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The Impact of Nature on Mental Health
Summer is upon us and while the temperatures are high, there is an invigorating shift that comes with the heat waves. Evidence of the positive effects of spending time in nature is bountiful, so today we’ll discuss the impact of nature on mental health and ways to incorporate more of it into your daily life to improve your family’s well-being.
The Healing Power of Nature
Much research has been done on the healing properties of spending time outdoors. The benefits have a broad range of physical, cognitive and emotional improvements. Significant shifts in focus, memory and behavior can be attributed to exposure to nature. In one study conducted in Denmark, children that had abundant access to green spaces were 55% less likely to develop mental illness when they got older. Spending time outdoors is shown to produce feelings of awe and happiness, which in turn makes us more productive and impacts how we show up in social situations. Those who feel happy and connected to life tend to be more generous and cooperative. The oxygen intake from walking outdoors is shown to increase serotonin production, boost heart and bone health, and decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Did you know that when the sun hits our skin, it actually uses the cholesterol in our skin cells to convert that energy into Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for our immune health? Even the sounds of nature are shown to reduce stress and improve focus. All of these benefits and more can be experienced with just two hours per week of time outside.
Ocean or Mountains?
The perks of spending time in green spaces (i.e. land abundant in trees and other foliage) and blue spaces (i.e. land with abundant aquatic spaces like oceans or lakes) are shown to have similar effects. A nice walk or bike ride for 20-30 mins a day could be just what you need to get a fresh perspective for your day. Instead of tv or a podcast as background noise or visuals, try a nature sound compilation video on YouTube or whichever streaming services you use most. A weekly visit to your favorite local park or hiking trail could also be rejuvenating. Even time at a public or private pool can serve as a great way to get outside!
Bring Nature to You
Some of us may have limited options for outdoor exploration, but there are several great ways to bring nature to you. Pinterest has tons of great resources for starting a balcony, windowsill, or raised bed garden for your patio. Low-maintenance houseplants are also an awesome way to fill your home with greenery, and teach your children the value of nature. There are so many lessons to be learned by caring for plants or tending to a garden that will encourage us and our kids to value life outside of ourselves. Chromotherapy or colorology studies the effects certain colors can have on our mood and productivity as well. These studies show that there are even benefits to just having the color green, blue or yellow in the decor we use in our homes. Color-changing light bulbs, the paint on the walls and the images we hang around our house can have a similar effect as spending time outdoors.
We hope you found this information helpful, and it inspires you and your family to spend some quality time in the great outdoors this summer!
Teaching Children About Body Positivity
Summer break is here which means warm weather, swim season, outdoor activities, summer holidays, and fun social events! This also means now is the time to seize the moment and create an opportunity to have an important conversation with our children about what it means to be body positive. Puzzled at where to even begin? We have four ideas for teaching children about body positivity.
Become a super ROLE model
Children pay attention a lot more than we give them credit for. Helping them value body positivity has to start with you. Remember that your words and actions matter. How we talk about our, and others, bodies is so important. We can set boundaries around criticism and compliments which is key to building trust and self-esteem. Reminding our kids that confidence and comfort are things we can give ourselves, not just get from others is vital as well. We can lead by example in how we care for ourselves; prioritizing healthy sleep, self-care, and personal habits.
Let’s get PHYSICAL
In a day and age where technology is king, it is important to emphasize connection; not only to other people but to our bodies. It can be helpful to establish a routine that creates space for physical activity. Try this language: “In our family, taking care of our body matters. We do this by ____ .” Whether you incorporate solo forms of exercise or group activities depends on your child’s personality. Reaching out to local community centers about different team sports or group activities can be a game-changer in helping our kids discover the world, build relationships and unlock inner talents/passions. Often, activities are offered seasonally, so empowering your child with choices and variety without it needing to be a permanent decision takes the pressure off and makes exercise a fun avenue of self-expression. Another idea is to make fitness a family affair. Going for family walks or bike rides after dinner can be a great way to build connection and value for movement. Family yoga on a Saturday morning can be an awesome way to get the weekend off to a great start. Remember, fitness is highly customizable, and the best workouts are the ones that work for you and that you look forward to doing.
Make friends with FOOD
Creating a healthy relationship with food at a young age is essential in maintaining a healthy balance as an adult. Rather than using verbiage that pits foods against each other like “good” or “bad”/”junk” foods, try the Always-Sometimes-Rarely method. “Always” foods are things like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. “Sometimes” foods are the yummy treats we get on special occasions like our favorite takeout, red meat, and starchy vegetables, like potatoes. “Rarely” foods are things high in sugar, salt, or trans fats like highly processed, packaged, or fried foods. Explain that certain foods are easier for our bodies to use to help us feel healthy, energized, and strong. Others may taste really yummy, but don’t give our bodies anything good in return. A creative way to encourage curiosity and build appreciation for what is on our plates is by making grocery shopping or farmers markets a family adventure and learning opportunity.
What’s on your MIND?
Health is about more than just the body; it starts in the brain. On a scientific level, food and exercise affect hormone balance, which has a huge impact on the chemicals our brain makes to keep our mood stabilized and bodily processes moving smoothly. Teaching kids to value mental health will only serve them later in life. Some helpful ways to check in with your kids on what they’re thinking and feeling are morning mantras and evening affirmations. Taking the time to appreciate and celebrate non-physical attributes is a very important practice to incorporate into your daily routine. It builds confidence, self-awareness, and the ability to communicate what’s going on inside your child’s world. Connect and check-in at dinner or bedtime about their day, and what may be on their mind about tomorrow. Some helpful language for this is highs/lows, roses/thorns, prayers/praises, or wins/losses. Whatever verbiage helps your child connect and understand, use that!
Expand Your Library with these Body Positive Books for Kids
I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont
I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
What I Like About Me! by Allia Zobel Nolan
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
What’s Silly Hair Day with No Hair? by Norene Paulson
Brontorina by James Howe
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen
Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders
Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys Paperback by Cara Natterson
Being You: The Body Image Book for Boys by Charlotte Markey
Because I am Me: Positive Affirmations for Brown Boys Paperback by Erika J. Gibson
The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Britney Winn Lee
All Bodies Are Good Bodies by Charlotte Barkla
A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy
My Body Sends a Signal: Helping Kids Recognize Emotions and Express Feelings by Natalia Maguire
Pink Is for Boys by Robb Pearlman
Tips for Traveling with Toddlers
With summer break upon us families may be planning and packing up for a week of relaxation and fun! Many of you will be finding yourself on an airplane or in the car with your little ones which is no easy feat. Whether you are preparing for an hour flight, a six-hour flight, or a long road trip in the car we are here to share some tips and information to help make your travels a little bit smoother.
Plan Travel Around Naps
Creating a sleep schedule for your infant or toddler has probably been something you have put time and research into to ensure optimal sleep for all. When planning your flights or deciding when to leave for a long car ride, try to match the timing as best you can with your child’s typical nap time. It is not always a guarantee they will sleep but trying to keep them on their typical routine can help. Booking a direct flight can also be beneficial to their schedule with fewer interruptions involved. Make sure to bring their favorite lovie, blanket, or pacifier that soothes them at nap time.
Make A Checklist
Executing a smart and practical plan is essential when traveling with little ones. There are many items, toys, snacks, and gear to think of when packing for a trip away! Some essentials to add to your list are easy on and off clothing, extra diapers/wipes, sanitizing wipes, plastic bags (for wet clothes or dirty diapers), soothing toys, and blankets. Try categorizing the things on your list you know you will need such as meals, sleep, health, and safety items.
Car Seat for Plane Travel
If your child is under the age of two you have the option to still buy a plane seat for them where you can secure their car seat. If they are over the age of two this can also still be recommended. It is important to always check with the respected airline you will be flying to ensure they allow car seats in the cabin. Safe In The Seat has a wonderful and informative course you can take to learn more about air travel with small children.
Everyone always says to arrive at the airport two hours early and this is something that is especially important when flying with infants and toddlers! Arriving 90 minutes to two hours early will allow enough time for possible long TSA lines and better yet time to regroup once at the respected terminal to feed the baby, have lunch or purchase any last-minute items at the airport. A great time-saver is gate checking your stroller and car seat (if you’re not bringing the car seat on the plane). You can conveniently use your stroller to get your children through the airport with ease and check it right before you enter the plane. A great reminder is to purchase a travel bag to protect your travel system since it will be less likely to be damaged if covered!
Protect Their Ears
We have all experienced ear pain and pressure when taking off and landing by airplane and it is no different for our children. You can offer your baby a feeding whether it is by bottle or breast as the sucking can often help ear pain with pressure changes. According to the TSA formula, milk or juice quantities greater than 3.4 ounces are allowed in carry-on luggage. A few other options to offer are a pacifier, sippy cup, or snack for older children.
We hope you find these tips helpful as you gear up for any upcoming travels. Our team at Educated Nannies wishes you a safe and enjoyable summer this year no matter where you are headed!
Montessori Basics To Do At Home
Have you ever found yourself interested in information about the Montessori method of teaching? Or maybe it’s something you are familiar with and follow closely in your children’s day to day activities? Montessori is a scientifically based education approach that emphasizes on independence, hands on learning and collaborative play. We are excited to share a few ideas on how to incorporate Montessori based learning into your home each day!
Child Sized Furniture
There are a variety of children’s furniture items that promote Montessori based learning. A table and chair set where your child’s feet sit flat on the ground will provide appropriate comfort for them as they gain mobility and independence. You child can use this “weaning” table to enjoy a healthy snack or do a creative activity!
Set Up Independence
Prepare your home environment to enable your child to be able to do things for themselves. Montessori is always child centered and promotes freedom for children to explore materials of their choice. A few ways to encourage these tasks are to arrange coat hooks lower for them to hang their jacket up or have an accessible drawer in the kitchen for them to choose their plate and cup for dinner.
Create a “Yes” Space
Offering children, a designated area to learn and play can encourage a sense of self and offers ownership. This is often called a “YES” space according to Janet Lansbury and can inspire play, learning and creativity for both the child and parent. It is a room or area made specifically for the child to feel safe and assured. Create a clean space with no hazardous items, a soft and comfortable rug, a toy shelf where items are clutter free and a climber where children can explore and get their wiggles out!
Basket of Books
Reading is always a wonderful activity to incorporate into a child’s day. Keep a basket of Montessori inspired children’s books anywhere your child spends time such as in the corner of your living room, the car (which can also be used when in the waiting room at appointments, long car rides or their sibling’s baseball game!) and wherever your child spends a lot of their time.
Simple and Natural Décor
Have you ever walked into a serene space such as a spa and instantly felt calmer? That might have a something to do with the usual neutral aesthetic that most day spas have. You can achieve the same environment for your children’s spaces by painting the walls a neutral color, featuring wood, glass, or natural fibers over plastic materials. Also, try including framed art to hang in their space to replace bright and cartoon like art.
Our community of nannies loves learning about new ways to incorporate different childcare philosophies into their work each day. We hope you found some of these tips helpful if you practice Montessori learning!
Nanny Compensation Packages
Are you considering hiring a nanny to support your family’s needs? If so, we have some tips for you. It’s a very competitive market right now for childcare and we want to set you up for success! Educated Nannies is happy to provide information and support on how to find the most qualified and experienced nanny for your family. Nannies are a household employee once hired and many employers will offer their nanny some options for a compensation package. Offering a wide range of benefits can help you attract exceptional candidates for your part-time or full-time needs!
Many nannies will use their personal vehicle to assist with school pick up/drop off, activities and errands. If they are using their own vehicle, they should be getting reimbursed for the expenses that occur. The IRS sets the legal rate for non-taxable mileage reimbursement each year.
Employers can offer their nanny health insurance with a few different options to consider. They have the option to contribute directly to their nanny’s health insurance premiums and treat it as non-taxable compensation meaning the amount the employer pays will not be subject to taxes for both the employer and nanny. Another option is to offer a QSERHA (Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements). This caters to small businesses or household employers of less than 50 that are not offering a group health insurance and can reimburse up to $5,050 for a single health plan or $10,250 for a family health plan. The employee must provide proof of their healthcare costs so the employer can offer a monthly allowance to cover the costs. This information will then be reported on the nanny’s W-2 tax form.
Many nannies working with children will want to continue learning and growing their childcare knowledge though a variety educational classes. An employer can help with expenses such as books, supplies, tuition, and fees as these will be considered nontaxable expenses up to $5,250. Employers also have the chance to use the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) which can help pay for an employee’s student loans on a pretax basis. The CARES act will be available until January 1, 2026.
Paid Time Off
Everyone enjoys a day off here and there or may find themselves ill and need some time off work unexpectedly. Employers in Los Angeles are required to provide at least 48 hours or six paid sick days per year. Many employers will often provide a minimum of two weeks paid time off for their full-time nanny. One important thing to note is that paid time off does not always include holidays. The employer can decide if they would like to pay the nanny for federal holidays, however most families offer 6-8 paid holidays.
Everyone likes to be recognized for their work at monthly and yearly reviews in the workplace and nannies are no different! Consider offering your nanny a raise at an annual review or a gift of appreciation. Some great gift ideas are gift cards to their favorite store or restaurant. Another option is a subscription to a streaming service they are interested in or meal service plan!
Guaranteed Hours and Pay
When it comes to a nanny’s schedule, guaranteed hours and pay are a great benefit to offer. For example, if the employer goes on vacation and does not bring the nanny along, they should continue to pay at the nanny’s regular wage. You may also find that some days there is a shift in schedule and the nanny may not be needed for the entire scheduled shift. In this case, the nanny should still be paid out for the day or guaranteed number of hours agreed on.
Whether you are searching for a nanny, personal assistant, or household manager these are some great benefits to offer your household employee. Educated Nannies is always available to offer any kind support you may have when finding the perfect employee for your home!
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