Important nanny skills to have…

Extracted from –


Lesson 1: Introduction – Nanny Basics

Do you enjoy working with children and think you have something positive to add to a child’s life? If so, a live-in nanny position might be what you are looking for. A live-in nanny serves as a companion for children in their home. The nanny is an extension of the parents, offering care, boundaries, and guidance in accordance with the parents’ wishes.

A live-in nanny is a fulltime, live-in childcare giver. The nanny is expected to nurture the wellbeing of the children while providing the type of structure the parents have requested. A nanny works between 40 and 60 hours per week depending on the employer’s needs but can work overtime in some cases. The specific hours of employment should be detailed in the employment contract where the specific expectations should be outlined such as hours of work, compensation, and overtime pay.

Good Qualities a Nanny Should Have

It is hard to detail each and every quality that is important in childcare because each family is looking for something different. What is key to one family may not be necessary to another and that is okay because in the end, you are looking for a good match. Some excellent qualities a nanny should have are:

Love for children. Appreciating children on all levels is key, whether they are well behaved or acting out. To love children you need to be comfortable handling both smooth and rough situations. It is essential to your success as a nanny that you are able to feel the joy interacting with children can bring. Let’s be realistic, there are also extreme challenges. If you do not have the desire to deal with children, both the challenges and rewards, this is not the position for you.

Ability to multitask. In most cases you will have more then one child to care for and this means several things happening simultaneously. You may have to cook dinner for the older kids while feeding the baby and helping out with homework problems. The life of the nanny is often hectic and the ability to handle multiple things happening at once is crucial.

Ability to work independently. You will be isolated from adult companionship for long periods of time. You should be comfortable with making sound choices and executing them on your own since your day will often be spent alone with the children. As the nanny, you are the adult and it is up to you to offer the structure the parents have asked you to uphold.

Detail oriented. Since it is your job to deal with the children in the way the parents see as the best, you must be able to listen and follow directions. Parents will tell you things from the way they want the child to be rocked, to the way to fold laundry, and you must be able to do it the way it has been dictated to you. You will have to remember every important detail from what color tights the children wear to dance class to the peanut allergy one of the children’s playmates has. In the beginning remembering all of the details will seem overwhelming but keeping a pocket notebook handy so that you can write down the important details is essential.

Flexibility. This can mean being flexible about the hours you are available to being able to handle situations that can come up unexpectedly. If you are able to shift your time and energy from task to task with ease then you are prepared to handle any situation that may arise. Because unexpected things such as traffic jams and illness come up all of time, having skills in flexibility are always helpful.

Adaptability. You might encounter people who are very different from your own background and upbringing. Are you prepared to live and work in an environment that could be radically different from anything you have known? Chances are you will encounter people of different religions, ethnicities, values, and customs. Your ability to be comfortable with various types of people may be important. Also, since being a live-in nanny is not just your job but also your home, you should be able to adapt to a new environment that may seem very foreign to you.

Dedication. No job is without its ups and downs and being invested in making it work is paramount. As a nanny you will have great days where the kids offer endless laughter but you will also have hard days when they will not listen. Dedication to your job will help you get through the rough times and keep you looking towards the good ones.

A sense of humor. Sometimes you just need to laugh at yourself or and situation that you are facing. Taking yourself lightly and being able to be silly can really help you get through the difficult times. Sometimes when you are in a stressful mess and seeing the end is impossible, finding some humor can really help you look towards the end and not take things so seriously.

Good communication skills. Having good communication skills are crucial to your success as a nanny. You will need to offer clear direction to the children and relay complete details to the parents. Your ability to communicate well is what bridges the gap between parent and child when you are in charge. Being able to understand how people like to be communicated with is also something to keep in mind. Some parents may want a written note every day containing the days events while others may want to chat with you for a few minutes at the end of the day to go over key points. Whatever the communication method is, having good communication skills will allow you to accurately relay messages between all parties.

Organizational skills. Imagine caring for three active children of varying ages. Each has different needs, friends, and activities. Many families have a children’s calendar so that the nanny can schedule events and activities and keep them all straight in one place. You will need to coordinate it all to make sure things run smoothly.

Common sense. Because you are in charge, you will need to be able to make assertive decisions that are in line with the parent’s wishes. Being comfortable executing choices means having common sense. The parents may ask you how you will handle various situations to gage how well you can execute your common sense when it comes to their children.

You should sit down and make a list of all of the qualities you feel you possess and how they might help you in your role as a nanny. This is something you should hang on to for your interview process as you may be asked to highlight some of your strong points and if you have thought them through ahead of time, the more prepared you will be. Additionally, listing your qualifications such as special training and experience is also a good idea as a way to bring out your ability to be a good caregiver.

Education, Training, and Skills a Nanny Needs


Most nannies have varying degrees of education. The minimum is usually a high school diploma or the equivalent. In some cases experience is more valuable then a college degree but some families like the idea of hiring a caregiver who has a college degree in early childhood education. Additionally, nannies with bachelors degrees and masters degrees can be paid more than people who have the equivalent in experience. This is totally subjective and depends on the family’s expectations. A family might like the idea of training you from scratch while others expect you to be the expert in the field of childcare. The bottom line is the more knowledge you have on the subject of children the more marketable you are. Successful nannies not only have the ability to demonstrate skills and experience they also must illustrate the aptitude to acquire new knowledge when needed.

If you are interested in exploring higher education opportunities, there are hundreds of colleges that offer associates and bachelors degrees in early childhood education and there are even a few offering certificates for nannies and childcare. The best place for you to research the programs available is to do a web search and find programs in your area or the area you are thinking about moving to.

Additionally, there are training opportunities not tied to colleges such as certification classes offered through nanny agencies, community education courses, and seminars taught by independent contractors. If you feel like additional training and education is something you want to pursue, you should take the time to research the possibilities in terms of time commitment and long term rewards. You can do this by speaking with nanny agencies and asking them how beneficial the different types of training are. In the end you have to do what is going to be the best fit for you.

Training and Certifications

Apart from education there is a need for nannies to meet certain training requirements before they are employed in a household. In rare cases, families may let training overlap with employment but usually necessary certifications in emergency rescue are required before working alone with the children. In fact, most nanny agencies will require you to have proof of certification before completing an application with them and some of them will train you on site in order to prepare you for employment.

There are two musts when it comes to certifications: American Red Cross certification in CPR and first aide. Both of these certifications will help prepare you for emergency situations that may arise. YMCA’s, community health organizations, and community education programs offer courses throughout the year that fulfill the certification process. Generally the cost of each course is about $30 to $50. CPR training will prepare you for rescue breathing, choking victims, and reducing injury to infants and children when performing rescue techniques. First aide training will help you to recognize and deal with emergencies, injuries, and sudden illness. The more prepared you are for emergency situations will help to put yourself and families at ease. Both CPR and first aide knowledge is useful, practical, and timely. No one wants to face a worst case scenario but with proper training, you can be more equipped to effectively offer solutions if something should arise.

Water safety certification is something that can be very helpful but is not always required. When thinking about being employed by a family who might have a pool, enjoy the water, or vacation at the beach, you should feel very comfortable both supervising and interacting with children in or near water. Many families will ask if you have training in water safety or if you are comfortable around the water. If you are not completely comfortable handling children around water, you should be up front because you could be creating a potentially dangerous situation. Water safety courses are also offered at YMCA’s and through community education. In some cases CPR and water safety are taught in the same class.

Good Mental and Physical Health

Because it takes a good deal of energy and alertness to care for children fulltime, you will have to pass a recent physical exam that certifies you are in good health. You will also need to be up to date on all immunizations and vaccines and will have to provide this information to your future employers. Because of the contagious nature of some infections, some additional tests that may be required by the agency or your family are tuberculosis (TB), HIV, and hepatitis. You should agree to additional testing outside the realm of the physical, only if you feel comfortable doing so.

Taking care of children can be fairly physically and mentally demanding. Having the capacity to not only deal with the physical demands such as carrying a baby but also the mental strength to handle stress and potential behavioral issues is essential. There is no special training in either area but knowing your physical and mental strengths and limitations is key. In some cases you may have to take a special test that evaluates your metal health as a way for the agency or families to enhance the screening process.

Smoking, Drinking, and Drugs

While using substances might be something you enjoy, in most cases families will lay out when and what is acceptable to them. Because you will be living in their home and interacting with their children, they have every right to dictate approved behaviors for you as their employee. In some ways, you are a personification of their ideals and to employ someone who does not respect their rules is a violation of their expectations.

Most nannies are required to be non-smokers. In rare cases families will be open to a nanny who does not smoke in front of the children or only in off time. I have not met or heard of a nanny who is allowed to smoke in front of the children so if you are a smoker, you should quit or be resigned to only smoke in your off time.

As for drinking, clearly it is not acceptable during work hours. If you are under 21 I would say going out drinking may not sit very well with your employers, but in some cases they are okay with it as long as it does not interfere with your ability to do your job. This can be a tricky situation since you will be living with the people who employ you and to some degree, they can see how you spend your free time. If you are over 21 and enjoy drinking, you should definitely talk to your potential employers about what is reasonable to them. Keep in mind, you are expected to be the responsible, mature adult when they are not around and if you are irresponsible with drinking, it can negatively effect their opinion of your ability to do a good job. Also, keep in mind that workdays frequently start at 7 in the morning so a raging night of partying will definitely impair your ability to function that early in the morning.

Drug use is a big NO. As a role model for someone’s children, you should not engage in illegal activities. Some would argue that what you do in your free time is up to you but as stated before, you need to set up the boundaries prior to employment so you can decide if you can follow the rules or not. Also, having a history of drug or alcohol abuse may hinder your ability to find a job.

Good Driver

How is your driving record? As the nanny you will do a lot of driving – everything from carpools to taxiing children to and from play engagements. If you have received speeding tickets or have been in an accident, this can effect your future employer’s opinion of you. And, if you think you can get away without disclosing how good of a driver you are, think again because if you are added onto their auto insurance or if they pay for a separate policy, your driving history will be out in the open. If you have demonstrated that you are not a good driver a family may not feel comfortable with you behind the wheel of their car with their children. If your driving history is less then desirable you should consider outlining the causes or reasons for your reckless driving and how you have fixed the situation since.


Meal preparation is a component of the duties you will perform as a nanny. Usually, the nanny feeds the children all of their meals while she is on duty. The nanny may also be required to assist or fully prepare meals for the parents too. Some people enjoy eating dinner with their children while others like the kids to be fed by the time they get home from work. In any case, you need to have basic kitchen know how. It is good to know how most kitchen appliances work but if you do not know, taking a walk through the kitchen where you live now with someone who uses the appliances, is a good idea. Your employers will show you how to use elaborate appliances like bread makers but you definitely have to be able to boil water. The good news is that most kids have simple diets that do not require lots of food preparation. If you are concerned about the types of food you might have to make you should ask during the interview what things the kids like to eat and how much you are required prepare.

Laundry and Cleaning

The nanny is not a housekeeper. However, there will be cleaning and laundry responsibilities that go along with childcare. You should be familiar with both laundry and basic cleaning skills. An ideal situation would limit the laundry and cleaning duties to the children but sometimes this expands into caring for the whole family. This is something you should definitely cover in the interview and should be in your contract. You want to have clear direction when it comes to how much non-childcare work you will do. You do not want to end up in a situation where you are caring for the kids 40 hours a week and must keep a spotless house unless this is something you are comfortable doing. Sometimes families will pay the nanny extra to help out with additional cleaning duties, which works out great if you are willing to do it.

Helpful Previous Experiences

All nannies are required to have experience related to the care of children. Usually you will have to specify the ages of children you have dealt with in the past and the types of actives you are familiar with. For example, families with infants feel better if their nanny has cared for babies before. Each age group has different needs; some of which overlap, but specialized experience with a specific age group may help you find work. Each age group comes with a different set of developmental needs and for some people, having a live-in nanny who can recommend activities that are age appropriate to enhance learning and growth is an important part of what they are looking for.

Childcare can be everything from watching your little brother to working at a day care. Not all live-in nannies have prior experience as a nanny. Think carefully about your past experiences and how they have helped you become prepared for a fulltime nanny position. Simply babysitting a few times does not translate into proven childcare experience but if you add to that watching your sibling after school everyday, then you have some solid knowledge to bring to a family.

Working at a summer camp is a great place to get childcare experience in a short amount of time. Most camp counselors do not need previous child care experience but certainly learn very quickly through long work hours and plenty of quality time with children who usually stay in their care for a week or longer. If you are thinking you want to try being a nanny but are not sure, consider working at a camp for a summer to see if you enjoy the role of a fulltime caregiver. As a counselor you have a few solid months of fulltime experience, with the aide of peers, to try out the nanny lifestyle to see if it is for you.

Putting together a childcare resume is something that can help you clarify what positions you have had, the ages of the children you cared for, and what you learned in each role. You can also fill in non-childcare positions and translate the experience you gained into the childcare setting. For example if you worked as a cashier for a year in high school, you can say that you needed responsibility, good communication skills, and a positive attitude to be competent in this position – all good things for a nanny to have as well. Also, putting together a childcare resume can help you see if you have enough experience to feel comfortable working as a fulltime caregiver.

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