Yes, we have an Au Pair as our childcare solution these days! I write a lot about this – both childcare overall and au pairs as we have kind of been through it all – if you want to read more here!
A lot of people have asked about our house handbook. Au Pair host families are strongly encouraged to put together handbooks for their au pairs so that there are no surprises, things are straightforward, clear and direct, and that the au pair has most of the information they need to get settled in your home/rules/routines off the bat. Of course, things change and evolve, as the kids grow or routines adjust – but a handbook is useful to get started! Also, I am kind of a control freak so being able to write out my expectations has been a useful tool to work together and get aligned!
As a host family, giving your au pair a written handbooks allows them the opportunity to look through it, translate it, digest it, and ask questions as they think it all through. Walking them through information verbally each day is great and definitely needed – but remember – they are nervous, “just figuring it all out”, taking in A LOT mentally, physically, and emotionally, and also – potentially – trying to understand you in their second or third language! They might be too shy to ask questions, even when they didn’t understand.
Our handbook is thorough and detailed. This is a scrubbed out version of it below – as our real one includes the (specific) kids’ schedules/routines and more personal information about them, as well as our work schedules and some of the off nuances of our home/preferences around the house.
You are going to think I am nutty with everything I include below, but we have been through a lot of babysitters, one wonderful nanny, a bunch of drop-in daycare, and an au pair in 3.5 years and three kids later. I would say 95% of our experience has been GREAT for a few reasons– 1. I think we screen really well (two some exceptions) 2. We hold high expectations for our caregivers and 3. We are upfront about our requirements and expectations in the beginning so everyone is on the same page (hence this kind of handbook!).
I truly believe that setting up anyone for success is giving them as much information as possible – of course things will change, they will vary from family to family or child to child, and even things that worked one day won’t work in a week – but trying your best to be on the same page as your caregiver from day one will help everyone. Give them time to learn it, do it, repeat it, before you can expect it to be outstanding – but at least give them a headstart with a family handbook!
Our example handbook below:
2020 Lawson Family Guide
Au Pair Handbook
Welcome to California and to the Lawson Family! We are excited to have a you as a member of our family and will work to have open communication so we all have a successful time together! This guide is for your reference, you should read it, take notes and refer back to it whenever you need to. Some things may change along the way but we will work together to ensure an enjoyable time together!
As a caregiver and part of the family, you will make a lasting impression on our children and our family! Your job is to care! The role you play is important, valued and essential. You should see yourself as a teacher, educator, a family member, a role model, a teammate to us parents, and a genuine friend for our children. Everyday, you should feel empowered to teach, guide, and inspire the children in their journey!
As your host family, we are thrilled to have you as a part of our family! We hope you feel welcomed, and we are excited to learn about who you are, your culture, your language, your own family, interests, and support you on your journey this year!
Note: This guide is not to be shared or taken outside the home, it contains private and confidential information regarding our family and children.
Our address: 123 Happiness Drive, Redwood City, California
Mom’s Cell Phone: XXX-XXX-XXXX
Dad’s Cell Phone: XXX-XXX-XXXX
Mom’s Work Address: 123 Paythembill Drive, Menlo Park, California
Dad’s Work Address: 123 Working Way, Menlo Park, California
Local Au Pair Coordinator:
Au Pair Regional Contact:
Emergency & Safety Information
Immediate Emergency: Call 911
Local Police Station: XXX-XXX-XXXX
Kid’s Doctor: XXX-XXX-XXXX
Closest Emergency Room: [Hospital Name]
Additional Hospital Information [Hospital Name]
Name: Phone / Email
Name: Phone / Email
Name: Phone / Email
Name: Phone / Email
Friends Close By (in case of emergency):
Name: Phone / Email
Name: Phone / Email
Name: Phone / Email
Our Neighbors (in case of emergency)
Name: Phone / Email
Name: Phone / Email
Name: Phone / Email
Our Family Info
Kid’s Full name / Birthday
Kid’s Full name / Birthday
Kid’s Full name / Birthday
General Household Guide
- When you are on-duty, we expect you to be committed to the job at hand. Save personal texting, emailing, socializing, listening to your own music, making phone calls, for your personal time. In order to build a strong bond with the children and ensure their safety, spend your time together playing, having fun, teaching them and supervising them properly. If they are playing on their own, it is a good time for you to clean up or organize things related to the kids.
- Being proactive, smartly multitasking and thinking ahead is critical. Take time to understand what needs to get done during your time on-duty and take time to think through the best ways for you to handle many responsibilities a once.
- Your day with the children is all about good judgement and going with the flow. Sometimes the schedule gets a bit off track, the kids need something out of the ordinary (like a little milk at an unschedule bottle time or a snack for a “hangry” child), or you have to make in-the-moment decisions to keep them safe, healthy and happy. Sometimes these decisions are a small adjustment to the regular schedule or guidelines, but are necessary in the moment. We expect you to be thoughtful in each moment, while understanding the foundation of guidelines and rules with the kids. Review these things with us when necessary so we can make improvements or modifications together.
- On your time-off, we want you to have fun, make friends, travel, take classes, relax, and explore the area we live! However, please remember that as an Au Pair, your relationship with our family and the children, including our house rules, is your priority. Make time to get to us know, build your relationship and improve your skill set with children – especially at the beginning of your time here.
Household Duties (shared by everyone in the family, including you!)
- Prepare age appropriate meals and snacks for the children
- Fill and empty the dishwasher. Dry and put away dishes/kitchen items.
- Empty trash/recycling (including diaper genies) to the outside bins when necessary.
- Put new bags in the trash cans/recycling bin as necessary
- Clean-up after oneself, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms
- Keep living spaces clean and tidy on a normal basis (fold blankets, straighten pillows, put away items, etc.)
- Bring in mail and packages for the household
- Put away kid’s things around the house or from the car/stroller
- Put away family groceries that are delivered (if they come when you are home and on-duty)
- Tidy up around the house (hang-up coats, fix pillows, put things away that collect on the stairs or counters..etc..). If you see things out of place in the house, please either ask us about them if you are unsure or go ahead put them away. This is a family task of helping keep the house organized.
- Keep your room clean/tidy (bed made daily, laundry put away, take out trash, clean bathroom)
- No candles, incense, cigarettes, etc. or other flame items
- Do not leave food out in your room; empty trash that has food in it regularly. Open food attracts bugs.
- Nothing hung, taped or tacked to the walls
- Never leave hot hair products like curling iron or straightener on or plugged in after usage
- Do not move or remove any furniture
- Turn the heater or air-conditioner on only when it is needed, turn off when not needed – especially every morning or when leaving the house.
- Close and lock windows whenever leaving the house or spending the day in other parts of the house
- We will be respectful of your private bedroom, we ask that you are respectful of our private bedroom
- Do not flush anything down the toilet except toilet paper.
- You have your own set of sheets and towels and are responsible for washing/drying them at least every other week. We encourage you to do all of your laundry when the family is not home or not using the machines. You can always ask us first if you are unsure.
- You should not do your personal laundry when on-duty unless we have specified it is okay.
When Leaving the House
- Always lock all the exterior doors. Make sure windows are shut and locked.
- Turn off lights.
- Never leave hair equipment plugged in when leaving the house.
- Male visitors are not allowed at the house.
- No overnight guests are allowed.
- Absolutley no guests are allowed over when we are not home or at night when we are sleeping
- Please respect our privacy and the safety of our home/family by abiding by these rules
House Security and Family Privacy
- It is important that you follow the rules to ensure our house stays a safe place for our family. We ask that you do not share our address with others without permission or post any information about our family or plans on social media.
- We cherish our private life and ask that you not discuss the details of our family or friends with others. Please ask us permission before sharing any photos or our personal information.
- If you have any questions, concerns, problems, complaints – please talk to us! We are here to support you and have a great relationship with you! Talk to us first if you have an issue or questions.
- Get enough sleep before working the following day with our children. Children take a lot of energy! Please plan to get 7-8 hours of sleep and be home no later than 11:00 p.m. on work nights.
- Although we have no curfew for the weekends or your nights off/vacation time, be respectful, quiet and responsible arriving to a home with sleeping children at night time.
- We will lend you a cell phone to use while you live with us. This phone should always be charged and on when you are on-duty. This phone should be taken care of and returned to us when you depart.
- You should have this phone available whenever you are with the children for safety and to reach us.
- The phone does not have long distance calling or texting and you will be responsible for any costs incurred. Please use your iPad for Skype, e-mail, and other communication with your family and friends long-distance.
- You should memorize our cell phone numbers.
- You are not to use the phone for recreational purposes while you are on-duty with the children. Please save social media, phone calls, emails and texting for your personal time.
Social Media Privacy
- No photos or information about our family should be posted on any social media platform or blogs: this includes no photos of our children on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or other.
- If you’d like to share your experience with close family and friends, we ask that you be respectful of the photos and information you share and only do so privately and respectfully.
- You have a television in your room that has access to some television channels and movie channels.
- You also have access to a phone/iPad that you can use Netflix and Youtube.
- We have no rules about what you watch or when during your time off but all programs should be viewed in your bedroom when the children or parents are home and using the rest of the house.
- No use of drugs or smoking are allowed while living with us, inside or outside the house.
- You cannot work another job outside the home. We want to make sure you are well rested and available to help with our children when necessary and have a healthy balance of family and social life. Your free time will also allow you to take classes, relax, and explore!
- If you are not feeling well, please let us know as soon as possible.
- Please engage in a healthy lifestyle – eat well balanced meals, get regular excersice, get enough sleep, take regular showers, wash your hands often and properly, refrain from using drugs or smoking (e-cigarette or cigarettes) and limit your use of alcohol when out with friends.
- You are welcome to food, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks in the house.
- You are welcome to join us for family dinners. However, you may help yourself to leftovers, frozen or refrigerated meals when we are not gathering for dinner or if you prefer to eat at another time. You can also cook something for yourself, purchase food for delivery or go out when you are off-duty. If you choose to spend money on meals we do not provide, this is out of your own saving – we will always ensure there are some options in the house.
- Our neighborhood is very walkable. You can walk to the library, coffee shops, the park, restaurants and the train.
- We will provide you with a bike and helmet which you will be responsible for (please use the lock, store it safely and properly).
- We will provide you with up to $50 in Uber or Lyft credits each month.
- We will provide you with up to $50 in bus fare each month.
- We will ensure you get to and from your educational classes, as required.
- Please do not accept rides with strangers or make unsafe decisions such as walking home late at night!
- If you are ever out with someone who has been drinking and they are driving you, do not get in the car with them!
- Do not make unsafe decisions like walking home late at night in the dark by yourself.
- Do not go out alone to meet anyone you do not know. Bring a friend, meet them in a public place, do not tell them where you live, do not have them drive you. There is safety in numbers!
- Do not tell people when you will be home alone or when we will be out of town, ever.
- Please do not take offense when we ask you to do something differently. It is a learning process for all of us.
- Communication is important to us. Please be open with us! Share your feelings with us. We are here to be a support system for you. We want you to feel comfortable! Please don’t let concerns build up as they tend to then be bigger issues and are harder to resolve.
- Ask questions if you do not understand something. Never be afraid to ask questions. Let us clarify anything you might have misheard or misunderstood. Ask questions!
- Take notes and ask us to write things down for you when necessary.
- Let’s try to be open and direct with our communication and address issues as they come. Text us or call us if you are unsure.
Your Schedule & Pay
- Your schedule will be given to you over the weekend for the following week. There may be times we need last minute changes to the schedule but we try to avoid this.
- In the morning you should be ready to start work at your scheduled time. Please shower as necessary, dress, eat breakfast and get your things ready for the day before your start time. This is so you can focus on the children’s needs at the start time.
Au Pair Rules:
- 45 hours max a week
- No more than 10 hours per day
- 1 Full weekend off per month
- 1.5 Days off per week
Stipend: You will be paid on Fridays at the end of the day. If you are taking vacation, we will pay you at the beginning of your vacation time.
- It is best if you take your vacation time during times we do not require childcare or have the ability to substitute childcare. We will be happy to plan ahead with you.
- You should not book any vacation or travel without talking to us first.
- If you accompany us on our vacation and you are working, all of your daily expenses will be covered by us (such as food, transportation, outings while on-duty). You will be responsible for your own extra expenses when not on-duty (such as an excursion or meal you choose to have without us).
Responsibilities with the Children
Safety is our top priority.
Before anything else, making sure our children are safe from harm is the most important thing! We also expect you to build a loving and caring relationship with our children.
- Have fun! We hope everyday is fun for both you and our children. You should spend the day playing games, being silly, dancing, singing, reading books, sharing stories, playing music, doing puzzles, and having fun! Please smile a lot and be positive around the kids. Spread happiness whenever possible.
- Take initiative! We would like you to plan activities outside the house with the children most days – the playground, the library, or attend other activities we sign them up for such a music class. If it is too cold or rainy, plan fun inside activities. Tea parties, storytime in a tent, play in the backyard, building a tower, practice counting, sorting games, and more! You can kick a ball around with the kids in the backyard, teach them a new game, do a puzzle, build a cool tower with blocks, the list goes on! Encourage them to also learn independent play when possible.
- Teach. Each day should also be about learning! This is a wonderful age for them to learn about the world. Take every opportunity to teach letters, numbers/counting, colors, animals, sounds, language and more to our children. Be creative, fun and engaging. You should look for fun ways for you to teach and for them to learn! We’d like this to be done in both English and your native language.
- Learning is also about practicing language – have conversations with our kids. Ask them questions, tell them stories, tell them about different things in the world (their toys, their environment, and more) – just engage with them throughout the day so they can practice language, learning, thinking and conversation.
- Read, read, read! We’d like our children to enjoy books and reading. This should be something you do with them every single day, many times. If you go through the day without reading at least 5 books (if not 10!) to the children, you are not reading enough.
- Follow our guidelines for managing behavior – such as implement consquences.
- Model Good Behavior. It is also our job as adults to teach our children how to behave. Learning how to share, be polite (“please” and “thank you”), wait their turn, wash their hands, pick-up their toys, treat others with respect and kindness, show affection (give hugs)… is an important process.
- Please model the behavior we’d like them to follow.
- Do not yell, grab from them, curse, or lose your temper.
- Always say please and thank you, bless you, you are welcome, smile generously and give them hugs.
- Keep calm and have lots of patience. They learn as we do as we do as adults.
- Do not use the words “stupid”, “hate”, “idiot”, “dumb” or other negative words. Do not curse.
- Discipline is about about teaching, not punishing. The word disciple (in “discipline”) means student or learner. That is how you should think of the children and their actions.
- Help build their self-confidence and self-esteem. Encourage them with positive and kind words.
- You are responsible for the children’s laundry which will need to be completed twice a week.
- We expect that you will complete their laundry without being asked: fold, hang and put away items in their bedrooms regularly.
- The kid’s laundry includes their clothing, bedsheets, changing table covers, blankets, bibs, and towels.
- Do not try anything with plastic in the dryer. It can be hung to dry.
- Take your cell phone with you whenever you leave the house. Have it charged and available when on duty with the children for us to call or text, or for emergencies. Your phone should be nearby you whenever you are with the children for safety (to call the police or us). We expect you will answer our phone calls and our texts in a timely manner when on duty with the children with this phone.
- Do not keep cell phones near the children’s bodies – especially their heads.
- You will use the phone we provide to take photos of the kids to share only with us (we miss our kids when we are not with them!), track their daily activities in their app (we will provide instruction), and use the phone for maps to find your way around (to the park or play groups!) or play music for the children.
- No phones should not be used for any other reasons while you are working. Your attention should be on the children. If you need to make a call, make it very brief. Do not spend time texting, playing games or e-mailing when you are with the children. They want and need your attention and accidents happen quickly. Your iPad should be used during your time-off only.
- No television should be on when you are taking care of the children during working hours.
- The children should not watch television or videos while you are on-duty unless we have given explicit permission. The children should not regularly play with your phone or ipad.
- On the days you are working, it is your responsibility to clean-up after the children.
- Their room’s should be kept clean and organized, toys and clothing should be put away before the end of the day.
- The house should be organized after their play – such as putting away pillows, blankets, toys, books or games they may have moved around the house or taken out.
- Their bathroom should be picked up after bath time. Check the bathroom daily to make sure it is picked-up.
- Dishes, bottles, spoons or plates in the kitchen should be cleaned and put away.
- The floor should be cleaned up after their meal time.
- Any outdoor play items should stored before nighttime as necessary.
- Supplies for them should be restocked: make sure their diaper bags have everything they need, new diapers are put out in their supply areas, things that have been ordered and delivered are put away where they belong.
Keeping the Kids Healthy:
With children in the house, it is very important we minimize the spread of germs that can get the kids sick. Help us keep everyone staying healthy!
- Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds: everytime you come into the house, touch the kid’s food, use the bathroom, sneeze, wipe your nose… This includes on your time off. Wash your hands!
- Clean the toys, especially when the kids are sick. Help wipe down things with anti-bacterial wipes like door knobs, stroller handle, etc. to reduce the spread of germs once a week.
- Keep the kid’s hands clean, especially before they eat. Always wash hands when you come home from outdoor play and activities.
- Always change soiled diapers promptly so that they do not get diaper rash. Wipe them well and use diaper cream. This is important so that they do not get infections or rash.
- Never give them medication without our permission first. If they have a cold; we will come up with how to treat it together. Do not treat a cold without our guidance.
- Sunscreen! Apply sunscreen as we direct. The kids can also wears shirt, hat, pants to help protect if sunscreen is not an option. Aim for the shade when possible!
- Plan to get your Flu Shot.
Safety Outside the Home
- Always text us when leaving the house or yard with the children. We should always know where our children are.
- Avoid roads that do not have sidewalks with the children.
- Be aware of your surroundings, ensure you pay close attention to the children when out in public. The children should never be out of your sight. If you need to use a public bathroom, the children should come with you (even in the women’s room).
- Be very vigilant, always aware of your surroundings.
- Take precautions when crossing the road, always hold our children’s hand, carry them or have them bucked in their stroller.
- Never bring strangers to our home or share our address with them. The children are never permitted to go to someone else’s home without our permission in advance.
- Children should absolutely never be left alone in or near water such as the beach or pool.
- Always keep the house keys or garage door open in a safe and secure place so it is not stolen or misplaced.
- If either of our children get hurt when you are on duty – such as scraping their knee, a serious bump to their head, or anything else big or small – we expect you will text us to let us know what happened. If it is an emergency – call 911 and go to the hospital!
Safety Inside the Home:
- The children should not be left alone except when in a safe and secure place, such as their crib, bassinet, or pack n’ play.
- The children should play in the main parts of the house but not in the parent’s bedroom, the garage or your bedroom. They should never be left alone in the bathroom.
- Make sure the children do not have access to anything chokable. Be aware of the toys, toy parts, and anything on the floor or left out around the house. It is important that they only have access to age appropriate, safe and clean toys (nothing they can choke on/swallow).
- Assess, Assess, Assess! Always, always assess if items, including toys, are safe for their age. Ask yourself, can this item easily be broken off and swallowed by accident if one of the kids was to chew on it or break it apart easily? Is this item dangerous in any other way? Is this place/space safe? Always assess their environment.
- Children should absolutely never be left alone in or near water (such as their bath or water table) or when they are eating.
- Door/Stair Safety: Use the baby gate in the house for the stairs. The exterior doors should always remain locked.
- Kitchen: Keep the safety lock on the oven at all times when the children are awake/playing. Never cook while holding or wearing the children. We prefer you to use the back burners on the stove. Do not leave knives or other sharp objects near the edge of the counters.
- Do not drink very hot drinks directly around the children; be careful hot coffee or tea is never in their reach.
- Do not open the door for strangers. We will always let you know if we expect someone.
- I don’t care if they say they are my mom or the Pope, if you don’t know them don’t open the door or let them in! Call me when in doubt!
Good judgement and common sense are a huge part of taking care of kids! We expect you to practice good judgement, smart, proactive thinking and good decision-making everyday to ensure safety, efficiency, health and happiness!
- Do not take our children in the car with any other drivers except us (the parents).
- Car seat safety is critical. We will show you have to properly use the car seats in our cars and ask they you understand the precautions and how to properly secure each child in their seat.
- You should ask us if you feel unsure or need extra guidance.
Clothing & Attire:
- Wear attire that is appropriate when being around families and young children, most importantly, clothing that is comfortable and allows you to run, jump, dance, play and easily move around with young kids and you do not mind getting dirty! Wear comfortable shoes likes flats, tennis shoes/sneakers that you can easily run after the kids. We ask that you do not wear heels or short skirts/dresses when working as those tend to limit your ability to run around after the kids and get on the ground and play with them.
- Do not wear jewelry that could fall off or be pulled off and harm you or the children (such as chookable beaded necklace or big earrings, etc.)
- Be careful with your hair; long hair can easily get wrapped around children’s toes, fingers, and penis and cause the stop of blood circulation.
- Please do not wear shoes inside the house. Slippers are welcome!
We are here to support you. If you have any questions – never hesitate to ask!