Every month, up to a dozen area youth flock to the St. John Ambulance office to attend the non-profit’s organization’s regular babysitting course.
© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
St. John Ambulance manager Kelly Pollock demonstrates how to perform CPR compressions on an infant using a plastic baby. The non-profit organization will host its next babysitting course in Prince Albert on Saturday, Sept. 7.
Learning how to look after tots is the central goal for many students, but it is by no means the only one.
“It’s not just a course for those wanting to babysit,” manager Kelly Pollock said.
“It also helps kids who are going to be left at home alone for a short period of time, and depending on their age, it might even be longer. So it can be used in both ways -- not necessarily to go out and babysit for people, but just within your own family or even staying home alone by yourself.”
The next babysitting course is set to take place on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A $40 fee is charged for the day-long class, which offers a certificate for successful completion.
Pollock noted that many people are now taking the babysitting course as a “home alone” program to allow children to look after themselves or siblings while their parents are gone.
“It’s a recommended course for 11 to 13-year-olds,” she said. “But we’ve had some 10-year-olds who are using it as a home alone course as opposed to a babysitting course, and we’ve had some 14, 15-year-olds.”
The first aid component of the babysitting course is arguably its main focus, given the essential identify of St. John Ambulance as a first aid/CPR training agency.
According to Pollock, most parents who sign up their children for the course do not intend for them to use their new skills to babysit for other families.
“If you talk to the majority of parents, the component they’re most interested in is the first aid for the choking and … how to keep the home safe and those aspects of it,” she said.
“The majority aren’t going out and babysitting, that’s what I find. They’re taking a babysitting course, but they’re babysitting their own families, not to go out and get a job babysitting.”
The first lesson in the course involves elements of becoming a babysitter including setting rates, having pre-job meetings and what one should include in a babysitter’s kit.
Describing the contents of the kit, Pollock said, “The main thing is the little form that tells you everything that you need to know about where you’re going to babysit, what the emergency contact numbers are, different things you need to know about the house.”
It’s not just a course for those wanting to babysit. Kelly Pollock
Subsequent lessons involve discussions on how to care for children of different ages, how to put a baby to bed, and food-related issues such as snack ideas and how to avoid the risk of choking.
Students learn how to tackle emotional episodes -- children who are crying, teething, having temper tantrums or fighting with others -- through methods such as role-playing.
“There are two kids fighting over a toy: What are you going to do?” Pollock asked as an example.
“Then they throw out their answers. Most times some kids might say, ‘Oh, I just go holler at them and tell them to stop fighting.’ So they’ll role play the proper thing that they should do instead of hollering.”
Safety is one of the biggest concerns of the course. Students learn how to prevent injuries, look for warning signs of danger, whether to let people in the house and what to do in case of a storm.
Those teaching the course must be certified babysitting instructors and are required to undergo a criminal record check. Possession of a valid CPR and first aid certificate is another prerequisite.
Class sizes each month are limited to 12. Each pre-paid child who registers for and completes the course receives a certificate, wallet, first aid kit and babysitting handbook in addition to a snack and juice.
Pollock, who has helped organize the babysitting course for many years, said that the typical makeup of the class has changed noticeably over time.
“I’ve been here for 28 years, and at one time, it would be rare to see a boy,” she said.
“Just our last class, we had more boys than girls … It has definitely changed in the last 10, 15 years, where at least half of every class is boys.”
The next babysitting course dates are Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Dec. 30. Individuals who wish to register may contact St. John Ambulance at 922-0888 for more information.