Category Archives: Thoughtful

Things that make you go, mmmmmm

How many presents ?

How many presents do you buy for your kids at Christmas?

In my family, amongst my friends, between the parents I speak to online, there are very different approaches to Christmas presents. Some people buy a lot, some buy little. Some place a lot of emphasis on Santa’s gifts, some less, some not at all. Everyone wants their kids to have an amazing Christmas experience, and all the kids get exactly that! But which approach to gift giving is best? Which suits you and your family?

  • How much to spend?
  • How many gifts to give?
  • More presents or bigger presents?
  • Who gets the credit, parents or Santa?
  • How to make sure the kids appreciate their gifts?

How much to spend?

How long is a piece of string? This really is a circular question. Family finances are so different that measuring your spend against another can never be helpful. Different incomes, different budgets, different priorities make this an impossible comparison and one that can only make you feel bad. Bad you aren’t spending enough or bad you’ve spent too much. Or you feel smug you’ve done just the right thing and then you should feel bad for feeling smug.

The main thing is to spend what you can afford only. Going into debt or having to cut back too much to afford a lot of presents isn’t going to pay dividends. Your kids may love those toys but soon they’ll want to go on fun outings you can’t afford or need new shoes you can’t buy and the toys won’t make up for it.

How many gifts to give?

This is where you can save money when you have little ones. They won’t know how much things cost so if you want to give a lot, go for lots of cheap gifts rather than one or two expensive ones. If you have more than one child make sure they have the same number as they’ll probably compare. Even if you spent more on one child they are more likely to see the fairness in how many gifts they can count. But giving too many gifts can make the opening become a factory line and the shine of getting a gift can be rubbed away. Too many presents and you run the risk of an ungrateful child who keeps expecting more and more. Plus there’s only so much they can focus on and some of the toys are likely to gather dust, at least for a while. Where’s the sweet spot? That’s up to you, of course, but just remember not to compare to the other parents! There’s always someone giving a number wildly different to you and making you second guess your decision.

Bigger is better?

There are some big items that are often given as Christmas gifts. I mean large! Like cubby houses, trampolines, swing sets, play kitchens, bikes….. This big presents often come with a price tag to match and can be an excellent option for a group gift, to all the kids/all the family (maybe not the bike!)

Large toys can be impressive and give a lot of bang for their buck as they aren’t always matched by their price. Young children, just as they will see a lot of toys as a big haul, are likely to see Big toys as impressive. A large cheap toy might create more excitement than an expensive small one. But the long term value is worth considering, if the cheap toy becomes just more for the toy box and eventually landfill. Small toys can be used to fill a stocking. Little hands reaching in again and again to reveal yet more tiny wonders might create more joy. How big is your home? I know I think hard about just where I will keep each item once it’s a part of our lives and homes before I buy it. If you can’t think of an obvious place to keep it, maybe it’s something best to avoid!

Who gave the best gift, you or Santa?

This one really gets the mums groups to disagree. On the one side is the argument that Santa is magical and special and kids should believe the best comes from that magical place while they still can. On the other hand is the position that parents put in all the hard work so they should get the credit and appreciation they deserve. Also to take into consideration is that the biggest and best present means very different things to different families. Some have hardly anything or nothing to spend on Christmas and some have limitless funds and means. If Santa is attributed with the most extravagant present, yet this varies from one child to the next, will the children see this and feel like Santa has been unfair or doesn’t care as much for some children? This a very personal question and your family dynamics and the personality of your child will sway the decision. How likely are your kids to discuss their gifts with other children? Some countries have school close to Christmas and some do not, does this affect the likelihood of comparison discussions? Do your children appreciate you usually or do you feel they need to see how you work hard to get them the things they have? Is the magic of Santa especially important to you and to them?

How much will they appreciate their presents?

We all want to give our kids what they want, but we try to give them what they need as well. And maybe sometimes they need to appreciate what they’ve been given a bit more? I know my toddler can begin to expect gifts around present giving time. For a month after his birthday he would come home from daycare asking, “Have you got a present for me?” There were even tears sometimes when the answer was no. I think the toddler may be old enough to begin learning about giving his toys to those who haven’t as many. This year I’d like to have him pick something new to give to a children’s Christmas gift program and also to agree to pass on some of his own toys. Getting him involved in choosing and wrapping gifts for other family members also makes sure he understands that presents are a two way street and to help him grow his own joy in giving.

How do you and your family approach presents for your kids?

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Guest Post: The case for male nannies

Guest writer Anne Harris is an HR specialist working for londongoverness.com. She recruits nannies, governesses and other childcare professionals, ensuring top-notch services for parents worldwide. In her free time she likes reading about education, and children’s welfare, as well as visiting sports events.

If you would like to contribute a guest post please send me a message!

Ask anyone: would you hire a male nanny?

(Stereo)typically, you might get two completely opposing responses: “Why not?”, or “No way”.

A mother asked this question on a forum- because her search to find her son a part-time “manny” position during the summer break was quite futile. She got a lot of emails, and while the discussion is really interesting, it came down to some common responses:

  1. Yes, I have an older active boy, and a male caregiver would be a perfect fit
  2. No, I have daughters, and I’m terrified of sexual predator

This is sexism at play. Women (and men) openly wonder why a man would want to deal with kids at all. It’s all rooted in a stereotype: men don’t belong near children and they don’t know how to handle them.

So, what are we teaching our kids?

“It’s a shame really, because how are we supposed to nurture our boys into being good fathers when the world is telling them they shouldn’t be near children?” one mom asked.

By the way, do you know that women show greater distrust towards male nurses or male beauticians, and also female pilots, mechanics, surgeons or bus drivers?

What Male Nannies can offer

  1. According to some theories of child development, children 3 to 6 years old go through a phase where they identify with people who they perceive share their gender. This would explain a rising demand for male nannies for preschool aged boys.
  2. Kids need role models of all genders, both boys and girls. There are often families where kids don’t have all these role models in the home and a nanny can provide another role model, of another gender.
  3. In some cases a male nanny will be more physically inclined in their play than a female nanny and may be better suited to children who prefer robust, physical games.

People who have hired male nannies report how their kids loved spending time with them as much as with their female nannies. It’s not gender-related, since the men who choose to nanny are, of course, also nurturing and caring.

Double-check

Safety is of utmost importance, no one wants to risk anything with either female or male caregivers. Instead, opt for agencies, such as this British governess agency, they go the extra mile to check their candidates.

You can stop expecting something terrible to happen- do the research and background check for ANY person that will come near your children.

It’s important to stay open-minded. Not all people fall into categories. Confirmation bias is strong, I know, but try to see the bigger picture.

If your child prefers or needs male energy, there are knowledgeable, qualified male caregivers out there who won’t turn your house and kids into a mess. Kids might as well enjoy them!

Qualities and qualifications

Anyway, what does a nanny do? A wide variety of tasks, including, but not limited to preparing meals, cleaning the house, carpooling, entertaining children, and of course, caring for infants and teaching them basic skills.

They have to love working with children of all ages, show integrity, be loving and caring, nurturing, warm and cheerful. But also alert and assertive. Attuned to their own emotions, and naturally open.

If you happen to have all these qualities as a person, and also have some qualifications and references, it really shouldn’t matter if they are a male or a female.

Nannies should just be good at what they do and kids have to love them. It’s that simple.

The bias is so strong that “mannies” have to prove themselves a lot more. And oftentimes, they are paid less.

They may be a minority, but a lot of them have a tutoring background or have a college qualification. As the owner of the Manny agency said: “They know how to have fun, and how to discipline when needed.”

He adds: “It feels strange writing the ways in which a male nanny can help a household, I didn’t even bother to add that a male can clean or that they know their way around a kitchen because it just seems insulting to everyone involved and should be a given”

Raise awareness

It’s important to discuss this issue of “cultural uneasiness” and raise awareness. We cannot act out of fear. We have to make informed decisions.

Men have the equal right to belong in childcare, it’s not exclusively a woman’s job. If men are fixed to macho jobs, we may conclude that women should be fixed to “feminine” jobs. And that is not something we want either!

As this brilliant article concludes: “For my part, I know I can’t control what my son thinks, but I can change what he sees, and I want him to see a world in which, yes, women and men can both hold high-paying executive jobs. But they can both teach preschool and babysit him, too. [Male babysitters] are awesome.”

  • Opt for a person who meets your child’s needs and fits your lifestyle, not for gender.
  • Don’t question whether a man is capable of loving and caring for an infant/ child, especially those that choose this to be their calling.
  • This is almost 2020. The reason this myth is still alive is not because it’s true, but because only a few people dare to question it.

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Trash or Treasure? Too many toys?

Photo by LeMast on Foter.com / CC BY-ND

It’s hard rubbish time around here. If you don’t know how hard rubbish works, let me break it down for you...

  • Your local council warn you it’s coming soon. Your street is allocated a week when you can dump rubbish too big for the bin, leaving it outside your house.
  • You start to notice the rubbish being left in neighbouring streets looks amazing. You become a dangerous driver as you veer slightly off course trying to peer into the piles.
  • Every day you narrowly avoid coming home with an old broken bookcase, a possibly flea infested armchair, a washing machine that just might work. It’s really only the difficulty of lugging it that stops you, the desire to find a hidden gem languishing on the street is unremitting.
  • The smaller items begin to make it into your car and your home. An old tire (this could be an amazing addition to my kids outside play area!), a retro fan (I could sell this once it’s cleaned up!), a rocking horse (who gave away this beauty? It’s in much better condition than the one I gave away a few months ago!)……

But the real golden finds are the toys. Oh the toys that people throw away! I’ve rescued a farmyard, a Buzz Lightyear, assorted balls, the aforementioned rocking horse, and so many more. Why are these things being put out for hard rubbish? You know what happens to the hard rubbish? It’s crushed, destroyed, wasted. It’s meant to be sorted but I’ve watched the trucks crush much of what could be otherwise. Why are people putting perfectly good toys out for this treatment?

Do we have too many toys for our children? What do they learn from seeing their belongings cast aside so thoughtlessly? Or, for that matter, from receiving ‘new’ toys for no reason other than that some well meaning parent saved it from the bin?

While I can hardly resist the lure of the hard rubbish scavenger hunt, it did give me pause when another parent asked me if we shouldn’t be hoping these second hand toys went to those who needed them, not added to the coffers of children with too many toys already.

Giving away a glut of toys may be a step in the right direction for families overloaded with stuff that brings too little joy. But give away, not throw away, seems to be the real goal here. Perhaps parents assume, reasonably, that the toys will be found and rescued when left on the street. But perhaps donating them to charity shop would serve the purpose better.

Then our children can see the life cycle of their toys ending in a gift to those more in need, and not as a cast off that hopes to be found by anyone who passes by.

What have you found in your neighbours’ hard rubbish?

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Guest Post: 6 Tips for Choosing Childcare

This week’s guest post is from Nelli Hooper, founder of  York Enrichment Childcare Centre in  Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.

If you would like to contribute a guest post please send me a message!

One of the biggest decisions parents face is in choosing the right group childcare facility for their children. It’s hard to send your young kids to another place every day, but it is easier if it’s a place that feels like home. Here are some things you can do to make sure you make the right choice.

photo credit: massdistraction / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Don’t Wait

When looking at childcare, it’s never too early to begin. If you have a specific place or are looking at a reputable, exclusive facility, you may have to sign up months in advance. You want to know at what age they begin accepting children so you can plan your time off. The best childcare centres are usually full with only occasional openings when children graduate.

Consider Accreditation

Not all childcare centres are accredited, but many seek that status to add to their reputation with parents. A centre that is accredited has met the requirements and follows the standards and guidelines that have been put in place. In addition, it shows you that they take their centre seriously. You can contact a state agency to find out which ones are licensed and accredited.

Schedule a Tour

You will want to see the centre before you make your decision to give you an idea about where your child will be staying. You should get to see the first room they will be in and meet the caregivers. They should show you around the room and even give you an idea of the schedule your child will have. This can help you feel more comfortable leaving your child in a strange place when the time comes.

This is also your time to inspect the place. Look for cleanliness and organisation. While any place with young kids is bound to have some chaos, it should be kept to a minimum. Are kids taught to line up and take turns? You can often see this even on a walk-thru of the facility as the kids are engaged in their normal activities. Caregivers and teachers should always be actively involved with the kids.

Ask Questions

Before you take a tour, you should prepare a list of questions that you want to ask. Some of them may be for the director while others will be for the teacher.

  1. What is the ratio of teachers to children?
  2. How many children will be in your child’s class?
  3. What training and certification have the teachers had?
  4. Is there a lot of turnover?
  5. Do the children have a schedule?
  6. How is discipline handled?
  7. Are there opportunities for parents to talk to teachers?
  8. How do you handle special situations such as food allergies and special requirements?

Ask About Parent Visits

Find out if the childcare facility allows parents to visit their children. They may require pre-planned visits while some may be more laid back and allow you to drop in. However, all centres should encourage parents to stop by at appropriate times. Some examples include on holidays, for classroom parties, or even for breakfast or at snack time. These visits allow you to see how your child handles the childcare setting on a daily basis.

Ask Around

Find out from friends and other parents what they think of certain childcare centres. They will tell you the good and bad about where they send their kids. You can also ask other people that work with kids. Library personnel, paediatricians, church teachers, and others can provide valuable insight on the best places to send your child.

Take the time to learn about the childcare centre where you plan to send your child. Since they spend the majority of their days in this place, it should provide them the stability and love that they need to grow and develop into happy, healthy kids.

Nelli Hooper is the proud owner of York Enrichment Childcare Centre located in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  Her program has an excellent facility and is setting the standard for childcare within York Region.  Please visit her website at http//www.yeccdaycare.ca to learn more about childcare and how it can benefit your child.  

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Time to turn off the TV?

Photo: Getty

When the toddlers I care for have had (what I’ve decided is) enough TV I often tell them their favourite characters are going to sleep. If they ask for TV when I don’t want them to watch I’ll say again that so-and-so is sleeping.

Should we encourage children to believe the characters on TV have lives we can’t see? Should we molly coddle them with these ideas when we really just want to say “no”?

I’m ok with limited TV for children but definitely don’t want them watching all day, or becoming less able to be entertained without the screen on. Perhaps the best way to keep TV from becoming so central is to keep the characters the children watch from becoming too real, like playmates they can’t wait to see again. Dora’s not sleeping – she doesn’t bloody well exist!

What do you think? If your young children watch TV, what do you say to them to discourage them from wanting too much?

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You might also like:

Television makes toddlers aggressive: The Telegraph

Television addicted 2 year olds don’t even know their own name: Eco Child’s Play

Why it’s really not so terrible to let your toddler watch TV: Huffington Post

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