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"Ask the Nanny Expert" Week 1

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Question: Current going rates for various types of nannies. For example, a 20-hr / week with 2 kids and cooking responsibilities nanny, a 50-hr/week with 1 kid plus driving and laundry responsibilities, etc. kind of like a case study of a specific situation and associated rate ranges. I know there was a survey done a while ago but this would be more of a deep dive into a few specific setups.


Edited to add that I’d be interested in total compensation package - incl salary, benefits, pto, sick days, car, gas allowance, food, phone


Dear PAMP Member,


Thank you for your question on current nanny rates and compensation packages. As a starting point in our conversation I will mention that, while there are several organizations that conduct salary surveys (with the best, in my opinion, being through the International Nanny Association), I have found that national surveys miss the mark when it comes to our local market. We have some of the highest housing costs in the country and this fact, along with other local economic factors, has a significant bearing on compensation ranges of nannies.


Before discussing rates, it is important to understand why they might vary based on the source of information. At Stanford Park Nannies, we provide the guidance and expertise to ensure that our clients abide by all payroll and tax laws. That being said, we are currently seeing a compensation range of $25 to $30 per hour gross for most of our placements. (It is important to note that California requires nannies to be paid hourly instead of on a salary). This might be higher than figures that you have heard through non-agency sources because of the gross-to-net conversion in addition to the high standards we have set for our vetted nannies.


Other legal factors to consider in addition to payroll taxes are overtime, sick pay, and mileage reimbursement. By law, overtime must be paid for any hours worked over 9 hours in a day or over 40 hours in a week at the rate of 1.5x the base pay. Also required is to provide no less than 3 sick days per year. Mileage reimbursement is set by the IRS and is 54.5 cents/mile for 2018.


When deciding upon the rate you will offer, it is important to look at several factors, including: family budget, experience level you require, number of children, job duties, and the current market. In addition to meeting all employment laws, it is beneficial to ask yourself how attractive your job and compensation package are. For example, while the law requires three sick days, if you are in a position to offer additional time it might attract more applicants. Health care reimbursement is a highly attractive benefit. By law you can offer up to $412 per month. Benefits are an area where you can also get creative. We once had a client who owned an ice cream shop, and they included free access to their ice cream as a benefit! I don’t know about you, but that is definitely attractive to me!


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From the PAMP Vault: All About Separation Anxiety

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Friday, January 12, 2018

It’s a common scene at any daycare, playground or birthday party: a crying child clinging to a parent who is desperately trying to convince the child to let go and join the fun. Almost all children have some aspect of separation anxiety during the first six years of life. Separation anxiety should not be feared or even wished away, as it is an obvious and identifiable sign of your child’s love and trust in you.

It is the grand indicator that your child believes you represent the ultimate in safety and security, above anyone else in this world.

What causes Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a perfectly normal and important developmental adaptation of a child’s emotional and mental growth. It does not have a particular “cause.” Nothing you have done has “made” your child develop separation anxiety.

Even though separation anxiety has not been caused by any particular action or event, there are caregiver actions that can either heighten or reduce a child’s anxiety. There are many things that can help build a child’s trust and confidence in his relationship with you so that he can transfer these feelings to other trusted adults who will help him feel safe away from his home base.

How common is it?
It makes perfect sense that children experience separation anxiety when pulled apart from their main caregiver. Nearly all children experience some aspect of separation anxiety. For some children the stage begins earlier, even at a few months of age. For some, the effects begin later, and some children have anxiety that lasts for longer spells than others. Some children have very visible, obvious indicators of their feelings, but there are also children who have less apparent reactions. There is no exact pattern or set of symptoms, but almost all children have it to some degree.

Does my child have separation anxiety?Separation anxiety has many different symptoms, but it is often easy for parents to spot in their own child. It helps if you know exactly what to look for. The following are behaviors are most typically used to define normal separation anxiety:

  • Clinginess
  • Crying when a parent is out of sight
  • Strong preference for only one parent over all other human beings
  • Fear of strangers, or of family and friends who are not frequently seen
  • Resistance to separation at bedtime or naptime
  • Waking at night crying for a parent
  • Regression to an earlier stage of development, such as thumbsucking or babytalk
  • Anxiety that is easily eliminated upon a parent’s appearance

How you can help your baby with separation anxiety

  • Give your baby lessons in object permanence. As your baby learns that things continue to exist even when she can’t see them, she’ll feel better about letting you out of her sight. Games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek will help her understand this phenomenon.
  • Practice with quick, safe separations. Throughout the day, create situations of brief separation. When you go into another room, whistle, sing, or talk to your baby so he knows you’re still there, even though he can’t see you.
  • Don’t sneak away when you have to leave her. It may seem easier than dealing with a tearful goodbye, but it will just cause her constant worry that you’re going to disappear without warning at any given moment. The result? Even more clinginess, and diminished trust in your relationship.
  • Tell your baby what to expect. If you are going to the store and leaving him at home with Grandma, explain where you are going and tell him when you’ll be back. Eventually, he’ll come to understand your explanations.
  • Don’t rush the parting, but don’t prolong it, either. Give your baby ample time to process your leave-taking, but don’t drag it out and make it more painful for both of you.
  • Invite distractions. If you’re leaving your baby with a caregiver or relative, encourage that person to get your baby involved with playtime as you leave. Say a quick good-bye and let your baby be distracted by an interesting activity.
  • Allow your baby the separation that she initiates. If she crawls off to another room, don’t rush after her. Listen and peek, of course, to make sure that she’s safe, but let her know it’s fine for her to go off exploring on her own.

This too shall pass
Separation anxiety doesn’t have a specific beginning nor does it have an exact end. It shows itself in peaks and valleys – good days and bad, good weeks and bad, and even good years followed by bad weeks. It can be bewildering to parents when their child shifts from confidence to anxiety and back again many times during the first six to eight years of life, but this unpredictable behavior is normal. Gaining the maturity and skills to handle separation with confidence is a process, not a single event.

This stage, like so many others in childhood, will pass. In time, your child will learn that she canseparate from you, that you will return, and that everything will be okay between those two points in time. Much of this learning is based on trust and experience, which, just as for every human being young or old, takes time to build.

 

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

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6 Steps to Help Children Resolve Conflicts and Solve Problems

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 8, 2018

Conflict resolution and problem solving are two of the most important skills we can teach our children. Think about it … Being able to work out a problem with a peer and come to a reasonable resolution is something that helps us in work and personal relationships throughout our lives.

Here are few tips to help you teach problem solving skills with children starting as young as three years old. Taking a little time to follow these steps will translate into much less time bickering and fighting and more time to do the fun things. Not only that, but you will be teaching skills that will last a lifetime and help your children and students be successful in the future!

Mom separating fighting kids

Step 1—Neutralize the situation

If anyone is hysterical or has been hurt, the first thing you must do is to help them calm down and feel better. No one can problem solve when they are hurt or emotional.  You may also need to remove the source of the conflict temporarily until the problem in solved. If two children are fighting over a toy for example, say I’m going to hold this while we work this out.  If a child has lost control and resorted to physical aggression, he/she may need to be removed from the situation and given some time to cool off. There may also need to be a consequence for the aggression, but it is still very important to come back to solve the problem. If you don’t solve the problem the conflicts will just keep happening.

Step 2—Gather data

When both children are calm and ready to talk, listen to each of them tell you what happened from their own point of view. If a child is too young to explain well, it is fine to do some paraphrasing for them. Make sure both children feel heard by you and by each other. Don’t think about where to lay blame for the conflict, but rather how to solve the problem.  Here are some helpful questions to use:

What happened?   How did you feel when you…?  How did you feel when your friend/sibling…?

Why did you …?  What happened then?

Step 3—Define the problem

Often children have misinterpreted what their friend was trying to accomplish and it is easier to solve the problem when you all understand what really happened.  State the problem acknowledging both, or all the children’s needs.  Here is a suggestion for what to say:

It sounds like you wanted to … and you wanted to …  What should we do so that everyone can be happy?

Step 4—Generate lots of ideas

Help the children think of as many ideas as possible. Don’t pass judgement on the feasibility of the ideas at this step. The real benefit of this step is the ability to think of alternatives. Remember to:

Write down the ideas—it makes it feel more important to the kids.

Encourage different ideas.

Focus on the children’s ideas, but if they are young, it is okay to give some suggestions.

Review the problem to help the children stay on track.

Step 5—Evaluate the ideas

Ask the children what they think might happen if they choose a specific idea or another.  Let them know if you think an idea is unsafe or really inappropriate, but resist passing judgement based on your own sense of fairness.  Ask the kids to think about if an idea can really work for everyone. If no ideas seem to be acceptable for everyone, talk about how to change an idea to make it more acceptable.

Step 6—Help the children decide on a plan and help them follow through with it

List all the alternatives that are being considered. Remember that we need people who are happy to compromise or even give in occasionally. If you are worried that one child is being intimidated or taken advantage of by a more strong-willed child, check in with the more accommodating child.

Say something like: Are you sure it is okay with you to do it this way?  You don’t have to let him/her have it her/his way.  Or Does this really work for everyone?

If all the children are really okay with a plan—even if you don’t think it is entirely fair, let it go.

Follow through to make sure the children stick to the plan. Even if it seems like they might not care anymore, check in and make sure they know that the follow through is available to them. For example, if children decide to take turns with a toy and by the time it is the second child’s turn, he/she is busy doing something else, it is still important for the first child to offer the toy.  If you don’t have that follow through the kids will lose faith in the process.

Be sure to congratulate the children for solving the problem!

You may be thinking, How can I possibly do this with every single little conflict my children get into? It must take so much time and we have to keep on schedule and can’t stop everything to do this all the time!

Believe me, I realize that you can’t do this for every situation, every day, but I promise that the more you do it, the better your children will get at doing it, the faster they will resolve their conflicts, and the fewer big upsets they will have.

Stephanie Agnew is the Assistant Director of Parents Place on the Peninsula. She can be reached for consultation on this and many other topics by calling 650-688-3046 or emailing her at stephaniea@jfcs.org.

Posted with permission from Parent's Place

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What to Pack for a Snow Trip with Kids!

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, January 1, 2018

Headed out to a snowy location this winter? I personally grew up in Pennsylvania and our winters were full of snowy days!  I still enjoy skiing and other outdoor winter activities, but the novelty of snow has most worn off for me as I now enjoy the sunnier more temperate winter days here.

Sometimes, I feel sad that my kids will never know the pure joy of snow days and sledding in the backyard with the whole neighborhood.  But luckily, I can let them experience snow for a weekend and then I can go home to enjoy the warm Bay Area winter.  

For those you are find snow a bit foreign or maybe this is your first trip taking your kids to visit the snow, packing could be daunting.  Let's face it, you just need to bring so much more when you are visiting a cold destination versus and hot one. But no worries, we've compiled a list of things your kids need for a snowy getaway!

  • Layers, layers, layers! 3 upper layers (waterproof jacket, turtleneck, long underwear, etc)  and 2 bottom layers (long underwear and snow pants) are recommended.  Do not be tempted to over-layer, because your kids can easily get too hot when playing, sledding or skiing.  Consider purchasing coats or snow pants that have zipper vents that can be opened to let in air when your kids get too hot. 
  • Snow boots are a must! Unfortunately, sneakers or even rain boots just don't the job as well as snow boots. 
  • Wool socks- they do not absorb wetness like cotton ones can.
  • Sunscreen- even though it's cold, you can still get quite the sunburn in the snow.  The sun reflects off the snow and the rays are strong! 
  • Lipbalm for those little chapped lips.
  • Hand and foot warmers- These do the trick when it's extra cold or help your kids warm up at the start of your activity.  
  • Ski googles or sunglasses- ski googles are necessary if it is snowing. 
  • Neck warmer- These can be pulled up and down for extra protection from the cold.
  • Mittens for smaller children or gloves for children ages 6 and up.
  • Beanie or ear warmers- consider a helmet, if kids are skiing
  • Energizing snacks! You burn a lot of calories during winter fun so make sure you have adequate food to fill those little bellies. 

Hopefully this list isn't too intimidating and you still venture out this winter and enjoy a snowy getaway.  Not many things are more magical to little ones then a day in the snow!

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Best of the Forums: Nanny Cams- Should I Tell My Nanny?

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Monday, January 1, 2018

Need some advice : We're first time parents and hiring a nanny for our 4 month old. We decided to put some Nest cameras around the house after hearing some horror stories with nannies and I personally enjoying checking in on my son while at work. Should we tell the nanny about the cameras ( although they are apparent) and how do we explain/ communicate it without being offensive? We trust her and honestly don't think we NEED them but they provide some reassurance.

Has anyone had a successful conversation with their nannies about their cams?

  • We asked our nanny to get a Trustline background check that we offered to pay for and she passed the check. After that she was aware of our front house camera and baby room camera.
  •  If cameras have audio enabled, you are obligated to tell her. For ours, I gave our nanny access to the feed, but we only used for nursery - we explained that it was a tool for all of us to use for nap training. If the cameras are throughout your house, just say you miss your kids and want to be able to peek in on them during the day.
  • You should tell her they are there - i have yet to see an offended nanny. I think they expect it. If you have a good nanny you won't even end up using the cameras.
  • I think its pretty standard to have cams in the house. We told ours from the start and she said sure that's ok with it. In fact I would be alarmed if the nanny didn't seem ok with it.
  • Yes, if they are audio enable you have to tell her also if they are recording. I have several cameras around the house. I bought them for security purposes before having a nanny.
  • One way to think about this is that trust needs to go both ways. I think we all would be very dismayed and would lose trust if we found out our employer had a hidden camera on us. I think you’ve made a great decision to talk with her about this and encourage you to go in to the conversation with confidence. There is no need for excuses - you thrive on information and updates and this is one way to get them! By the same token you might discuss with your caregiver,eg, a desire to be texted pictures and lay out other methods of communication you can have as a family. (Including your social media policy.) Best wishes!

Thank you to our members for offering their advice on this thread! It is so helpful for those with more experience to chime in on topics like this.  Keep posting your questions and comments in our Facebook group!

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From the PAMP Vault: Make a Fresh Start this New Year

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Tuesday, December 26, 2017

We’re several days into the New Year, and many of us are still basking in the glow of a fresh start.

Every year, January brings renewed optimism for change, for a better life, for a better you. And that’s a wonderful thing.

It’s wonderful, because this fresh start gives us a chance to reinvent our lives and ourselves. It allows us to reinvigorate ourselves, to shed the baggage of the previous year and do anything. Anything is possible!

That is a gift, my friends, and I suggest we make the most of this gift. Not just by creating and sticking to resolutions, but by reinventing the way we live.

Here’s how.

1. Let go.
Many times we are held back by the tangled web of previous failures, commitments, emotions, barriers. We cannot change careers because we’re used to what we’re doing and it’s too hard to change. We cannot find time to get healthy and fit because we have all these other things to do. We cannot find time for our loved ones because we have too many commitments.

This is all old baggage. A fresh start demands a clean slate. Let everything from the past go (easier said than done, I know). Clear your plate and your palate.

Let go of attachments to what you’ve been doing for the past year, or years. Let go of failures. Let go of fears you’ve built up. Let go of reluctance. Let go of your ideas about what your life has to be like, because that’s the way it’s evolved so far. Let go of long-held beliefs and habits.

You have a fresh start. Let go of last year, and start anew.

2. Decide what matters most today.
Forget about your goals for all of this year. Instead, decide: what do you want to do today?

What matters most to you, to your life? What are you most passionate about, right now? What excites and invigorates you? What would give you the most fulfillment?

Often the answer is in creating something, making something new, helping other people, becoming a better person, working on a project that will be an accomplishment to be proud of. But whatever your answer, have it clear in your mind at the beginning of the day.

This might be something you work on all year, or it might just last a month, or it might last a week or a few days, or just today. It doesn’t matter. What matters is today — that you’re going to work on this with all your heart, today. Tomorrow … we’ll decide on that tomorrow.

3. Clear away distractions and focus.
Clear away email and Facebook and Twitter and your favorite blogs and news websites and social forums, clear away the iPhone or Blackberry or Android or cell phone, clear away all the little nagging work and chores and errands that pull at your attention, clear away the clutter that surrounds you (sweep it off to the side to deal with later).

In fact, if you can, shut off the Internet for awhile. You can come back to it when you take a break.

Now, find focus. Even if only for 15 or 20 minutes at first, but preferably for 30-60 minutes. You can take a break and check your email or whatever after you’ve focused. Focus on the thing that matters most. Do it for as long as you can, until you’re done if possible. Feel free to take breaks, but always return to your focus.

When you’re done, focus on the next thing that matters most, and so on.

4. Find happiness now.
Don’t look at happiness as something that will come when you’re done with this goal, or when you’ve attained a certain accomplishment or certain amount of wealth or material goods. Don’t look at happiness as a destination, something that you’ll get later.

Happiness is possible right now. Always remember that. When you push it back until later, it’ll never come. When you learn to be happy now, it’ll always be here.

When you’re doing whatever you’re passionate about, whatever matters most, whatever you decide is worthy of your time and heart and focus … be happy! You’re doing what you love. And that is truly a gift.

5. Reinvent yourself, every day.
Every day, you are reborn. Reinvent yourself and your life, every day. Do what matters most to you, that day.

It might be the same thing that mattered most yesterday, or it might not be. That isn’t important. What’s important is today — right now. Be passionate, be happy, right now.

You’ll have a fresh start every single day — not just on January 1. And that, my friends, is the best thing ever.

Reprinted with permission from http://zenhabits.net/ (public domain).

Leo Babauta is the creator and writer for Zen Habits. He’s married with six kids and lives in San Francisco (previously on Guam). Leo is a writer and a runner and a vegan

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New Year's Resolutions for Parents of Young Children

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Saturday, December 23, 2017

For some, January 1 is a new beginning: a time for us to refresh, set new goals, or make a short list of resolutions for the coming year. Instead of getting stuck in the diets-always-start-tomorrow mentality, this is a perfect time to choose a reasonable goal and begin right away. In my work, I focus on creating strong parent-child relationships. Why not create some resolutions around improving your connection with your young child? Here are three ways to get started:

1) Listen more, talk less.

Parents often complain that their children aren’t listening to them. In truth, most of the time it’s more of a non-compliance than a non-hearing issue.


What’s the problem? Here are some common child-friendly reasons: “I’m not ready to stop playing,” “I’m nervous about that new food on my plate,” “I’m scared of being in my bed at night.”

My suggestion is to “listen” to your children’s behaviors—not just their words—and let them know you hear them by validating their feelings: “You’re not ready to stop playing,” “That’s not a familiar food, is it?” or “You feel afraid in your bed at night.”

Once your children believe you understand them, they are more likely to listen to your strategies for overcoming a roadblock to compliance (i.e., invent a new transition game, move the new food to a separate plate, provide some additional comfort items in bed).

2) Match your expectations to your child’s developmental readiness.

Young children cannot control their impulses. That’s just a fact about their brain development. Expecting them to stop playing with the remote control, stay off the dining room table, and resist the temptation to grab the cookie off the plate is unreasonable. That’s why we child-proof our homes.

If you’re fighting the same battles all of the time, change the environment. Put the remote control on a higher shelf, create a climbing area in your living room or backyard, and keep the cookies out of sight until it’s time for a treat.

“Clean up your room” is not an age-appropriate request. Cleaning up a messy space involves executive functioning skills not yet developed in a young brain. It involves categorizing, sorting, classifying, and breaking down a large task into smaller tasks. Instead, ask for a specific clean-up task: put the cars into this bin, the book on the shelf, the dolls go on the bed.

3) Find something to enjoy about every developmental stage.

Sometimes parents get overly excited about the “next” stage of development. Our children barely sit up before we wonder when they might crawl. Standing up means planning for mobility. Learning to recognize one letter means they’re ready to learn the whole alphabet.

Take time to enjoy each growth milestone. Even negative behaviors can be respected and appreciated. The first “No!” is a hearty embrace of the process of individuation. When a child hits or stomps in frustration, it’s a sign of learning to accept and cope with strong emotions. A crying, clingy child is learning to separate. Find five times per day to verbally—or, non-verbally, through a smile or a high-five—appreciate your child’s developmental triumphs and struggles.

Posted with permission from Parent's Place

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Nine Ways to Enjoy Nature this Winter

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Winter solstice is this Thursday, December 21! Here are some ideas of how to best enjoy the darkest and coldest part of the year.

Many of us are somewhat removed from nature in our everyday lives. This is especially so during the winter. Yet despite winter’s chillier and shortened days, along with busy school and extracurricular schedules, most families can find some time during a typical week to enjoy the outdoors.


Nature play
 has been linked to many aspects of physical and psychological health for people of all ages. In addition, getting outside is just plain fun. Nature experiences help families bond and add richness and wonder to our lives. Here are some ideas for getting out and enjoying nature this winter.

Keep a moon diary

Taking note of the moon’s phases and rhythms as it moves through its cycle is a fascinating exercise and a great way to observe nature’s rhythms. It can also help younger children understand the monthly calendar. 

Look at the moon each night after it has risen and record its phase, in writing or drawing, as it makes its monthly rotation around the earth. The amount of moon we see is really the amount of sunlight that is reflected on it during each phase. The moon always follow this pattern: New, waxing crescent, first quarter waxing gibbous, full, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent, new. Learn more about the moon by reading 10 Surprising Lunar Facts.

Gaze at the stars

Despite chilly nights, winter skies can be the clearest of the year and the richest in stars. Begin to get to know the winter night sky by locating a few key constellations, such as the prominent Orion. Orion’s Belt is made up of blue-white Rigel at the top end and reddish Betelgeuse at the bottom. If you follow a line from Betelgeuse, down and to the left, you will locate a bright star called Sirius, or the Dog Star. Use these key stars to locate still more as you continue to observe the night sky. Consult a star chart, or this astronomy site

Play tag in a park or playground

You don’t have to go far to have fun outdoors. Sometimes the “nearby nature” of a local playground or park provides the perfect setting for family exercise and fun. 

There are so many fun tag games so you needn’t limit yourself to basic tag. Teach your children tag games you remember from childhood, or try this variation:

Blob Tag

Once a player is tagged by the person who is “it,” the two join arms and become a blob, which chases players together to try to tag them. Other players who are tagged also join arms and become part of the blob. Some play a version in which a blob of four splits off to become two new blobs. The last person standing alone becomes the new “it.”

Make a Valentine bird feeder

Sometimes we forget to feed birds and other wildlife in the winter, which can be precisely when they need food the most because it’s less plentiful in the environment. This is a fun, easy project that encourages bird watching. Experiment with different kinds of seeds to see which birds each attracts. Or ask for advice at a plant nursery or pet store. Oil sunflower is a particularly nutritious winter seed that a lot of birds like.

You’ll need:

  • Cardboard
  • Heart template, optional
  • 2-3 ‘ ribbon or string
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening, peanut or other nut butter, suet, or lard (plus, cornmeal or oatmeal, optional)
  • 2 ½ cup mixture of birdseed (chopped nuts, dried fruit, optional)
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Plate, shallow dish or pie tin
  • Scissors
  • Spoon or butter knife
  • Cut a heart out of cardboard, using a template or free hand.
  • Poke a hole toward the top and run the string through it. (If using a ribbon, you might want to string it after the mixture has dried a little, using a hole to poke through the hole, as needed.)
  • In mixing bowl, combine peanut butter or other spread with optional meal.
  • Spread that mixture over the both sides of the heart with the knife or spoon.
  • Pour the birdseed and feed ingredients onto the plate.
  • Place the heart into the seeds.
  • Hang your Valentine from a tree branch or window eave that offers some shelter from wind and weather and a view of visiting birds.

Observe and monitor birds

Do you enjoy observing nature and have 15 minutes to spare? If so, you can be a citizen scientist. Over the past few years, citizen science has really taken off, allowing ordinary people to help scientists and organizations track the count and behaviors of birds, butterflies, bees, wildflowers, weather, and much more. Researchers can’t be everywhere, and many of us have habitats in our backyards and neighborhoods that can help others gain important information about nature. Don’t let the name intimidate you. All you need to participate in citizen science is the desire to observe nature to the best of your ability for a period of time and record what you see.

Two current projects allow people to observe and track birds during their winter migrations. Cornell’s Project Feeder Watch runs from November through early April. The Great Backyard Bird Count occurs over a long weekend, February 14 – 17. Both also offer public events for families and opportunities for learning and seeing real-time results from other participants. Want to monitor other wildlife and natural phenomena? There are many other wonderful citizen science projects that can use your help.

Take a photography or poetry walk

Sometimes the act of recording your observations with a camera or journal causes you to look around in a different way and notice things and make connections that you might not have made otherwise. Photography and poetry can help us quiet ourselves and focus our time in nature.

If your child is struggling to record thoughts, try asking open-ended prompts: “What does the hawk’s flight remind you of?” or “What do those rustling leaves feel/smell/look/sound like?” If they’re taking pictures, try to encourage them to stop and notice small things, like bugs, footprints, buds in bloom, interesting colors, or angles of light. You may be surprised at some of the things everyone observes once they are quiet in nature.

Make pine cone folk

On your next outdoor walk, collect pine cones and make fun pine cone people.

You’ll need:

  • A variety of pine cones
  • Acorns with caps intact, for heads
  • Glitter, pipe cleaners, twigs, small pieces of yarn, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, fabric, felt or lace scraps, beads, markers, paint, paper, and other decorative items
  • Hot glue or craft glue

Glue the acorn head onto the pine cone body and let dry slightly.

Decorate as desired. Here are some ideas:

  • Glue twig or pipe cleaner arms, approximately 2” each, to the pine cone.
  • Draw or paint a face on the acorn, or glue on beads for eyes and a nose.
  • Decorate the pine cone with a glitter, beaded, or lace “dress.”
  • Make a hat out of a cone of paper.
  • Wrap a piece of yarn around the neck for a scarf.
  • Attach felt shoes to the bottom of the pinecone and felt mittens to the pine cone’s arms.
  • Glue two Popsicle sticks to the bottom of the pine cone for skis. Cut two small disks of felt and pierce each with a toothpick. Glue the toothpick ski poles, with the felt toward the bottom, to the pipe cleaner arms.

Create ice art

If winter’s freezing weather has you thinking you can’t play outside, think again. There’s simple fun to be had by creating ice sculptures or ice art. Gather a variety of empty containers with large openings, such as milk cartons, juice boxes, and disposable cups and bowls. Collect rain or water in your containers and color with food coloring, if desired. Leave the containers of water outside to freeze. Carefully remove your containers to reveal your ice sculptures.

Not cold enough where you live? No problem. Have fun making ice sculptures in your freezer! Here are some more ideas for ice art.

Make a root viewer

For many, the roots of a plant can be just as fascinating as the parts we see aboveground. This simple root viewer lets budding botanists view the magical processes that happen below the surface of growing things.

You’ll need:

  • Clear plastic cups, bottles or jars
  • Seeds and dirt
  • Fill the containers most of the way with dirt.
  • Plant the seeds close to one side, one or two per cup.
  • Put them in the sun and water gently.
  • Watch as roots form and plants sprout.

Enjoy the wonders of nature in winter.

Susan Sachs Lipman (Suz) is the author of Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ activities for family fun and grew out of her blog, Slow Family Online. Slow Parenting and the book were named a 2012 Top 10 Parenting Trend by TIME Magazine. Suz has written for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, the Christian Science Monitor’s Modern Parenthood blog, and many other outlets. She is the Social Media Director for Parents Place, as well as Bookboard digital children’s library.

posted with permission from Parent's Place

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Meet our Board Members: Member-at-Large, Shanna Gazley

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Tuesday, December 19, 2017

After joining PAMP at the 2016 Rummage Sale, Member-at-Large Shanna Gazley decided to expand her contributions to the organization by joining the 2017-2018 PAMP Board of Directors.

“I was a last minute addition to the PAMP board,” says Shanna. “I am also involved with the MOMS Club in Sunnyvale. I spoke with one of the former board co-presidents about some of the ways in which I think PAMP could improve upon its offerings and sense of community based on my experience with a neighboring parents club.”

Hoping mostly to assist the new Events Chair, Shanna says she enjoys the strategy aspect of her board responsibilities and is eager to volunteer at events and pitch in wherever she’s most needed.

Her main goals for this term is to increase member retention, begin a speaker series, expand on PAMP member discounts, increase the organization’s use of Facebook for better member interaction and possibly working with local businesses to find a place for parents to gather.

“The board seems very motivated to grow and retain membership,” she says. “I’d love to see more companies sponsor membership for their employees.”

A resident of Mountain View, Shanna has a 4.5 year old daughter who had a blast at the recent Jump Into Summer event held in June. Shanna says her daughter is a “big science nerd,” and the pair enjoy watching Dinosaur on PBS Kids, Daniel Tiger and Zou, a short French cartoon dubbed in English on Sprout. Before having kids, Shanna could be found exercising, reading and spending time with friends, but now she says her biggest hobby is getting extra sleep whenever possible. “I would love to encourage other parents to improve self-care, as I try to motivate myself,” she says.


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Holiday Service Ideas for You and Your Family

Posted By Melissa McKenzie, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

At this time of year it is easy to for us, and especially our children, to focus on our list of wants and the material things that come along with the holiday season.  But this time of year also gives us the opportunity for us to teach our children, from a young age, the purpose of giving and of service.  There are many ways that you can give of your time and serve as a family that will make this time of year more memorable for everyone.


Service teaches our children, not only to be grateful for the things which they already have, but also teaches them empathy and compassion for others.  These attributes will help your children navigate through relationships  their entire lives.  Also, service allows families to bond together in ways that traditional family outings will not.  


Many people would like to volunteer with their children but don’t know where to go or what to start with.  


Here are a few suggestions that are family friendly ways to get involved in your community and to have a more meaningful holiday season with your family.


  1. Choose a name off of a giving tree and shop as a family for the child.  Choosing a name of a child that is a similar age to your own will help them relate and make it more special for your child.

  2. Bake cookies and deliver them to a neighbor who may not have many visitors or treats this holiday season.  

  3. If children are a bit older, visit a rest home.  Arrange a small group to sing carols and to visit with the residents. Make sure to call ahead and schedule a time for your visit.

  4. Write and decorate holiday cards and send them overseas to the troops.  This website can tell you how.

  5. Have your children choose some of their own gently-used toys to donate to a local charity like Salvation Army.  When they are giving of their own toys, they learn the joy of sharing with those who are less fortunate.

  6. Stuff new, warm socks or a resealable bag with granola bars and water bottles or other non perishable items to give to homeless men and women that you pass.  Keep these care packages in the car so you will have them handy when needed.


Make sure that you explain the activities to your children and explain what you learned and enjoyed about the activity.  Most of all have fun and celebrate the experiences.  By doing this your children will learn to love to serve and make lasting holiday memories!


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