It's Okay to Ignore the Kids (A Little)

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My grandma often took care of my brother and me when I was little. Most days she'd set us up with crayons or wooden blocks before going to peel veggies. 

Grandma didn't hover over us but she was available when we needed her. 
These days there's pressure to engage children every moment. The other day I got a call while my (nanny) kids were climbing and sliding at the playground. I felt embarrassed to take it, worried that I might be judged for paying more attention to my phone than them. But in retrospect, I feel confident that the kids didn't need me to clap each time they slid or spot their every climb. And I was close enough to help if they got in a bind or a squabble. 

Kids need time to invent their own games and struggle through puzzles alone.
When we suggest every story line or hand kids each puzzle piece they don't get the chance to develop imagination or perseverance. I've heard this time called the gift of boredom. They need space to wander. To daydream. Remember how fun that was? When I do enter kids' imaginative play I usually disrupt it and they end up looking to me for ideas and answers.

But that doesn't mean we can scroll through Facebook all day.
I follow grandma's lead, stay close and stay available. If I'm not interacting with the kids, I'm listening close enough to know when they need help solving a problem or getting out of a jam. And as the saying goes, no matter how ganster you are if a toddler hands you a banana phone you answer that s*%t. 

Sometimes grandma got down on the floor and played marbles with us (she's a sharp shooter!)
A recent New York Times article suggests that the quality of communication between kids and caregivers is much more important than the number of words a child hears. So we don't need to name each animal in the playroom or ask kids a million questions about what they're doing. But we do need to have lively conversations with them during routines like meals, bath time, bedtime and in the car. And we do need to join them on the rug or in the yard a few times a day to play or create. Tea parties, watercolors, freeze tag, board games or good old marbles. Grandma had it right, once again. 

I'd love to hear from you!
Do your nanny kids play on their own? Tell us about it in the comments! Your insights are just what other nannies and parents are hoping to hear. So thanks for adding your voice to the conversation!

Happy Nannying, 
xo Kai