What do you have to consider about the child care as an au pair? How do you have to take care of the children in the host family? What do the children and your host parents expect of you while taking care of their children?
Read more about au pair and children here.
Right when you start your au pair job you should talk to the host parents and find out what is important to them. Depending on the parents, there might be a different focus. What is prohibited in one family is allowed in another.
Ask for the rules they have for their children about watching TV, eating candy, playing times, cleaning up, helping with the housework and so on. Also ask how you can punish the children if they violate the rules. It is important that you treat the children with love but you also have to be consequent. Children need rules and they will treat you with respect if you show them their limits lovingly. Of course, the parents have to back up your decisions in front of the children. They have to teach their children that while they are not at home you are „the boss“.
If you come to a host family with babies then actual child care is more important than entertainment. At first a baby has to sleep for many hours every day but before its first birthday it can keep up its head on its own, it will get is first teeth and it will even try to walk. Also, babies will learn how to crawl and they become conscious of their environment.
Babies cannot perceive their environment until they are three months old. You can caress and rock the newborns, you can sing songs to them or talk to them soothingly so they can get used to your voice. Bigger babies between three and six months also find it entertaining if you make grimaces or sing to them. Take the stroller and go outside with the baby. Going for a walk is fun, it’s entertaining and the baby loves it.
Babies from six to nine months love to play with objects. Anything that makes noise is becoming more and more interesting. Babies also love nursing rhymes or games you can play with your fingers, as for example: „This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none, and this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.“
A great activity is also to go to baby groups with the children. They meet on certain days in the mornings and the mothers and au pairs can chat while the babies are playing. Another possibility is to go to a baby swimming class. Try to engage in this type of activity. It will help you gain the baby’s trust and it will also make your daily au pair life more entertaining.
In a host family with toddlers or small children as an au pair you get a lot of action. The children of this age grow a lot and especially develop their social skills. The child starts understanding its role and sees that life is not only about its own wishes. It sees and understands that there are rules in life. Of course, this will cause some problems. Toddlers need time to adapt. Being stubborn or sudden hysteric crises are typical in this phase. One to three-year-olds are easily fascinated by small things. They love it if you read to them or if you look at books together. They like listening to music and jumping around to it.
Games: racing, tagging, hide and seek. Puzzles, going to the playground, bobby cars, trainer bikes or doing gymnastics can be entertaining.
If the children of your host family are in kindergarten, you usually have the mornings off as an au pair while the children are in kindergarten. During this time you can take language classes or pursue other interests, as you please. In kindergarten the children meet for the first time other adults or children outside the family. They learn how to treat and respect other people. They also receive an education that goes further than what they have learned at home so far.
The children learn the basic rules of being organized, they learn where to put their jackets and they also learn that you have to respect more people than just mom and dad and for the first time they have to follow a stranger’s instructions. They have to eat together with other children and learn that common meals can be fun and that other children might have different tastes. It’s a good way to teach children about eating. However, education in kindergarten is just meant to complement the parents’ education at home.
Activities: potato stamps, jumping jacks, plant flowers, play memory, draw, make handicrafts with simple objects, puzzles, go go the playground, do gymnastics
In Germany children go to elementary school from the first until the forth (sometimes until the sixth) grade. They are between six and ten (or twelve) years old.
In elementary school they get basic knowledge. They are slowly but surely prepared for the more serious school life. For you as an au pair working with children in elementary school means that you help them with their homework, you read together and you help them organize their school days. The idea is to challenge them playfully and help them wherever you see a deficit.
Games: treasure hunt, making handicrafts, drawing, play theater, baking, sports.
Puberty is the process when children turn into adults. Girls can be between ten and eighteen years old and boys between twelve and twenty. During this period the body changes significantly. Girls start to menstruate and boys have to deal with the breaking of their voices. Boys and girls grow more body hair and they develop sexually as well.
For you as an au pair this means that you don’t have to take care of them very much any more but also your work can be more demanding. Children during puberty change a lot, they like to re-invent themselves in order to find themselves. In this phase many children question their parents’ rules.
„I think it was helpful to do many activities with the kids and play many games. This way we got to know each other really well. I played soccer with them, we drew a lot, made handicrafts and I showed them picutres of my home. The little boy I had was very shy at first, just like me, but my girl was the complete opposite. She talked a lot and was full of energy. Watching them closely I could learn a lot and we bonded.“