How Nannies Can Create a Learning Environment at Home

Creating a fun, engaging learning environment is part of a nanny’s daily job. However, you don’t have to turn your employer’s home into a mini preschool to create the kind of space that helps a child actively explore and learn about the world around him. The things you already do throughout the day offer lots of opportunities for teachable moments.

  1. Get kids involved in cooking. Kids love being able to help out in the kitchen. It makes them feel grown up and they love being able to “play” with things that are normally reserved for the adults of the house. Toddlers can help level off measuring cups, pour, stir and kneed. Preschoolers can grease backing pans, measure out ingredients and wash fruits and vegetables. Older kids can do simple food prep and take on the responsibility of reading the recipe and pulling all the ingredients together. Cooking teaches all kinds of skills including math, science, reading, following multi-part directions and fine motor skills. It also allows children to contribute in a real way to the family, which builds the feeling of being capable, instills confidence, and feeds their love of learning new things. Make sure that while you’re having fun in the kitchen, you’re taking all the necessary safety precautions. It’s no fun when someone gets hurt.
  2. Enlist help for everyday household chores. Although things like laundry, cleaning out the hall closet, and going through seasonal clothes may not be your favorite tasks, all of those things can be fun and educational for kids. Putting dirty laundry into piles by color or putting all the large building blocks into one bin are great sorting exercises. Putting socks in pairs and matching up clothes by size and season are great ways to practice color and size matching. Folding builds fine motor skills and spatial intelligence. Just about every task we do in our everyday lives can be a valuable learning opportunity for a child.
  3. Encourage early reading through organization. Labels are a great way to keep toys, clothes, art supplies, and just about everything else organized. Adding labels to the outside of drawers, closet doors, boxes, bins, baskets, and shelves with the help of the kids helps make the connection between objects and the words that represent them. Adding an identifying picture will help younger children get in on the fun. To keep the labels looking like new, cover them with a laminating sheet, clear page protector or clear packing tape. This is also an easy way to encourage children to put their clothes away, pick up their toys, and even help with household chores like putting dishes away. Kids love being able to figure out where things go all by themselves.
  4. Create a home library. Reading shouldn’t just happen at story time or as part of a bedtime routine. Encouraging kids to read at home during the day supports early literacy and fosters a love of learning.  One of the easiest ways to do this is by setting up a home library. Set up one or two shelves in an easily accessible location and designate it as the family library. Include favorite books from all family members. This is the perfect place for kids who need some quiet time, who need a way to transition out of a high energy activity, or who just want to be on their own for a while. Make sure you have a bean bag chair or floor pillows close by for snuggling up with a good book.
  5. Provide supplies that encourage pretend play. Children don’t need elaborate toys to have fun. With just a few basic supplies they can go on a safari trip, travel to far away universes, sail the high seas or go on countless other adventures. Pretend play does more than just provide a fun afternoon. It helps children develop social, emotional, language and critical thinking skills. Foster a child’s creative play by devoting a toy box to props you find throughout the house. Scarves, wrapping paper rolls, empty boxes, old linens, laundry baskets, and dollar store treasures all make for great playthings. Add some markers, paint, and duct tape and you’re on your way to making hundreds of unique treasures.
  6. Support child-directed play. It’s tempting as a nanny to fill the day with lots of planned outings, craft projects, science experiments and other things to foster learning. But one of the best things you can do is simply sit back and follow your charge’s lead. Children who are given the time and space to experiment with different things will automatically gravitate to things they enjoy and that fulfill their needs. Of course you want to be actively engaged with the children you care for, but also remember to give them lots of opportunities to show you what’s next on the daily schedule.

Creating a home learning environment is a fun and rewarding part of a nanny’s job. By providing the right opportunities, the children you care for will spend their days engaged in things they enjoy as they learn new and valuable skills.

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