InterExchange Working Abroad Ambassador Allie, Au Pair Australia
One of the first lessons I have learned from being an au pair is to use your resources. It would be way too much to handle if I had to plan something new and exciting every day. So instead, I have been finding various community programs to participate in. For instance, recently it was school holidays here for two weeks. There were lots of kid activities for free going on everywhere.
Over the past few weeks, I have tried to do a couple of projects a week for each of the kids. Even though only one of my kids was affected by the school break, the other one was still able to benefit. I took Stella to one of the many programs put on by the public library. It was a teddy bear night. She was able to dress up in her pajamas, bring her teddy and listen to some bedtime stories while eating a snack. The program was completely free and was a great way to spend some quality time with Stella.
In addition to free events, I also learned to use resources provided at home. This could be anything from using recyclable materials to make new toys, to using a favorite toy for a new game, to finding new uses for a manipulative that hadn't been used in a while. With seven people living in one household, we go through a lot of materials. This includes milk jugs, toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, etc. The craft ideas from all of these items are endless.
We made everything from binoculars (two toilet paper rolls taped together), to an interactive threading game (poke holes in a toilet paper roll and thread string in and out of the holes), to a milk jug toss (you cut the bottoms off of the milk jugs, cover the sharp edge in paper, and then can throw and catch a ball with the finished products). If you are feeling a little less creative than that, which on many days I am, you can simply give them a large cardboard box. Their imaginative selves can do wonders with it.
If, however, you are a fan of pinterest.com and don't mind spending a little money on crafts for your kids, I also have some ideas for you. I love spending time in the kitchen, and my kids love mixing things. It is a match made in heaven.
Needless to say, we have been doing a lot of baking. We have made banana bread, cupcakes, chocolate cakes, pink mints, etc. It really has started to take a toll on my weight, so I decided to start making other things in the kitchen that we couldn't eat. The first experiment that we tried was cotton ball baking. I found this idea HERE. This was a great experiment because it allowed two separate activities. First, we got to use the food colors and flour/water mixture to coat the cotton balls. This was lots of gooey fun and took up quite a bit of time. Leonardo got to choose the colors and was able to put his own design on top. Then, after the cotton balls had gotten nice and hard, he was able to smash them with his monster truck outside. It was amazing fun.
Next we made a good batch of cloud dough, found here. This was more of a hit with Stella, but Leonardo also had a good time making dinosaur footprints in the dough with his plastic figurine. Finally, our last experiment in the kitchen was our baking soda and vinegar patty pans (Australian for cupcake pan). Now, I have tired doing the baking soda and vinegar before with Leonardo and it was a hit. This time, however, we filled an entire cupcake pan with baking soda, and then I let him make tiny explosions with drops of colored vinegar. It lasted much longer, and he was able to mix colors and see different reactions with varying amounts of vinegar. Again, it took up a lot of time, which is good when the kids are stuck inside all day with the rain. This was a variation on the idea from here. These experiments were tons of fun, and they prevented me from snacking all day on baked goods. I call that a win.
I also had some ideas that inspired me from family back home. A while back, my mom sent me some Crayola Glow Sand for my birthday. I have tried to use this sparingly over the past few weeks as a special treat, but I recently was down to my last pack. I wanted to make it a special event, so I put the glow in the dark sand into two zip lock bags. I then taped these shut, and put them in the bathtub. The kids had so much fun having a glow in the dark bath night, and I was the favorite au pair of the night. Pretty great feeling and I am sure if you want the same feeling, glow sticks would work fine for your kids.
In addition to that, I also got some inspiration from my Grandma Malone. When I was younger, my grandma owned a toy shop and sold an item called Monster Spray. You sprayed this concoction in your room at night, and the monsters vanished. It was great stuff and worked like a charm. This memory, therefore, rose to the surface when the "Monsters Inc." obsessed four-year-old in the household started to become scared of the monsters in his room. I suggested to his mom that we invest in some monster spray. We decided to call it Super Safe Spray, however, because we didn't want to even suggest that monsters were real. I simply took an old hairspray bottle, covered it in construction paper, and filled it with peppermint scented water. He sprays it in his room every night now, and has been sleeping much better since. This is great because it makes for a much less cranky four-year-old in the morning.
Finally, I broke out into my teacher mode and introduced some word games for the kiddos. Leonardo is starting to learn his letters and Stella is learning her numbers. The first game that I made, with the idea from my mom, was a parking garage word game. Each parking space has a letter on it, and if Leonardo can name the letter, he gets to park a car there. For Stella, we made a number pancake game. I wrote down the numbers on circles of cream paper. She and Leonardo took turns flipping over the pancakes to see if they could name the number. If they said it correctly, they were allowed to keep the pancake. The person with the most pancakes at the end won. It is nice to be able to apply four years of education to somethingJ.