The Utah State University Extension Service sponsored a baby sitters' educational day camp Aug. 1-3 at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City.

The Extension Service recently finished teaching "Smart Child Care," a series of classes for child-care providers, parents and less traditional child caregivers such as grandparents and neighbors. The course used curriculum from Vanderbilt University to teach adults how to interact more positively with children in their care and provided the inspiration for the Successful Sitter camp.

"I thought, we need to do this (teach child care) more with youth, because they give care too," said Marilyn Albertson, an associate professor of family and consumer sciences for the USU Extension Service who also works with the 4-H program and oversaw "Smart Child Care." Albertson also saw an opportunity in the camp to give Extension Service interns Mary Lynn and Hayley Housekeeper more varied experience.

Under Albertson's supervision, Lynn took charge of the logistics of the camp. It focused on several different areas: safety, child development and how to entertain children of different ages, first aid, ideas for healthy snacks and kitchen safety. Albertson said she was pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest for the camp, which cost $30 for the three sessions and included 4-H membership through September.

"When we started advertising, we weren't sure how much interest there would be, but … we actually had to turn some people away," Albertson said.

She and Lynn capped the camp enrollment at 31. The class members' ages ranged from 9 to 14 and included a handful of boys among the girls. Lynn split the class in two and put the smaller, more manageable groups on a rotational schedule. Each day featured different classes with lectures and activities.

Terry Begay, the regional health care coordinator and training and exercise coordinator for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, taught basic first aid and safety guidelines as a guest lecturer on Thursday. Because the course didn't offer any first aid certification, Begay recommended baby sitters get certified in first aid and CPR through the Red Cross, American Heart Association or Save a Heart.

"The more prepared you are, the less scared you are," Begay told one group as she hit some highlights in the basic first aid handbook she gave to each of the students. "You'll know what to do."

Begay also gave out handouts on how to use a fire extinguisher, a baby sitter information guide to help sitters know what kind of questions they should ask before the parents leave such as where they will be, an emergency contact number, their home address and a nearby intersection in case the sitter has to call 911 and what their child is allowed to eat and do while the parents are gone.

She reminded students to make sure all doors and windows are locked after the parents leave and to lock the house if they and the children leave to go anywhere.

The groups also reviewed what to do in case of fire, earthquake, if a child starts choking or ingests something harmful, or if a stranger calls or seems to be hanging around the house.

"If you answer the phone, don't identify yourself as a baby sitter, just ask if you can take a message for the parents," Begay said. "If after a phone call there's someone who looks suspicious kind of walking around, even if it's in front of the house, please call 911."

Begay and Albertson both said they were impressed by the knowledge the students already had about first aid and safety precautions.

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The lighter parts of the camp, Housekeeper's easy healthy snacks demonstrations and puppet making and tips by Lynn on entertaining children, were equally successful. Lynn said her favorite part of putting on the camp was being with the students.

"I think the more we can prepare young people to create a safe and caring environment for those they interact with and care for, like siblings and other children they tend, is good preparation for parenthood," Albertson said.

Based on the interest for Successful Sitters, Albertson said the USU Extension Service would "for sure do it again next summer," and maybe offer a camp during the coming school year.


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