A better babysitter — Red Cross offers training course

The American Red Cross has been training babysitters in southeastern Minnesota for more than 30 years.

Last July, 11-year-old Estee Dechtman had just finished the first half of an American Red Cross babysitter’s training course when she was already given her first real-world opportunity to use what she had learned.

Dechtman, at her home in Colorado, was playing with her two younger brothers and a friend who had asthma medication with him. At some point, her 2 1/2-year-old brother, Isaac, got into and swallowed some of that medication.

Having just learned earlier that day that ingesting medication can be dangerous, Dechtman immediately told her father what had happened and then gave him the phone number of their local poison control office from memory, which was something else she'd learned that day.

Even though her brother ended up not requiring medical care, Dechtman and her father both credit her Red Cross babysitter training with giving her the knowledge and the confidence to act quickly.

Here in southeastern Minnesota, Kris Martinson says the American Red Cross has been training babysitters like Dechtman for more than 30 years.


Popular class

"We have a lot of adult volunteers who come in, and one of their first memories of the Red Cross is having taken the babysitter's training class," says Martinson, who oversees all youth programs offered by the Southeast Minnesota Chapter of the Red Cross. "It's by far our most popular youth class."

Andrea Warda, formerly of Rochester, is one of those graduates.

"I definitely found the class worthwhile," she says. "I remember the information being very useful, especially for first-time babysitters."

Designed for kids between the ages of 11 and 15, Martinson says the course is divided into six primary areas of instruction: Childhood development, basic child care techniques, caring for first-aid emergencies, safety issues, leadership skills, and the business of babysitting.

The core curriculum of the course covers more than six hours of material, and Martinson admits that sitting in one place for that long can get a little tough for some students. That's why she says she likes to keep them moving and using their hands as much as possible throughout the day.

"Certainly with a group of 11-year-olds in an all-day class, there needs to be some movement," she says. "So we have a lot of different activities where they're working in pairs and in teams with mannequins that allow them to practice things like holding, feeding and changing diapers."

Know the basics


Another area of focus, Martinson says, is on basic child care, such as the importance of hand washing and how to change a diaper.


"We also talk about misbehavior, because some kids just aren't going to be their angelic selves all the time for the babysitter," Martinson says.

Once the kids have a good handle on all of that, they end the day with a part of the class Martinson says she's most proud of.

"We end the class by really focusing on teaching the students how to handle various emergencies," she says. "We talk about what they should do if a child chokes, if he or she has a burning emergency or if they get a cut or scrape and you're a little squeamish of blood.

If the students complete all of the requirements of the class, at the end of the day they receive a certificate that says they are now a certified Red Cross Babysitter, which is something Martinson says the students are eager to show off to potential clients.

"They're pretty proud of those certificates and about the chance to show them to prospective families," she says. "They're proud of the fact that they've spent a whole day leaning how to be a better babysitter."


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