation.

Just like adults, babies, toddlers, and young children wake at night for a wide variety of practical reasons.

They could be hungry, thirsty, need the toilet, be too hot, too cold, have had a bad dream, have a tummy ache, be uncomfortable and so on.

When adults wake for these reasons we are usually able to take some kind of action to fix the problem, for example getting ourselves a glass of water, going to the toilet or calming ourselves down. Babies and small children don’t always have these options so they call out to their caregivers for help.

Sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

Some of these problems can be remedied perhaps by leaving a drink near the bed that a toddler can help themselves to, providing extra blankets near the bed for an older child or using a nightlight for little ones who may be scared of the dark.

However, babies, toddlers and young children often need help to meet their needs in the daytime so at nighttime this is no different.

When we think about human history and consider sleep from an evolutionary perspective, it is quite normal for young children to need their parents at night; our ancestors slept communally and shared “watch” duties at night time in order to keep everyone, including babies, safe (Worthman and Melby 2002) Humans’ evolutionary past has left its mark on brain and so is natural and normal for human babies to want to be close to their parents.

With all this in mind, we can approach children’s sleep with a more realistic expectation. We can still try to improve sleep because it is important that parents are able to get the rest they need too, but our expectations may need to be adjusted.

Work with children’s circadian rhythms

Circadian rhythms or the ‘biological clock’ is designed to regulate the timings of sleepiness and wakefulness as we go through 24-hour periods. We looked more in-depth at this in our article on children’s natural sleep rhythms which may also help you to improve your understanding of children’s sleep.

The cycle of light and dark throughout the day and night has a profound effect on our circadian rhythm. In the darker, winter months many adults feel a bit lethargic and down, whilst longer summer daytimes often see children rising far too early. However, if we work with the effects of daylight we can help children and ourselves sleep better during the nighttime.

Sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

It is daylight that helps to set children’s natural circadian rhythms and sleep-wake schedules, so using this to our advantage is a way that nannies can support families with babies, toddlers and young children’s sleep.

Exposure to natural light in the daytime, particularly in the late afternoon can help to improve children’s sleep. Nannies can take children outdoors during these times, perhaps on a walk or to play at the park, and monitor whether this makes a difference to children’s sleep.

Avoiding artificial light before bedtime can also improve children’s sleep because blue light, such as that in most of our homes and electronic devices, signals to the body that it’s time to wake up, and it is disruptive to the production of hormones needed for sleep.

For children, many of the nightlights marketed use blue-light, so nannies can encourage parents to consider swapping to a nightlight using red tones of light instead. 

Ensure rich, sensory input throughout the day

Sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

When we run around frantically from one activity to the next we are certainly in danger of overstimulating babies, toddlers and young children. Overstimulation gets a lot of press when thinking about children’s sleep.

However, it is also worth exploring whether babies, toddlers and young children are struggling to sleep because they have been under-stimulated. Young children need adequate rich, sensory input during the day in order for them to sleep well at night 

Spend more time outdoors

Sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

Spending time outdoors is good for children and adults, and one of the ways that it benefits us is that it promotes good quality sleep.

Along with exposure to natural sunlight, spending time outdoors can help to burn off excess physical energy (even for babies who aren’t walking, as the body will work harder to regulate temperature and so on) and fresh air affects the types of hormones and chemicals in our brains, which in turn can lead to better sleep.

Use the senses

There are plenty of ways to use the senses to help children to fall asleep, and get back to sleep if they wake.

Nannies can help to educate parents on these, and depending on the extent of their role may be able to implement some of these techniques.

We’ve looked at ways to use light to help children fall asleep, but sound can be comforting too; many families have great success using white noise with babies, but toddlers and young children can benefit from white noise, nature sounds, lullabies or audiobooks too. These things can become a signal for children that it’s time to sleep. 

Essential oils can be useful too, perhaps try baby massage, or a foot rub using relaxing essential oils like lavender.

Sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

The smell of certain oils can help to relax and calm children ready for bed.

Nannies can also consider the materials that children are sleeping in; pyjamas and bed sheets can make a big difference at this age so can the temperature and humidity in the room.

Here different things will suit different children so you may need to experiment.

Be their village

Sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

There is a lot of information available for parents and nannies to weigh up on the subject of children’s sleep. Reframing our expectations of sleep for young children and bringing it in line with what is biologically normal, rather than simply reflecting our cultural expectations can be especially helpful

When we do this, it becomes apparent that most children do not have a ‘sleep problem’, just that biologically normal infant sleep is culturally inconvenient.

In many homes, both parents are required to work outside of the home and run busy lives,  so the focus shifts onto getting the baby to sleep so that normal family life can continue to function.

Humans were never meant to raise children alone, the well-quoted proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is biologically true. Unfortunately, most parents now find themselves away from family, and lacking a village or tribe to share raising children with.

Nannies, therefore, find themselves acting as a crucial support to families struggling with children’s (albeit normal) sleep patterns and trying to juggle the rest of their busy lives.

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How nannies can support families to plan healthy, balanced meals

Both nannies and parents want children to be happy and healthy. Most of us understand that nutrition and what we eat plays a crucial role in this.

However, feeding a family can be a difficult undertaking. Many parents are battling with time pressures, the rising cost of living and their own energy levels.

Employing a nanny can be a wonderful support in ensuring that healthy meals are put on the table every week. Sometimes though, lack of inspiration, picky eating or having allergies to deal with mean that it can be challenging to plan weekly menus.

It might be that making the grocery list, doing the grocery shopping or planning the menu is part of your role as a nanny or parents may ask for your input, ideas or support. Here we take a look at what should feature on a family’s weekly grocery list.

Plan healthy and balance Meals

What is healthy eating?

The definition of ‘healthy eating’ is continually evolving in response to new research, as is what is considered to be a healthy diet or healthy eating.

One definition suggests that healthy eating is simply “eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight” but we should also consider that “healthy eating” is about more than just what we eat because how we eat is important too.

Humans naturally have a close relationship with food, not only is it our source of nutrition and therefore vital to life, but it is also part of most societies’ cultural identity and rituals.

Having a good relationship with food is to do with how and why you choose the foods you eat much more than what those foods are.

If you feel any type of shame, guilt, stress, or fear regarding the foods you eat, you may have an unhealthy relationship with food.

As nannies, it is often part of our job to help children to develop a healthy relationship with food.

What is healthy eating for children?

Plan healthy and balance Meals

When we think about healthy eating it’s important to remember that nutritional needs will vary from person to person, and babies, toddlers and children have different nutritional needs to adults.

There are some similarities between the nutritional needs of adults and children as all humans need vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fat. However, these are needed in different amounts depending on age.

Younger children require fewer calories overall. For example, a 1-year-old child should consume about 900 calories per day, but a 14- to 18-year-old needs 1,800 to 2,200 calories, depending on activity level and gender.

Children need to get these calories from a variety of foods too; a child aged 2 to 3 years should get 30 to 35 percent of his calories from fat but by the time we reach adulthood we should only get 5 to 6 percent of our calories from fat.

What are the benefits of healthy eating?

Plan healthy and balance Meals

The WHO states that “Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading global risks to health” Whilst “a healthy diet helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.”

Basically, healthy eating is important because it helps to maintain good physical health, which prevents costs to health services.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet and staying active can also help us to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn helps to prevent health issues!

Deficiencies in some key nutrients can weaken parts of the immune system, making it much easier for us to get ill, so healthy eating helps us to get all the nutrients we need for the immune system to function normally.

Healthy eating helps humans to feel physically and mentally well, and to perform well at school, work and contribute to our communities.

For young children, all of these are benefits in the long term, but in the short term too healthy eating can help small children to grow. Since the early years of childhood are a period of rapid growth this is especially important.

Meal planning

Meal Planning

Meal planning can help to save time, money and disagreements about what to have for dinner, and it is a task that nannies are often assigned and it doesn’t need to be boring, strict or limiting.

Some families really struggle to cook from scratch every night because modern life is extremely busy with after-school activities and homework to complete too, so sometimes we do need shortcuts.

However, we can help to balance those nights where we need to cook a quick, but less nutritious meal with cooking a bigger batch on the days we do cook from scratch and saving a portion to put in the freezer.

This way, when families have a busy night, they can simply pull a healthy meal out of the freezer.

Ingredients to include in a healthy grocery list for families

If you are asked to put together a healthy grocery list for the family you are working for, you should be sure to include foods from the following categories:

Ingredients Plan healthy and balance Meals

Fruits and vegetables

Try to include a portion of veggies or salad as part of the main meals. Fruit can be used as a good alternative to dessert too. Nannies can encourage children to choose fruit or vegetables as a snack by having them prepared and ready to dish out quickly, for example, cucumber and carrot sticks, sliced peppers or prepared mango.

Dairy

Children need to get a bigger proportion of their energy from fats than adults and dairy is a good way for them to achieve this.

Under the age of 2 or 3 children should drink full-fat milk, but semi-skimmed or skimmed are okay once they are older and growing well.

Cheeses and yoghurts are another good way to get more fat into children’s diets along with plenty of calcium, which contributes to strong bones and teeth.

If the children you are caring for don’t tolerate dairy well or their parents choose not to give it, this is not normally a problem, but nannies should seek some advice on how to best ensure that dairy alternatives meet children’s needs.

Carbohydrates

Most western countries suggest basing meals around carbohydrate foods which give us energy, so you should ensure that you keep a stock of rice, pasta or potatoes as the base for meals.

Meat, fish or other protein

Protein foods like meat and fish are important for building muscle, try and choose lower fat cuts where possible as these will be better for the whole family. If the family you work for are vegetarian or vegan you can choose alternative protein sources like pulses, beans or soya and seek out some tasty recipes for these.

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Healthy Living Course. OCN-London and International Nanny Institute

When seeking work as a nanny, being able to provide a healthy, balanced set of meals and snacks is a very desirable skill and many families will include being able to cook nutritional meals as essential criteria for applying to their role.

If you need to learn more about nutrition, healthy eating and a balanced diet, our Healthy Living course can help you with this and ensure that you are a more attractive applicant when applying for new nanny roles.

Sign up today to improve your skills and your confidence in supporting healthy lifestyles for children and their families.

International Nanny Institute

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A nanny’s guide to making a good first impression

Making a good first impression is really important.

No matter what industry you are in, the way you carry yourself on the first day of work matters.

This is especially true of the nanny industry where your employer is trusting you with their most precious and irreplaceable possession, their children.

Being a nanny on his or her first day of work, you might be wondering if you are ready for your new job, and to work with a new boss.

You might have thoughts like  “Do they still think I’m right for the job?” or “I hope they won’t change their mind” or suffer from imposter syndrome, where you feel out of your depth and hope that no one will find out! All of these things are common, understandable, and completely normal but it’s up to you to overcome them.

In spite of how you may be feeling on the inside, you still need to make the right first impression on the outside. Here are some of our tips for how to do just that:

Dress appropriately

This does not mean that you have to wear your Sunday best. Sure, you are dressing for a job; however, your job is likely to include physical activities especially if you will be taking care of a toddler.

You need to wear something that you can move comfortably in, think about how the clothes will feel and look as you run after a child, kneel down, and sit on the floor.

a good first impression

Some families like their nannies to be smart, while others prefer a much more casual approach, this is something that you could ask about ahead of time.

Even if your employers say that casual clothing is fine, remember to check that the imagery and language on any clothing are appropriate.

Take along some activities

Whilst you don’t necessarily want to go in with a school-style lesson plan, you may want to take a couple of activities along to help bring some structure to your day.

You could also prepare a list (it would be better if paired with colorful photos) of arts, crafts, or activities that you can show to the parents or the child. From this, they can help you to create a schedule of activities, and build anticipation for the coming days and weeks. This shows that you’re interested in the child and family as individuals and that you’re planning ahead!

a good first impression

Another good tip is to bring along your favourite children’s book on the first day and read it together with the child. This gives you the opportunity to spend some quiet time together, and get to know each other and is also a good way of gauging their ability to read if they’re at an appropriate age to do so. 

Greeting the Child

Respect is vitally important in nannying and if you want to get respect from a child, often you have to give it first! Greet the child in the same way that you greeted his or her parents, showing that you value them too.

Introduce yourself to the child in a friendly way such as, “Hi (their name), my name is (your name). Nice meeting you!”

You will need to use your interpersonal skills to make a judgment as to the child’s personality.

If they seem confident or easygoing then get started with a game or a chat, asking them lots of questions to allow them to talk about themselves and their interests.

If the child is more introverted or shy, do not force interaction. If you do this, the child might further withdraw himself or herself from you.

a good first impression

Instead, just keep calm and place yourself in their shoes; strangers can be scary, intimidating, or confusing to young children. Don’t rush into trying to play with them instead stay nearby and maybe start an activity where they can see.

Most children will build up their confidence and come over and join in at their own pace. This shows that you are confident in your own ability as a nanny and that you’re able to be very caring and respectful of a child’s needs. 

Ask Questions

Often on the first day or trial day parents or maybe even the previous nanny will be around. You can use this time to gather the information that you need to be able to do your job well and feel confident in your new role.

Ask open-ended questions like “tell me about your usual routine” or “can you talk me through your family’s values” and listen carefully to the answers.

a good first impression

You may want to ask specific questions about the children too so that you can get to know them better. Some nannies hesitate to ask questions because they feel like it is too forward or that it makes.

Most parents enjoy talking about their children, and they will appreciate that you are taking the role seriously and that you are interested in their family.

Take the initiative

This is not to say be bossy but you do want to show parents that you’re able to take the lead a little and get on with the day.

Perhaps after you have played at home in the morning, and been shown where everything is you can suggest taking the children to the park in the afternoon.

a good first impression

Perhaps if you’re taking care of a newborn you can mention that you have done some research and found local classes for when the baby is 3 months old.

All of this will boost the parents’ confidence that you are interested in and committed to the role and reassure them that you don’t need to have every detail spelled out to you because you are confident and capable.

A good first impression

When nannies think about making a good first impression they often focus on the parents and what the parents think of them which does make some sense since it is the parents who pay the nanny’s wage, but really most parents are happy when their children are happy so it’s vitally important to create a good, lasting impression on the child you will be taking care of.

Taking their wants, needs, and personality into consideration and thinking of them first, above anyone else, is how you make a good first impression and make the best start on your nanny career journey! 

If you want to get off to a good start in your professional career as a nanny, you need to have experience, but also accreditation of your nanny skills.⁣

⁣If you want to know more about our programme, send us a direct message and we will help you make the best decision you can make.⁣

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A nanny’s guide to creating a first aid kit

Accidents and illnesses are common issues when dealing with kids so it’s essential to have a first aid kit available when working as a nanny.  Having this to hand can make a big difference to a child’s safety, and ensures that you are well prepared to deal with a range of different situations.

So what should a well-equipped first-aid kit include? Let us help you create your own!

  1. Tools
  • A handy high-beam flashlight which you can use to check the ears, nose, eyes, or any areas where a child could get a splinter.
  • Tweezers to remove ticks and splinters
  • A thermometer (preferably a digital ear thermometer)
  • A nasal or bulb syringe to help unblock stuffy noses 
  • Rubbing alcohol, or wipes, for sterilizing tools such as thermometers
  • Gloves for keeping everything as sanitary as possible
  1. Bandages and Wipes
  • Cotton balls that are sterilized to wash cuts and bruises
  • Cotton swabs only for cleaning the outer area of the nose and ears. Do not use cotton swabs on the insides of the nose and ears as this can pose a danger.
  • Gauze rolls and gauze pads to dress wounds
  • Medical tape to hold the gauze
  • Adhesive bandages 
  • Elastic bandages
  1. Medicine 
  • Pain relievers. Preferably non-aspirin. A child’s strength ibuprofen is preferred and can only be used in the amount recommended by the doctor or manufacturer.
  • Rehydration fluids in case of dehydration
  • Antihistamine such as Benadryl 
  • Hydrogen Peroxide for cleaning cuts and scratches
  • Antibacterial cream to apply to the cut or scratch after cleaning
  • Creams  to soothe insect bites or rashes (calamine lotion)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant that is safe for kids 

Keep the following supplies in a container that is easy to transport and take along on outings. Remember to keep it away from children as some of these can be harmful if mishandled, inhaled, or swallowed.

A nanny’s guide to creating a first aid kit

As a nanny, it is your responsibility to keep the children in your care safe, and being able to administer basic first aid is essential. Prepare your first-aid kit in advance so that you can be ready to deal with common childhood ailments, and assist in emergency situations too.

You should also bear in mind that you must have a paediatric first aid certificate as this is a requirement for most vacancies.

If you don’t have it or it is out of date you can get it with our Paediatric First Aid course designed exclusively for nannies.

Here you will find more information: PFA

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What makes a ‘Professional Nanny’

Uncovering the Essential Characteristics of a skilled Nanny

Roles vary significantly from country to country and family to family, which makes it difficult to define the role of the professional nanny. As a result of this lack of clarity, many people consider themselves qualified to take on the role of a professional nanny when in reality they are not. Here we look at some of the experiences that do NOT qualify you to be a professional nanny:

Taking care of siblings or babysitting

Taking care of siblings or babysitting for friends or relatives is something that sparks an interest in a career in childcare for many people. Of course this is a good thing and can be a good base to build on but it is not adequate experience from which to take on professional nanny roles.

Often babysitting takes place when children are already in bed sleeping, or it may be a much more short-term arrangement where parents’ expectations are fairly low.

For example, a mother may employ a baby sitter to play with her kids for a few hours while she finishes a work project. Here she would expect the children to be kept safe, but she may be in the house or nearby, and not expect the babysitter to support children’s development, plan activities for them, cook meals or work with them on a long-term basis.

Some of the skills you may develop from this experience are:

  •  Basic childcare skills
  •  Trustworthiness
  •  Responsibility

Some skills you may need to develop further:

  •  More advanced childcare skills
  •  Knowledge of child development
  •  Improved communication with parents/care

Having your own children

Other people draw this idea that you don’t need to be qualified to look after children from the notion that parents are not qualified yet have to look after their own children.

This is a flawed idea on many levels; Firstly because it equates professional childcare with parenting, which is disparaging to both parties, childcare and parenting are distinct roles, and secondly because it seems to suppose that parenting is easy. Ask any parent and they will tell you that having kids can be really hard work.

Having your own children and taking care of them as they grow up, experiencing the highs and lows of parenting is a wonderful experience and there are plenty of skills from this that you can bring to a career as a professional nanny.

Nanny-parent-child relationships take many forms and nannies have been described as mothering-by-proxy, shadow mothers or third parents. (Macdonald, 2011).

However, being a parent does not mean that you are ready to work as a professional nanny as there are several fundamental differences between raising your own children and professionally caring for someone else’s.

Some of the skills you may develop from this experience are:

  •  Patience and resilience
  •  Understanding of family dynamics
  •  Empathy with other parents

Some skills you may need to develop further:

  • Advanced knowledge of child development 
  • Working with families as a professional
  • Communicating with parents

Working in a nursery 

Working in a nursery or preschool environment is often a very demanding role. Expectations are high as you may be caring for many children at once and there are often strict regulations to comply with.

The skills that you learn through nursery work include talking to children’s parents and working in partnership with them to support children’s development. Most nurseries and preschools will also help you to develop your knowledge and understanding of child development and teach you how to plan activities that meet children’s individual needs.

Working in a nursery however does not prepare you completely to work as a professional nanny as working with children and families in their own homes requires a unique and specialised skill-set that is quite different to providing group care in a nursery setting alongside colleagues.

Some of the skills you may develop from this experience are:

  • Planning activities for children based on their age, stage of development, interests and needs.
  • A good working knowledge of child development
  • Communicating well with parents

Some skills you may need to develop further:

  •  Working with children and families in their own homes
  •  Dealing with sibling dynamics and working with multiple ages of children at once
  •  Working with newborns and very young infant

Being a teacher 

Being a teacher demonstrates a good level of education, commitment to children and skills in planning and assessment, all of which can be transferred into a career as a professional nanny.

However, being a teacher in and of itself does not qualify you to start a career as a professional nanny as there are many more skills that you will need.

Some of the skills you may develop from this experience are:

  • Planning educational activities 
  • Making learning fun for children
  • Assessing children’s developmental needs

Some skills you may need to develop further:

  •  Carrying out care routines 
  •  Working in a home-based role
  •  Working with newborns, infants and toddler

Being an Au-pair 

For some nannies, being an au-pair is an excellent stepping stone. Working in an au-pair’s role allows you to gain valuable experience of working with children and engaging in family life.

Although au-pairs live in the family home and work with children in this setting, they are often used for babysitting more than sole-charge care, and may not have responsibility duties  such as designing routines or planning activities that support children’s development.

Some of the skills you may develop from this experience are:

  •  Working with children
  •  Working in a home based role
  •  Carrying out care routines

Some skills you may need to develop further:

  •  Sole charge working
  •  More in-depth knowledge of child development and how to support this
  •  Planning appropriate routines and activities

Teaching language classes 

Teaching a language class is a fantastic way to gain experience working with children. It also helps you build up your knowledge and understanding of how children learn languages.

It’s likely that in teaching a class you have also gained some skills in managing children’s behaviour such as rewarding and promoting positive behaviour and discouraging negative behaviour.

However, teaching a class for a short period of time is totally different to being a sole-charge carer children throughout the day and whilst many of the skills you have developed will be useful and transferable, there are many others that you will still need to develop.

Some of the skills you may develop from this experience are:

  •  Making learning fun
  •  Behaviour management
  •  Supporting children’s language development

Some skills you may need to develop further:

  • Working with children and families in their own homes 
  • A holistic understanding of child development
  • Communication and partnership with parents 

What parents expect from a professional nanny

There are several different kinds of nanny and parents’ needs and expectations will vary from role to role. However, as a general rule, expectations of a professional nanny are pretty high.

When hiring a nanny, parents are entrusting someone else with their children’s safety, emotional wellbeing and development, so it stands to reason that they may have demanding expectations.

A professional nanny will need to be able to plan and arrange safe, fun learning opportunities that suit children’s age and stage of development, and are based around their interests.

In order to do this they will need to be able to observe and assess children’s development in relation to the typical and expected sequence and rate of child development.

Parents will also expect a professional nanny to know how to plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks, carry out age appropriate care routines (such as making up bottle feeds safely, planning weaning, changing nappies, supporting sleep and rest times) and have up-to-date Paediatric first aid training so that they know how to respond and keep children safe in emergency situations.

Professional nannies will also need to show good organisational skills, time management skills and be able to communicate well with both parents/carers and children themselves. Sometimes a professional nanny may need to work in partnership with other agencies

What qualifications should a professional nanny have

Despite legally not requiring any formal qualifications, eighty-two per cent of nannies responding to the SIRC (2009) survey reported having a childcare-related qualification and in interviews and focus groups with nannies it was apparent that nannies viewed qualifications as an important part of their professional identity. Parents too are increasingly looking for nannies with qualifications.

Gaining qualifications in the field of childcare requires study and effort but through this, you are able to gain the knowledge and skills that you need to do your job properly.

Studying how children learn and develop means that you will feel confident to plan activities that will be stimulating to children of different age ranges and will help to support their development across different areas of learning.

Having the skills that you need to keep children safe means that you are able to carry out your role on a day to day basis as well as respond appropriately in an emergency.

Our International Nanny Institute provides practical and comprehensive childcare related courses designed to train and educate nannies, au pairs, babysitters and childminders.

We offer reasonably priced online training, which allows our students to study any time and anywhere.

Our courses are designed by a team of experts including psychologists, nutritionists, teachers, paediatric nurses and SEN specialists who are committed to maintaining high standards and staying up-to-date in the field of childcare.

The International Nanny Institute is passionate about empowering and raising the standards of child carers as professionals in their fields.

If you would like to complete a childcare related qualification, designed especially for nannies with us, browse our course catalogue now.  

International Nanny Institute

5 ways to ensure you hire the right nanny

Hiring a nanny was once only something for the elite, but today it has become a much more common childcare solution, with families understanding the value that a nanny can provide.

Not only can a nanny offer more personalised care, in the family home, but with multiple children, a nanny can often work out to be relatively cost-effective too.

Hiring a nanny is an important decision with serious consequences for family life, so to ensure that these are all positive it’s crucial to select the right candidate. Here are five ways to ensure that you hire the right nanny.

Hire through a trustworthy source

Many people rely on their friends for recommendations when finding a nanny, but this is not possible for every parent. Luckily, you can go to a nanny agency that has a good reputation.

They will help you find a nanny according to your needs and can even create a contract to govern the terms of service. This will make sure you find a nanny that will be a good fit for your family so that you feel confident leaving your children in their care.

Ask the right questions

While hiring a nanny, you should ensure that you ask the right questions while interviewing. This will help you to decide whether the person is right for the job or not.

You can ask questions about their expectations of the role, their experience working with children, their aims and values and get to know them better as a person.

5 ways to ensure you hire the right nanny

Consider the nanny’s educational background

Hiring a nanny is a very important decision as your children will spend a lot of their time with them.

Some nannies have qualifications in education, childcare, or child development which many families find reassuring as they know that the nanny will be prepared to work with their children and plan appropriate activities.

If the nanny is well-educated themselves, they are more likely to be able to help your children with homework. You should consider the candidate’s education and whether this will be a good fit for your family before hiring them.

Do reference checks

Checking references should be an important part of hiring a nanny, you should carry out at least 2 childcare related reference checks; if the candidate has worked as a nanny before then you should contact their previous employers and check the information about the role that they have provided you with.

You can also ask about the nanny’s performance and strengths.

5 ways to ensure you hire the right nanny

Have a trial before hiring

A trial day is a good option where circumstances allow for this. A trial day should always be paid, to show respect for the nanny’s time, but it is a good opportunity for you to get to know a candidate better, observe their behavior towards the children and how they handle new situations. This can help to give a better overall sense of someone’s abilities and working style.

Hiring a nanny can be a complicated process but, you can consider asking the right questions, observing their behavior, and running background checks to make sure the candidate is suitable and trustworthy.

We at International Nanny conduct two thorough background checks. We also carry out an extensive interview of the Nanny and undertake further reference checks as necessary. We assist parents when they hold interviews with potential candidates by preparing questions for them and staying present whenever needed. This all helps to ensure that you select the best Nanny for your children. 

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5 things to consider when creating a nanny contract

Contracts are essential in any nanny-family relationship. At first, it can sound intimidating and complicated but having a contract in place is invaluable especially in situations when something unexpected arises.

If something goes wrong, a contract can ensure that fair treatment is given to both parties.

Creating a contract does not necessarily need a lawyer’s presence but you do need to make sure that the contract is fair and have both sides, the employer and employee, agree with the terms for it to be effective.

So, what are some of the key issues to consider when drafting a contract?

Pay/Salary

5 things to consider when creating a nanny contract

This is the most important factor in every working contract, so it’s important to be clear on exactly what the nanny will be paid and by when.

You should set down in the contract what a nanny’s normal working hours will be, if and when overtime will be paid and at what rate.

You contract should be clear about holidays and sick days, how many are allowed, whether they are paid or unpaid adn all of this should reflect employment law in the main country of residence.

Another area you will need to consider is tax and insurance, which will again need to reflect the relevant employment law. In some countries the employer is responsibly for paying taxes, in others it is the employees responsibility to file taxes.

You should also state in the contract whether there will be a trial period of 15 days that can serve as a probationary period, this is a good clause to include for both parties as it allows you both to change your mind if it becomes apparent early on that you aren’t the right fit for each other.

In the contract, you should also state when the nanny will have a  performance review where they can renegotiate their salary.

House Rules 

5 things to consider when creating a nanny contract

The nanny-family relationship requires lots of trust and respect from both sides since it is such an intimate role; a family is letting someone into their house and their lives and a nanny is becoming an integral part of the family, sometimes living in the same house, but certainly spending many hours in the family’s home.

Establishing clear expectations, and setting them down on paper, is really important.

The contract is a good space to clearly describe your expectations of your nanny, and what the nanny can expect from you in return.

  • For example, will there be a room or space intended solely for the nanny?
  • Are visitors allowed during work hours?
  • What are the house rules on drinking?

These are all important matters that should be considered and written into the contract.

Childcare Expectations

5 things to consider when creating a nanny contract

A nanny’s contract needs to contain a detailed outline of their roles and responsibilities.

In the contract you need to be clear not only about the hours that will be worked but what the nanny is expected to do within those hours.

  • Will the nanny be driving the child to school and doctor’s appointments?
  • Is housekeeping included in their duties?
  • Do you expect the nanny to care for other children when your own child has a playdate?

All of these expectations must be made clear in the contract otherwise the nanny has the right to refuse additional duties.

Benefits

5 things to consider when creating a nanny contract

A nanny should be given benefits such as paid sick leave, maternity leave and contracted holiday.

They should also have pay premiums for days they are expected to work during national holidays (keep in mind that these days are supposed to be for rest and relaxation but nanny’s are often required to work, so this should be recognised)

  • If the family is going on a vacation, will the nanny be required to travel with them?
  • And how will this be compensated?

All of this needs to be considered and included in a Nanny contract.

End of Contract

5 things to consider when creating a nanny contract

The nanny contract will also need to stipulate how and when a contract will end.

  • You will need to consider the following questions:
  • If the nanny decided to leave, how long should the notice be?
  • What are the grounds for termination?
  • When is the nanny let go without prior notice?
  • Is there a severance pay in any particular circumstances?

All of these stipulations will need to reflect employment law in the relevant countries.

It is needed by both parties to hold on to their right and safety.

If you are a family looking for a nanny, then you need to create a contract between yourselves and your nanny in order to protect the rights and safety of all involved.

You should have the potential candidate involved in drawing up the contract so that it is democratic and fair. 

Remember, this contract is considered valid as long as both parties agree and sign it.

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The Benefits of CPD Certification 

Here at International Nanny Institute, all of our courses are accredited by the CPD Certification Service which is the largest and leading independent CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors.

To be accredited by this service the learning content of our qualifications has been scrutinised to ensure integrity and quality. The learning activity has also been judged to have reached the required Continuing Professional Development standards and benchmark/

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996 and is a well-known and well-established brand that has been working with training companies, professional bodies, conference providers, academic institutions and corporate organisations throughout this time to support individuals seeking CPD learning activities.

You may be wondering how a qualification supported by the CPD certification service might benefit you. Here are some of the ways:

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Stay up to date

Qualifications certified by the CPD certification service must demonstrate that they contribute to candidates refreshing their knowledge and keeping their skills up to date.

Training with the International Nanny Institute helps ensure both academic and practical qualifications do not become outdated, and allows nannies to continually upskill throughout their career. 

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Fill knowledge and skills gaps

Our training courses at International Nanny Institute are designed specifically with nannies in mind, to support their day-to-day professional work with children and families.

This makes it simple for you to focus short term on specific knowledge gaps and missing skills.

Our accreditation by the CPD certification service can leave you assured that there will be a recognisable improvement to your proficiency, as all of our training courses have been scrutinised as part of the accreditation process to ensure that they provide value to the learner.

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Increase your confidence

CPD can help to increase nannies’ confidence, and knowing that our qualifications have been examined to ensure that they provide adequate challenge will allow nannies to embark on a training course with the knowledge that their professional capabilities will improve and evolve.

This in turn, will increase your confidence that your skillset will thrive through any industry, or role, changes.

Showcase your learning

Another benefit of completing training that has been accredited by the CPD certification service is that it enables nannies to clearly showcase their further learning and development, which can help create a competitive advantage within the job market.

Boost your employability 

Completing our CPD certification service approved courses  is a great way to show potential employers that you take your responsibilities as a nanny seriously, and that you are committed to continually upskilling and developing your professional knowledge.

Our CPD certification service accredited courses will help you stand out from other nanny candidates seeking similar roles, getting you more interviews more often.

All of our courses here at International Nanny Institute are accredited by the CPD certification service, so you can embark on any course that interests you knowing that it will add value to your skill set and meet your professional needs.

If you think one of our courses might be a good fit for your professional development, visit our website at www.international-nanny.institute! We can’t wait to have you on board!

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