I kind of went into my au pair situation with no idea as to what I was really getting myself into.
Obviously I knew I’d be looking after 3 kids, but I kind of just assumed it’d be really easy
It’s exhausting constantly having to look after and entertain kids, and it takes some serious patience, time management and negotiation skills.
Goodness knows there’s a bunch of things I wish I’d known before I became an au pair in terms of choosing a good family – but there’s also a bunch of practical au pair skills that based on my experience, I think all au pairs should know, pre au pair life.
10 practical au pair skills…
1. Cook rice
Perhaps this just makes me sound like a knob-head, but I had never cooked rice (in a pot) before I started working as an au pair. So the kids I looked after had several
nights weeks eating overcooked or undercooked rice, before I finally figured it out.
It’s just a basic skill, but it’s one you should learn.
2. Bake cookies
Especially simple cookies, that only require a few ingredients so you can make them at any time. Kids love cooking, and its a good way to fill up an afternoon. Then icing and decorating is like an extra activity on it’s own – before you know it, day done. See Pinterest for creative recipes.
3. Drive a manual car (drive stick)
Especially if you’re going to be an au pair in Europe, as automatic cars there aren’t very common. Not all au pair’s get access to a car, but of you do, you want to be able to use it for the sake of your social life – which is the only thing that will keep you sane as an au pair.
4. Fold fitted sheets
This one is really just a general life skill.
I hate it when people just roll these up into balls. Sort it out, sort out your life.
5. Make play-doh
There’s so many things you can do with this. It’s not hard to make and kids love it, and its a good way to keep them occupied for a few hours. So many different cool recipes on Pinterest too.
6. Invent games
Kids get bored fast. Keeping them entertained is key, as when they’re bored, they’re usually annoying too. A way to stay on top of this is to constantly turn whatever you’re doing into a game. Kids are super competitive, so a simple lure of ‘points’ or ‘prize coupons’, is a good way to keep them on task – even if these have no real value.
7. Be confident to go out by yourself
My social life was the only thing that kept me sane as an au pair. But starting a social life from scratch in a city where you know no-one, isn’t easy. You need to be able to pick up your balls and go out by yourself a few times in order to meet people. It’s easier said than done, but needs to be done.
8. Say ‘No’
Obviously sometimes it’s nice to say Yes – but know that it’s ok to say No at times as well…
No to kids, when they ask for more sweets. No to parents, when you get asked to work on your night off. No to kids, when they ask to stay up just half an hour more. No to parents, when you get asked to clean something that’s not really in your job description.
9. Comfort criers
Crying is the worst. It’s just an annoying sound more than anything else, so finding a way to settle criers fast, is very handy. Calming babies can be tricky, but usually with toddlers you can do a quick run through of toys, food or games to sort them out.
10. Change a nappy
Baby poo is disgusting. A bit of practice now, could save you a lot of stray poop trails later.
Been an au pair before? What other practical au pair skills would you recommend?