How to be an Au pair

Miryam Aubert  director of the Au pair Agency Au pair Australia, has both worked as an au pair through the UK, Canada and in Australia. She has hosted au pairs as a parent to help care for her children and has seen the au pair relationship from both sides. She has seen when things go well and when they go very badly for au pairs and the host family. She often gives advice to both prospective au pairs and prospective au pair families and has decided it’s time to weave the advice into a short blog.  This blog has a selection of tips on how to be a great au pair and how to find a family that will embrace your visit and draw you into their family.

Au pair jobs in AustraliaMany young people love to travel but unfortunately it can be an expensive hobby. Living and working as an au pair in Australia can be a great way to travel affordably. Not only that, you also get to embed yourself in the home life of the country and meet locals, whereas on a backpacking holiday you might find yourself surrounded by other travellers. It’s a great option for people you love children and enjoy being part of a family. What is an au pair? The term au pair comes from French and means ‘on the same level’. The au pair lives with the family in the role of a big brother or sister to younger siblings.

They have a set number of hours each week which they spend on child care and usually take on some level of household chores. In most cases you’ll be in a home where the parents work but in some cases you might be in more of a mother’s helper role.

This is particularly common if there are a few young kids at home such as families of multiples (twins, triplets etc.). It’s a role where your jobs might change week to week or even day to day as the families needs change. The au pair will generally eat meals with the family and receives full board and accommodation. as well as a ‘pocket’ money allowance each period that they can save or spend on their own needs. In some households the au pair may also have the use of a car. This can vary a lot between families as you may find that some families have a more formal employer-employee relationship with their au pairs, and others have a more informal relationship. How much do au pairs get paid?

The going rate for au pairs will change from country to country and will also depend on the numbers of hours that you do each week as well as the number and age of the children in the household.
You may also be able to negotiate a higher rate if you have formal qualification in childcare and/or first aid. Extra experience such as working as a nanny, tutor or babysitting may also let you negotiate a slightly higher rate than an unexperienced au pair on a gap year.

Generally, the rates go up in areas where there are issues getting au pairs such as remote parts of Australia or farms. Au pairs with multiple children in their care, or very young children to look after such as twin babies may also receive more money. Au pairs are in high demand in some areas, and can be in oversupply in popular metro locations.

Equally if the child has some extra needs such as a disability the au pair may get paid more for the work. If you are eager to help out families with disabilities it can be good to get qualifications and experience before you leave home, as this can help parents feel more confident into your abilities to deal with the extra challenges of looking after a child with disabilities. The pay is negotiated between each family and the au pair. It’s important when comparing the packages that each family is offering to consider items such as paying for a mobile phone, use of a car, paid time off, use of a public transport card and internet access.

Sometimes you will find that you have a lot more expenses in a home that offers more money and as a result you’ll have less money to save or explore. In order to get an idea of how much au pairs get paid in Australia, they are usually paid between $6 ad $7 AUD per hour plus accommodation and meals.

Want to travel but don’t have much money

“I would love to spend a year in a foreign country as au pair in Australia, but i don’t have much money!” I hear this all the time from people interested in hearing more about au pair programs. The Au pair experience is different from other trips abroad. It is relatively inexpensive as the basic thought behind these programs is a balanced ”give and take” approach. The term ”au pair” is french for ”reciprocity”. The host family that takes you in and welcomes you into their family gives you the opportunity to experience the wonders of a foreign country, integrate into a new culture and make new friends along the way.

Mother and child relaxing in the city parkIt sounds really simple, but leaving family and friends behind and adjusting to a new family marks the beginning  of a new chapter in one’s life. if you want to to have a successful and enjoyable time as Au Pair in Australia, you will need to be ready to try new things, leave familiar things behind and be open to change.

Preparing for your Au pair Experience in Australia.

The preparations for your stay abroad as an au pair begin long before you leave home. It is best to start planning the basics of your trip about a year in advance. This time is used to mentally prepare for the upcoming trip. Think about what language you would like to improve and which countries you are interested in. Gather information on the culture, language, politics and history of your top3 or so favorite countries. By familiarising yourself with the history of a country, you will have a much easier time understanding certain traditions and customs. Consider how long you would like your stay to be. The longer your stay, the deeper and more familiar you will become with your host country’s culture, language and overall lifestyle. Generally, an au pair program lasts for at least six months and most last a whole year . In the USA, the guidelines are clearly defined and an au pair stay lasts at least 12 months over the summer, but this depends on the respective country’s entry requirements.

General Requirements:

-Single and childless
-At least 18 yrs old
-Adequate language skills ( sometimes only English skills are required – even in countries with different official languages)
-Valid ID and passport (validity should extend at least a few months beyond your planned return date)
-Physical and mental fitness
-Childcare experience
-Reliable and responsible character
-Clean criminal record certificate.

Message from John:

An Au pair in Germany
John tells of his experience:

”I can still remember it like it was yesterday: The dream of travelling to a foreign land. For me it didn’t matter where it was – I just wanted to be out there, exploring the world and seeing how people live on the other side of the earth. The first time i heard about the au pair program in Germany i jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t even hesitate for a moment. I knew that this was my chance and i dove in head first.”

Childcare experience can be gathered through internships at childcare facilities, babysitting work or tutoring as well as assisting or leading at a children’s camp or sports center. This is a very important requirement, as childcare will be among your main tasks as an au pair and should not be overlooked. Your experience will need to be backed up with references. Practical experiences within your own family and references from relatives are generally inadequate.

Encourage eating fruits and vegies

Does your tot turn his nose up at fruit and vegies? 

You love your little to bits. He’s full of energy and growing into a happy, healthy and little child. There’s just one small snag – he pushes most fruit away, baulks at trying a carrotimages stick and dry retches at the mere thought of eating broccoli. If this is your child, you’re in good company. Heaps of parents and au pairs struggle to get their children to eat at least one serve of fruit or vegetables each day. Can we put this food group on hold and hope that one day the littlies will just grow into it like a comfy pair of shoes? Or do we batten down the hatches and prepare for the nightly battle, hoping to emerge triumphant having successfully force-fed all the four-years-old out there their daily greens? Neither options is going to be successful in the long term, so it’s time to put away the war paint and find some better solutions to this age-old battle between parent and child.


All children need fruit and vegies every day as a part of the healthy diet. These foods provide essential fibre (‘roughage’) to keep your little one’s bowels and digestive system working. Constipation can lead to many long-term health issues and can affect your child’s appetite and lead to pain and irritability. A recent study has suggested half of all Australian children do not have adequate intakes of fibre and in a survey by The Gut Foundation, just under half of all mums said their children suffered bowel problem on a regular basis. Fruit and vegies are also the main sources of vitamins C, B1, and B2 for healthy growth, development and immune systems. Starchy vegetables such as potato, sweet potato and corn and fruits provide carbs for fuel, providing energy. The unrefined nature of fresh fruit provides instant vitamins and minerals as well as protective antioxidant. The edible skin is valuable too, as the vitamins are found just a few millimetres underneath.


Children have a preference for a sweet taste from birth, which is why vegetables tend to be the most difficult food to get them to eat. Repeat exposure to vegetable flavours flavours at an early age increases the likelihood of acceptance, while offering your child overly refined foods containing excess sugar and salt will only make the job harder. Start by settings realistic goals, making meals tasty using familiar bridging flavours such as dipping sauces (tomato sauce, guacamole, or light mayonnaise) and buying in season, as these foods are much cheaper and taste better,


For many children, fear of an unknown food is a big hurdle. Often you’ll need to offer a new fruit or vegie several times (up to 10 or 15) before your child is comfortable with it.

Try with your aupair the following steps to introduce a new food item:

NIGHT 1: Place a small piece of the cooked vegetable or cut fruit on the plate with the rest of your child’s meal. Ask him to bring his lips (for little ones ask them to kiss it, older kids just press it to their lips). The lip area is very sensitive and this brings the food to the nose where your child can smell that it’s not offensive.

NIGHT 2: Ask your tot to hold the vegetable or fruit on his back teeth. Here the tongue can pass over it for the first taste.

NIGHT 3: Ask him to place the vegetable or fruit on his back teeth. At this point he may be willing to bite down and if so, praise him. This builds confidence that the food is okay and will not make him sick. If he doesn’t bite down, leave this to the next night.

NIGHT 4: Get your child to chomp down on the vegetables or fruit down with or without a bridging flavour such as a sauce or yoghurt.


While you’re still encouraging your little to try fresh fruit and vegetables, keep up his intake of fibre, vitamins and minerals, with these ideas…


  • Offer legumes such as baked beans or chickpeas blended to make hummus on crackers or pizza bases, or a spread.
  • Grate veggies into main dishes such as chicken bites or meat balls.
  • Use vegetable juice drink – you can buy poppers that contain one serve of fruit and veg. While these provide some vitamins and minerals, they do lack the fibre of fresh fruit and vegetables, trough.


  • If fresh fruit won’t go down the hatch, try offering dried or semi-dried fruit as a snack.
  • Ask to your au pair to make fruit puree and mix it into plain yoghurt or bake into muffins or scrolls.
  • Use commercially available pouches containing pureed fruit and vegetables, looking for ones with no added sugar, preservatives or colours.

While these are good ideas as you wait for your tot to take a liking to the fresh stuff, the following aren’t the best…

  • Store-bought hot chips. They’re popular with kids and adults, but potato wedges and chips aren’t replacement for vegetables as they’re low in fibre and high in fat and salt. A healthier alternative is to make your own by leaving a part of the skin on the potato and baking or barbecuing.
  • Store-bought fruit drinks. Fruit juices and drinks aren’t recommended for kids as they provide excessive amounts of sugar and kilojoules without the fibre or fresh fruit. A healthier alternative is to make your own by blending a serve of fresh fruit such as strawberries, mango or melon with ice to make a frappe.
  • Fruit jellies, straps or tubes. These are essentially lollies containing small amount of fruit sugar a healthier alternative is to make your own jelly by adding dissolved gelatine to pureed fruit. Pour into fun moulds and leave to chill in the fridge. Hang in there! Most kids go through tricky eating patches, but with persistence you’ll eventually win him over.

Improve your communication with your Child

Mother and child relaxing in the city parkOver time, we earn our children’s trust in other ways: following through on the promise we
make to play a game with them later, not breaking a confidence, picking them up on time.
At the same time, we extend our trust to them by expecting the best from them and believing in their fundamental goodness and potential.
As parents and au pairs, we trust in the power of human development to help our child grow, learn, and mature. We trust that although our child may act like a child today,
he or she is always developing into a more mature person (just as, hopefully, we are.) We
trust that no matter what he or she does, there is always the potential for positive change.
Trust does not mean blindly believing what your teenager tells you. Trust means not giving
up on your child, no matter what he or she does.
Trust means never walking away from the relationship in frustration, because you trust that she needs you and that you will find a way to
work things out.

Encourage, Encourage, Encourage.

Think of your child as a plant who is programmed by nature to grow and blossom. If you
see the plant has brown leaves, you consider if maybe it needs more light, more water, more fertilizer. You don’t criticize it and yell at it to straighten up and grow right. Kids form their view of themselves and the world every day. They need your encouragement to see themselves as good people who are capable of good things. And they need to know
you’re on their side. If most of what comes out of your mouth is correction or criticism, they won’t feel good about themselves, and they won’t feel like you’re their ally. You lose your only leverage with them, and they lose something every kid needs: to know they have an adult who thinks the world of them.

Remember that respect must be mutual.

Pretty obvious, right? But we forget this with our kids, because we know we’re supposed to be the boss. You can still set limits (and you must), but if you do it respectfully and with empathy, your child will learn both to treat others with respect and to expect to be treated respectfully himself.

family_parentsOnce when I became impatient with my then 3 year old, he turned to me and said “I don’t
like it when you talk to me that way.” A friend who was with us said, “If he’s starting this early, you’re going to have big problems when he’s a teenager!” In fact, rather than challenging my authority, my toddler was simply asking to be treated with the dignity he had come to expect.
Now a teenager, he continues to treat himself, me, and others, respectfully. And he chooses peers who treat him respectfully. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?

Think of relationships as the slow accretion of daily interactions.

You don’t have to do anything special to build a relationship with your child. The good — and bad — news is that every interaction creates the relationship. Grocery shopping, carpooling and bathtime matter as much as that big talk you have when there’s a problem. He doesn’t want to share his toy, or go to bed, or do his homework?
How you handle it is one brick in the foundation of your permanent relationship, as well as
his ideas about all relationships. That’s one reason it’s worth thinking through any recurring interactions that get on your nerves to see how you might handle them differently.
Interactions that happen more than once tend to initiate a pattern. Nagging and
criticizing are no basis for a relationship with someone you love. And besides, your life is too short for you to spend it in a state of annoyance.

Communication habits start early.

Do you listen when she prattles on interminably about her friends at preschool, even when you have more important things to think about?

Then she’s more likely to tell you about her interactions with boys when she’s fourteen.
It’s hard to pay attention when you’re rushing to pick up food for dinner and get home, but if you aren’t really listening, two things happen. You miss an opportunity to learn about and teach your child, and she learns that you don’t really listen so there’s not much point in talking.

Don’t take it personally.

Your teenager slams the door to her bedroom. Your ten year old huffs “Mom, you never understand!” Your four year old screams “I hate you, Daddy!” What’s the most important thing to remember? DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY!
This isn’t primarily about you, it’s about them: their tangled up feelings, their difficulty controlling themselves, their immature ability to understand and express their emotions. Taking it personally wounds you, which means you do what we all do when hurt: either close off, or lash out, or both. Which just worsens a tough situation for all concerned.
Remembering not to take it personally means you:
• take a deep breath
• let the hurt go
• remind yourself that your child does in fact love you but can’t get in touch with it at the
• consciously lower your voice
• try hard to remember what it feels like to be a kid who is upset and over-reacting.
• think through how to respond calmly and constructively

Helping Your Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep

garden-Stock-PhotoA full day of school can use up a lot of your child’s energy.  Add in homework and extra-curricular or social activities, and your Au pair can see why adequate rest is important to keep those little bodies thriving.

While each child is different, these guidelines can help you spot if your child’s sleep schedule is on track for her age. This chart includes naps.
1-3 Years: 12 – 14 hours per day
3-6 Years: 10 – 12 hours per day
7-12 Years: 10 – 11 hours per day
12-18 Years: 8 – 10 hours per day

Just how important is sleep to your child’s ability to focus in school?  In a National Sleep Foundation experiment, children were asked to go to bed later than normal for a week, and then were asked to spend no fewer than 10 hours in bed for another week. During the week of later bedtimes, teachers rated these kids as having more academic problems and more attention problems.

Here’s how your Au pair can encourage healthy sleep habits for your child:

Finish homework and dinner with enough time for the family to unwind a bit before bedtime. Make sure your child’s room is relaxing and safe with no electronics or screens to distract him at night. Just as you baby-proofed when she was little, do some investigating to make sure her room isn’t a source of hidden toxins or allergens. Choose an organic mattress and wash sheets and bedding often with a natural laundry soap.
Set a specific bedtime working backward from what hour your child must wake up to get to school on time (or the time you typically begin homeschooling) and allow for the age-appropriate number of hours your child needs to rest.
Create a predictable bedtime routine.  A younger child will need more guidance through his nightly routine, while an older child can begin practicing self-care.

Your Au pair’s routine could include:

• a warm bath
• brushing teeth
• reading a book together
• following a guided meditation designed for kids
• sing a calm song
• last call for bathroom trips and a drink of water
• good night snuggles

Building a Great Relationship with your child

A9R7AACWant to be a great parent or a great Au pair? Want to raise a happy, healthy, well-behaved kid? Want to live in a home where discipline becomes unnecessary?
The secret is to create a closer connection with your child.
“What do you mean? Of course I love my kid, and I tell him so all the time. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need discipline!”
It isn’t enough that we tell our children we love them. We need to put our love into action every day for them to feel it. And when we do that our kids need a lot less discipline!
“But what does that mean, putting our love into action?”
Mostly, it means making that connection with our child our highest priority. Love in action
means paying thoughtful attention to what goes on between us, seeing things from our child’s point of view, and always remembering that this child who sometimes may drive us crazy is still that precious baby we welcomed into our arms with such hope.
“Doesn’t that take a lot of energy?”
It takes a lot of effort to fully attend to another human being, but when we are really present with our child, we often find that it energizes us and makes us feel more alive, as being fully present with anyone does. Being close to another human takes work. But 90% of people on their deathbed say that their biggest regret is that they didn’t get closer to the people in their lives. And almost all parents whose children are grown say they wish
they had spent more time with their kids, however with the busy life most parents face, finding more time with our children is more difficult, having an Au pair in Australia to give you an extra hand at home is so helpful and lets you spend more quality time with your children.

“Being fully present? How can I do that when I’m just trying to get dinner on the table and keep from tripping over the toys?”
Being present just means paying attention. Like a marriage or a friendship, your relationship with your child needs positive attention to thrive. Attention = Love. Like your garden, your car, or your work, what you attend to flourishes.
And, of course, that kind of attentiveness takes time. You can multi-task at it while you’re making dinner, but the secret of a great relationship is some focused time every day attending only to that child.
“This is all too vague for me. What am I supposed to actually DO?”
Start right for a firm foundation.
The closeness of the parent-child connection throughout life results from how much parents and au pairs connect with their babies, right from the beginning.
For instance, research has shown that fathers who take a week or more off work when
their babies are born have a closer relationship with their child at every stage, including as teens and college students. Is this cause and effect?
The bonding theorists say that if a man bonds with his newborn, he will stay closer to her
throughout life. But you don’t have to believe that bonding with a newborn is crucial to note that the kind of man who treasures his newborn and nurtures his new family is likely to continue doing so in ways that bring them closer throughout her childhood.

Remember that all relationships take work.

Good parent-child connections don’t spring out of nowhere, any more than good marriages do. Biology gives us a headstart — if we weren’t biologically programmed to love our infants the human race would have died out long ago but as kids get older we need to build on that natural bond, or the challenges of modern life can erode it. Luckily, children automatically love their parents. As long as we don’t blow that, we can keep the connection strong. Prioritize time with your child.
Assume that you’ll need to put in a significant amount of time creating a good relationship
with your child. Quality time is a myth, because there’s no switch to turn on closeness. Imagine that you work all the time, and have set aside an evening with your husband, whom you’ve barely seen in the past six months. Does he immediately
start baring his soul? Not likely.
In relationships, without quantity, there’s no quality. You can’t expect a good relationship
with your daughter if you spend all your time at work and she spends all her time with her
friends. So as hard as it is with the pressures of a job and daily life, if we want a better relationship with our kids, we have to free up the time or hire an au pair to make that happen.
Start with trust, the foundation of every good relationship.
Trust begins in infancy, when your baby learns whether she can depend on you to pick her up when she needs you. By the time babies are a year old, researchers can assess whether babies are “securely attached” to their parents, which basically means the baby trusts that his parents can be depended on to meet his emotional and physical needs.

A Healthy Immune System Starts with a Healthy Gut

A9RB347Did you know that your intestinal tract is home to billions of different microbes (known as your intestinal microflora) made up of bacteria, yeast, and fungi?  Some of these mi-crobes are bad and can cause illness, but some are good.  These good microbes, called probi-otics, have a positive and wide-ranging impact on your overall health.

We naturally have a mix of both good and bad bacteria in us.   When we eat fermented foods, like yogurt or sauerkraut, we ingest more even more probiotic-rich bacteria.  Taking probiotics as a supplement, however, is a good idea for most people as the amounts we get from food alone are far lower than therapeutic doses.  Even if you think everything feels fine in your gut, remember, probiotics do more than just help keep gas and bloating at bay.

Probiotics are an important part of a healthy body as they: 

• Help keep your digestive system running smoothly
• Boost immunity
• Help produce many B vitamins
• Digest lactose and some forms of fiber
• Assist in the digestion and absorption of many nutrients
• Inhibit the growth of bad bacteria

When the number of good bacteria in your intestinal tract is outnumbered by the bad you may experience gas, bloating, diarrhea, and even constipation.  These symptoms can range from mild to quite severe.  While just getting sick can result in decreased numbers of good probiotic bacteria, antibiotic use is one of the primary reasons that good bacteria gets wiped from our system.

Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, but they don’t discern between good and bad when doing their job; they just kill off all the bacteria.  This is why one of the most common side effects of antibiotic use is stomach and digestive system upset.  Taking probiotics a few hours away from antibiotic medication, followed up by intensive supplementation after completing your medication will help recolonize your intestinal tract with probiotic bacteria.

Did you know that your intestinal tract is home to billions of different microbes (known as your intestinal microflora) made up of bacteria, yeast, and fungi?  Some of these microbes are bad and can cause illness, but some are good.  These good microbes, called probiotics, have a positive and wide-ranging impact on your overall health.

While many of us try to avoid using antibiotics unnecessarily on our families and our-selves, there’s no doubt that they have their place, and when used properly can help us feel better when we need them.  Overuse of antibiotics has created a whole new strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria called super-bugs.  Antibiotic-resistant infections cause thousands of deaths each year. Probiotics have antimicrobial activity, and some experts believe that they could play an increased role in the prevention and treatment of some of these superbug infections.

Preventing illness in the first place is the best way to avoid the need for anti-biotics. Explain the next measures to your Au pair so that she can help you in your absence   Some easy ways to keep your immune system healthy include:

• Washing your hands well (try singing “Happy Birthday” twice!). Stick with soap
and water and avoid antibacterial products. Products marketed as being antibacterial
use Triclosan as the active ingredient, which may do more harm than good.
Studies are starting to come out suggesting that Triclosan may, in fact, be helping to
create some of these superbugs.
• Avoid sugar as it suppresses your immune system for hours after you eat it and feeds
the bad bacteria in your intestinal tract.
• Ensure adequate intake of good quality protein, which is the building block for the
antibodies that fight infection.
• Choose a healthy lifestyle; the activity of natural killer cells is supported by not
smoking, getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and an increased intake of green
• Eat more garlic as it contains allicin, a phytochemical shown to be effective in fighting colds, flus and other illnesses due to its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
• Eating mushrooms like shiitake, cremini and many dried varieties will boost your intake of zinc and selenium, both powerful immune system supporters. Plus, the beta glucans in mushrooms will help regulate white blood cell activity.

Nutrients like vitamin C, the B vitamins, vitamin E, and carotenes are also important for a healthy immune system.  Choose to eat a variety of whole, unprocessed foods to maximize your intake of the widest range of nutrients possible. A good idea is to ask your au pair to avoid eating lots of sugary snacks  in front of the children.

Making simple changes like the ones above can help boost your immunity, but the infor-mation on how to maximize your intake of probiotic foods can be more confusing than helpful.  A quick walk down the aisles of a grocery store would have you believe that eating and drinking certain yogurts, cheeses, juices, and even chocolate bars will get your gut in tip top shape in no time due to their probiotic content.  The truth is, not all probiotics are created equally.  Bad bacteria feeds on simple sugars so if you’re eating a product laden with added sugars then you’re likely not getting much benefit from the probiotics that have been added.  Some of the best natural sources of probiotic bacteria include ferment-ed foods like:

• Plain yogurt (no sugar added)
• Plain kefir, a yogurt type drink traditionally made with dairy, but now also made with coconut, and even water!
• Sauerkraut
• Kombucha tea
• Kimchi
• Some cheeses

If you’re suffering from digestive upset, or trying to replace the good bacteria that has been wiped from your system after taking a round of antibiotics (remember antibiotics wipe out the good and the bad), then the amount of probiotics added to food won’t be enough.

Probiotic amounts in supplements are measured in CFUs (colony forming units) and when shopping for a good quality supplement there are a few things to consider in order to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Potency – make sure you’re getting a minimum of 100 million CFUs per dose.
Storage – most probiotics require refrigeration, although there are some products in “pearl” format that are shelf stable and more suitable for things like travelling.
Expiration date – a good manufacturer will guarantee their potency until the product’s expiry date and will list this right on the packaging.

Probiotics aren’t cheap, but smart shopping will help you navigate the supplement aisles and choose the best product.
There are many different strains of probiotics, known as species.  These strains have a variety of therapeutic effects, and some will be more helpful than others when targeting illnesses or symptoms.  There are products specifically de-signed for IBS, post-antibiotic use, and bowel disorders.  There are also products specifically geared towards children, as children’s intestinal tracts contain different microflora than adults.

When choosing probiotic supplements for your family be sure to choose the appropriate products for your needs, and if you’re con-fused work with a knowledgeable practitioner to help you make the best choice.  By taking care of your body with whole foods, making positive lifestyle changes, incorporating more fermented foods, and taking additional probiotic supplements you’ll help keep your intestinal tract feeling its best and boost your overall immunity at the same time.

Encouraging your child’s natural love of learning

A9R2CA9Nurturing a child’s love for learning begins with trust. As unschoolers, we trust our children to know when they are ready to learn and what they are interested in learning. We trust them to know how to go about learning. Parents and Au pairs commonly take this view of learning during the child’s first two years, when he is learning to stand, walk, talk, and to perform many other important and difficult things, with little help from anyone. No one worries that a baby will be too lazy, uncooperative, or unmotivated to learn these things; it is simply assumed that every baby is born wanting to learn the things he needs to know in order to understand and to participate in the world around him. These one- and two-year-old ex-perts teach us several principles of learning:

Children are naturally curious and have a built-in desire to learn first-hand about the world around them.

John Holt, in his book How Children Learn, describes the natural learning style of young children:

“The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the
world around him. He does not shut him-self off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and sus-pense. … School is not a place that gives much time, or opportunity, or reward, for this kind of thinking and learning.”

Children know best
how to go about learning something

If left alone, children will know instinctively what method is best for them. Caring and observant parents soon learn that it is safe and appropriate to trust this knowledge. Such parents say to their baby, “Oh, that’s interesting! You’re learning how to crawl downstairs by facing backwards!” They do not say, “That’s the wrong way.” Perceptive parents and au pairs are aware  that there are many different ways to learn something, and they trust their children to know which ways are best for them.

Children need
plentiful amounts of quiet time to think

“Children who are good at fantasizing are better both at learning about the world and at learning to cope with its surprises and disappointment. It isn’t hard to see why this should be so. In fantasy we have a way of trying out situations, to get some feel of what they might be like, or how we might feel in them, without having to risk too much. It also gives us a way of coping with bad experiences, by letting us play and replay them in our mind until they have lost much of their power to hurt, or until we can make them come out in ways that leave us feeling less defeated and foolish.”

But fantasy requires time, and time is the most endangered commodity in our lives. Fully-scheduled school hours and extracurricular activities leave little time for children to dream, to think, to invent solutions to problems, to cope with stressful experiences, or simply to fulfill the universal need for solitude and privacy.

Children are not afraid to admit ignorance and to make mistakes

When Holt invited toddlers to play his cello, they would eagerly attempt to do so; school-children and adults would invariably decline.

Unschooling children, free from the intimidation of public embarrassment and failing marks, retain their openness to new exploration. Children learn by asking questions, not by answering them. Toddlers ask many questions, and so do school children until about grade three. By that time, many of them have learned an unfortunate fact: that in school, it can be more important for self-protection to hide one’s ignorance about a subject than to learn more about it, regardless of one’s curiosity.

Children take joy
in the intrinsic values of whatever they are learning

There is no need to motivate children through the use of extrinsic rewards, such as high grades or stars, which suggest to the child that the activity itself must be difficult or unpleasant; otherwise, why is a reward, which has nothing to do with the matter at hand, being offered? The wise parent says, “I think you’ll enjoy this book”, not “If you read this book, you’ll get a cookie.”

Children learn best
about getting along with other people through interaction with those of all ages, including an Au pair

No parents would tell their baby, “You may only spend time with those children whose birthdays fall within six months of your own. Here’s another two-year-old to play with.” John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, contends, “It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effec-tively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed, it

Finding the balance between independence and supervision

Free Rage Kids 

Finding the balance between independence and supervision

Let’s play a game. Visualize your childhood playtime routine.

A9R8F14Was it filled with running, playing and exploring in your backyard (and all your friends’ yards)? Did you ride your bike through your surrounding neighborhoods and maybe even to school to use the jungle gym ad nauseam? Were your summers permeated with spraying sprinklers, green rubber hoses, worn jump ropes, entire days spent outside, and skinned knees? Did your evenings entail playing ball outside until the street lights came on (at which point you knew you’d better get home and fast)? To many of us, this was a very close facsimile of childhood.

Today, these kids would be referred to as “free range.” Their parents would be practicing
“free range parenting” (also called “simplicity” or “slow parenting”). It often involves more unstructured free time, less of a focus on the use of electronic devices, and less hovering of parents around children as they play or make new discoveries. Children are ultimately al-lowed to explore the world at their own pace.

It is said that free range parenting is in response to the widespread trend for parents to schedule many activities and classes after school, solve problems for their children, and often “helicopter” around their children to help with any issues that arise. Others contend that this less hands-on, more independence-inducing style is simply a return to the style in which many of us were raised.

It is important to note some of the positives of free range parenting. The free range life-style allows children to develop many valuable skills, such as problem-solving, self-confi-dence, and creativity, to say nothing of the value of a well-honed imagination. Children with an active, exploratory life have lower risk of mental health and emotional issues and higher development of motor skills. It is said that the more time kids spend in the great outdoors, as well, lower their chances of developing asthma, allergies, and have a general immunity against many illnesses. They are also far better able to bounce back from the disappointments of life after gaining hands-on troubleshooting experience in their day-to-day activities.

But, as with most forms of parenting, opinions differ and controversies arise. With a greater awareness of child abuse and neglect, many are on the lookout for strange or “off ” behavior – such as seeing children out walking or playing without supervision of either a parent or an Au pair. Although each case and scenario is different and unique, many times we see in these news stories that the children ultimately get picked up by police and, due to proper procedure, taken to Child Protective Services before finally allowing the parents to have contact with their “missing” children.

There are two schools of thought here. One – those poor parents must have been frantic! Two – the same parents would feel worse if their children had gone missing for real. Both are completely valid points.

However, it’s important to note that America, in general, is at its safest point in years. Ac-cording to a recent child mortality report put together by numerous government agencies, childhood mortality has never been lower. In 1935, there were 450 deaths per 100,000 chil-dren aged 1 to 4, compared with today’s number of 30. Some of this can be attributed to a rise in the use of vaccines (do your homework and decide if this is right for you), but the rates have nonetheless continued to drop in recent decades. Homicide rates are at a low of 1.5 per 100,000 children under 14, as well.

Beyond these facts, though, comes the worry. It’s not just about a child’s possible death
(although that’s huge). What about an abduc-tion or disappearance? According to the FBI National Crime Information Center, reports of missing juveniles under 18 since 1997 are down 40%. This information also tells of the fact that a vast majority – 96% – of all missing person reports are runaways. A very minute percentage of these cases are what we might consider a “stereotypical kidnapping.” More details can be found through this informative Washington Post article, but the point is, basi-cally, that things are pretty darn safe on aver-age, depending on your particular life situa-tion and neighborhood demographic.

As parents, we all know that parenting isn’t “one size fits all.” Every child is unique and every parent and au pair reacts to situations differently. Hopefully, we can all agree that as long as children are in a loving, cared-for scenario – even if it’s completely different than our own – there’s nothing to worry about.

It is up to us to use our common sense and intuition to recognize when something is seri-ously wrong, or that we simply need to back off and allow other parents the courtesy to make their own choices for their families.

Home, safe home

25 tips to make your house a happy and healthy safe haven.

When you’ve got a young child, you’ve got a little adventurer on your hands, always keen to examine every nook and cranny, and to touch and taste everything he can get his hand on! But while this eagerness to explore can be great for his learning and development, it can also get him into some sticky sHome+Safe+Homeituations. According to the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, little ones from birth to fourth years account for over half hospital patients treated for accidents in the home. Burns, bumps and falls, poisoning, chocking and near-drowning are among the top type of accidents kids can encounter – but thankfully there’s a lot that you can do to prevent them. The first step when it comes to making your home kid-safe? “Get down on your hands and knees and pretend to be a child to see what kinds of mischief you might get into”, advises Christine, executive officer of Kidsafe NSW. “Until you’re down thee you don’t notice the power points, the sharp corners, the cupboard doors or the dangling vertical-blind cords”.

Here are tips that you and your au pair can follow for keeping your child as safe as can be…

Home Hints In The Kitchen
1. Be food safe. TheUp_and_Away_Posterre are 5.4 million cases of food-borne illness in Australia each year, and kids are particularly vulnerable. The bacteria that cause food poisoning like to grow between 5° and 60°C, so keep hot food piping hot and store cold food at 4°C or below. Keep ready-to-eat and raw food separate during preparation and storage, wash hand before and after handling food, pay attention to use-by dates and be sure to cook meats thoroughly.
2. Keep it clean. If you have an au pair tell her to wipe down all kitchen surfaces as you go, particularly where raw foods have been prepared, to help limit of spread of bacteria. It’s best to have one sponge or cloth for surfaces and another for dishes and to change these regularly. Pop them, wet, in the microwave for a couple of minutes to help zap the bugs.
3. Put things on the back burner. “Since there are so many hot things in the kitchen, it can be a pretty dangerous place”, Christine notes. To prevent accidents, put pots and pans on the back burner or turn the handless away to stop your little one reaching for them. “Children around nine to 15 months ae starting to pull themselves up and may grab for these. They might also use the hot oven door”, Christine says, adding that stove guards can be a good investment for this reason.
4. Look it up. Installing childproof locks, latches or brands on cupboards and drawers in the kitchen, is an important safety measure. This can stop your child from using drawers to climb to dangerous heights, from getting his hands on sharp utensils and household chemicals such as detergents, and helps keep other items, such as plastic bags, out of harm’s way.
5. Bring out the barriers. “If you can, keep your child out of the kitchen all together with a gate or barrier”, Christine advises. If you need to spend time in the kitchen, keep him quietly occupied with crafts in your line of sight, or find something for him to do in another area of the house that’s close by.

Home Hints In The Living Room
6. Bet on barriers. “It’s important to use a barrier or gate to prevent younger children from going up and down any stairs,” Christine says, as topples and tumbles are very real risks. ”When it comes to the balustrades, make sure your child can’t get stuck between the rails, can’t climb on them or slip under through them”, she adds.
7. Be on dirt alert. When you have time to get on top of household chores, try to vacuum carpets and wash floorboards, as little kid get really up close and personal with these surfaces! Watch your use of harsh cleaning agents that might leave chemical residues, and think about a “no shoes” policy for your house – it’s a great way to keep (or at least limit) dirt, muck and pollutants from getting in.
8. Show socket safety. All unused power point and strips should be blocked with power-point covers, Christine advises, which will stop you littlie from poking thing into them. Having safety switches installed that switch the power off if there is a fault can also help prevent electrical shocks.
9. Go on lockdown. Climbing and clambering kids get hurt from toppling furniture or other items, says Christine. Make sure furniture is sturdy and not-top-heavy to limit the chances of toppling, and secure items to the wall with ‘L’ brackets where you can. Also watch heavy objects on top of furniture that could easily fall onto your child – secure the TV with a strap, keep big or breakable objects in cabinets and try to avoid decorative tablecloths or other dangling items that could be pulled on to send items falling.
10. Be (smoke) alarmed. Smoke alarms are an important measure in keeping the whole family safe. Have them installed on every level of your home, particularly near the bedrooms, and be sure to test them regularly and change the batteries often.

Home Hints In The Bedrooms
11. Change the bed. If yawesome-safety-wall-decorations-for-kids-room-decorour toddler is still in his cot, he may develop a habit of climbing up and over the cot rails when he wants to get out, which can lead to falls. While there’s no set age for making the transition from cot to big bed, most kids are ready around the age of two. It’s a good idea to choose a bed with small side rails to stop him from rolling out of it.
12. Careful of cords! As the Child Safety Handbook published by the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne notes, dangling curtain cords, phone cords and straps, ties and strings on clothes and toys can pose a strangulation risk. When it comes to window cords, these should be kept shorter than 30 cm and well off the floor. If you can’t cut or exchange window cords for rods, secure them with a cord clips or wrap them around a cleat, and keep your child’s cot or bed well away from them.
13. Have high standards. Particularly if you’re getting it second-hand from eBay, friends or the op-shop, make sure all furniture meets current Australian Safety Standards. You can download a great ACCC booklet from for all the need-to-know details.
14. Watch windows. “Children can fall out of a window which is open more than 10 cm, even if a fly screen is present”, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead warns. As part of its “Kids Can’t Fly” campaign, the hospital recommends all windows have locks fitted to stop them being opened more than 10 cm, or have window guards installed. Also watch where you position cots, beds and objects kids can clamber on top of in relation to windows.
15. Play safely. When it comes to storing toys, your littlie’s toy chest should have lid support so it doesn’t slam shut on his tiny fingers and ventilation holes should be climb on in a find himself stuck. The toys themselves should have no small, sharp or breakable parts. Follow the age recommendations and check regularly for wear and tear.

Home Hints In The Bathroom
16. Simmer down. The Child Safety Handbook notes that “the best way of preventing scalds in the bathroom is to reduce the temperature of the hot tap water at the basin, bath and shower to 50°C”. Tap covers that stop tots from turning taps on and off are another good idea. Make sure that your au pair is careful when she puts the kids in the shower.
17. Be mindful with medicines. Keep medicines in a child-proof box in a cabinet at least 1.5m off the ground so they’re out of reach and out of sight of curious hands and mouths. While you’re at it, lock away mouthwash, nail polish remover, hair dye and the like, along with sharp objects such as nail scissors and razor blades.
18. Wash well! Hand-washing is so important! Little kids often fall sick when faecal bacteria end up in their mouths, so teach your littlie how to wash his hands well after using the toilet, touching pets and being out and about. Hands should always be scrubbed well before eating, too.
19. Don’t slip ‘n’ side. “The bathroom is a wet, slippery place with lots of hard surfaces and slips and trips can happened for adults as well as children”, Christine warns. She suggests using non-slip mats and to plan, plan, plan. “Bathtime is an event, so you need a little ‘event management’! Have the towels ready, something to mop up splashes and clothes nearby”
20. Be on water watch. Supervision in the bath is paramount. Ignore phone calls and stuff going on in other rooms of the house when your tyke is in the tub – she should never be left unattended. Toilet water can also prove problematic, so keep the lid closed and consider a child-proof latch.

Home Hints In The Yard
21. Put it away! The Royal hausbauChildren’s Hospital Melbourne reports that a third of home injuries to children under five years occur in the garden or garage. A good first step in preventing accidents is to securely lock away tools, ladders, gardening instruments and other such gear so that your child can’t get to them.
22. Be sensible with poisons. As well as storing these correctly (in their original containers, well away from your child’s sight and reach), use them wisely. Snail pellets shouldn’t be used in the garden, for example, as your child or pet might mistake them for a snack. And if you’ve had to use any pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, don’t let your littlie out there to roll in them.
23. Weed out nasty plants. Some plants are poisonous if eaten or prone to causing irritation when touched, so be careful what you let grow. “On our Kidsafe website,, we have information about what plants to avoid and your local council will also have this information”, says Christine.
24. Avoid driveway accidents. It’s a scary statistic – according to Kidsafe, one child is run over in the driveway of their home each week in Australia. Always have someone (like an au pair) holding your child’s hand or holding close when the car is being moved in or out of the driveway. It’s also wise to discourage playing near the driveway and to make access   to it difficult with fencing or gates.
25. Be water wise. All pools and spas should be surrounded by a well-maintained fence with a self-locking gate, and even inflatable pools that exceed 30cm need a barrier around them, too. It’s best to empty, deflate and store these safely when not in use to prevent water puddling in them, Christine reminds. “Also be careful of pet bowls, bucket and other containers that may be able to fill with water when it rains. Little children are very top heavy and can drown in very small amount of water”.