4-H provides babysitting expo for teens

Elizabeth Carpenter and Rachael Carpenter hold dolls as they learn to care for infants at the 4-H Teen Babysitting Expo at the YMCA.

Elizabeth Carpenter and Rachael Carpenter hold dolls as they learn to care for infants at the 4-H Teen Babysitting Expo at the YMCA.

Teenage babysitters learned the importance of safety, nutrition and caring for young children at the Teen Babysitting Expo on Tuesday, June 10 at the Chilton County YMCA.

Through lessons and hands-on activities, 4-H Regional Extension Agent Josine Walter familiarized the teens with the responsibilities, techniques and confidence associated with babysitting.

Walter said that safety was the main aspect of babysitting that they wanted to inform the attendees about.

“They have to learn that they must be attentive and interactive at all times,” Walter said.

As a 4-H representative, Walter believes in physical activity and wants to instill those beliefs in young individuals.

“We encourage creativity and discourage inactivity,” Walter said. “That’s why we do so much hands-on activity. We are hoping that they will do the same with the children they babysit.”

Regional Extension Agent Sallie Lide-Hooker joined Walter to help explain infant safety and growth development at all ages.

Lide-Hooker brought two dolls to help demonstrate the harmful effects of Shaking Baby Syndrome and malnutrition.

The infant dolls simulated a baby crying, and one showed the fragile parts of the baby’s brain so that the teens could understand the damage caused by shaking a baby.

Although these images could be disturbing to a young teen, Walter explained how these demonstrations are important in making sure that the girls understand just how easily a child could be harmed.

The teens were also taught to understand the stages of development and what to expect from particular age groups.

“They learn how to evaluate at the kid’s level,” Lide-Hooker said.

The babysitters were taught to use the child’s age as a determiner for what is expected of them. For example, they should not get frustrated with a young child for what he or she can’t understand.

In order to practice the activities one would use for a certain age group of children, the attendees were given a prop, such as a puppet or stuffed animal, and an age for their child, and were then asked to make up an appropriate story or skit to act out for that particular child.

Cassie Wakefield, 14, was one of the teens hoping to learn more at the expo.

“We learned about being active with the kids,” Wakefield said. “I like to play baseball with the kids I babysit, and I know that it’s important to do things like that.”

In addition to infant safety and age-appropriate activities, Walter also covered basic first-aid and nutrition.

In the kitchen, the teens learned about nutrition and how to make healthy snacks for children.

Walter also encouraged the young babysitters to ensure their own safety by always researching the situation before agreeing to babysit for a family.

The teens learned to visit the home and become familiar with the children prior to taking on their first job for the family.

“We don’t just want to talk about the children’s safety, but also about the teen’s safety,” Walter said.

The safety issue came up time and time again in the expo, as Walter encouraged the teens to participate in a CPR class and drilled them on what to do in emergency situations.

Many teenage babysitters, usually between the ages of 13 and 17, arise because of the need for a summer job, but Walter explained how babysitting can lead to a meaningful career.

“We talk about career potential,” Walter said. “They could be counselors, nannies, daycare workers, or take on other child-related careers. We talk to them about marketing and fees, and tell them how these small babysitting jobs can give them skills they can hang on to for a lifetime.”

 

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