A good nanny has a unique opportunity: she can truly have a positive impact on the lives of the children in her care. At any given moment, she may be a mentor, a role model, and a confidant to her charges. With this opportunity, however, comes great responsibility! Much like a parent or teacher, a nanny is tasked not only with keeping kids safe, but also with teaching them how to be good citizens.
But how does a nanny instill good values in kids without boring them? After all, the stereotype about children fidgeting during lessons or in church exists for a reason; it’s not uncommon for kids to get restless when you’re trying to teach them something important.
Luckily, this is where a nanny’s services come in handy! Nannies know how to make learning fun, and every good nanny should have a repertoire of activities that provide opportunities to teach kids good morals and manners.
A few of the most common values that parents want nannies to instill in their children are honesty, fairness, friendship, respect, and compassion. Activities and games that involve sharing and teamwork are a few natural paths to teaching many of these skills. You can also make a point of playing cooperative games, where people play together instead of competing against each other. This way, kids will develop teamwork and cooperation skills. This can be particularly useful for kids who have trouble with authority or are known to be aggressively competitive.
You may find that you’ve taught these skills without even knowing it. For example, if you’ve asked your child to speak nicely to competitors during a game or to cheer other players on, you’ve taught them about friendship, respect, and compassion.
It’s important to be very straightforward with the purposes of these activities, so the child understands and connects the value to the behavior. You might say, “Today, we are going to practice kindness,” and then, as you play games or do whichever activities you choose, remind the kids how the activities relate to kindness.
Try this fun, character-building activity: Cooks in the Kitchen
To teach kids how to cooperate, work as a team, and make easy, healthy snacks or meals, play Cooks in the Kitchen! It’s an ideal game because it can be tailored to virtually any recipe, and it allows you to teach good values and an important life skill at the same time.
Remember to always be sure there is an adult in the room to supervise the children during any kitchen activities. Don’t let the kids near anything that could potentially harm them, such as the stove, oven, or knives.
Here’s how you play the game:
Choose a kid-friendly recipe that can be broken down easily into steps or stations. Assign a sous chef (this can be you, if the kids are very young), who can then direct assignments to the others. (Be sure to trade off responsibility so each child gets a chance to be in charge.)
If you’re baking, maybe one child mixes dry ingredients and another takes care of wet ingredients. Or, if you’re making something like French bread pizzas, have one child wash vegetables or assemble toppings while the other puts together the sauce or toasts the bread.
You can use this as an opportunity to explain to the kids how kitchens function safely and efficiently when everyone works as a team. As you put together the ingredients, explain to the children how each ingredient provides different nutrients that are essential for good health. If you have a good grasp of chemistry or food science (or, if you’ve recently watched Alton Brown’s Good Eats!), you can also show them how the ingredients combine to make something new—and tastier!