Scheduling your kid(s) week: Can the AP be in charge?

by cv harquail on August 25, 2009

heritage tiny twin corgies.jpg

I have a question for those seasoned HP’s… School has started for us. I was really prepared with the summer calendar so that the kids (very different ages and needs) were stimulated and the AP wasn’t overwhelmed. But now, one child is in school and the other child is bored. The younger one goes to a pre school a couple mornings a week and still naps in the afternoon; I’m not sure how best to fill the other 3 mornings of the week. I don’t approve of AP taking my kids on errands, to fast food, to the gym daycare, etc. I have had AP’s who will fill the time with “playdates” every day which I think was just the AP’s way to kill time. I want a weekly calendar (library, park, project, etc.) because I don’t want her filling the time inappropriately. Is it “unfair” to make the AP responsible for planning this calendar time for the child? She has a lot of down time (nap) and I don’t.

TX Mom

From A:

TX Mom, I don’t think it’s unfair to make your AP responsible for planning but in my limited experience (we’ve had 1 AP), if you want something done your way it’s best to explicitly tell the AP. Plus, you probably know better where to look for information on storytimes, etc., in your area.

From Busy Mom:

TX Mom, Based on my experience with 1 au pair and a bunch of nannies, you will need to provide guidance and a push. Perhaps give her a list of all acceptable activities – sign up for a library story time, give her the link for the bookstore storytimes, provide a list of parks and other activities. art project, hike, picnic, etc. Stock a craft box. I personally allowed my nannies to take the kids along on my errands, but not on theirs. The grocery store is a wonderful learning & conversational experience for a kid. The entire staff knew my youngest daughter by name :-)

You could provide a paper form and ask her to fill in the blank mornings with activities from your approved list.

From you?? (share below…..)

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{ 20 comments }

PA au pair mom August 25, 2009 at 9:34 pm

If I left planning up to my AP, the boys would sleep until 10, then play video games and watch tv all day. oh wait…they do that anyway, despite my very detailed schedule and my instructions that they are to limit tv/game time to a specified amount per day.

I agree you have to be very specific about what types of activities are acceptable, how long each activity should be, where different activities may be offered, etc.

Hula Gal August 25, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I think the planning of activities is best left to the host parents until the au pair has been with the family for a few months and maybe has a better idea of what to do with the kids. How can you expect an au pair who has limited childcare experience and does not know your community to come up with ways to occupy the children’s time other than the obvious painting, crafts, etc? I researched all of the age appropriate activities in my community and asked my stay-at-home mom friends for ideas on what they do with their young children during the day and put it all on a google calendar and printed off info about each activity as backup material to the calendar. It goes into the binder that has the daily child care log that she fills out so I know what the baby ate and how long her naps were and if anything interesting happened that day.

MalvernMom August 25, 2009 at 10:30 pm

I think it is a great idea for her to do the schedule. She then feels you have trust in her and she and the younger one can plan things together during her “on duty” time. I would probably do the first schedule or two just to give her guidance and an example, but after that I would just look at it and review. My guys enjoy their time choosing activities with the aupair, it is special to them and she enjoys doing it.

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Darthastewart August 25, 2009 at 11:30 pm

I work with the au-pair on it. I schedule some stuff- like gymnastics, and I give her times when story time is, and make resources available.

As far as the watching TV all day goes.. I show up in the middle of the day at random times just to check. IMO, if an au-pair is parking the kids in front of the TV all the time, they’re gone.

Natt August 26, 2009 at 4:49 am

I think finding an aupair with a brain helps! Someone with common sense can go a long way in my books :) Our current (third) aupair has done an apprenticeship in her home country in a kindergarten, so she has loads of ideas – I trust her to schedule activities for both my girls. My youngest daughter (16 months) did her very first painting today!! Our first aupair had no childcare experience whatsoever, but she had a brain and common sense, so she did wonderful things with the girls – things like completing activity & learning books were always a hit!
The second aupair was just useless overall, so the eldest got very familiar with the Days of Our Lives characters!! NOT acceptable!
I have a well stocked activity box, and I regularly give the aupair money to buy supplies to make/create things she would like to do with the girls.
My advice would be to talk to your current aupair! Ask her what she would like to do with the children, and use this time to tell her what’s available in your area activity wise. I don’t think every second of the day should be structured, but I do love reading the journal at the end of the day which is an outline of what was done when I wasn’t home :)

Rayann August 26, 2009 at 9:23 am

I think you have to be careful about being too scheduled for the sake of your child and the AP. I have a preschooler, and I know some mornings he may not *want* to go to the park, or the weather may not cooperate, so there needs to be some flexibility. How about creating a list of activities (i.e., the park, library, children’s museum, art museum, zoo, craft activity) and suggest that your AP and your preschooler together pick one (or two) of those activities every day – then have her mark on a sheet of some sort which activity they did.

I think you can make this more of a fun thing rather than having it come across as you trying to schedule her every move. Stress to her the importance of the preschool years in trying new activities, learning through activities and having a variety of activities to try.

ana P August 26, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I dont think it’s unfair. But if you want your au pair to do activities with your children, activies that YOU want them to do you need to give your au pair the schedule of what you want.

The hardest thing the hp sometimes do not consider, and I am saying this based on au pir’s experience is that most of times is very difficult to make children do what you want them to do. Sometimes the au pair try hard to make them stay in the library, go to the museums, play outside and children simply dont want to. I am not saying this is your situation. But it happens. My advice, as an former au pair, is : give her the schedule of activities you want your kids to be doing. if she is a good au apir she will follow it or at least try.

NewAPMom August 26, 2009 at 5:12 pm

As with a lot of things, the answer to this really depends on your au pair. I asked this question in the Calendar Advice post and Franzi gave a very helpful response. You should go check it out but the gist of it is that you should start with detailed schedules, and then depending on your au pair, she may take over, or she may not.

With my current au pair, I gave her a very detailed schedule when she first started, and then after a time tried the approach of suggesting a list of activities, signing her up for some fixed time things, and giving her resources to find more, like activity books and library schedules. The “lead a horse to water” approach, if you will. I tried every variation of this and for months, she and the kids didn’t do much beyond the fixed-time activities I had signed them up for. I finally started sitting down every Sunday alone and making out a calendar for the week, writing down a few activities that I want her to do with the kids every day, and a few kid-related chores that I want her to do while they’re napping, and for the most part it all gets done. A couple of months into this she’s at the point where sometimes she’ll decide that it’s too hot for the park and put them in the pool, or some other variation, which is great. I think if I had another 6 months or so with her she might eventually get it. However it’s been a long learning curve. Perhaps if I had stuck with the detailed calendar for longer after she first got her, she would have caught on sooner?

CoCa August 26, 2009 at 6:34 pm

I think ana P makes a good point here. I guess a question to ask oneself is whether the kids get a say in the matter or not. I can imagine that if the kids are likely to say “no thanks, I’d like to skip the museum and play my Nintendo instead”, it would be helpful for the au pair to be able to point to a schedule and say “Mom and Dad would like us to go to the museum today”.

Jillian August 26, 2009 at 6:51 pm

I think that asking your AP to do things like going to the library etc. is totally fair. But I don’t think she should have to have a different activity planned for every single day is the best idea. I do think play dates are a great way to socialize, get the kids out of the house, and have fun. I would say, things you’d like the AP to do with your little one at least in the beginning and then let the two of them decide what they like doing and let the reins go a little.

Calif Mom August 26, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Exactly. I expected pool time every day this week, the last week of freedom before the hammer comes down. Instead, eldest was still in her jammies when I came home (!) — BUT — they also had made cool clay projects that must have taken a long time to do, and she had done almost 90 minutes of an online class she’s taking, without my calling home to nag. So jammies in the last days before the hammer comes down feels okay… skipping the pool is fine if you just want to do clay and play silly games with your sister, as long as the “must-do” checklist gets finished before we walk in the door after work. Happy AP = Happy Kids = Happy Mom = Happy Dad. Too bad I can’t draw a circle of arrows here, but you see what I mean. This AP loves art projects, does drawings right with the kids. Previous one loved library, and read story after story. Both are okay.

Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 10:08 pm

I can’t believe that your aupair is allowed to take an online
class for credit. My agency does not allow that.

Alma@takebackthekitchen August 27, 2009 at 7:25 am

This list was soooooo helpful to me when I got my au pair. I always knew CV’s system with au Pairs duties was destined for greatness :-)

TX Mom August 27, 2009 at 10:04 am

Thanks for all the perspectives and ideas. Given the personality of our AP and our kids, I’m going to write down the “scheduled” things (like school, chores, etc.) Then for the “open times” put a list of acceptable options so they can choose like an ala cart menu. I also plan to talk with our AP each week about special events and things she wants to coordinate (like a project.) Big field trips won’t be an ala cart choice. We like the kids to be working towards a goal – ex: they go to the zoo, some events or museums when they fill up the potty sticker chart or get smiley faces every day for a month at school.

Calif Mom August 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

re: online classes. Sorry I was unclear; it was my KID who did her online math class without me having to nag. (I don’t nag my AP about her studies!)

But there is a new, online course that APIA developed and state dept. has approved for APs. It’s through UCLA Extension. APIA has a blurb for it on their website, or you could call them. It’s 500 bucks.

PA au pair mom August 27, 2009 at 11:57 am

I know our agency won’t allow online course. That’s what our AP wanted to do but they told her it “wouldn’t count”.

She ended up doing the “weekend university” offered through our agency.

West Coast Mom August 27, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Our new AP is signed up for the UCLA Extension program. It’s only for Au pair In America APs. Clearly designed to meet the program requirements … exactly 6 units, exactly $500. Our LCC was a bit concerned generally about the new class, because one good thing about the education requirement is it gets the APout of the house, meeting new friends. But after meeting our AP, who is outgoing and already made several friends in the cluster, she decided it was ok.

It’s a good program for parents with busy schedules, and it has a cool “volunteer” componenet, where AP works for a few hours in the community, e.g., as a soccer coach, at the local elementary school, etc. The subject matter of the course is basically, American Life.

Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 10:42 am

I really like the idea of volunteering. My nieces and nephews have done wonderful things in terms of their community service component with their high schools. Some internships expose students to the type of intellectual experience they will never be able to easily find in real life. The aupairs might very well meet young Americans as a result of this type of activity. In many of these classes , they only meet other aupairs. Nice, but meeting Americans their own age really adds to the experience.

aussiegirlaupair April 3, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I am 3 months away from starting my third Aupair placement, I am 25 ,qualified child carer, with over 7 years experience including the 2 previous aupair years. I am already researching the area for what I can do with the children, that either is free or costs very little. I am finding out about playgrounds in walking distance, where the library is if they offer storytimes? and recording it all in a note book. Is this something you would welcome or would you prefer to sechdule these your selves?

Taking a computer lunch April 3, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Our first AP lived with us for 3 1/2 years (we tried to sponsor her as an employer, but she was done with us before her name rose to the top of the list). I asked her if she wanted me to schedule my son for some inexpensive arts & crafts and toddler sports classes a couple of times a week while my daughter was in school. She was downright enthusiastic about it. In addition, he often had playdates with other children near his age who were cared by her AP friends. In fact, 3/4 of the kids who came to his 3rd birthday party were those children. When she left, we lost touch with the kids because we didn’t have a strong relationship with their parents. My son went to regular story times that our AP found. (He also did a lot of shopping, but to be quite honest, it didn’t really bother me. It was clear that our AP spoke to him all the time – he was — and remains — quite verbal.)

I think that this is something you and the AP should do together, rather than leaving it up to her. And if you can coordinate with another HF with children of a similar age, who have an AP whose company she enjoys, so much the better.

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