A clean but basic private bedroom space might meet the U.S. Department of State regulations, but it won’t go very far in making your au pair feel comfortable or welcome. Consider this when preparing your au pair’s room: if you had a child her age going to live with a family in another country for a year, what type of room would you hope she would have?
Let’s start with the furniture basics: a bed with a comfortable mattress, nightstand with a lamp, dresser, desk and chair. No air mattresses or pull out couches may be used for a bed. Additions, if you have space, could include a bookshelf or a comfortable chair for reading. A full-length mirror is a nice touch, unless you already have one in the bathroom.
Make sure there are clean pillows for the bed, one if not two sets of sheets, and a nice comforter or duvet. Other important items not to forget: a couple of sets of nice towels, a small trashcan, a laundry basket, hangers for the closet, and an alarm clock or clock radio. Make sure there are blinds or curtains on the windows (both for privacy and on days the au pair may want to sleep in). Finally, ensure there is a power strip or surge protector for charging cell phones or computers.
Now – how to go from clean and basic to comfortable and welcoming?
First reach out to your au pair and find out some things about her – her favorite colors, genre’s of books or magazines she likes to read, her hobbies and maybe some of the places she wants to travel in the U.S. Collect some ideas and then get creative! Get some throw pillows and a cozy blanket in her favorite color, put a few books or magazines on her nightstand, and put a bulletin board on the wall where she can post pictures of her adventures. Consider a plant or two for the dresser and some picture frames for the desk. Get a basket and fill it with sample-sized items from the store – toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo/conditioner – as well as an assortment of chocolates, candies, nuts or other snacks.
If your kids are old enough, ask them to each draw a picture or welcome sign for the bulletin board or the door. Provide a list of passwords for the WIFI, Netflix or other service that the au pair might use and include a city map or hand drawn map of the neighborhood to help her get her bearings. Consider a small packet of international stamps and a few postcards from your city too.
Finally, and most importantly, ensure that your au pairs bedroom is a space just for her. Encourage your children not to enter without knocking and set some expectations about privacy, to ensure the au pair can relax during her non-working hours.