Guides learn skills for babysitting

RICHARD BATSON It is a pocket money job for many a young girl. But it puts them in charge of a family's most precious possession - children. So Guides from across Norfolk have been learning the basic do's and don'ts of babysitting - which involves more than just settling down on the sofa to watch a DVD with the boyfriend.

RICHARD BATSON

It is a pocket money job for many a young girl. But it puts them in charge of a family's most precious possession - children.

So Guides from across Norfolk have been learning the basic do's and don'ts of babysitting - which involves more than just settling down on the sofa to watch a DVD with the boyfriend.

Thirteen would-be babysitters aged 14-20 were taught everything from accident prevention and first aid, to nappy-changing and bathing, as well as ways of amusing children and negotiating away bedtime tantrums.

Tutor Georgie Rodwell, an experienced babysitter, playworker and former nanny, said "many youngsters fall into babysitting - maybe as a favour for a family friend, and are unprepared."

The keys to success were being aware of potential problems and hazards from to keep the child safe, and amused.

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"It is not just a night of watching telly while the kids are upstairs. Babysitters need to be alert and active, and keeping the children entertained. It needs to be pleasurable for everybody, and the child needs to be comfortable and respectful of the person in charge."

Norfolk Girlguiding assistant county commissioner Helen Green, who organised the three-day course at its Hautbois House centre at Coltishall, said babysitters also needed to make it a businesslike arrangement - setting out the payment (£5-6 an hour is the going rate), and establish what to do if the parents were late coming home.

The youngsters also heard from a childminder, first aider and had a visit from mum Claire Turner and her baby son.

Fifteen-year-old Freya Elliott from Dereham, who has not done any babysitting said the course taught her a lot - particularly tips about keeping children amused, and what to do in an emergency - and would make it easier when she did her first session.

Regular babysitter Lucinda Musgrove-Farley, 20, from King's Lynn said it was easy to start without realising what you were letting yourself in for. "The course has shown us how to use negotiation skills if a child does not want to brush their teeth or go to bed.

"You have to think on your feet all the time. It is a bit like driving, when you have to react to changing situations all the time."

The course, helped by a £500 grant from the Norfolk Youth Fund, was just one of many courses teaching Guides skills for life - over and above the traditional knots and camping, added Mrs Green. Sessions also included preparation for going to university or leaving home - such as budgeting, cooking, laundry and how to avoid relationship problems when house-sharing.

There are more than 8,500 Guides in Norfolk, but nationally there is a waiting list of 50,000 due to a lack of adult leaders. For more information about guiding or lending a hand contact www.girlguidingnorfolk.org.uk or phone 01603 502590.

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