Au Pair Handbook, Core Family Values & Rules
General Principles for Working with the Girls
(These are phrased in ways that you can simply repeat these ideas to the girls…)
1. Put everything back in its place. Take toys, activities, equipment, and so on from "a to z.”
2. Each job has a tool; each tool has its own job. If you need a tool that you can’t find, let me know.
3. Replace what is used up.
4. Treat objects with respect.
5. Clean up after yourself. ?“If you are responsible enough to be able to do it, you are responsible enough to clean up after it.”
6. Help other people take care of their toys & their space.
7. Teach the girls to do things "the right way".
8. Show lots of enthusiasm.
9. Anticipate the children’s needs, be respectful of your own needs.
10. Be gentle with criticism. Add a "yes" when saying no.
11. Laugh and have fun.
12. Asked the girls to be respectful to grown-ups & friends
13. Offer the girls choices between two things that would be okay with you
14. Make sure you are in charge of the girls, not that they are in charge of you.
15. Guide the girls to pick up after themselves
16. Ask them "what can you do to contribute to a… clean room, happy dinner, tidy bathroom, etc.”
17. Increase what we do with the girls, decrease what we do for the girls.
18. Always leave a little bit of extra time so that the girls can help tidy their things up.
19. "Wrangle" the girls’ stuff back to its home place. Make the girls help you do that.
20. Remind the girls that everything has a place, and once they’re finished using it, it is their job to get it safely back to its home.
21. Remind the girls to clean their things out of the back of the car when you get home.
When you have questions about how to do something, especially about how to work with the girls, talk with me.
Using the family station wagons
- Always use your seat belt, and put the girls in their car seats and seat belts
- Do not use your cell phone while you are driving. Pull over and stop the car before picking up the phone. Breaking this rule has serious consequences.
- Remind the girls to clean their things out of the back of the car when you get home.
- Let us know if we need gasoline, or if you suspect the car needs maintenance.
- Always put money in the parking meters. You will be responsible for any parking tickets you incur. There is a role of quarters (in the console and/or in the glove box) that you can use for parking meters and fees, so there is rarely a reason to get a ticket. Please let me know if the amount of quarters is getting low, so that I can get more.
- Keep your CDs tidy; keep CDs in their cases and help us keep the CDs in the car tidy.
Food and the Girls
1. The girls are only permitted to eat in the kitchen and the dining room. They may not eat anything in the playroom unless it’s pizza night. Then, make a big deal of collecting all the paper plates and pizza crusts and throwing them away. There’s nothing more disgusting than an apple core hidden for several weeks behind the sofa in the playroom.
2. Ask the girls to sit down at the table or at the counter when they are eating a snack. Ask them to use a napkin.
3. No food or drink by the computer in the kitchen, for anyone.
4. If the girls ask you for a snack and then they eat only half of it, wrap up the other half and save it for another time.
5. If the girls want a snack to take in the car, good items include string cheese, apples, or small bags of crunchy snacks. Make sure that the girls gather up their food trash from the car and throw it away when they come back in the house.
6. To make lunch preparation a little bit easier, sometimes I separate a box or bag of snack food into many, individual-serving sized small plastic bags, and then put all the individual size portions in the blue plastic basket in the lunch cabinet.
7. We usually eat dinner at six o’clock, but we’re flexible and sometimes eat as early as 5:15 if we have the evening activities to attend.
8. The girls need to be reminded to wash their hands before dinner.
9. The girls need to sit at the dinner table until they are officially excused from the table.
10. Girl2 often needs to get up in the middle of dinner to go to bathroom, please remind her wash or hams when she comes back.
11. Whenever you put leftover food in the refrigerator make sure that it is wrapped in an airtight package or container. Use see-through plastic wrap, containers, or plastic bags. That way we know what’s actually hiding inside the package.
12. If you bring home special food for yourself and you don’t want other people to eat it, put a little note on it that says “yourname". If you see something chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer, or if you see something with Host Dad’s or Host Mom’s name on it, don’t eat it.
1. The white china dishes cannot go in the microwave or the oven. The red china dishes can go in the microwave, but cannot go in the oven.
2. When you use the microwave, use either the kids’ soft plastic plates, the paper plates (in the cabinet above the knives) or the gladware storage containers.
3. The knives with black wooden handles are washed by hand, and left to dry by the drying rack. They do not go in the dishwasher. Knives with black plastic handles can go in the dishwasher, with a sharp point down.
4. Only Host Mom uses the two knives with the black wooden handles that have red dots of paint on the ends. These are her special, extra sharp knives.
5. Remember to wash the outside as well as the inside of pots and pans that you use. Occasionally, consider using the "Bon Ami" cleanser to clean gook off the outside of these pans.
6. With the nonstick frying pans, use only plastic utensils. The metal spoons, spatulas, and so forth scratch the nonstick coating.
7. When you are cooking on the stove, turn on the fan to help reduce cooking odors.
8. Before new, wet dishes in the dish drainer, empty it. That way, the dry dishes don’t get wet again. Remember to empty the dish drainer as well as the dishwasher.
9. Please be mindful of resources, and avoid wasting water and electricity by leaving the water running when you are not actively using it, or by leaving the door of the refrigerator open while you walk around the kitchen.
10. There are five or six "treasures" in the house that only Host Mom MOM and Host Dad are allowed to use. Remind me and I’ll show you what these are — most of them are breakable items.
11. Perform "the sweep" each time just before you go off duty. "The sweep" is a walk through the girls areas to put away or pick up whatever has been left behind.
Places in the House That the Au Pair Is in Charge of Keeping Organized
o The girls bedroom, including closet, drawers, nightstands, and bookcase
o The playroom & arts room
o The kitchen window seat, the bookcases under the window seat, and the girls work table
o The breakfast and lunch cabinet (to the right of the stove)
o Shoe mats at the front door
o Bicycle area and toy shelves in garage
o The girls’ bathroom
o The corner closet by the piano
o The backseat of the station wagons
o The toy area on the back patio
For all of these areas, the au pair is in charge of keeping them organized, and encouraging the girls to keep them tidy. For example, the au pair should remind the girls to clean their things out of the backseat of the car. The au pair should tell the girls how to hang their coats and backpacks in the closet, but she should occasionally organize things to keep the space tidy.
Perform "the sweep" each time just before you go off duty. "The sweep" is a walk through the girls areas to put away or pick up whatever has been left behind.
The Playroom and the Art Room
- In the playroom and the art room in general, the goal is to keep these rooms neat enough that the girls always know where things should be put away. It’s the au pair’s job to keep the general framework of organization up-to-date. For example, it’s up to the au pair to make sure that there is a container for every kind of toy, and that there is a place for every toy container.
- The girls should play with one toy or kind of toy at a time. If they have been playing with dolls and then they want to play with sculpting clay, they need to put the dolls away. Remind them that this is the "Montessori Way", where we put away toys when were finished with them so that we have fresh room to play with the new toys.
- On Monday or Tuesday evenings, the girls are responsible for cleaning up the playroom and the art room entirely. This means especially to pick things up off the playroom and art room floor. This way, the two rooms are tidy enough that the cleaning team can vacuum and dust in there on Wednesday morning.
- The girls should also tidy the playroom and the art room on Friday afternoons — especially after any play date. That way the playroom is reasonably tidy for the weekend.
- In towards the end of each play date, about 10 minutes before the friends are supposed to leave, ask the girls and their friends to begin to clean up the playroom. The goal here is to make sure that all of the children participate in tidying the room up. It doesn’t need to get perfect, but everyone needs to pitch in and do their share.
- When the children are tidying up on a daily basis, they can use the"miscellaneous box" located at the foot of the stairs. We use the miscellaneous box as a temporary way station for small items and things we don’t know where they belong. When we find toys and other items upstairs, and don’t want to put them away ourselves, we put them in the miscellaneous box, to be put away by the girls once a week. The girls are responsible for emptying the miscellaneous box and putting everything away in its home each Friday or Saturday before movie night. The miscellaneous box makes it more convenient for grownups because it gives grownups a place to put all the little pieces and toys that get left about during the week. And, then the girls are ultimately responsible for putting it all away themselves.
- In the closets and on the shelves, the same kind of toys go together in the same bin or container. For example, the Little House dolls go in their bin, the American girls stuff in their own bins, the dinosaurs in their bin, the puzzles and games on a shelf, and so on.
- The drawers of the art room are labeled so that you know where the children should put things. Inside the drawers doesn’t need to be particularly neat, what is more important is that all the same kinds of things get into the right place.
- Be especially careful with poster paint. Girls should where art smocks as when they use poster paint, and only an adult should pour the paint from the big containers into the small containers. Paint brushes should be washed the same day they are use and left to dry standing up in a cup by the utility sink. The girls should use a splat mat underneath their painting easel.
- If you find that you need new baskets or additional baskets for organizing the toys, let Host Mom know.
- Consider coming up with a "playroom cleanup song". Sometimes it helps to put on a CD and playing music while cleaning up.
Principles of Play Dates
We enjoy arranging play dates for the girls with their friends. Usually we alternate with each friend, where once we play at their house and then the next time they play at our house.
- The au pair is in charge of arranging play dates with friends’ parents, caregivers, or au pairs. If you arrange a play date with another friend, write the play date and the friend on the family calendar in the kitchen.
- When you are calling to arrange a play date, be clear about: the time of the play date, what time, what location, and by whom the visiting child will be picked up, and where the play date will be held. Also, confirm the end time of the play date, and who will pick up the visitor. Always leave the home phone number when you leave a message so that the other adult can confirm the play date.
- Don’t leave our children with another adult during a play date unless it is explicitly OK with that other adult. For example, don’t assume that you can drop the children at a play date and go off and do other errands. Plan to stay at the play date and participate in watching the kids unless you make other arrangements in advance with the other adult. This is also true when children come here for play dates. Some of Girl1’s friends can come without an adult, and so can some of Girl2’s, but occasionally with some children it’s important to have their personal adult stay for the play date.
- I try to remember to tell children, when they come for play date, that you — the au pair — is in charge and that you are to be obeyed and respected. If you find that a certain child is not respecting you or not listening to you, I can talk to that child’s parent, and we can also just stop inviting the child over.
- On play dates, all toys are to be shared. If one of the girls does not want to share a toy (which sometimes happens and is okay), she must put that toy away and not play with it while her friends are here.
- Girl1 and Girl2 must be kind to their plate dates; all of the children must agree on what they’re going to play. If necessary, help the girls negotiate their plans together.
- When we are planning ahead for play date, keep in mind some activities that we can recommend for the girls. Although they’re very good about coming up with their own play ideas, every now and then they need some suggestions.
- Usually, we have play dates on Friday, and occasionally on Monday. We less often have a play date on the same day that the girls have an afterschool activity, because they rarely have enough time to practice their music, complete their homework, and have a play date.
- When children are at play dates at our house they must follow our rules. When our children are play dates at other people’s houses, they follow their rules (or our rules if our rules are safer). If Girl1 & Girl2 go to a friend’s house for a play date they can eat whatever that friend eats for a snack, except they’re not allowed to have cola or soda. Here, at our house, the children eat what Girl2 and Girl1 normally eat.
- At the start of a play date, it’s often fun to have a snack together.
- Stay obviously available and present when you’re in the playroom with the girls and especially during their play dates. Use this time to fold laundry, sort toys, or other activities. If you go upstairs to cook, keep the door open, and check on them often. You’d be surprised how quickly they can get into trouble or an argument with each other. Do not chat on the phone, use the computer, or hang out in another room when you’re on duty.
- The girls are not permitted to play in the au pair’s bedroom.
Video and Television Watching
In general, we discourage the girls from watching television and from watching videos. Videos are a privilege that the girls can earn.
- The girls make each play on the computer for 15 minutes per day. An additional 10 minutes of computer play time can be earned through really good behavior. We do not play on the computer when we have friends over, because you should be playing with the friends themselves.
- Videos should be a rare privilege and used as a nonfood treat in explicit response to terrific behavior
- The girls may watch up to two videos per week. The video segments (total watching time) should be no longer than 30 minutes. 15 minutes is better (excluding movie night). It is extremely rare during the school week for the girls to watch any video
- No videos are allowed when friends are over (the girls are supposed to be playing with their friends) or when the weather is nice (then they should be outdoors).
- The yoga video, the "how it works" videos, and nonfiction educational videos are preferred over cartoons. Of course, the girls’ favorite is Scooby Do, which I don’t particularly like. The girls may not rent or borrow Sponge Bob, Power Rangers, Bratz, and other cartoons.
- All video and television watching occurs in the playroom. There is to be no television on the third-floor, unless it is an evening pajama party that the girls have arranged with their au pair.
- When the girls are watching television, stay nearby. You might be doing laundry, organizing the closet, or some other maintenance chore in the playroom and laundry room. Or, consider just sitting next to the girls as they watch. If you step away, do so briefly and stay within earshot.
- Please not use their television time for personal phone calls. It’s important to be near the girls so that you can talk with them about the television show or video, especially if they get scared or there are commercials on.
Other Random Thoughts
- You are in charge of keeping track of when library books are due, and getting the girls to the library to return them. The girls are in change of finding their books—we like to keep library books in bedroom, in the canvas “library” bag. Put the charge slip (that lists books checked out and when they are due) on the bulletin board.
- You are in charge of making sure that CDs get put back into their appropriate cases and that DVDs and videos are rewound and put away. The girls are not able to do this themselves, and that CDs and DVDs need to be taking care of so they don’t get ruined.