February 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW5

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Extension Teaching Youth Child Care and Business Skills

This article describes how a study-by-mail course was used as the delivery method to provide youth with training on starting their own babysitting business. The six-part course assisted 11 to 14 year olds in learning child development and small business skills through planned activities and exercises. Activity forms which were returned to the agents encouraged completion and assisted agents in evaluating the course. This method represents an alternative to ongoing babysitting education classes and can also be considered for supplementing established child development and small business educational programming.

Barbara H. James
Geauga County Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Sciences/Community Development
Internet address: geau@agvax2.ag.ohio-state.edu

Gwen Wolford
Pickaway County Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Sciences/Community Development

Amy Estey
Miami County Extension Agent
4-H/Youth Development

Kathy Jelley
Brown County Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Sciences

Rebecca Cropper
Brown County Extension Agent
4-H/Youth Development/Community Development

Ohio State University Extension
Geauga County Office
Burton, Ohio

Extension professionals often serve as a training source in counties where the ever increasing need for child care creates a market for this type of business. Young entrepreneurs, ages 11-14, help fill this need by babysitting for families and seek training from Extension. Yet agents often do not find it feasible to conduct ongoing training classes as youth become interested in this business. A team of Family and Consumer Sciences, 4-H/Youth Development, and Community Development agents were challenged to develop an alternate program delivery method which would meet this demand and yet be adaptable to changing family structures and schedules.

The team wrote "Starting Your Own Babysitting Business," a six-part study-by-mail course which taught youth not only babysitting skills, but also small business skills. The letter study course was designed for participants to receive a lesson every other week, yet participants completed the course at their own pace. Participants learned about discipline, child behavior and development, safety, play and physical care, starting a small home business and money management, advertising and promotion, and projecting a professional image. The course was marketed through flyers in schools and news releases distributed from June to September, 1994.

To promote responsibility and intergenerational communications, the sitter became "President" of the babysitting company and the parent, utilizing the "Parent's Guide" incorporated in each lesson, worked closely with the sitter on a variety of tasks. The parent played the role of "Chairman of the Board" of advisors. The "Board of Advisors" was comprised of helpful adults the sitter chose to give her/him advice on business, child development, and care.

Lesson content encouraged a "hands on" approach with participants completing projects or exercises which assisted in the learning process. In Lesson 1 participants wrote business plans, naming their businesses and setting business goals. A babysitting outfit was selected in the second lesson. Participants could have a picture taken in their outfit and could send it in for their Extension agent to evaluate. Several participants took advantage of this opportunity. In the lesson on child development and play, projects included a family picture book, finger puppets, paper bag blocks, and simple items made from a variety of items found around the house. In Lesson 4 on accident prevention and safety, participants practiced simple first aid with parents. The "Great Hazard Hunt," a 4-H hazard recognition activity, enabled participants to conduct a home safety inspection. In Lesson 5 participants practiced infant care on a doll or real infant under the supervision of the parent. Finally, participants banked their profits by opening a bank account and starting a record keeping system.

In order to graduate, participants completed a one-page activity form after each lesson and returned it by mail to the agent. After all six forms were returned, the sitters received a certificate of completion. These activity forms were used as a means to evaluate learning and quantifying change.

"Starting Your Own Babysitting Business" was successful with evidence of learning and behavior change. Of the 81 youth enrolled, 33 (41%) completed all six lessons and received certificates of completion. Most of the participants completed at least two of the activity sheets. The agents involved in developing the course look forward to distributing it state-wide in summers to come. This method not only represents an alternative to ongoing classes but can be considered for supplementing an established program of education on child care and small business.