Part of choosing an au pair as a caretaker for your children is committing to making her (or him) an honorary member of your family. Showing your au pair the different types of wonderful activities American families enjoy not only gives them insight into our culture and allows a perfect opener for sharing more about their own lives back home, it also expands their toolbox of fun things to do with the kids.
This might not scream culture, but every region has its own fruits and vegetables, making it a unique way to get out in the fresh air and see what’s special about your town. It’s also an educational activity, teaching kids where and how our food grows (tree, bush, vine, underground?) and lets them learn about the seasons and growth cycles of plants. Besides, kids tend to be far more adventurous or willing to try new healthy foods if they play a part in procuring them. Check the harvest schedule and find a farm near you (and don’t forget a camera for some great happy kid shots!).
You might not be on the Civil War Trail of weekend reenactors, but odds are you are somewhere in the vicinity of an interactive museum or homestead where costumed interpreters help share the history of a particular era in that region. Whether it’s pilgrims or Native Americans, pioneers or gold rushers, Quakers or Revolutionary War folk, museums throughout the country can teach both your au pair and your kids about the nation’s past in a fun way.
Streams and Tidepools
No one outgrows an interest in the natural world, so share your local flora and fauna by getting up close and personal with a visit to a local tidepool, saltmarsh, pond or stream. Stop by the library for field guides or picture books for what to look for and get ready to get a little dirty.
This is classic Americana – although many Americans assume this is something that exists only on black and white postcards, without ever realizing they can opt for an al fresco show today. Most drive-ins offer double, or even triple features, typically of movies fresh out of the theaters that range in ratings from G to R. The old scratchy speakers that hung on a car window have been replaced by digital radio stations that sync to the screen you’re watching. So pile in some pillows, blankets and lawn chairs and head to a drive-in theater near you.
Fresh air is great; fresh air with exercise and a fun new skill is even better. Canoe, kayak and standup paddleboard rentals are usually very inexpensive, include lifejackets of all sizes, and demos are cheap or free.
Zoos and Aquariums
This is an obvious, easy day out with the kids you can enjoy in any weather. Indoor animal exhibits and off-season lack of crowds can make even lousy weather days a good time to visit and see how the animals experience the changing climate. Find a zoo or aquarium near you and then check their website for special events. Often, these interactive talks, demonstrations or classes are free (or free with admission) and give both your au pair and your kids a chance for a close encounter with a critter or two.
Cooking or Baking Classes
Au pairs can’t be expected or requested to cook dinner for the family, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a family effort of prepping and whipping up some fabulous food as a fun activity with the kids. A family or child-angled cooking class gives kids a sense of pride in what they can accomplish and exposes your au pair to local cooking ingredients and techniques they might want to bring home with them. Kids will often be less picky and be easier to handle at mealtimes if they’ve had a hand in the prep.
Catching fireflies, building a fire, making s’mores, pitching the tent – whether in one of our country’s beautiful National Parks or in your own backyard, a night spent in the Great Outdoors will be a memorable experience during your au pair’s time in your home.
An au pair need not have an opinion on the DH or if the Cubs’ curse is real to enjoy an afternoon at the ballpark. Today’s tech- and fan-friendly efforts mean lots of music, games and fun (and a pretty good baseball game). Check the stadium websites for what you can bring in; outside food, juice boxes and water bottles are often allowed, so the kids will have their favorite snacks.
Spread a blanket and lie back to observe the wonders of the night sky. Stars might be in different locations than your au pair is used to, and your urban or rural setting could greatly affect what you see. Have the kids make their list of wishes and check the site for the best shooting star opportunities. If your family is tech-savvy, pick up an app to learn what constellations, planets or comets might be overhead.