A Public Library's Comprehensive Babysitting Training Workshop

From diaper changing to CPR and managing a business, these skills prepare future sitters.

Workshop participants practice Hand-Only CPR.
Photos courtesy of Karen Jensen

As people dedicated to serving teens in libraries, we—Lauren Graves, youth librarian at the Fort Worth (TX) Public Library (FWPL), and Karen Jensen, FWPL collection development librarian for youth collections—spend a lot of time figuring out how best to support them. That begins with understanding who teens are today and what their lives look like.

In many families, teens are charged with caregiving responsibilities for younger siblings. Recent data show that among low-income families, 16 to 27 percent of parents ask teens to step into these caregiving roles.

Babysitting can also be teens’ first source of income. These days, teen sitters can earn around $16 an hour, though that varies depending on where they live. Websites such as Bambino offer a convenient and safe way to connect parents and teen sitters.

With all of this in mind, FWPL staff put together a comprehensive program and collection of resources to help tweens and teens who want, or need, to act as caregivers for younger kids. The ABCs of Babysitting workshop was born.


An attendee learns how to change a diaper.

Program basics

It started in 2022, when Minerva Gates, FWPL’s public education coordinator, received funds to develop a childcare workshop from the FWPL Foundation, which provides annual grants for innovative library programs. “The shortage of childcare workers is a national issue,” Gates says, noting that tweens and teens are frequently left at home to watch younger kids while adults are at work.

Among participants in our program, we’ve noticed that some are there to learn how to babysit because they have younger siblings or other children in their lives, some want to make money, and others seek to learn first aid and emergency skills. The workshop caters to all those interests and prepares future sitters for all aspects of the role.

Initially, the program emphasis was on building an early literacy toolbox, but it has expanded to include significant skill acquisition as well. It’s now a popular four-hour initiative held at branches across the FWPL system. The program teaches skills needed to babysit in a home setting and, if the sitters are paid, to manage their business. The early literacy component involves assembling materials for a babysitting toolbox, and sessions also cover safety and essential first aid, emergency preparation, and automated external defibrillator (AED) and Hands-Only CPR instruction.


Emergency preparedness

The CPR element is presented by Cook Children’s Project ADAM. Project ADAM was established in 1999 to promote cardiac emergency preparedness and help parents, school staff, students, and others learn CPR and how to use an AED in an emergency. The program is named for a teen who experienced cardiac arrest at a school where no AED was available and, tragically, died.

In 2013, Texas passed a law requiring all high school students to learn CPR. At our workshops, Project ADAM program coordinator Sarah Mendoza Thieroff teaches Hands-Only CPR and how to handle an AED. “While the training won’t certify them” in CPR, Thieroff says, “it will teach students to save a life and does meet the state requirement.” Several high school seniors took the program at the FWPL Golden Triangle branch to prepare for nursing school.

During the workshops, Thieroff tells teens, “Look for AEDs at your school and in public when you go out. Share what you’ve learned today with your teachers and parents so they can be aware of where AEDs are and how to use them. Knowing CPR and how to use an AED could save a life.”

The ABCs program also uses curriculum from Safe Sitter, a national organization that has been offering babysitting courses for more than 40 years and provides training for home-alone safety and support for grandparents. At FWPL, we use the organization’s Intro to Safe Babysitting, a 30-minute guide that includes a workbook for students, a script for presenters using this resource, and a fillable PDF certificate to give to participants who complete the course. The workbook includes an overview of ages and stages in child development, strategies to help with behavioral issues, entertainment ideas, and hands-on training for changing diapers.


Literacy tools and babysitting kits

In the program’s literacy component, teens learn strategies for reading to children and identify materials to create their own early literacy babysitting toolbox. Our library system has a long-standing tradition of offering circulating kits to promote learning. For years, FWPL has offered children’s kits with books and manipulatives/toys relating to various themes. More recently, we added a variety of adult kits that focus on areas including memory care.

As staff talked about what kinds of kits we could circulate with teens, babysitting kits were the number one recommendation from Karen, who had developed a make-a-babysitting-bag program at a previous job. That model evolved into the current circulating babysitting kits at FWPL. All include a nonfiction book about babysitting, Don’t Sit on the Baby! by Halley Bondy. They also feature a variety of picture and board books to read with the kids, as well as finger puppets, storytelling dice, games, arts and crafts supplies, and a safety kit.

We also circulate a variety of Baby Bags that we promote to all caregivers, including older teen siblings and babysitters. These take-and-grab resources include a book on baby games and developmentally appropriate Indestructibles books and board books. Book topics addressed include colors, counting, emotions, food, and STEM. Some also include a toy or manipulatives, such as vinyl blocks, which are easy to clean. Both kits have resources to engage kids and impress parents.

A Reader’s Advisory tool is also a key component to our ABCs workshops. This resource highlights more books on babysitting, child development, and first aid, as well as fun middle grade and YA books featuring characters who babysit (yes, “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” books are on there). It also includes some fun bedtime stories and a QR code leading to more bedtime read-alouds. All of this reinforces that the library has a wide variety of resources related to workshop topics—and entertaining books that sitters can read for fun.

The success of the young program is evident in the responses of teens who attend.

“The teens come in all shy and hesitant,” says Nancy Garcia, library manager of the FWPL Summerglen branch. “But by the end, they’ve really blossomed. They are excited and feel prepared to babysit.”

“I’m homeschooled,” said one teen, “and I won’t [otherwise] get the training everyone else has.”

“I wish I had this kind of program growing up,” adds Garcia, who notes that adult patrons often follow the CPR lessons from the sidelines. “I’m really grateful we were able to bring this to my community.”

Lauren Graves is a youth librarian at FWPL, where Karen Jensen is collection development librarian for youth collections. Jensen also created “Teen Librarian Toolbox” (slj.com/teenlibrariantoolbox).

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