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Exploring the neighbourhood as a Nanny

Keeping children entertained as a full time nanny can be a daunting prospect, especially when looking after children of several different ages and when the parents expect you to do this all day, every day.

Luckily as the baby boom of the last few years continues, there has been a surge in kids activities being offered and there are plenty of things that can be done for free or for a minimal cost, close to home in every state. Activities should be integrated with the daily rituals of meals, naps, baths and things like ballet classes or swimming lessons, so kids don’t fall out of a routine and become hungry or tired.

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

- Parks and playgrounds are the cheapest and most popular choice for entertaining children at any time of year, and when combined with a picnic and by taking balls or a Frisbee, you can make an entire day of it. To keep kids from getting bored, try and visit a new playground every week, especially if you live in a capital city and have lots to choose from. Kids will be excited to try the different equipment at each park and will build up a list of their favourite places over time. Visit www.playgroundfinder.com to find parks in every state in Australia.

- Bike riding on set trails in places like Centennial Park where bikes can be rented as well as rollerblades, is always appreciated by older children, and for little ones who are too small to ride, nannies can rent bicycles with a seat on the back.

- Public pools and patrolled beaches with rock pools, shark nets and plenty of shade are good for kids but the children must be able to swim and be under constant supervision. Try the quiet, less crowded beaches especially during the summer months, and don’t forget autumn and spring can be an even better time to go to the beach as the sun is less intense and activities like building sandcastles, fishing off the wharf and looking for shells can be done if it’s not warm enough to swim.

- Farmers markets or flower markets are a lot of fun for children who can enjoy fresh fruit and activities like face painting.

- Simple things like walking the dogs or feeding the ducks at the local duck pond are a way to get children out of the house for a short time without going out for the entire day.

- Horse riding at Centennial Park or other major parks where there are a range of different trails and qualified instructors is good for older children to learn to ride by themself and fun for younger children when the horse is walked but this always an activity where nannies should get permission from the parents.

- Pubs, RSL’s and even garden centre cafes have ball pits and outdoor areas where children can play which make them even more appealing for a meal rather than McDonalds where the playlands are often an incentive for children to want to visit.

INDOOR ACTIVITIES

- Almost all libraries have weekly kids activities with storytelling, crafts, science workshops and puppet making, and these activities increase during school holidays. Toddlers will appreciate all of this as well as weekly visits to pick books to read and some libraries even have early reading programs so kids can learn to read from a young age. And most of the time these things are absolutely free of charge. Check with your local council to find out about the programs at the libraries in your community.

- Local playgroups that are run by parents and other caregivers give children the opportunity to interact with each other in an environment outside their own home, often with new toys, and they give nannies the chance to establish relationships with other nannies and families. It’s also a good foundation for early learning in an informal environment. Playgroups are held everywhere in Australia including community halls, churches and health clinics. They are also suitable for children of all ages. Visit www.playgroupaustralia.com.au for more information.

- Indoor play centres are the equivalent of the local park except with safety mats, where kids can climb, roll and slide to their heart’s content, and they are a godsend on rainy days when kids need to blow off steam and can’t play outside Visit www.lollipopsplayland.com.au, , www.wackywarehouse.com.au or www.tropicaltwist.com.au to find an indoor play centre in your state.

- GymbaROO is a Romper Room style class that incorporate excercises, gym work, music, singing, dancing, massage, balance and more for six week old babies right up to five year olds. It is a cross between an indoor play centre and playgroup but is more formal in that the classes are created and run by teachers to stimulate children’s neuro-physiological developmental. Visit the GymbaROO website to find classes in your local area at www.gymbaroo.com.au

SCHOOL HOLIDAYS

- Major shopping centres usually have shows or activities during school holidays and for Christmas, and Sydney Olympic Park has entire programs for each school holiday period throughout the year with clinics, camps and workshops in sports, art and skills such as circus tricks, kite flying, diving, trampolines and archery. Check with your local shopping mall or sports complex to see what’s on offer. Similar programs are often available at the local PCYC or YMCA too so speak to your local council to get further details.

- The novelty of watching a movie outside is always fun for kids and adults. And in Sydney alone there are four major outdoor cinemas open during the warmer months, in the city, in Centennial Park, at Bondi Beach and Sydney Olympic Park, plus local councils will sometimes have their own as well, often at no cost. Ask your local council for more information.

- By visiting the zoo or the aquarium children learn about animals and often kids find taking public transport such as the train, ferry, monorail or the tram to get to these places, just as exciting as the activity itself!

- Exhibitions for children at museums such as the Australian Museum, the Powerhouse Museum and the National Maritime Museum are three of the best for children and they are also suitable for visits outside the school holidays as well.

Nanny Simone says: “We go to a number of parks in our local area within walking distance and we also go to parks in different areas where we meet with friends. We also take advantage of the free community Magic Yellow Bus which travels to different parks throughout the week and is like a travelling playgroup.”

Nanny Adelle says: “The philosophy of the mother of the kids I look after is to keep the kids out of the house as much as possible so there is less mess to clean up at home. So we do something different every day although in summer we’d be at the beach a lot as the family lived close by. I try and save indoor activities for rainy days so there are lots of options when there is bad weather a few days in a row.”

Nanny Jacinta says “Most children love to be outdoors and run and move their bodies, especially if you are actively playing with them, in scenarios that include being pirates in rough seas, families flying to Disneyland, kings, queens and princesses saving our country, policeman, firemen, doctors and astronauts discovering new planets.”

Nanny Emma says: “I usually try to get out of the house with the kids at least once a day and ask them what they want to do. The biggest attraction for kids is the playground - swings, slippery dips and seesaws are a hit with kids and I have found if you go to the same playground regularly you get to know the same Mums and their kids without actually planning a ‘playdate’.”

By Brooke Tasovac

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