Best Educational Smartphone Apps

In Part II of our Series of “Cool Tools for Busy Moms & Dads”, we looked at Education Smartphone Apps.  Here’s what made our top 8:
 

 

    • Grammar Up.  A multiple choice quiz system for English that provides over 1800 questions across 20 grammar categories.  [iPhone] [Andriod]
    • Wikitude.  Discover your surroundings by simply holding up your smartphone and exploring what’s around you in Augmented Reality (AR). See places, points of interests and other exciting AR content through your camera’s field of vision.  [iPhone] [Andriod]
    • Flashcards Deluxe (iPhone) & Flash Card Maker Pro (Android).  Powerful flashcard apps to study just about anything you want. [iPhone] [Andriod]
    • Stack the States/Stack the Countries.  As you learn country capitals, landmarks, geographic locations and more, you can actually touch, move and drop the animated countries anywhere on the screen. [iPhone]
    • My Spelling Test.  Imagine your kids begging to practice for their next spelling test. This app is like creating your own spelling bee and is a great way to save time on homework.  [iPhone]
      Star Walk (iPhone)/Google Sky map (Android).  Enables you to point your phone at the sky and see what stars, constellations, and satellites you are looking at in real-time.  [iPhone] [Andriod]
    • K12 Timed Reading Practice.  Lets readers in levels K-4 practice fluency by reading short, timed stories. Improving fluency allows readers to read smoothly and quickly so they can focus on comprehension rather than on decoding words.  [iPhone]

    • Dictionary.com.  The most popular online dictionary also has a free downloadable app with nearly a million words and definitions and 90,000 synonyms and antonyms.  [iPhone] [Andriod]

What are your favorite educational apps?

Smartphone Apps for Busy Moms & Dads


In Part I of our Series of “Cool Tools for Busy Moms & Dads”, we looked at Smartphone Apps that help make our lives a little easier.  Here’s what made our top 8:
iRewardChart.  iRewardChart makes it easy to reward children for chores and good behavior and keep them motivated. Children earn stars for chores, behavior and responsibilities, and they can spend their earned stars on your own custom rewards (e.g., pocket cash, screen time, shopping sprees, sleep overs…whatever you can think of!) We liked this one best because responsibilities could be weighted (e.g., some are worth more stars).  [iPhone] [Andriod]

Taskos To Do List.  The easiest, cleanest task list we’ve found! Easily speak tasks, categorize them, and click to check them off! Added features are useful and available, but do not interfere with the simplicity.  [Andriod]

Have2P. Sometimes when nature calls, you may not be in the most convenient place to answer. With Have2P, you can quickly find nearby spots that have restrooms. An urgency detector even senses when you (and the phone) are shaking and starts a fresh search.  [iPhone] [Andriod]

Glympse.  Glympse is the easy way for family members to safely share their location in realtime. Glympse shoots family members’ exact location in real-time to other family members. Perfect for when picking kids up from school (they can see how far away Mom is), amusement park or shopping mall split-ups, or just for security purposes. Users can specify who can see their location and for how long.  [iPhone] [Andriod]

Food Planner.  The best meal planner app hands down! Super simple…allows you to quickly schedule daily meals. You can also use their recipe and inventory features, but the planning feature makes this app one of our must-haves on a daily basis. [Andriod]

ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner.  Aim the camera at any product’s barcode, wait for the beep and ShopSavvy will provide you with a list of online and local store prices as well as reviews.  [iPhone] [Andriod]

Clean Noise.   Relaxing, calming ambient noises to help bring calm to your day (or your baby’s nap/night).  [White Noise: iPhone] [Andriod]

Cozi Family Organizer.  Manage your family calendar by sharing appointments, reminders, and to-do lists with the whole family! Cozi can even send emails or text messages confirming appointments to family member’s.  [iPhone] [Andriod]

What apps do you use that make life easier? 

How to know whether your caregiver is a good match

Do you ever wonder whether the caregiver you have is the right fit for you and your family? If you have to wonder, odds are she probably is not. When you have the right caregiver it doesn’t take long at all to know it. On the flip side, when you have a poor match, it’s usually even more crystal clear, but often out of politeness, sympathy, desperation, or just wanting to give the relationship time to develop, we can live in a bit of denial, delaying the inevitable and paying the large price of our time, affection, and money in the meantime. If you encounter such a match, try hard to move on…in the end, it will save all parties involved unnecessary stress. 

Remember that the difference between a good match and a poor match is often the difference between complete bliss and pure stress. Bliss is the goal! And frankly, it’s the requirement as we pay our hard earned money for quality care for our families. 

Here are some signs that can indicate whether a caregiver is the right match for you and your family.

Good.  Your caregiver is in sync with your family.  She follows even your most vague instructions well, interpreting them and any implied or obvious needs accurately and wisely.

Poor.  Despite reminders about requirements, your caregiver doesn’t follow the instructions or carries out her own preferred method of doing things.

 


Good.  Your caregiver is punctual and reliable, and respects your schedule.

Poor.  Your caregiver is occasionally late,  misses work, or has excessive obligations that interference with her caregiving obligations.

 


Good:  Your caregiver regularly communicates the status of events, activities, issues, and responsibilities as well as any needs or concerns.

Poor: You often wonder the status of daily occurrences and have to draw the information out of the caregiver to find out, leading you to worry about how well your family is being cared for.

 


Good: You are confident and comfortable leaving your caregiver to perform her responsibilities.

Poor: You are uncomfortable and worry about leaving your caregiver to perform her responsibilities.

 


Good:  You feel like your caregiver does a stellar job of helping care for your family’s needs.

Poor: For whatever reasons, you feel like your caregiver does a poor job of performing her responsibilities.

You and your family are the gauge for what YOU need and know best whether someone fits WITH YOUR FAMILY or not.

What signs tell you whether your caregiver is a good match or not?

Household Employment Taxes 101

We receive a LOT of questions from families about household employer taxes. Am I considered an employer? Am I required to pay taxes for my caregiver? How much are they?  All great questions.  The general answers are that people who pay a nanny or other caregiver to perform duties in or around their home ARE considered household employers and are required to pay taxes for their employee(s) if you pay that person $1,700 (2011) or more in a calendar year.  

The great news is that by taking advantage of tax breaks such as Dependent Care Accounts / Flexible Spending Accounts and Child and Dependent Tax Breaks, families can often offset or even exceed their nanny tax payments. That means that by paying taxes legally, families can often actually save money!

Here are some resources and information related to household employer taxes that help shed some light on the benefits and requirements of paying taxes for household employees.

How to do backup care at GoNannies.com

School will be back in before you know it, and now’s the time to secure back-up coverage so you’re never stuck without quality care. And with more caregivers than ever looking for work, your search has never been easier.

To find backup care at GoNannies.com, follow the same necessary steps as finding standard care, except we recommend accumulating a small pool of people you can call on when needed.  Here are the steps:

  1. Post your job (optional) and search for and interview potential candidates who have indicated they’re available for “occasional/as-needed” and/or “back-up/short-notice” assignments (show advanced search options for this search).  
  2. Screen: Checks references, run a thorough background check, and do trial session(s) on final caregiver(s).
  3. When backup care is needed, call your desired caregiver(s) to request backup care.

Run a quick search today to find nannies, housekeepers, sitters, senior caregivers and more!

20 Fun, Free Summer Activities To Do With Children

Summer has just begun and parents and caregivers everywhere are already looking for activities to keep the kids occupied and happy without breaking the bank. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of our 20 favorite FUN, CREATIVE, and FREE activities to do this summer.

  • Have fun bowling this summer with Kids Bowl Free. Children can enjoy 2 free games of bowling everyday. For details and participating centers in your area, visit www.kidsbowlfree.com.
  • Attend a free Build and Grow Clinic at your local Lowe’s Store. Your child will receive a free wooden project, apron, goggles, project themed patch, and a certification of merit. Free clinics are held every Saturday at 10 a.m. Details at www.lowesbuildandgrow.com.
  • Attend a free Kids WorkShop at your local Home Depotstore. Children participate in a free project, and receive a free kid-sized apron, and achievement pin.
  • Target has partnered with Children’s Museums, educators, and arts organizations nationwide to help children and their families engage in arts and cultural eventsVisit their websiteto find free admission to Children’s Museums and free and reduced price events in your area.
  • If you’re a Bank of America cardholder (ATM, Credit or Debit), take advantage of their Museums on US program, offering free general admission to museums, botanical centers, zoos, science centers, and more on the first full weekend of every month. Visit their websitefor participating museums and program details.
  • Visit your local farmer’s market.
  • Earn free books by participating in the Barnes & Noble free Summer Reading Program.
  • Visit your local Barnes & Noble Store for free story time and costume character visits (e.g. Clifford, Winnie the Pooh, Curious George, Peter Rabbit and more). Visit their website to view upcoming events at your nearest Barnes & Noble location.
  • Feed the ducks or go fishing at your local pond.
  • Sign your child up for a free Apple Store iMovie Camp to learn the ins and outs of film making. Details and sign up at their website.
  • Enjoy the playground at your local park
  • Pottery Barn is offering several kids events, including a Father’s Day Lego Duplo Jams, Sing-a-long concerts, and meeting National Geographic Explorers!  Details at their website.
  • Visit your local library. Most libraries have a schedule of summer story times and other fun activities for both older and younger children, and of course, you can check out books, movies, and other media for free.
  • Take advantage of the free trial classes offered in your community for popular activities such as swimming, tumbling/gymnastics, dance, golf, karate, music and art.
  • Get wet in the backyard! Take advantage of your pool (if you have one), water balloons, squirt guns, running through the sprinklers or playing in the kiddie pool.
  • Have a craft day with the kids. You can find lots of free craft ideas and printable worksheets and activities online.
  • Volunteer. Let the kid’s pick out a worthy non-profit cause and make a commitment to donate your time to help others this summer.
  • Go on a nature walk or enjoy a day at the beach or lake.
  • If you’re going to be eating meals on the go, be sure to check your community restaurants and compile a list (or obtain one online) of all the Kids Eat Free days and locations near you.
  • Lastly, make sure to search online for your local free attractions. Most cities will publish a list of free activities and events in your area.

 

Do you know of other great and FREE summer activities?  Comment and share!

 

Attracting Quality Caregivers

Are there secrets to attracting the best caregivers? Not really. In a nutshell, quality positions attract quality caregivers. To attract, hire, and RETAIN top-notch caregivers, offer a quality position and more importantly COMMUNICATE those offerings! Here are some guidelines for presenting your position:

  • Fringe Benefits.  Identify any large or small perks of your position.  Whether it’s access to use a club membership, extra vacation time, travelling with the family, or even free access to sweet goodies baked by a gourmet family member, make sure your prime candidates know the full scope of the benefits you’re offering.
  • Full picture. It’s fair game (and encouraged) to let a candidate know about your super well-behaved children (or whatever their special characteristics may be), your fair and easy-going family, and whatever other family or home characteristics will help give her a good idea of the overall working environment.
     
  • Compensation.  Don’t miss the opportunity to present your FULL compensation package. Base wages are a given, but also consider that annual bonuses (if more than a token amount), any mileage reimbursement (if applicable and offered) and even a signing bonus (with contingencies) can help sweeten a pot for someone you think may be in high demand. Also be sure to communicate your schedule for merit reviews and possible wage increases.
  • Accommodations.  If your position is live-in, share as many features of your accommodations as you can think of. These accommodations will be the home of your caregiver, so comfort and conveniences are key. Consider making small investments that can have a large impact (e.g., a flat screen TV, an elegant bed linen set, or luxurious bathroom toiletries and dispensers).
  • Avoid overstating the benefits.  The purpose of finding your ideal caregiver is not to hire her, but to keep her! Overstating the benefits and attractiveness of a position will almost certainly lead to dissatisfaction down the road.  Be as clear about the job responsibilities and expectations as you are about the benefits to the candidate.  Setting the precedent for clearly stating what’s needed is absolutely essential at this stage and will set you on the right track going forward.
  • Riding the fine line.  It’s important that your caregiver be confident that she will be comfortable in a position, but ultimately, it’s the actual care she’ll provide that she must be MOST comfortable with. So balance stating the responsibilities of the position along with the benefits and watch for signs that the responsibilities are equally as attractive to a candidate as the benefits!

Do you have any effective techniques for landing quality caregivers? Feel free to share!

How to transition from a Nanny to a Nanny/Housekeeper

With the economy only slowly recovering, many caregivers are continuing to diversify their services, with many offering additional housekeeping or personal assistant services to help increase their work hours, as well as to make themselves of greater value to families.

As a result, many caregivers are transitioning from a strictly nanny position to more hybrid positions, such as Nanny/Housekeeper. If this is the scenario for you, you or your caregiver may find yourselves in search of the perfect balance of childcare and housekeeping to meets your family’s needs.  Here are some things to keep in mind, if so:

*  Priorities.  Make sure your caregiver is aware of what the priorities are.  If you’re like most families and prefer that your child(ren) have the caregiver’s full attention (when they’re not napping or at school), be very clear about that.  If there are exceptions (e.g., you need a particular task urgently done on a certain day and it would be okay to complete the task while your child is playing), be clear about such exceptions as they occur.

*  A schedule.  What works well for many families is to distribute housekeeping responsibilities throughout the week. So perhaps Mondays are for kitchen and living room, Tuesdays are bathrooms and dining room, etc.  And along with such a schedule, tidying and keeping all common areas of the home neat can be an every day responsibility.

*  Be flexible.  Always understand that in a Nanny/Housekeeper position, since childcare is involved, sometimes there simply will not be time for housekeeping. Make sure your caregiver understands that prioritizing is just as valuable as everything getting done.  Try to build in times/days where you know the caregiver will be able to catch up on housework if needed so she can have the best opportunity to be successful at (and take pride in) her job!

*  Maximize non-childcare time.  When your child(ren) are napping, at school, or for whatever reason don’t need care at given times, make sure it’s clear to the caregiver that she is to maximize that time for housekeeping.

As always, feel free to give us a ring if you have any questions!

Your GoNannies.com Team
877-GoNannies
(877) 466-2664

 

Effective ways for improving your caregiver’s performance

We all know that having a caring, hard-working, accommodating caregiver makes life bliss. But what do you do when your caregiver, while generally a good performer, needs to kick it up a notch in a certain area?

Here are a few effective tactics you can use to help boost performance:

  1. Communicate.  This is the most obvious and most effective way to initiate an improvement in performance. Sometimes we’re reluctant to communicate concerns with our caregivers because we don’t want to upset them and want to make sure they’re as happy and satisfied as possible since they’re caring for our loved ones and/or home. However, to prevent the situation from worsening and to make sure you’re getting what you need, it’s important to be as direct as possible that you need to see improvement in the desired area. For example, you can let your caregiver know that “while we’re extremely pleased with your care overall, unfortunately, for this position we HAVE to have someone who can be proactive and identify things that need to be done around the house without being told.” This lets them know that the improvement is a condition of employment.
  2. Make it Measurable.  Try to be as specific as possible when discussing any issues. When the area needing improvement is broad (like in the example above), give the caregiver examples to better illustrate the need. Identifying measurables will allow both you and the caregiver to track progress better and is the best way to help your caregiver be more successful.
  3. Follow-up.  When you request improvement in an area, let the caregiver know how you’ll work together to follow-up and measure progress. For example, “Let’s touch base each Friday afternoon when I get home to see how we are both feeling about progress.” Then be sure to make note of any examples of improvement or areas needing improvement so you can give both positive and constructive feedback during your follow-ups. Offer several examples to continue to make the objective more and more MEASURABLE during each follow-up.
  4. Instant feedback.  In addition to follow-ups to measure progress, be sure to give your caregiver instant feedback (or even tokens of appreciation) when they’ve shown improvement in an area. Praise is a great motivator and can go a long way toward consistent, real improvement (and is a critical part of fostering a satisfied caregiver, in general).
  5. Know when to say when. Identify when the issues you’re facing reflect areas which can be improved upon and when they are ones that are indicators of a bad fit. If the latter, you may be faced with the harsh reality that it’s time to move on. Living with a poor performer or a bad fit can sometimes be WORSE than having no care at all. Realize if that’s the case and begin taking steps toward finding a better match for your family. We know moving on is a lot easier said than done, so feel free to let us know if there’s any way we can help!

Keep Them Sharp! Fun Math Websites for Kids

If you’re like us, we’re always looking for effective ways to help our children excel academically while still enjoying the process. Online math games (and other educational games) are always a sure way to achieve that goal!  Our guiding rule when picking fun math games for kids is whether we, ourselves, become addicted when trying them out.  Here are our faves!

Math Playground
http://www.mathplayground.com/

FunBrain.com
http://www.funbrain.com/brain/MathBrain/MathBrain.html

LearningGames4Kids.com
http://www.learninggamesforkids.com/math_addition_games.html

IXL Math
http://www.ixl.com/

Math Man
http://www.primarygames.com/math/mathman/start.htm

Cool Math
http://www.coolmath-games.com/

Let us know your faves!

Happy mathing!
Your GoNannies.com Team