Merissa was a nanny for over 10 years. She currently works at a school and as a writer. She teaches art in the summertime.
Kids like variety. When you start your first nanny job, you should always bring a nanny bag with things you might need and fun activities for the kids. By bringing your own toys and craft supplies, you leave even more room for the kids to learn and discover new things to play. The more variety they have, the less time you have to spend 'thinking for them,' and the more time you all have for fun. Choose each item carefully. You don't want to bring too much, but you do want to use what you bring to teach new ideas and concepts in a fun way. Always bring the families file and emergency paperwork with you.
The Family File
Keep a file with information on the family whenever you go to work. In it, include:
- Notes about each child
- The parent's application papers (click here to print a sample application)
- A Daily Journal (click here to print sample journal pages)
- A medication log (including names, doses and times and dates medication is administered)
- A time and payment log (includes time in, time out, date, hours, amount owed and amount paid)
- The nanny contract (if you have one)
- A media release contract (if your kids have/ needs one)
- An emergency medical release (if you are going to be with the child outside of their home, with them for more than two hours or a child is at-risk, click here to print a sample medical release)
The Application Packet
Never do childcare without having the parents fill out an application packet, even if you will only be with their kids for a short time. It gives valuable information in case of emergencies. The application consists of a one-page initial application, an emergency medical release and a media release contract, if necessary.
The Initial Application
This is the main application. It is the only one that is always required. The emergency medical release is only absolutely necessary in some cases, but it is still preferable in any case. The media release is always optional. The main application includes blanks for:
- The parent's name(s) and contact information
- Their address
- Emergency contacts (one to two, if possible, this does not include the parents)
- The names, ages and birth dates of each child
- Locations for first aid and the fire extinguisher
- A place for extra notes
The Emergency Medical Release (Half-Page)
Ask for this if you will be with the kids for more than three hours. If you sometimes work with families whose parents need to shut their phones off for long periods of time, require for this information. If the family has at-risk kids (a major medical condition, like Asthma, for example) or if the parents have a job where they have to be away from a phone for long periods of time, require a medical release. You don’t expect anything to happen, but if it does, and you can’t contact the parents, you may need to make emergency medical decisions. These forms include:
- The name and contact information for each child’s pediatrician or family doctor
- A list of current medications and dosage information (include vitamins and medications you will not administer)
- Permission to make emergency medical decisions in the event a parent or emergency contact can not be reached
- A place for special instructions for medical professionals about the parent's wishes, or religious convictions (some religions say no vaccines or blood transfusions, for example)
Note the child’s favorite toy. This is not necessary, but it is helpful to bring a favorite toy if you have to go to the hospital.
A Media Release Contract (Half Sheet)
If you plan to use the child's photo on social media, ask for the parents to sign a media release. This is not required in some states, but some kids are hiding from abuse, and you would never want to endanger a child. The contract would be different in different states, so I will not share mine. This is an optional signed waiver with:
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- Names of the kids whose photos can be used
- A list of places and purposes the photos can be used
- A signature by both parents (one if it is a single-parent household and your state does not require both parents to sign it)
- A place for the parent to add notes and specific requests
This contract is not required and parents are welcome to revoke it at any time. You can’t always remove photos you ave already posted, but if a parent asks you not to include their child in future posts, make sure they are no longer included. NEVER post a photo of a child without permission! You never know if that child is escaping abuse.
- Never use the child’s real name. Change it to something totally different. You can even let them pick their online name if they are old enough.
- Never require a parent sign this document.
- Make sure you only post things that are appropriate. A photo should never embarrass a child when they are older or put them in danger. No revealing clothing or temper tantrums. Only post photos of sleeping children if they are not recognizable to anyone. NEVER post bath photos, even if they are wearing a bathing suit.
- Always make sure the parent knows this does not need to be signed. Make that very clear. If the parents do not sign the contract, do not post recognizable photos of the child or the child's home.
- Always respect the parent’s wishes. They may tell you not to do something for reasons you do not know.
A Daily Journal
Keep a daily journal of things that happen throughout the day. Anytime a parent wants to know what their kids did, ate, made etc on a given day, they can just ask to see it. Allow the parents to write in it, too. If a parent has new things for you to do, they can note them here. The best daily journal has:
- A place to include what each child ate
- Anytime you leave the house, with times, locations and what you did
- A place to note if a child gets hurt (this will help the parent know exactly what happened if an injury gets infected, or is worse than you previously thought)
- A place for other notes, if necessary
- A place for notes parents gives you
- A log for hours
- A log for medications you gave the child (only give medication to children if it is approved by the parents)
Keep a separate journal for each family. Parents like to know what happens with their kids when they are away. A journal helps them feel they are still "in-the-loop." You can also text them a picture or two throughout the day, unless the parents say otherwise. A good rule is have; "a text is not urgent, a phone call is urgent.”
First Aid Kit, Snacks, and Other Things
A Portable First Aid Kit
Not all families have a portable first aid kit. These are really useful when you are leaving the house. They usually come with a hard outer case, so you can easily put them in your purse or diaper bag.
Snacks for the Babysitter
If you like certain snacks that the parents don't buy, bring your own. Just be prepared to share. The kids will probably ask for some. It's always nice to have a taste of home.
Something to Do During Naps
You will usually have plenty to do during naps, but there are those rare, AMAZING, moments you have time to do something you want to do. Bring a book, craft or something to do that is relaxing in case you have some down time. It helps to pace yourself. If you do not rest when you need it, you can't be at your best when the kids want to play. Give yourself permission to steal a few minutes to rest in preparation for your next crazy activity.
A Schedule Tracker
Your nanny kids are at different stages in their development. It is sometimes exhausting to help the younger ones keep track of what we are doing next. They often ask "when will we do..." An interactive schedule tracking system helps the younger children transition from one task to the other and lets the them know what is next. If one of the kids asks, just remind them to look at the schedule. It helps keep those time-stealing questions to a minimum and gives the kids more security throughout their day. A good schedule tracker does three things:
- It shows the kids exactly what to expect next.
- It helps the kids transition from one task to the next.
- It is flexible, in case tasks change on some days.
The Clock Set-Up
First, list things you might need to do in a day. Then, draw small pictures on quarter-sized circles to symbolize each task. Make a ‘circle’ for each of the following:
- All meals and snacks (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and two snacks)
- School and homework
- At least two Freeplay
- Craft and game time
- Clean- up
- Naptime/ quiet time
- Places you go regularly (i.e. the library, the store, the park etc)
- Mom and Dad get home!
- 4 blank discs (to cover slots on days you have less to do)
Laminate the task discs, a clock face and a red arrow. Connect the arrow in the center of the clock face with a bracket. You can get a laminator for under $20 from Amazon. You can also use clear contact paper, although it will not be as sturdy. Put 12 rough sided velcro dots on the clock face and the soft side on each of the disc pictures. You will need more soft velcro dots than rough ones. The velcro makes the schedule clock flexible.
At the beginning of each day, add the proper task picture to the clock in order starting from the 12 o’clock position.
After each task, have the child move the arrow to the next thing, just like a clock’s hand moves with the passage of time. Tell the child to say what is next out loud. Moving the clock arrow helps the child take a breath and transition. Saying what is next helps the child cement in his or her mind what is going to happen next.
A Variation For Older Kids
Instead of starting the schedule at 12 o’clock, you can start it on the hour you arrive. This is best for older kids who are learning how to tell time. Always start at the same hour slot if the kids are under 5 years old. Young kids might get confused.
This clock works wonders for kids with ADHD and sensory disorders like Autism. It cuts back significantly on tantrums and transition issues throughout the day. You also have one less thing to think about on days that you are especially tired or stressed.
A Reward System
Many families already have a set schedule and reward system. If they do, you don't need to bring one. If they don't, start one right away. The sooner you create a routine, clear rules and reward system, the better. One favorite is the stick system. A good reward system does two things:
- It rewards good behavior and focuses on positive reinforcement.
- It involves the child in the creation of the reward system.
The Stick System
The stick system uses decorated popsicle sticks as currency. The kids get one stick after each task on the schedule clock. If they follow all the rules during each task, they get a stick. At the end of the week, have a store. Buy prizes from The Dollar Tree and Oriental Trading (candy is not recommended) and put prices on them.
Involving the child
After Introducing the schedule and the rules, decorate popsicle sticks for the reward system during your next craft time. Let the kids use markers, crayons and stickers to decorate as many sticks as they want to earn as rewards. This gets them involved in creating the reward system and gets them excited to earn the sticks.
- Kids under two need immediate rewards. Give them a prize at the end of each day. They usually don’t understand the store idea until they are at least three.
- You can also use laminated plastic discs that kids can decorate with stickers.
Big Bags, Little Bags, and Storage Bins
These bags are perfect for keeping small similar toys in one place. Label each set to make it easier for the kids to clean it up by themselves.
These are perfect for any smaller toy that will easily get lost but will not fit in a small ziplock bag. They are also more durable, so you can put more jagged toys like cars and letter-shaped roads in these bags.
Storage containers are a good way to organize your toys and craft supplies. You can use an old oatmeal container to store craft supplies. Medium-sized plastic bins are a great place to keep sensory activities. These activities can be very messy and plastic bins seem to keep the messes to a minimum. Make sure to buy bins with very sturdy lids if you plan to use them for sensory play. For water play, wait to fill the bin until you are ready to use it, and make sure all the toys are clean and dry before storing to prevent mold from growing.
The toys below are useful at some point every day. If you have even a few of these, you can make an obstacle course and outdoor games, which wear the kids out and make dinner and bedtime so much easier. Balloons are great for inventing new indoor games. Books are fun to read during quiet time. You can also turn them upside down to make little tents or 'goals' for playing indoor golf. Small stuffed toys are great for puppet shows, quiet time, treasure hunt games, pretending and a whole bunch of things. If you bring only these toys, your day will be so much more fun.
- Small ball
- Pool rings
- A book
- Small stuffed toys
The kids may already have some of these toys, so they may not all be necessary. Bringing at least some of your own toys will provide some variety.
Must Have Craft Supplies
Kids love to do crafts! They love to cut, paste, invent and create. Some kids even NEED it to keep them from being aggressive and grumpy. You could just bring crayons and paper, but try to bring other fun craft supplies as well. Kids can learn everything from the science of building towers to how to be grateful with some scissors, glue and a bunch of paper and recyclables. Cutting and drawing is also a key part of fine- motor development, too. Here are some ideas to bring:
- Crayons or markers
- Printer paper
- Construction Paper
- Coloring book
- Safety scissors
Have fun! Be safe! Kids are great because they focus on positive things much longer than negative ones. They still love to try new games and ideas and they find entertainment in the smallest things.
Have as many of these things on hand as possible. Especially the first three. These things will help protect you and keep you from going insane when things get especially difficult. Toys and crafts are great ways to pass the time and teach valuable academic and life lessons. But above all else, please make sure you cater your bag to the specific kids and family you are with. Some kids can not be trusted with scissors. Other kids will eat small toys and glue. In such cases, only bring these things if your kids are not likely to get into your bag and watch them VERY carefully when they are using them.