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Introducing Children to STEM

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Educators emphasize the importance of introducing young children to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) early. However, for parents and nannies who don’t have a background in STEM, and for whom the days of grade school science experiments are long ago, the thought of introducing STEM concepts to young children can be quite daunting. Happily, engaging children in STEM while they are young is less about teaching equations and more about teaching how to problem solve!

Children are naturally inquisitive, as anyone who has endured a couple hundred rounds of ‘why? But why?’ can attest. STEM for young children is based on capturing the curious nature of children and teaching them how to reason it out independently. You don’t need to have a PhD in physics, biology, or mathematics to engage children in STEM based play. In fact, learning together can be half the fun!

Having children use reason, prediction, hypothesis, and problem solving to attempt to discover an answer to a question teaches critical thinking. It is easy to incorporate these skills into play, from activities that use chemical reactions, such as making elephant toothpaste, to nature walks that encourage children to explore their natural environment. Our Nanny Angels often incorporate STEM into the activities they do, through crafts and investigation of the natural world!
Encouraging children to form their own hypotheses about the natural world fosters their natural curiosity. When a child asks you why something works the way it does, ask them why they think it works that way. Once they’ve created their own hypothesis, you can help them put it to the test. Teaching STEM concepts can be as simple as walking through a forest with a child!

Aside from nature walks, experiments are another way to engage children, and are teachable through activities that children will absolutely love doing!

One classic experiment is the egg drop experiment. It is simple, and easy to adapt to any age group. The challenge is for the kids to design a contraption using various materials, usually recyclables, to protect an egg when it is dropped from a height. By designing a protective case for the egg and going through a trial and error process, children learn why their design might not have worked, and come up with ideas about what might work instead. Check out this website for a compete outline of the experiment. Beware… some eggs will have to be sacrificed in the name of science!!

Another classic, and a favourite amongst kids and Nanny Angels alike, is the explosive combo of baking soda and vinegar! This magically fizzy combo can be used in a variety of experiments, from film canister rockets to the classic volcano. Ana Dziengel at Babble Dabble Do has come up with a very cool version that uses the citric acid in lemons rather than vinegar to create tiny volcanos. She also uses dish soap and food colouring to make the reaction even more dramatic! You can read the complete instructions over on her blog.

For more ideas on how to engage children in STEM activities, be sure to follow our ‘Learn and Play’ board over on the Nanny Angel Network’s Pinterest.

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Text: Jensine Jones       Sources: Teach Preschool Natural Start

A Mom’s Story: Cheryl

“I didn’t jump right away to calling it “cancer”. Initially, I talked [to my kids] about having a blood disorder, and that might have been more for me than them, I wasn’t quite ready to use the cancer word myself.”

Multiple myeloma: those are the words Cheryl, mother of three, did not want her children to associate with the idea of mom. After seeing her family doctor for fatigue and excruciating back pain that nearly lead to tears with movement, Cheryl was faced with a diagnosis that could change her and her family’s life significantly.

“I can do most things. But at the pace of 60% of what a normal person could do. Basically I operate like a 70-year-old. If you wanted to picture it, look at my mom, and I have about the get-up-and-go that she has.”

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Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that is very difficult to treat, and requiring different combinations of medications to manage. Because of this, Cheryl requires regular doctor appointments, and as a result of her many medications, has been in and out of hospitals for complications.

“I’m in constant treatment. I’ll do one thing until that stops working, and then they’ll switch me to something else, till they run out of things to switch me to. The treatment I’m on now results me in having very low immunity to anything […] over the holidays, I was in hospital for shingles, meningitis, and an intestinal infection. Last march, I was in hospital for a week with pneumonia, and a blood infection. I don’t just get a cold, I get in terrible situations. [It’s] eye opening to me in terms of just how unreliable my body has become. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

With three children, ages 12, 9, 5, Cheryl and her husband were struggling to balance everything from the medical appointments, working, and taking care of the family, all on their own.

“My daughter was going to a program 2 days a week, which was the only way during the initial stages of me getting really sick that I could even manage, and I was just trying to fit all my appointments on those 2 days. The other 3 days, I was basically lying around feeling crappy and useless.”

Living a distance away from family, and feeling the increasing burden of asking for help from friends, Cheryl was able to turn to the Nanny Angel Network (NAN) for support. NAN understands how vulnerable women can feel when asking for help, and strives to ensure that all mothers feel welcome.

“[It’s] like a sense of not being entirely alone – we don’t have a lot of family support that’s available on a regular basis, so that made it very nice, to feel like there was someone you could call. And also, initially, I was very concerned about finances, and the fact that this was available, free of charge, was a huge benefit. Having someone routinely is really beneficial because then you have this ray of hope […] that one day you’re going to have a couple of hours to go get groceries or something without dragging your kids with you.”

Once Nanny Angels were able to step in, not only was Cheryl able to find more time to focus on her health, but she was also able to spend more quality time with her family.

“During the summer, [NAN visits] coordinated frequently with the day that my 12-year-old had his baseball games, so I was able to actually go see some of his baseball games, because if I go to a game with the other two kids, then there’s no actually watching the game happening. So I was able to watch some of his games which was nice for both of us.”

Cheryl shared how isolated she felt living with a chronic illness. With a little over two years since her diagnosis, Cheryl is still finding that small gestures of kindness can go a long way.

“You know what, it gets a little old. It gets a little old in the second year. People want to think you’re just fine. And we just get so used to this kind of new normal. But last week we had someone out of the blue show up with a great plate of lasagna, and I was really kind of shocked at just how much I appreciated that. Having access to NAN is like that. Sure, we are managing on our own, but when someone cares enough to give of themselves just to make my life a little easier and add enjoyment to the lives of my kids, it is very special. It’s more than a few hours to catch up on some errands, or rest, or even spend one-on-one time with one of my kids. It’s a reminder that there is good in this world and that even if I can’t be there for my children there are others who will be.”

Cheryl is just one of many moms who NAN helps support through their cancer treatment.

This Mother’s Day, please consider supporting NAN in honour of a mother in your life, and help us change the lives of mothers living with cancer.

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Text & Photos: Nanny Angel Network

Volunteering in Retirement

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The Nanny Angel Network joins organizations across Canada this week in celebrating National Volunteer Week and recognizing the incredible volunteers who give so generously of their time and energy to make a real difference in the lives of those who need it the most. NAN’s volunteers come from all walks of life, including students, teachers, nurses, ECEs, and even retirees.

Choosing to volunteer your time in retirement comes with a host of benefits. From providing a transition from working life to retired life, to giving you a sense of purpose, to connecting you to a network of other volunteers, there are many ways in which volunteering as a retiree can improve your life. There are even health benefits – former director of the Centre on Aging at the University of Victoria, Neena Chappell, reports that retirees who volunteer, “especially if it involves helping others, are happier and healthier in their later years.”

Dianne Levy is a retired teacher who has been volunteering with the Nanny Angel Network since early 2015. She says that she decided to begin volunteering because she “wanted to help others and give back to the community.” When asked why she choose NAN over other organizations, Dianne replied that she picked NAN because she could see the need for the Nanny Angel Network in the community, and was impressed by Audrey, the founder of the organization. She added that Angel’s make an incredible difference in the lives of families going through cancer treatment and recovery.

Dianne has been volunteering almost as long as she has been retired, giving her a firm grasp on what volunteering in retirement is like. “If you have the time and you want to give back and enjoy the feeling of giving, do it,” Dianne said when asked what she would say to someone who is about to retire and is thinking about volunteering. “There is no better feeling than to be needed and appreciated.” Dianne also emphasized that choosing an organization that is a good fit for you is important when deciding whether or not to volunteer in retirement. “To be an Angel you have to be a certain type of individual,” she said. “Not everyone I know would be suited to this type of volunteer position.” Of course, the Nanny Angel Network has plenty of volunteer positions beyond Nanny Angels, including providing help in the office as well as roles around fundraising.

We also asked Dianne if she had a favourite story from her time volunteering with NAN that she’d like to share, and she was happy to tell us all about the kids she works with.

One story makes me laugh. We go to the park when the weather is conducive for playing outdoors. The two children I work with are 6 and 3. We play pretend. In their eyes, I am a kid, not a grandmother. They asked me to climb the monkey bars.  I am a Princess, a Queen, a fireman, and a witch. Their imaginations are endless. Little are they aware that my joints are not what they used to be. In their minds, they think I am a youngster with unlimited energy and dexterity. It makes me laugh because in a few years, I will be an old lady to them, but now, I am just a kid.

Dianne told NAN that volunteering has really taught her a lot, including patience and understanding. “It has brought out my imagination. Volunteering has channeled the child in me. I have become a better person. I have learned to be grateful and to cherish ALL moments.” When asked if she had any last comments, Dianne emphasized again how important she sees the work that NAN does. “I think the Nanny Angel Network is truly amazing,” she says, adding, “I just wish more people were aware of this agency because there is such a great need for this service.”

The Nanny Angel Network is always looking for new Nanny Angels to join our team of dedicated volunteers! To become a Nanny Angel, you must have one year of recent professional childcare experience, which can include being a professional nanny, nursing, teaching, social work, or a student currently enrolled in programs for careers involving childcare. You must also be a legal resident of Canada, physically and mentally fit to provide unsupervised care for children, a minimum of 18 years of age, have a clear vulnerable sector police check (which can be arranged through NAN)), current CPR and First Aid training (also can be arranged through NAN), and two references related to childcare experience. The Nanny Angel Network also provides specialized training for all of our volunteers, which includes a seminar on Grief and Loss with Andrea Warnick.

If you’d like to become a Nanny Angel with NAN, fill out our online application!

Dianne Levy

Dianne Levy photographed by Omar Duragos


Text: Jensine Jones       Sources: theglobeandmail.com