Adventures in babysitting

HANCOCK – When eight Copper Country students go out to seek babysitting jobs in the near future, they’ll be the first in years to bring Red Cross babysitting certifications to the table.

The students attended eight hours of training Monday and Tuesday at Houghton County Arena, led by Karen Connors, 4-H program coordinator for Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw Counties. Connors lead a second program in Baraga County Thursday and Friday, and hopes to repeat the program at both locations in September.

“We have not had a babysitting class since I’ve been coordinator in the last two years, and it’s the one thing people have been asking about,” Connors said Monday. “I think it’s important because it’s the first job most of these kids will have, and I want to get them the skills to do it correctly.”

Connors said 4-H had offered the courses at some point in the past, but when she looked into it she found there were no longer any certified instructors in the area. She was able to organize a trainers’ class for herself and 4-H coordinators from Menominee and Dickinson counties, with a Red Cross instructor coming up from downstate to teach it.

The youth class included instruction in first aid, including infant rescue breathing but not CPR, safety and risk assessment, strategies for successfully disciplining children, and how to create resumes and handle business aspects of babysitting.

Red Cross requires six hours of instruction for certification, but Connors said she added two hours to include a few extra topics, and so the class would qualify as a short-term 4-H Spin Club. She said students will also take home babysitting kits with toys for the kids and basic first aid kits.

On Monday, a discussion on choking covered how to safely give the Heimlich maneuver to an infant, what foods are and aren’t safe for babies, and what toys and household items – avoid legos, burst balloons and cellophane – can be dangerous.

“If it fits in the mouth, it’s a choking hazard,” asserted the oldest member of the class, Raymond Naasko, 15, who’s had quite a bit of experience already helping take care of his nine younger siblings.

Naasko was one of three boys in the class, which Connors said was more than she’d expected.

“I’m hoping that’s a trend, more guys in babysitting,” she said.

Student Heather Laich, 12, said she already has an ongoing job babysitting a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, but the class is increasing her confidence.

“(I learned) a lot of safety hazards, and how to discipline the right way,” she said, noting that the trick is to offer acceptable alternatives to poor behavior in a pleasant but firm tone.

Shannon Rantamaki, 12, said she hasn’t had much experience babysitting outside her own family, but first changed a younger sibling’s diaper when she was 3-and-a-half years old.

“I think it will help me get jobs,” she said of the Red Cross certification.

To get on the waiting list for the next round of classes, call the Baraga Michigan State University Extension office at 524-6300, or the Houghton County extension office at 482-5830.