Not Confident about Nanny's Abilities

Parent Q&A

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  • I am really curious to hear what people's experiences have been starting off with a new nanny. We started a nanny share last week with two 6 month olds. I met the other family on BPN and we interviewed nannies together. Our current nanny was the best candidate in our minds and her references had wonderful things to say about her, her work ethic, rapport with kids, etc. She has a background in childhood education, fairly extensive work experience caring for kids in various settings.

    Fast forward one week, I'm feeling less than confident about her ability to watch two infants in our home. Admittedly, I may have been expecting a super nanny so I have dialed back my expectations, but how have you handled the adjustment/ transition period? Do you walk your nanny through everything that you typically do with your baby? More than once? I know it's a lot to walk into a new work situation where everything, including all players, is new.

    I'm frankly surprised that our nanny doesn't seem to anticipate the needs of the babies and time things accordingly. I find I need to prompt her to consider whether the babies are hungry or tired or something else when they are crying. The reason I opted for a nanny vs daycare is so the babies get individualized care and aren't pushed to be on the same schedule as every other kid. Of course it helps and makes things easier when there is a schedule but particularly in the beginning, I believe activities should be baby-led, meaning the nanny clues in to the baby's specifics. Easier said than done with two infants and this is my first time working w/ a nanny. So my questions to parents are:

    How hands on are you with your baby (stepping in and "rescuing" when baby escalates)? How much do you supervise the care vs sitting back and watch it happen? What's a reasonable amount of time to allow for nanny's and babies' adjustment period? Do you offer constant feedback to nanny as a way to help her get to know my baby's needs? What are the clear signs to you that it's time to reevaluate the situation? 

    First - I want to recognize how difficult it can be adjusting to someone else taking care of your baby (no matter how great the caregiver is!), so I am sure your stress and anxiety over this is very high. It took our family at least 2 weeks for transition period, your nanny has a lot to learn about 2 babies and your parenting style. I agree it is hard to have a set schedule for feeding & eating for 6 month old but you should have general "schedule guidelines" such as '"baby naps every 2.5-3 hours and naps should not exceed 2 hours at a time," that you can explain to her and write down.

    We also found our baby bonded a lot quicker with our nanny when I was not present. I was still at home working, but I just stayed in my office. Often babies will act out when their mom/dad is around. I would also recommend not jumping in right away if the baby is crying (but of course do what makes you comfortable!).

    If you still do not feel comfortable with your nanny after 4 weeks, then it might not be the best fit. Also, does her past experience include caring for 6-month-old babies?  Caring for 6-month-old babies vs. 1+ is very different.

    If your nanny was only watching 1 infant, it’s feasible to have things be baby led. With 2 infants, it’s easier to put them on a schedule,  especially as they get older and more mobile and your nanny takes them for outings, she can time their mealtimes and naps. Babies are adaptable. 

    I hired two nannies before I put my son into daycare. The first nanny was very experienced and she knew all the "nanny" stuff like what medicine to use, what not to use, how to swaddle, introducing solids etc. But my son did not like her. I came home once and his face was red and veiny and I knew he had been crying - hard. I suspected she was always on her phone and she would try and stay out of sight from the cameras we installed which made me very suspicious. She was also always late or didn't show up. Then we hired our second nanny, and she was terrific. Our son loved her and would coo when she came over. She wasn't a "professional nanny" or having super credentials, but she has 4 children and she was so loving and tender and sweet. I eventually let her go too because it became too expensive and we now have our son in daycare and he loves it. He will be one next month so he's older now. I would suggest finding someone you are comfortable with. When the nanny comes, give her the baby, see how she reacts. Interview her while she holds the baby and ask her about her own family, kids, ages, etc. Honestly, everyone knows how to do a good interview and appear sweet, but not all nannies are going to have the golden touch. But don't settle. Children grow so fast, keeping a bad nanny around for a few months could be a big part of your child's life and development. If there are things you like a certain way ask for them to be done. And if you want to stick to a schedule tell the nanny that is what you want. But you need to be comfortable, otherwise, there is no point in having a nanny. My nanny's name was Elodia and her number is 415-571-9615 - last time we spoke she still hadn't found a new family. She speaks mostly spanish but I would highly recommend her. 

    I have had three nannies over several years and the biggest lesson I have learned is you get what you pay for.  Typically a Nanny share is to save money and there is always things the nanny can work on because they are juggling two children (sometimes of different ages), which I then had to manage more.  Having your own nanny is more expensive, but there is less managing.  Also, my 3rd nanny was more money than the 2nd, but I noticed that she was definitely more experienced.  They all seem to want $20+/hour, so if anyone is less that generally means they are not as good.  Obviously $20+/hour might be hard to swing so my advise is that you think of the price difference as your time spent to manage the person more.  Hope that helps!  

    It sounds like you are home while the nanny is there. This is a tricky situation, but I think it is important to separate yourself from the scene and let the nanny do her job.  My son was in a nanny share at my house -- I was working at home 2-3 days a week. Starting out, both babies were 6 months. I can remember working at my computer and hearing my child or the other child crying, and wondering what I should do. I decided that if I intervened, the nanny would second guess herself and be constantly worried about what I thought about her abilities, worried about disturbing me while I was working. For my part, if I was constantly checking in with the nanny, I would not get my work done, thus defeating the point of having a nanny. So I decided to let her handle everything, even if there was screaming or loud bumps or whatever. I told her that if she needed me, I'd be happy to help, and not to hesitate to come interrupt me, but otherwise I'd be in my office working. Then I did not leave my office while she was caring for the kids. I don't remember her ever coming to get me except for one time when the other little boy toddled off to a closet to hide and she couldn't find him. We searched the house together. But I trusted the nanny and I felt that she was a kind and capable person, even if she didn't do everything the way I would have done. She was a mom herself and I had observed her interacting with her own son, and I liked the way she was with my child too, so I felt that everything would be OK. She was really, really great. 

    You have to take the leap and give her a chance to be the nanny, and try not to insert yourself.  OTOH if you are still feeling uncertain after 2-3 weeks, and you think it's the nanny, not just having a nanny, maybe she's not the right nanny for you. Don't feel bad about ending the share if you don't feel comfortable with it.

    I think a good nanny knows the fundamentals of what babies in general need, and then their job at the beginning is to learn about the individual baby and parents' expectations. Sometimes the nanny-parent fit works, sometimes it doesn't. I only had one nanny (other than temp nannies over winter break after my daughter started daycare), and we're still friends. The first thing she asked me at the beginning of each shift was the basics: last feeding, diaper change, wakeup, how did she sleep. She checked in with me in order to write down a basic schedule (feedings, naps) and kept a brief log of actual feedings, diaper changes, naps. In between, she played with the baby, sang to her, read to her, and took her out for stroller rides to the park.

    It sounds like you've been home with the nanny for longer than a brief transition period. Even with good nannies, their job is *much* harder when the mom is home. The babies don't settle in with the nanny as much because they want mama. Mama is also an anxious, hovering presence. It's better to do a short transition to download the basics, and leave them be to get to know each other and get into a groove. Find a way to pretend to leave the house, even if you can't do it for real.

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Nanny is giving child food we don't approve of

Nov 2004

My 2-year-old is in a new nanny share situation and I have a bit of a dilemma. Basically, the problem is that our nanny and the other family have much different ideas about nutrition than we do. Our sitter does offer our daughter the food we prepare for her, but she also offers her food from her own plate, things like cheesy fries. We suggested the nanny could make herself lunch from our food, but she said no thank you. My daughter does not nap most days, so I can't ask the sitter to eat her food on her break. My daughter in the short time she's been with this nanny has eliminated one thing after another from the list of foods she will eat. This all could be coincidence, of course. Do I have a right to ask our sitter to change her own diet while she is here?? I really don't mean to be judgmental. I want my daughter to eat healthfully--and I think nutrition is so important to her development-- but I also want her to have a positive, relaxed attitude about food. We have distinguished between ''growing foods'' and ''treats'' with her, but it is quite confusing for her now that she sees other people eating food we have called ''treats'' as meals or snacks. This morning I told our nanny that we want our daughter to eat only from the food we give her (I blamed it, somewhat disingenuously, on her recent eczema outbreak), but I am concerned that this will be a big problem for the sitter, as I can't imagine my daughter being too happy at having tofu in front of her while her sitter has a cookie and the other little child has a bag of goldfish crackers. Perhaps I need to just give up control, but she is in care often enough that it is not about once-in-a-while treats, but a regular thing. Just hoping someone has been through a similar situation (even from the other position!) and can offer some words of advice. Can a toddler get used to eating ''growing foods'' while her sitter and friend eat ''treats'' at the same time? Is there a way to phrase my concerns that is not insulting to my sitter and the other family? Do you think they'd buy it if I said my daughter was allergic to high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats?? :-)
Trying to find the line between neurotic and overly fearful of insulting others!

I've had to deal with similar situations with nannies. The bottom line is that you are paying her to take care of your kid and its reasonable to ask her not to give your child food that's bad for her. You need to tell her not to give your child any food other than what you've provided. She shouldn't have been sharing that stuff in the first place. At preschool, the kids learn ''this is my lunch'' and ''this is your lunch.'' If your nanny resists this, you can get a new nanny. I put up with a lot from my nanny because everybody liked her and I thought I'd have trouble replacing her. Once she left and I hired someone else, I realized how wrong I'd been. Check out the ''childcare provider'' newsletter. Everyone thinks their nanny is great. If yours won't make this reasonable change, get someone else who better understands your priorities. esay to say, tough to do

I think you should find a new nanny situation. Healthy eating habits are too valuable to give up. there are too many fat and unhealthy people in this world and you don't want your child to become one of them. From what you say it is obviously having an impact on her eating. there are lots of wonderful nanny situations out there and in this area there are lots of people who do understand healthy eating. I doubt that you are going to be able to make the nanny and other family understand your concerns about healthy eating. anon

I recommend finding a new nanny share. No, you're not being neurotic! Starting kids off right with good nutrition has been shown to pay off over the long run. It is really important, especially with the obesity epidemic that is going on now.

You are right that your daughter will not like to eat healthy foods if she sees the nanny and the other child eating cheesy fries (yuck!). There are plenty of families and daycares that care about good nutrition. You don't have to keep your daughter in this situation.

What is more important, your daughter's lifelong health or insulting this nanny or the other family??? you are what you eat

Your concerns about modeling good eating are really valid. Whoever is caring for your child is not only keeping her safe but modeling. That's what parents do, and that's what we want caretakers to do in our absence. I think you should be able to talk to her about it. If she is hesitant to change her eating habits around your child, my opinion is that perhaps she is not the right person for your family. I might go so far as to say that regardless of whether she hears you and is willing to eat healthy food with your child, she may not be the right person for your family. Food is central to lifestyle. It may be that her eating habits are related with other unhealthful or undesirable attitudes. I would talk to her (I know it's hard). You could tell her you have been doing research, and you have found that hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup are really unhealthy, especially for the people in your family who may be predisposed to diabetes, high cholesterol or heart conditions. If explaining the importance of modeling healthy eating and being direct with your expectations doesn't work, or makes you uncomfortable, I hope you can find someone with whom you feel more aligned. Good luck. Alicia

I just want to say that I've been in exactly your position and had exactly the same worries (want to be relaxed about food but think it is important). I wish I could offer some great solution but I can't other than to suggest that this difference may be a sign of more differences between you and the nanny/other family down the line. I tried lots of different things and none of them really worked because the bottom line is that I had different ideas about nutrition from the nanny and the other family. I would also bet that your child IS cutting back on the foods you think are important because she is not as hungry when she gets home. My son's palate (and appetite) got quite spoiled for a healthy dinner on the days he was in care. He'd come home from the share care and want crackers or something but he ate all the veggies and healthy things I gave him on the days he was with me. Ultimately I was just glad to get out of the share care and into preschool where I had a bit more control over my son's food habits. If the share is new and it is important enough to you you might want to consider switching. The shared care situations I was in where the food was acceptable to me were a lot less stressful overall because we were on the same general page regarding nutrition and then that extended to being on the same page about a lot of other health and lifestyle issues. The food you eat does reflect some of the overall values you have about lifestyle and you may, later on down the line, find yourself dissatisfied with the nanny share in other similar areas like amount of TV watching, outdoor exercise, etc. been there

I think your concern is totally reasonable--I was in quite the same state of mind back when I did a nanny share for my daughter. In my case, I, too, was the mom who was very strict (sounds like even more than you) about what my daughter ate. I don't think it is about giving up control when you are talking about something as crucial to early development as nutrition. I think you need to focus on the diet of your daughter (your title is somewhat misleading as I'm sure you don't care what the nanny herself eats). If you are straightforward, honest and factual, you will be able to address the issue. I would not try to hide behind an allergy or something because it's quite likely she will catch on anyway. Besides, you do not want to confuse the message with your daughter. She will understand more and more of these little details soon enough. It is a fact that corn syrup and hydrogenated oil are bad for any diet, particularly children. Explaining this to your nanny doesn't have to be an insult. Also, I always used a little self-deprecating humor, ''I know you think I'm a little nutty about her eating, but could you make sure she does not eat any Ritz crackers as they are actually kind of bad for her?'' However, I would still make sure you both were on the same page in communicationg to your child (i.e. ''Ritz crackers aren't good for you'' vs. ''your mommy is nutty about your eating'').

Two more strategies I would consider-- 1) Can you contact the other child's parent's so that the two children are on a similar diet? They may not be as tuned into some of these facts about different foods and would be happy to have their child eat better during the day. 2) Whether that works or not, I would ask that your child be fed first (or with the child if it does). That way, your daughter will be full from her own healthy meal and will not be as inclined to want to eat what the others are. In fact, if she is put down to play a bit on her own, she may not notice what the nanny is eating. Good luck! Elizabeth

I would immediately find another nanny. This might be the difference between your daughter being obese and unhappy and unhealthy all of her life, and not. You are not a victim, you are a strong mom. Don't stand for the creeping obesity and poor eating habits that this nanny brings!

You do NOT need to give up control, and, incidentally, she might have allergies that are bringing on the eczema. Our son had very bad eczema and went on a wheat, dairy, egg, nut, and chocolate free diet for two years!

I cannot emphasize this enough. You are what you eat. Furthermore, if this nanny doesn't REALLY listen to what you say with regard to food and do it, what else isn't she listening to? another mom

I wasn't going to respond at first, but then I thought perhaps you'd like to hear a minority opinion.

First, let's dispense with the easy stuff: you can ask your nanny to do or not do anything you want. She is an employee, not a parent, and your child's welfare trumps any discomfort you might have in directing her not to feed your child from her plate. Dare I say, it's your job as a parent to direct her behavior. If she wants to drink/eat that junk, that's her business; let her deal with telling your daughter why she can't have her curly fries. But if she thinks it's OK to not follow your wishes -- whatever they are, kick that chick to the curb, because it won't end with food.

Now, let us travel deep in the land of my personal opinion: we all need to lighten up on the food issues. I was raised in a tofu, all-natural, nothing-out-of-a-box, whole-wheat, chip-and-soda free environment deepinthehearta Berkeley. I'd go to school and watch the other kids eating their ding-dongs, or their sandwiches made with Skippy (I, of course, had the all natural peanut butter from the Co-Op; you know, the kind that rips the bread when you spread it and leaves an oily stain on the lunch bag), while I ate my stale sandwich and all-natural fig bar. Oh, I could have cookies (made with honey), and candy (one piece, after hallowe'en), and my family was not morally opposed to dessert, but for a kid, it was a pretty miserable life.

I'm 41, and I've now discovered there were a lot of us 60's babies out there whose parents were doin' the all-natural thing in an attempt to promote healthy eating habits. I've also since discovered that it's we 60's babies that have the biggest food issues.

At 12, I used my allowance to buy Capn Crunch that I would store in my closet in my room (I was not alone in this behavior, I later discovered). At 16, I would go to those geeky evening parties, and spend the entire night at the snack table --alond with all the other kids who were deprived such treats -- devouring the jello blox, filling our pockets with pretzels and chips, and scooping that salty onion dip into our mouths. By the way, the kids who had the Ding Dongs in their lunch boxes? They were dancing and talking.

In college, I developed an eating disorder. There were a lot of reasons for that, I'm sure, but when I finally got help in a group setting, I discovered a lot of people, whose food choices had been strictly proscribed, were right there with me.

Now, I meet fellow ''granola-babies'' all the time and we laugh at what our parents tried to do and how badly it backfired. Sometimes it's not so funny.

I cringe when I go to the park and hear parents talking about the dietary constraints they have laid on their kids. I don't want my child to eat cheesy fries, either, and a can of chili poured into a bag of corn chips is not my idea of a protein-rich diet. Accordingly, I have no problem telling my kid NO if he wants marshmallow creme for dinner (I'm not afraid of a little crying); he'll eat what I serve. If his nanny was serving him orange soda instead of milk, I'd give her exactly one chance to stop feeding that crap to him. At the same time, I would try to temper my desire to expose my son to a healthy lifestyle with a little realism, and allow him to experiment. It wouldn't change my behavior at home, where his diet is fiber, vitamin and protein rich, but I not going to focus too much attention on it. -- Tsan

Been there. I nearly had a heart attack when I found coca cola in my son's sippy cup when he was 2, but his nanny had no idea that coke wasn't an acceptible toddler beverage.

I've always been pretty strict about food -- not (I hope) in an overbearing way, but I just don't believe in the steady diet of sugar and processed foods that have become normal in our culture (even in the Bay Area). That said, as my son has gotten older I've learned to bite my tongue and suck it up some of the time -- on his carpool afternoons, for instance, I know he's going to have a juice box (basically a liquid candy bar) and a cookie on the way home, food I'd never give him as a snack on my own. But at 5 he also knows that his carpool buddy eats too much sugar (his observation, not mine) and that it's important to eat healthy food.

I think you have to stick to your food values just as you stick to your other parenting values (which will also be constantly challenged by those who feel less strongly than you about things like media exposure, violence, etc.), not only because you want your kid to have a diet of healthy food, but because it's true that kids become pickier about healthy food once they've acquired a taste for highly processed junk.

For politeness sake, I think ''food allergy'' or ''doctor says'' is an acceptible white lie to tell your nanny so that you're not seeming to criticize her food values. You can say that your daughter is on a special diet, and needs to eat the food you pack for her and not other food. If your nanny seems open to the topic, you can explain to her why something like goldfish crackers aren't actually that great (although you should know that Annie's makes whole wheat bunny crackers which my son loves and which are actually a decent snack, high in fiber, low in sugar, no transfats, -- you can find them at whole foods and it might be good to pack some in your daughter's lunch if she has a yen for goldfish). I'd couch it in terms of ''I was so surprised when I found out that juice has as much sugar in it as candy'' so that it feels that the two of you are learning about this subject together, not that you're talking down to her. For your daughter, you explain that other people make other food choices, but in your family this is what you eat.

You do all of this knowing that there's going to be some slippage, that the kids are going to share the goldfish crackers, and nanny's going to slip her a few french fries. You're right that you can't control everything that goes into her body -- that pretty much ends when solid food begins. But at 2, you still get to control a lot. nelly

Just read Tsan's post in the last newsletter, thinking ''right on, sistah!'' all the way. Count me in on the side of the minority! I am 40 and had a very similar granola-based upbringing with parents who were totally psycho about controlling the refined sugar and processed foods in my diet. And guess what? I've had a raging sweet tooth my whole life -- a compulsion that I just could not get a handle on. It started getting out of hand when I was 7 and stole the coins out of my parents' change bowl to sneak off to my neighborhood grocery store. When the change bowl was empty, I started stealing the candy from the stores. In college I used to dip into my roommate's laundry quarters so I could hit the vending machines for 6 candy bars at a time. After college I used to swipe my housemates' junk food from the fridge. I didn't learn to control or moderate my sugar cravings until VERY recently (with the help of the South Beach Diet, which I highly recommend to any other closet sugar freaks out there). I was sneaky, deceitful, downright criminal at times (in a petty sort of way). I was also deeply ashamed and unable to discuss the subject.

Moral of the story: moderation in all things. I don't keep a lot of junk food around the house, but I do allow treats and we have ice cream for dessert pretty regularly. I don't act like a control freak on special occasions (playgroups, birthday parties, Halloween, Christmas, etc.) when there is a lot of sugar around. And what I've found is that my kids will eat a few treats or part of a dish of ice cream -- and then STOP. They listen to their bodies and set their own limits.

If only I had been so lucky. S.

Nanny is good, but not great with 1 year old

My daughter's 1 year old, and we share a nanny with another baby who's younger. The nanny's good, but not great. I like her personally, and she's loving, responsible, gentle, etc. I know that my daughter is safe and her basic needs are taken care of, but the nanny is on the quiet side and my instinct tells me that she's not being very interactive or creative in ways that would be more stimulating to my daughter and I know are important to her development.

I would like to find a way to talk to her about it, be clear about my expectations (in as kind a way as possible), and at least give her an opportunity to rise to the occasion before I start the dreaded hunt for someone new. Does anyone have any advice on how I should approach this ?? Thanks.

There's a fine line between micro-control and expressing your preferences. I'm a micro-manager at heart who restrains these tendencies out of respect for the nanny's profession and her professionalism. When it comes to nanny-ing style; I figure, that if I need to exert THAT MUCH control over how the nanny interacts, then I should probably recognize my own need to be doing the parenting of my child. (I'm talking about, beyond the normal holding, tender demeanor, engaged speech at playtime, feeding, changing, etc.) For me the need to control is in inverse proportion to how much I can let go. And making the choice to work is just that; the choice to let go of hands-on parenting.

The day that I'm not satisfied with that choice is the day I'll cut over to full-time parenting.

I'll be specific. Our nanny wanted Sesame Street on, and Arthur and Kratts Creatures; all of which I opposed internally. She also cooked meals (for the grown-ups) quite often, again I opposed this internally. I wanted her playing with and interacting directly with my children; not marginalizing them during the time she cooked or while they viewed TV. But, a broader gentler view (my husband's) helped me here. The nanny sang songs with the children, did the alphabet with the children, pretended to be lions with the children; all derived from participating with them WHILE watching TV. The children, learned to wash dishes, load spoons in the dishwasher, observe vegetable chopping, help clean string beans, nibble on raw vegetables, WHILE she cooked with them. So, she really was playing with them; just in her own way. This may be different from your interaction dilemma but I'm trying to say that children do indeed know that different people are different. They have no desire to watch a ton of tv when I'm around, because they know I like it off when I play directly with them.

Conversely, if your gut says it's just not the right kind of interaction; don't soft pedal. Show the nanny what you mean. Spend TIME with the nanny and child DEMONSTRATING what kind of interaction you're after. You don't have to ask her to change and indicate that what she's doing is wrong; just build on what's there. Then ask her if she played game xyz with your child that day (the same one you demonstrated). If she says no; ask her if she would. It makes it easier to save face that way. With demonstrations, and subsequent questions; you'll learn if your nanny has a willingness to please you. If not, look elsewhere. Trust your gut.

This is in response to the woman who wants to train her nanny rather than find a new one. It sounds like you should provide some structure to your nanny and require her to do certain stimulating things. For example, you could go get some books on children's art and activities and set up a schedule for your nanny to do these projects. (You could buy the supplies ahead of time) You could tell her to take your child to the library once a week and read to him or her or to the zoo or to Habitot, etc. She may be the kind of person who is not creative, but who could follow orders. Good luck.

Banana's offers some chidcare classes as do the community colleges. In particular, Merritt College in Oakland has child developement classes and I believe that some of them are provided in a variety of languages. I'd expect to pay a nanny to attend classes, and give her a raise when she has completed them. Providing good child development books around the house may also be helpful.. For the kind of issues that you are dealing with I'd recommend in particular Touchpoints by T. Berry Brazleton. If the nanny is not a reader, he produced a television show that was on Lifetime. It might be worth investigating whether these are available on tape. Penelope Leach also had a show on Lifetime which covered issues similar.

To the parent who is not sure how to get her daughter's nanny to be more interactive and creative.

It might help to describe and demonstrate for her some specific ways to interact with 1-year olds. You could do this in a friendly way by making it a topic in your morning and afternoon conversations in a natural way. Describe how you've played with your daughter recently and what she seemed to enjoy, and ask what she enjoyed doing with the nanny that day. For example in the morning you could say: I noticed that my baby really liked playing peek-a-boo in a tent yesterday. When she crawled over here, I draped her blanket over this and put my head in here...and she got so excited... Demonstrate as you talk, with baby if possible.

Your instinct that the nanny is not being very interactive may come because you've already had such conversations and felt they were very one-sided or sensed that something is wrong; if so, I'm not sure what I'd do next. But if you've really only been talking about naps, food and poops, then maybe these kinds of exchanges could help convey the message that this is also important and they would also provide concrete ideas that the nanny could copy and hopefully build on.

One specific bit of advice is that I've been told BANANA's has a Warmline, which you can call and they can help with advice related to childcare. I have not used it, but it was recommended to me when I was having some similar questions about training our nanny.

That said, I don't know all the specifics of your situation or what you're observing, so I can only respond based on my personal experience. I have had similar questions/uncertainties at times regarding our nanny, but I think these are more a part of the parental anxiety I feel toward childcare. I do trust our nanny--she was referred to us by a friend who personally knew her and could vouch for her character, etc. but she had never formally worked as a babysitter. In our approach, I have emphasized open lines of communication. When she first started, I told her I wanted to have periodic check-ins (once a month, every two weeks..) separate from the hello's/goodbye's of each day. These would be a chance for both of us to evaluate how it's going. I've always tried to come more from a problem-solving approach than coming from the boss/employee angle. I ask her whether she has enough variety of activities and feels comfortable with her day or if she wants to brainstorm other possibilities. I share with her things I've noticed that my child likes, she also tells me things she's noticed, etc.

I have asked her about her approaches to different situations, what kind of activities she does with my baby, etc. --- and seeing how her approach matches mine. I also tell her what I expect, and while I don't tell her specific games or activities, I give her a sense of how I would like the overall day to go (some interactive high-energy play time, some more quiet play, go to the park, etc.) I know some parents like to be even more structured, and like for their nanny to take their child to various activities (babygym, swim class, etc.)

I have also tried to check-in on my own expectations. I think it's very hard to leave your child with a babysitter! And having stimulating/interactive activities is a constant worry of parents. But, as a friend of mine who was a nanny for years always reminds me, being a nanny is hard, and I try to take that into account. It can be isolating, one can't be engaged and on with a child all day, it can get boring, etc. I say this to our nanny, so she'll feel comfortable talking to me about things and not think she has to be perfect at everything. In talking to other parents, I think I have grown increasingly comfortable with our nanny because she is also loving, responsible, gentle and reliable. There's a lot to be said for that! One thing that makes me feel reassured is watching how my child shows trust and smiles at the sitter. You also have to take your child's age into account. At one, they aren't really ready to participate in activities per say, and may be perfectly content exploring/playing with different toys, etc. and you could emphasize to your nanny that you want her to give your child those opportunities (vary toys, take him/her to the park, etc.) and that you also want her to read/sing, have some high-energy play time with your child. Someone who is quiet can also be stimulating to a child -- maybe in different ways than you are. Or, maybe she feels more comfortable letting loose when the parent or other adult isn't in the house.

I know this is really hard, and I hope this message has been at least somewhat helpful! Regardless, you have to feel comfortable with her. In addition to having the open lines of communication, maybe you should also drop in at different times to see how she is doing with your child.

Since I have had similar concerns about level of stimulation, one thing I do try to keep reminding myself is that there is a lot of pressure on parents now a days to ensure that your child is stimulated and developing appropriately-- and a large market is there with all kinds of gadgets -- the black and white image video with Mozart music playing, etc. etc.

In our case, she started when our child was 4 months old -- we did have conversations about expectations, etc. Mostly I was trying to convey my parenting philosophy, asking her about hers, what does she think is important with a child this age,etc. She has worked with us now for six months, and we have had periodic check-ins and keep talking about changes/expectations as my child grows. I think it's very normal for parents to be clear about their expectations, and I have always phrased my comments as As a parent it's important for me that.....

It's hard to tell from your message whether it's your instinct alone that tells you she's not being stimulating enough, or whether you've observed something that tells you that's the case. I only say that because sometimes people may not feel as comfortable letting loose when the parent or another adult is around as when they are alone with the child. Also, the fact that a person is quiet doesn't mean they don't do things with a child that are interactive or stimulating.

I don't think there's much you can do to change somebody's personality type. It sounds your nanny is reserved, and not very outgoing or creative. You can't do much to change that and no amount of careful sensitive discussion with her about your concerns is going to change this. I would start looking for a new nanny whom your more happy and comfortable with. She may be hurt by this but it's your child's well being that is the most important issue here.

well, we had issues on which we needed to train our babysitter; however, they were mostly different issues than those you mention. what helped in terms of the training, is modeling. i would show what i wanted. i would demonstrate this behaviour with our son when the babysitter was there. I also tried to have transitions when both the babysitter and i were there. For example i wouldn't leave until 30-60 minutes after she arrived. in your case you could both play with your child together during this time and you could model. also you could do some work at home and check in periodically and make very specific suggestions based on what you see. finally, what helped us, was our journal. both the babysitter and i keep a journal (one dialogue journal for both of us). i ask questions in it and in addition to answering them, the babysitter tells how each day went according to a general format that i showed her. you could ask specific questions or create a format that requests information about activities done during the day. this may encourage more creativity on the nanny's part. you could also make a menu of some choices and request that one of them be done each time. the nanny could list and comment on what was done. this would probably work even better if you had modeled some of the activities on the menu first. hope this is of some help.

What I noticed with our nanny was that she was already doing what came naturally to her, so if I wanted her to change anything, I had to be very specific. For example, in your case you might dream up some interactive activities you want her to do with your child, and then suggest that she do them at a specific time--after lunch or whatever. You could just present it as a fun idea that you wish you could be doing with your child, but can't because of being gone at work. Or you could present it as a roblem for the two of you to solve together: I've been reading that interacative activities are really great for kids. How do you think we could work stuff like that into my kid's day? I would take pains to avoid sounding the least bit displeased with what she's doing already, since it sounds from your post like she's doing fine with the basics--most people don't take criticism well, I have noticed, and tend to harbor resentment as a result. Instead, turn it into something that you're adding to the day's agenda, just as you would if you were adding new feeding protocols, or whatever. I myself wouldn't expect much more than increased anxiety from your nanny if you only tell her generally that you want her to be more interacative with your child--she probably won't know how to please you if your feedback is too general. Hope this helps.

Nanny is not stimulating enough for toddler

I need help in helping my child care provider stimulate my son's development more.

I have a good, but not great, part-time (3 days) day care provider for my 16 month-old son. She comes to our home. I advertised for loving, and she certainly is, but now that jr. is older it isn't enough. She follows his lead in play but doesn't initiate creative play. She doesn't challenge him at all or take opportunities to teach little lessons. I am not talking about completely guided activity, but some child development stuff worked in would be nice. I have no training in child development, but I know enough to ask him if that is the best way to do something, or how did trying it this way work out? I can pretend to be a frog and jump across the room. She doesn't do any of that.

English isn't her first language. I know she can read and write it, though she is not very confident in her skills. I once lent her a book on baby sign language and a couple of months later asked her if she'd finished it. She said not yet. She hasn't tried to incorporate any of the elements of the book, either, though that was my intent in giving it to her.

How have people dealt with this? Can I send her to a Bananas class? Should I give her stuff to read? Or do I need to look for another provider, or send jr. to family day care where he will get more stimulation? Or should I just relax and let loving be enough? My gut tells me no. I am especially concerned as winter is approaching and she will not be able to take him to the park all day. Thank you all.

From a mom who has been in a similar situation, some thoughts about helping your daycare provider along: (1) If your sitter reads and writes English, she/he should be able to read books that are age-appropriate for a 16-month old. Select those books she/he would be most at ease with. She/he may not read with the same fluency, enunciation and enthusiasm as you would. But you can encourage the caregiver to describe to your child what is going on in the pictures and not to worry about getting the text exactly right. Let her/him take the books home at night to get familiar with them. (2) If your caregiver follows your child's lead vis-a-vis play, this is a good thing! Toddlers learn through play, and little ones generally love to have another human being show genuine interest in what they are doing. Be sure to show her those toys or describe those activities that your child likes best, and update her often. Show her how you and your child play with same. Need I mention water play and/or sidewalk chalk? These can keep a 16-month old delighted for hours and there are few caregivers who wouldn't know what to do with them (3) Encourage your sitter to take your child to local playgrounds and parks where she will be likely to meet and, hopefully, socialize with other caregivers. Caregivers can be a tremendous resource to one another, offering support, adult conversation (which they need) and new ideas when they run out. Your child will also have the benefit of watching other children at play and joining in with them over time. (4) Walks outside are tremendously interesting to children at this age. They can be fascinated for long periods of time just exploring in the yard or the neighbor's driveway or garden gate, rain puddles, not to mention all of the interesting and disgusting things one can find on the sidewalk. (5) If you observe that your sitter seems to have a strong bond with your child, is right there with your child to respond to his/her needs, keep your child safe and feeling loved and secure, you probably need not worry too much. Constant instruction and stimulation is not necessary and can even be overwhelming to toddlers. They are highly self-motivated !! Good luck.