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A nanny is a child-minder or child-carer who is employed full-time in a private home and is also tasked with very light household duties, usually related to the child or children for whom she is caring, although she may also be asked to cook for the family as well. She is a valuable asset in a household where both parents work but have young children at home who need to be cared for. Nannies may alternatively be employed on an ad-hoc basis as and when needed, such as periods when someone is needed to look after children for an evening or the duration of an event such as a party. She may also work for a few set hours on certain days or even every day, but is not in the home full-time. Also see related category: babysitters.
A nanny has certain skills which are necessary for her to carry out her duties efficiently. She will have to feed the child or children in her care, as her hours may extend over the lunch or dinner period of the child. She must therefore be able to cook simple, healthy meals which will appeal to a child’s often picky appetite, and must ensure that the child eats properly during the time she is there, which means being aware of and catering for any allergies, such as milk or gluten intolerance, or severe reactions to nuts, to name but a few possibilities. Obviously, the nanny is not a specialist, so must be provided with a list of foods which she can safely give to the child, and must always be aware of foods which could be harmful if accidentally eaten by those in her care.
When caring for young children and babies, it is wise to employ someone who has been trained in basic first aid techniques. Despite the most careful care, children do sometimes get into situations where they can be hurt, such as tripping and falling, grazing elbows and knees, being stung by a bee or bitten by another insect, being accidentally scratched by the family cat or dog during play which gets a little too rough, picking up and playing with an object which can scratch or cut their delicate skin, such as rusty nails or discarded sharp objects which they find on the ground when playing. A nanny must be able to provide basic care such as cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging such minor injuries at the time they occur, as well as advising the parent of the cause of the injury.
Rusty and dirty objects can quickly cause bacterial infections, and a tetanus injection may be required if the cause of the injury is a rusty object. If a nanny has come from an accredited agency which provides full training, she may be able to administer CPR in situations where a child has fallen into a swimming pool and ingested a lot of water due to the initial fright of the fall. This is not, however, a standard pre-requisite for a nanny, although it is a skill which is good to have and will give parents even more peace of mind.
If you are looking privately for a nanny, it is essential that you check their references and speak to their previous employers yourself. If you are happy with what you hear, invite the nanny to your home and watch her interaction with your child. You will be able to judge how your child and the potential nanny respond to each other, being in mind that children are naturally initially shy or unhappy around new people until they get used to them. It is preferable, of course, to employ someone who has been recommended personally through word of mouth, but excellent nannies are in high demand and it may not always be possible to find the right nanny through your own resources.
There are many agencies available which specialise in the screening, training, reference-checking and overseeing of nannies. Agencies carry out all the hard work for you when looking for a suitable carer for your child. You can be assured, when working through a reputable agency that your child will be cared for by a nanny who has the necessary experience, skills, knowledge and a genuine love for children. You can find these agencies easily by looking online through sites such as Uptasker, which is a valuable resource, listing the agencies in your specific geographical area, as well as their online reviews. You will be able to immediately see what each agency offers and whether this fits in with your requirements. Alternatively, you can find such agencies in newspapers, magazines, flyers, and through the Yellow Pages, but always ask to speak to some of their previous or existing clients before using their services.
A nanny has to be patient, caring and committed to the welfare of the child or children in her care. She will not spend her time on her own pursuits, be distracted whilst on duty, leave the child unattended or shout at the child. Children are curious little beings who explore everything and have not yet learned that life can be dangerous at times, and it is up to the nanny to protect them just as a mother would. Leaving your precious child in the care of another person is a difficult choice which many of us have to make, but choose carefully and you will be rewarded with a happy and contented child who sees the nanny as another member of the family. For more tips, see our nanny articles.