A Spoonful of Sugar

Thank you so much to the reader who suggested this book-it is as sweet as sugar, just like the title says.  I loved it so much, I am buying a copy of my own for my bookshelf.

It's about a girl (this is a memoir) who ended up getting accepted into the prestigious Norland Institute-a nanny school in England, and her experiences at the school and than afterwards as she grows into adulthood-her whole life dedicated to taking care of other people's children. She was passionate about her job (even when it was very difficult or heartbreaking as it was quite a few times) and really soaked up all the information and experiences she could, and shares them all. Each chapter begins with the schedule she kept depending on where she was, and then ends with some "Nanny Wisdom".

I picked out a few main points she brought up throughout the book that I just loved, with my favorite quotes.

1. Playing outside, fewer toys, simplicity, imagination is so important. Read to them every day. FRESH AIR, always, every day.
"The whole essence of my childhood and, in my opinion, they key to any happy childhood is simplicity."

"Because my days weren't filled with television, computer games and constant activities, my siblings and I learned to use our imaginations.  Sometimes children need to be bored in order to stimulate themselves."

"Give children a chance to use their brains and imaginations, and they will. Put a computer console in their hands, and they won't."

"Put a book there instead or plant them in an empty field or park and suddenly the world opens up and becomes a fantastical place of make-believe and adventure."

2. Create a routine, teach them truthfulness, and morals, and be consistent.
"Lessons on fairness, truth, and politeness are something they should perhaps teach in schools today, instead of computer skills and foreign language. A sound moral compass is a far stronger guiding light and will take your child much further in life than knowing how to browse the Internet."

(Just a side note: She also spoke often of how important a baby's feeding schedule and routine is, but she says she mostly dealt with formula fed babies, because she suggests a feeding every four hours, or three if exceptionally hungry, and at night giving water. This would be disastrous for breast fed babies, and my babies certainly never lasted for than three hours-usually maxed at out two-for months, around the clock.  But I love that one of the first things she did when she came into a new house was to organize a routine.)

3. Protect children from harsh realities, let them have an innocent childhood, and don't argue in front of them.
"Childhood is over so quickly nowadays, just slow things down and hold on to it for as long as you can! Keep childhood as innocent, pure, and as carefree as possible, that's my motto."

"I could never believe it when I hear people bickering in front of their children. Why, oh why,  would parents subject them to that? I never heard my own mother and father raise their voices to each other, not once and as a result we respected them.  If they said no, we listened and we did what they told us We grew up knowing the different between right and wrong."

4. Don't spank. Use loving discipline, cultivate relationships with time and build trust.
"Smacking doesn't teach a child a lesson, it just says that you have lost control of the situation and that violence is as an acceptable response. I find a lot of people are just venting their own personal frustrations and anger on a  child and in fact are just doing it take themselves feel better. This is entirely wrong and teaches anger, not discipline or respect."

5. Treasure days with your children. Spend time with your children! Children need their parents love.
"So many children get so much for Christmas these days that I fear that the magic of it is quite ruined.  Put aside those endless toys, switch off the television, and play games with your children.  It is those fun times they will remember, not the toys. It's the emotion of the day that carries through over the years and lives on in our hearts."

"Over the course of my career I met some neglectful parents--not many, but some---and it always enraged me. Quite simply, what is the point of having children if you can't be bothered with them? Few thing anger me in life like that that."

"Everything is just a a stage and it won't last long. Try not to despair or wish it away, as something else is always waiting round the corner to whip the rug from under your feet or charm you senseless.  We can never freeze time, but we should appreciate every delicious moment of a child's life for as we all know, they grow up so fast."

"The biggest things I think I learned from the Norland, and which I hope I brought to every home I passed through, was to encourage the mother to spend time playing with her child. I do wish parents would put down their cell phones and laptops and make their children the sole recipient of their time and love for apart of their day."

There is so much more advice, and it isn't done in a preachy way at all-it is integrated as part of all her experiences.  In fact, sometimes I found myself "reading between the lines"-she had that subtle, proper way of stating something in a way that she didn't want to say outright what she thought, in fear of being rude. She talks a little of modern conveniences that we take for granted (no complaining about diapering babies, when you haven't washed nappies for hours every night!) and how the war and sexual revolution changed things in the home. I also keep in mind she had a co-writer and I wonder how that comes into play with some of her opinions, but overall her voice shines through for sure.

It's a very charming, upbeat, easy read.


  1. Thank you for the recommendation...I bought it the first time you mentioned it on your blog (because our library doesn't carry it and it was $4!) I haven't started it yet but know as a former nanny myself and now stay at home mom I'll love it just as much as you have!

  2. I just finished this book because of your recommendation and I want to buy it too!! I looooves all her pearls of wisdom and seeing how they lived back in the day. I want to be like Nanny Brendan when I grow up. :)

  3. I'm reading it right now and am really enjoying your recommendation! :) Thanks Sarah!

  4. After your post I ran to the library and in about 3 days have finished it. I loved it, loved all the advice, her stories, and agree with her lovely outlook on child rearing. I can't help but just not compare. Nanny Ashford did nothing but care for children, loved them played with them and was so detailed in every way. I can't be like that - neither can a mother. We have other relationships to nurture, a husband to take care of and enjoy, extended families to care for, birthday parties to run and volunteering in school and the community to perform. All with little ones in tow. My house could never ever be as clean as what she was taught, neither my children be as impeccably tidy or my pram for that matter.

    My hat goes off to Nurse Ashford I don't know how she did what she did during her specific time on earth. I'd love to sit and have afternoon tea with her - but what an enjoyable thing it must have been to solely be 100% dedicated in time and effort to caring for small children. I just have to realise that's not what a mother can fully 100% achieve - ever.

    Loved reading this, thank you!

    1. I thought the same thing! Especially about the routine-it's difficult to keep that up, when you have the chores at home to do also. We can't be frolicking in fields all day when dinner has to be made-I am sure in most of the homes she worked in there was also a cook!

    2. Running in fields, how nice would that be!

  5. I finished the book this morning and bawled my eyes out! I guess I was sad it was over! Loved every bit of it, thank you for the recommendation :) Brenda's enthusiasm for childcare has help me be a better mom this week and make things more fun.

  6. That was easily in my top 10 favorite books ever!!! I loved it so much!!!