Yes, the aspiring babysitters learn to change diapers.
But for the those between the ages of 12 to 18 taking part in the KSB Babysitting Academy on Saturday, it was so much more.
Such as taking part in critical thinking exercises. One of the group projects involved scenarios babysitters might encounter on the job, then coming up with creative and sensible solutions.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” said Jace McCallister, one of the cadet babysitters. “Some things are complicated at first, but then you get used to it.”
By the end of the six-hour session, 10 girls and two boys had completed the comprehensive course. Each received a certificate of completion: credentials attesting to their training, allowing parents to rest easy knowing their children are in good hands.
Born out of the pandemic lockdown
The KSB Babysitting Academy started as the brainchild of Kelly Hildebrand, who is KSB’s Wellness Service Coordinator.
“We had needed a babysitter class in Dixon for a very long time,” said Hildebrand.
But it was the COVID-19 lockdowns — when some kids found themselves having to watch their younger siblings while parents were at work — that served as the best reason to get the program rolling.
Hildebrand reached out to Dixon Public Schools and the Lee County Health Department to see how they could help. Together, they formed the curriculum that forms the basis of the class.
A day of intense, but fun training
Cadets start by meeting their “babies,” anatomically correct dolls that each is responsible for during the class.
Then, sitters begin updating the babysitter checklist, including the child’s name, birth date, allergies, schedule, and special instructions from the parents.
Next, the cadets unplug form their phone — and plug into the interests of the children. Margo Empen, who is the superintendent of Dixon Public Schools, led the cadets through through activities that encourage interaction with the child in their care.
The activities are designed to be physically and mentally stimulating for the child. There is a menu of indoor and outdoor games can help sharpen fine motor skills. There are scavenger hunts and matching games.
Empen pulled out a deck of cards that illustrate easy and fun yoga poses that sitters and children can do together.
The cadets were all smiles, and there were more than a few giggles, as Empen led them through the poses.
A mini-course on behavior
Nuanced parents know a degree of psychology is involved when dealing with young children.
So Stacie McCullough and Monica Wolfley of Preschool for All, an Illinois grant program, led the cadets through a mini-course.
Here, cadets learned to use creativity for those instances when their charges engage in challenging behaviors, such as tantrums. Instead of making ultimatums, sitters are encouraged to give children choices. This strategy leaves the child feeling empowered and more willing to cooperate.
Cadet are instructed in how to empathize with children, getting “down to their level.” Likewise, sitters are taught never to handle an undesirable behavior with physical punishment.
When sitting for school-age children, cadets learn to set priorities. This empowers children to complete their homework (rather than having a sitter do it for them).
Changing and bathing
Diaper changing is an essential skill for any babysitter, and the academy has students covered. Lora Fassler, a health education coordinator with the Lee County Health Department guided the class as they practiced.
Cadets learn to use changing pads. They learn wiping techniques appropriate to the child’s gender. And they learn how to tell when it is time to change a diaper. In addition, instructors discuss how to help children who are currently potty training on a schedule and how to report the child’s progress to parents.
“I just love teaching the kids something new and seeing the looks on their faces,” Fassler said.
Cadets also learn how to prepare an infant’s bath, such as always properly checking the water temperature with their elbows before placing the child in and filling the tub to safe water level. Most importantly, they learn to keep a hand on the child at all times they are in the water.
Students then got to put their skills to the test, washing their dolls under the watchful eye of their instructors.
Sitters learn how to feed a toddler and how to measure food portions that do not pose a choking hazard. By cutting the child’s food small enough to fit through a straw, sitters and parents can be confident the child is safe with every bite.
The cadets also learned to measure formula and check bottle temperature correctly. At all times, sitters know to be mindful of sanitary practices, such as washing hands before handling food and never touching formula with bare hands.
Hildebrand instructed the class in life-saving measures, covering CPR, basic first aid, and what to do if the child is choking. Cadets practiced on a CPR training mannequin, which instilled confidence in their newfound skills.
“Remember, no boo boo is too small,” Hildebrand said.
After finishing the comprehensive six-hour class, cadets receive a certificate of completion. Graduates use these credentials to prove their training, allowing parents to rest easy knowing their children are in good hands.
“I think babysitters should come to the academy because it is really fun and educational,” gushed cadet Carly Dallas. “They can learn a lot.”
How to register for the class
The KSB Babysitting Academy is available four times a year to children ages 12 to 18. It costs $20. Go to www.ksbhospital.com to register. Classes fill quickly.
Source: The Daily Chronicle