Growing Toddler Autonomy: Getting Dressed!

Today is a snow day! We didn’t get much snow, but nonetheless it will be nice to have some real conversation throughout the day with the older two kids I watch.  Unfortunately, with a nagging double ear-infection and a body still recovering from influenza I may not be the best of company for them.  But I will put on my positive face (and a little extra make-up) and prepare myself for a good day! In case there are many other nannies out there feeling snowed in themselves, here is something to do with your little ones to buy some time:  MAKE A BOOK! This is an example of one we made the other day. Enjoy! xOxO

There are no things more rewarding than the things we can do by ourselves. I don’t know who said that. Perhaps I just made it up on my own. But regardless of who said what, the truth remains the same: autonomy is empowering. And, if it’s empowering for adults when we create something & can say, “I did that”, why wouldn’t it also be empowering for toddlers to recognize their own accomplishments as well? I have said it before and I will say it a million times again “the most important thing we can give a child is a sense of autonomy”.

And I’m not always talking about big feats. Most of the time I am talking about small things– using a spoon to stir the muffin mix, knowing where to look for crayons, taking care of their blocks and the most challenging task of the day: GETTING DRESSED!

We often forget that someone took the time to show us how to put on our clothes. But it’s true. Someone did. And for the little ones I watch, we have been growing and learning all about clothes & different strategies of getting dressed. We have discovered that tags go in the back for a reason & sometimes our socks can feel funny.  And while all of these lessons sound simple, they are not. It’s lots of trying and lots of patience for everyone!

So, one thing we did a few weeks ago was make a book about getting dressed.
004 I cut out different clothing items. Then I let them each glue the clothes onto the pages.  This was exciting! The twins I watch just love using a glue stick! I explained to them as they went along that we were making a book. This was even more exciting for them now, as we spent hours reading books, but have never made books before!


Once the pages were done, I wrote the words. I used simple, repetitive language that they could easily remember if they were looking at the book alone, and that would trigger vocabulary the next time we were getting dressed.


This book lasted about two weeks around the house, which was a pretty good lifespan for two-year olds. Whether or not the book helped, I’m not sure, but it was fun to use the glue stick and read along with together. Why not make something they already enjoy doing into a life skills lesson without their knowing? This nanny is tricky. And isn’t that what learning is all about, the fun we have along the way?

Nanny Dilemma: Caring for Sick Kids

One of the hardest things to do as a nanny is care for sick kids. And, even harder than that is caring for sick kids when their parents are out of town. Having dealt with this before, and currently going through this now, I thought I would offer up some tips!

#1: Change your expectations for the day.

It’s important to remember that when a child is sick any routine or expectations MUST go out the window.  No matter what you had to do or wanted to do, your first priority MUST be tending to the sick child.  (As a rule of thumb in most cases, I always fill immediate needs first, and then focus on the secondary things– this is totally applies to caring for sick children, too.) And so, when a child is sick, my immediate need is comforting and caring for them, and everything else becomes secondary. Forget about normal sleep times, eating times, etc. Give the child what they need at the time they need it, rather than sticking to a strict schedule. At the end of the day, all their parents really care about is how the child is feeling rather than if you stayed on schedule.

Real life example.  Today, the little one I watch had a fever. She was too sick to play, too sick to eat and even toO sick to (gasp) take her nap.  My first reaction was to go along with normal nap time rules. But after some time listening to her whimper and then scream in her crib, I realized that nap time no longer mattered like it normally would.  What I needed to do was take my mind out of the normal routine and focus on fixing the immediate need: which was to simply comfort and love on her.

#2: Care for the child as their parent would.

The easiest way to help a child in pain is to put them in their comfort zone.  Once they feel comfortable, then the physical pain they’re experiencing will lesson to a certain degree. This being said, you need to know what the child’s comfort zone is.  Here are some simple ways to determine this:

*figure out HOW their parent’s care for them. Do they give them medicine? Do they have home remedies? Do they use ice packs or heating pads? Do they feed them certain teas or foods?

*figure out WHAT their parent’s DO for them. Do they rock them? Do they give them a quiet environment? Do they let them stay in their PJ’s? Do they let them lay on the couch and watch a movie?

*figure out what the parent wants you to do at that time. Especially when a parent is traveling, the first thing you should do is let them know about their child’s illness and then specifically ask them “what do you want me to do?” More often than not, parents will give you suggestions and tell you what works best. The key here is communication.

#3: Remind yourself that you are the nanny, not their parent

As in any situation, when you work as nanny it is important remind ourselves that while we love the little chicks we watch with all our  beings, they are not ours. They belong to their parents. Our job is simply to care for them while their parents cannot.  We are trusted to tend the roost during the day.  That is why it is so important that we respect the our boundaries and care for sick children as their parents want; because at the end of the day, we go to our own coops and they stay in theirs. Love them as much as you can, while you can, and fill them up with happiness: that is what we are there for.

Final Tidbits.

Even when I am stressed from the crying and helplessness of caring for a sick child, when I want to scream and cry myself, I take a minute to look at the child and simultaneously intake one giant deep breath. Without a doubt, it is in that breath & those few moments of inner silence when I am simply looking and not hearing, or worrying or panicking that I always find the best method of caring for a sick child.

We are, after all, raising a generation who will someday take care of us. And so, more than anything else, when I look into the eyes of the little ones I watch, I first and foremost ask myself, how would I want someone to treat me? And I always, always, trust my gut from there.