Find Your Own Mary Poppins

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Nannies can be wonderful caregivers and become almost a part of the family! Get great suggestions for finding the right nanny for your family—you may end up with a perfect match.

There is much parents do to prepare for a baby. There are Lamaze classes to take, a nursery to furnish and decorate and all those baby books to read up on. But few, if any, parents feel truly prepared once the baby arrives. Nannies, on the other hand, know just what to do.

Nannies Are Special

What distinguishes a nanny from an au pair or babysitter? In a word: Knowledge. “I don’t think there is a better person in the world than a nanny,” says Linda Roffe, co-owner of Northwest Nannies Institute in Lake Oswego, Oregon. “A nanny has genuine love, compassion and understanding of children.”

But, warns Roffe, “Anyone can call herself a nanny, but not anyone can call themselves a certified nanny. It is a key difference. Nannies who have been certified have passed programs that have been accepted by the National Association of Nanny Schools.”

And the training is rigorous, to say the least. The Northwest Nannies Institute, one of a handful of such schools in the United States, requires 800 hours of combined class and lab instruction over a 30-week period. Just look at what a certified nanny is required to know:

  • Theories of child development 
  • Stages of physical development 
  • Stages of intellectual and language development 
  • Social and emotional needs 
  • The importance of play in learning 
  • How to influence behavior 
  • The theoretical and practical aspects of art, music, literature and science
  • How to communicate effectively with children and their parents 
  • Health, safety and CPR 
  • Nutrition

Does this mean that you shouldn’t consider hiring any nanny who is not certified? Not at all. Certification is just one of many criteria you should consider as you interview candidates. Though it’s a reasonable bet that a nanny who has gone to the trouble and expense of becoming certified is committed to childcare as a career.

“What sets a nanny apart is that this is her profession,” says Glenda Probst, co-president of the National Association of Nannies (NAN) and a long-time nanny herself. “A caregiver is so much better equipped when he or she knows the developmental stages of a child. Knowing the clinical reasons behind a child’s behavior helps put the emotional aspects of child-rearing in context.”

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