Fun Au Pair Activities for Monthly Cluster Meetings– ideas?

by cv harquail on March 8, 2015

Dear AuPairMom and Readers–  


I enjoy reading the blog and learning from all your advice.  I wonder if we could crowd-source some ideas?  

Our Au Pair Community Counselor is a lovely person, but sometimes she seems a little out of touch with what Au Pairs might think is fun or useful.

Our Counselor plans the same boring monthly Au Pair meetings year after year. (We’ve had 4 au pairs, and they have all attended the same monthly meetings on Driving Safety, gone to the movies together, etc.)

  For example, I can’t figure out why our Au Pair Coordinator didn’t plan a shopping trip to one of the big malls around Christmas time, and why she’s never planned a group trip to the beach (only one hour away).

Beyond the ‘classics’ of safety meetings,

what are some fun things that Community Counselors have done that have really engaged their cluster of Au Pairs?  




Image: Teens shopping, by Kevin D.



TexasHM March 8, 2015 at 12:59 pm

This is something that I have found varies A LOT by agency and LC. Our LCs have complained to me that they have wanted to do sporting events, small trips, etc but the APs strongly push back and often refuse to spend any money and the LCs usually don’t get any (or much) budget for cluster meetings.

Now, with that having been said they can still get creative. For example we hosted a Dec cluster mtg when we were with APIA and I provided cookie mix and the LC brought icing and candy to decorate and the girls talked about Christmas in their countries and had a blast getting messy and creative. We have a pool so we have also hosted pool party cluster meetings which I realize is not super creative but we taught them water volleyball and had a craziest dive competition and lots of laughs.

Texas is famous for its spring wildflowers and the trails that makeup most of the calendar photos is an hour from here so if I was an LC that would definitely be my March meeting. There’s also free events surrounding holidays and our city does several festivals (Oktoberfest, Holiday bash, 4th blast, etc) that are free and our APs have loved and one that I have never seen an LC do but I think should be mandatory is the state fair! There are nights where you can bring canned goods and get in for $3-4 each and there’s tons of exhibits, free entertainment and crazy food (for purchase).

Because APs come here for the “American” experience I think tying to “American” holidays helps the host families too in case they don’t celebrate that particular holiday or don’t plan to attend those events, they won’t feel like their AP is missing out. :). Plus then look for things that your state/city is famous for and make a meeting out of that (Texas bbq – go to a pit restaurant nearby, go see the cattle drive in the Fort Worth stockyards any weekend or get cheap rodeo tickets, etc), just my two cents!

WarmStateMomma March 9, 2015 at 7:14 am

Don’t underestimate the pool party! Our LCC hosted one for all the APC clusters in the city last summer and our AP loved it! She had never been to a pool party or even a private pool in someone’s back yard. She still talks about how much fun it was.

WarmStateMomma March 8, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Ideas our LCCs have done recently:
play date/candy exchange for APs/HKs,
photo shoot for APs,
line dancing lessons,
homemade pizza party,
trying a chocolate shop in an interesting shopping district,
a pool party and bowling.
The photo shoot was apparently a big hit the prior year and requested by extension APs.

SKNY March 8, 2015 at 1:24 pm

My experience is that anything that costs more than 10 dollars will get Au pairs complaining. Still, some small league sports (hockey, baseball) might be possible at low cost…

GerAP March 8, 2015 at 1:59 pm

I had a great area director when I was an au pair (3 years total). She was not only a great mediator, but also organized fun au pair meetings. She used to be an au pair herself (maybe that helped by choosing good meetings) and is always open to new ideas and suggestions from her au pair group. I’ll just list some things we did:
– speedboat tour
– trip to the beach (including a short helicopter ride)
– attending festivals in the area
– 5k races
– Christmas party
– pumpkin patch
– carving pumpkins
– over night camping trip
– underground tour
– Samba dance class
– basketball and baseball games
– au pair-hostfamily-picnic
– hikes
– scavenger hunt (to get to know the city)
– ice-skating

She pretty much always had a great turn-out at the meetings. Since those meetings were usually pretty active with little time to talk, she also offered a “coffee night” once a month. There, we would just meet at a cafe and talk.

Multitasking Host Mom March 8, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Not to be Debbie Downer but I do see why some LCCs fall into a rut with the same meetings year after year. They have new APs every year so they don’t know that it is the same things year after year. The LCCs don’t get much money for these events and the APs don’t want to spend their own money on something they are being “forced” to do.

As the OP suggested…going to the beach is a great idea but there are a lot of ligistics involved. How would they get there? Public transportation might not be an option, and the LCC would have to find enough host parents to let their cars be driven an hour away filled with APs. And who would pay for gas and parking? Plus the APs would probably have to pay for lunch. And what if that AP doesn’t actually like sitting on a beach for hours on end or gets a bad sunburn and starts to complain for most of the trip. And the LCC has now spent a whole day doing something that turns out to be a flop. I can see why the LCC just throw up their hands and plan yet another meeting at Starbucks.

Now if the LCCs were given a budget that could cover some costs, we would be getting somewhere…..

Ok. Now that I have showed one side of the coin, I will actually answer the OPs question. Because, yes, there are free/low cost events that the APs might enjoy and would be easy for the LCC to implement. We have worked with several LCCs since we have switched agencies and also we had one year where three came and went… so these are events that I saw the LCCs plan that I thought were interesting.

Walking tour of the nearby big city that the LCC put together on her own.
Attending a play at a local college (still a good performance, but since it was student actors it was a low ticket price)
Ice skating
Pool party hosted by a host family at their house
Pumpkin carving at Halloween (APs brought own pumpkin)
Event at LCCs house where each AP brought a dish that is served in their country
Going to the zoo on a free admission day
Shopping at the large farmer’s market (way more to buy than just veggies)
Laser tag

Taking a Computer Lunch March 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm

I have a fantastic and well-organized LCC.She books at least one free meeting (usually at Starbucks) and one fee-based meeting every month. APs in our cluster go snow-tubing/skiing (depending on their insurance), go semi-pro/college sports events, make sandwiches for the homeless, tour famous museums, go to water parks, have ice cream sundaes with their HK, ride go-Karts, play mini-golf, attend a formal Ball, and participate in multi-cluster-wide events. Because most of the APs in my cluster arrive during July and August, she always hosts an anti-homesickness event to encourage new arrivals to bond. Over the years my APs have made many friends outside the cluster — and indeed outside my agency — and many have attended her meetings.

My LCC manages to get a subvention from her agency to subsidize the cost of meetings. She manages, when things go awry (like a snowstorm canceling a snow tubing event), to arrange for the business to recognize the passes for which APs have paid so they do get to have the experience). She works very hard for the APs in her cluster to have special experiences reflective of the city in which I live, but also in other nearby cities.

She works very hard, and I feel very fortunate to have her as my LCC.

gianna March 8, 2015 at 9:22 pm

As long as the LCC meets with the aupairs every month, I don’t judge her harshly in terms of the meeting content. In my experience, aupairs resist spending money and host families as a group have numerous restrictions about the availability of the aupair. In our cluster, the LCC plans fun, low budget meetings like the ones suggested above and often aupairs don’t show up, arrive late, leave early, or won’t participate in activities for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the familes are uncooperative and sometimes the aupair is uncooperative. I had one aupair who refused to go on a $ 7,00 hayride because she ” had already done that in Germany “:Our LCC offers an ” interesting ” meeting and then has a Starbuck’s meeting for the no shows or those with schedule conflicts. I would not exspect her to spend whole days going to sports events, shopping malls at Christmas , or the beach ( even though these are fantastic ideas ! ).

ProPair March 9, 2015 at 4:27 am

In Holland there were no LCCs, but our Dutch teacher (at an all-AP language course) had the awesome idea to organise a cultural potluck with us. Everyone was responsible for bringing a dish from their home country. It was a lot of fun; we got to try some new food and bond at the same time. I doubt anyone had to spend more than 5 Euros on ingredients. No one came empty handed, either. A potluck dinner could also be added to the end of any “boring” event, like driving safety, to give the APs something to look forward to afterwards.

Food is a guaranteed hit.

Seattle Mom March 9, 2015 at 11:49 am

Many of our LCCs would have “drop-in” hours at a local Starbucks as an alternative to the usual cluster meeting if the meeting that month was expensive or hard to get to. One of my LCCs did it every month so that if an AP had to miss the meeting she could still get credit for the month.

The bigger agencies have multiple clusters in this area so they do some agency-wide events once or twice a year.. a scavenger hunt, a boat cruise party with dancing. We just switched agencies and our new LCC did a pottery painting meeting, where the APs pick which item they want to paint (and pay for it), and I think the prices start pretty low. Bowling and ice skating are common. One year the cluster did gift wrap at a store to raise money for charity. One year one of the APs was a dance teacher so she led a dance class for the cluster. That was really popular. There have been many pot lucks.

NoVA Twin Mom March 9, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Our LCC manages to get a yoga class together once a year, which is always a hit. I don’t know if she pays someone or if she has a friend that teaches yoga and will help her out. She also has a police officer come in and do a self-defense class.

She has a “Birthday Party” meeting in summer – all au pairs are declared to have birthdays that are celebrated that day – each au pair brings a $5 gift and there’s an exchange, cake, singing, etc. This past year they went canoeing (families with older kids were also invited to participate) about three hours away. Our au pair is allowed to use our car for this sort of thing (in fact, I believe that it’s required for a host family to get their au pair to cluster meetings, whether it be by providing a car and gas or driving them?) so had a few other au pairs in the car with her.

The “runaway hit” cluster meeting seems to be the tour of the US Capitol that she organizes once a year (and maybe other LCCs do the same day?) Tickets are free, but there are a *few* hoops to jump through to get them. Basically you need to request them in advance for a group though you can just stand in line for individual tickets. It’s one of those things that everyone means to do at some point but it just never seems to happen. So everyone wants to go with the group – and many of our au pairs have told us that on their TV news the Capitol building is the backdrop reporters use in Washington DC, not the White House. So the more “iconic” building is actually the Capitol – and they all want to see the inside!

So a suggestion would be to find the “something” that everyone means to do but it never happens, and go ahead and make it happen. It’s challenging the first time but as each year repeats it would get easier and easier.

Mimi March 9, 2015 at 1:53 pm

We have a very engaged LCC who plans great meetings and regular outings. Some of the past activities they’ve done:
-scavenger hunts
-farmer’s market trip
-ice skating
-sleigh rides
-pumpkin carving/haunted hayrides
-ropes course
-pottery painting
-paint nite
-potluck Thanksgiving
-square dancing/line dancing
-hip hop dance class
-NYC trip
-shopping mall exploration
-color run
-sporting event

Some of the events were pricey, but she always lets the HPs know about upcoming events and some of us will split the costs of these events. Some are family events and some involve other local clusters. She’s phenomenal at negotiating discounts, groupon deals, etc.

German Au-Pair March 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm

horseback riding! Even the APs who have no experience loved it.
I reccomed opening a FB group and having polls with different ideas. That way the group can decide.
We also went to a pottery place and even though I hate arts, we had so much fun AND potential gifts. Win-win.

Summer B. March 12, 2015 at 11:13 pm

I think a good rule of thumb is don’t go too big or don’t go too small. If the activity takes up an entire Saturday and is far away from Au Pairs or they have to travel to get to the activity they might not get the downtime they want not on their day off. But if the counselor plans a trip to starbucks every time it can also be monotonous and they might miss out on some great cultural exchange. Depending on how many Au Pairs drive in the cluster Counselors should be sensitive to the Host Parents who might need to get them to and from activities- so it doesn’t take their whole day…

Finally, letting the Au Pairs come up with some of the ideas of what they want to do is always a good practice.

WarmStateMomma April 1, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Our new LCC has a visit to a fire station planned. I don’t know if this is a host family day event or just a cluster meeting, but it’s free, won’t consume the whole day, and the APs should be able to take some fun photos.

A Step Above Academy November 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Good point that i saw that i kinda agree with is this I think tying to American holidays helps the host families too in case they don’t celebrate that particular holiday or don’t plan to attend those event. Have wondered if this is true or not. thoughts?

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