Crying babies led to an eye-opening experience for students enrolled in Parenting and Child Development. For instructor, Julie Riessen, the hands-on experience has become a longstanding opportunity for her students, and through a Carl Perkins grant, the practice of parenting has recently become more realistic. “Flour babies came about because at one time we did not have the Ready or Not Tots. Five pound sacks of flour and panty hose were used to make the babies, and we had carriers to put them in. For a long time that is all we had, and the students loved making these creative flour babies. Because of the grant, there was money available to purchase 10 Ready or Not Tots,” said Reissen.
Even with the Ready or Not Tots, the flour baby tradition will continue. Every year students work in partnership to make a flour baby. The babies are named and dressed with clothes that have been donated. The flour babies are carried from class to class all day while the students are in school because they aren’t a disruption since they do not cry. The Ready or Not Tots do cry, so they are taken home over weekends. Realistic experiences occur such as crying at varying intervals throughout the day and night, which allows the students to get a true taste of the difficulty of parenting.
The measurement for the flour babies is done through journaling in a baby book that the students create which even includes a birth certificate. They track how many times they think the baby needs to be fed and diapers changed and then log that in the book. With the Ready or Not Tots, they keep track of when the baby cries. The baby cries for various reasons including the need for a diaper change, because it is hungry, needing attention, or needing to be burped. If the baby won’t stop crying there is a panic key, and in a worst-case scenario, students can pull out the battery.
The project is meant to be a simulation for students to determine if they are ready to become a parent, and for Yi-Wei Chang, a foreign exchange student from Taiwan, the first night was awful. “She woke me up ten times when I was asleep,” said Chang. “I love babies, but not as much as I did before this experience.” Chang said there is nothing like this in Taiwan, so overall, he enjoyed it.
When asked what the students learned from the flour babies, there were varying responses, but something felt unanimously was that they were heavy. While carrying the Ready or Not Tots over the weekend, students were in for quite the experience. With three different program options, the babies cried often to create a realistic snapshot of what parenting is all about. They were taken everywhere over the weekend, including to a music contest out of town.
The experience seemed to serve its purpose. For Taelynn Higgins, it felt great to get a good night of sleep after she had been up a lot with her baby over the weekend, and Jailene Graves shared, “It is hard to be a teenager and a mom.”