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Red Cross teaches sitter skills

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Five young women pay rapt attention to instructor Heidi Hawkins as she explains the art of two-handed diapering: one hand slips a clean nappy under the anatomically correct babydoll, while the other hand blocks potential potty sprays with the recently used diaper.

Allegra Velazquez, 13, left, and Vera Berger, 12, second from left, practice caring for babies during their Babysitters Boot Camp class at the American Red Cross. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Allegra Velazquez, 13, left, and Vera Berger, 12, second from left, practice caring for babies during their Babysitters Boot Camp class at the American Red Cross. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

It’s information they can use.

They are all part of two-day hands-on Babysitters Boot Camp at the American Red Cross in New Mexico, where along with defensive diapering, they’ll learn how to handle finger paints spills, erasers in noses and the fine art of distracting little boys who want to jump off the roof to test their Superman capes.

Fiona Carney, a serious 11-year-old who attends Desert Ridge Middle School, says she just wants to be better prepared.

“I’ve been wanting to take this to become a better baby sitter. I want to learn first aid and CPR and know how to handle situations,” she says. “I really liked the class about how to handle babies. I didn’t know how many ways you could hold a baby – the purposes for them. Like to use the football hold, so you could grab a bottle or something.”

The football hold, for those who haven’t taken a Red Cross baby-sitting class, shifts the baby’s head to one hand and tucks the baby’s body down the arm along the baby sitter’s rib cage for support, leaving one hand free, according to Hawkins’ instructions.

Carney says she’s baby-sat her neighbor’s 4-year-old a few times, but now she feels more confident: “We baby-sit her at our house. She usually falls asleep in my bed. Sometimes she cries and then she comes out to sit with me so she can feel better.”

Frankie Wylde, whose son, Xan, an 11-year-old at McKinley Middle School, has previously taken the class, says Xan is better prepared for any situation, whether or not he ever baby-sits.

“It gives them a good basis of how to deal with situations and how to stay calm in emergencies,” Wylde says. “It gives him the sense of power and confidence that if something came up, he could handle it.”

Allegra Velazquez, 13, big sister to little brothers, took the class again to refresh her knowledge and her CPR and first aid: “Hopefully these things will come in handy with all my brothers. It was a fun experience.”

Chani Anderson, a service delivery manager for the Red Cross, says the baby sitter training class is based on real experiences. They talk about how to stay safe, how to develop leadership abilities, how to prepare a baby-sitting bag of games for entertaining children, how to write a résumé and how to interview parents. Of course, most important, how to keep a record of contacts for emergency situations.

“We talk about what do you do if the parents come home and smell of alcohol,” Anderson says. The answer is not to get in their car and to call your own parents for a ride home, she says.

Vera Berger, 12, left, watches as instructor Heidi Hawkins, right, demonstrates a first aid bandage knot during the Babysitters Boot Camp. In addition to teaching first aid and CPR, the class teaches teens how to develop business and leadership skills such as writing a résumé. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Vera Berger, 12, left, watches as instructor Heidi Hawkins, right, demonstrates a first aid bandage knot during the Babysitters Boot Camp. In addition to teaching first aid and CPR, the class teaches teens how to develop business and leadership skills such as writing a résumé. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

They also talk to students about how to cultivate clients from their parents’ friends and other adults they trust.

Henry Varela, spokesman for New Mexico Children, Youth and Families, says he thinks the Red Cross training is great for kids who baby-sit and for children who take care of themselves after school.

No license is required for someone who takes care of four or fewer children, he says. That means that the baby sitter and the family with the children should both be careful before they agree to a childcare arrangement.

Some of his best advice for baby sitters is “to know their limits. How old are the kids? How many kids?”

For parents of baby sitters, he cautions, “You want to know who your kids are baby-sitting. They shouldn’t be answering an ad in the newspaper. Parents should stay in constant contact with the child who is baby-sitting.”

Sahara Hansen attends Babysitters Boot Camp, where she learns skills from defensive diapering to superhero redirection, right along with CPR and first aid. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Sahara Hansen attends Babysitters Boot Camp, where she learns skills from defensive diapering to superhero redirection, right along with CPR and first aid. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

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