Picks and Pans Main: Video

updated 10/02/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/02/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

DR. LEE SALK'S SUPER SITTERS

This tape comes in a shiny box with BIG PRINT and bright colors. It fairly bursts with information on the subject of babysitting—and not just the basics of behavior (never sleep, smoke or snoop on the job), but how to feed, bathe, change and play with your young charges and, most important of all, how to act in an emergency. The 30-minute video is but one well-produced part of a kit that includes telephone stickers for emergency phone numbers, a magnetic memo board to note the parents' whereabouts and other special instructions, companion booklets for parents and sitters and a first-aid manual. Digesting all this clearly takes more than one quick sitting.

Child psychologist Lee Salk, professor of pediatrics at New York's Cornell University Medical College, who helped develop the project, does not underestimate the importance of the baby-sitter in a child's development. He suggests that concerned parents keep the tape on hand to help train any long-term caretakers they hire. The tips for sitters include basic tactics—never embarrass a child, and when it comes to discipline, be firm but don't hit, slap or spank. There are separate segments on how to care for babies, toddlers and older children up to age 7, with a sharp focus on safety. The Heimlich maneuver is demonstrated for both infants and older children, and the first-aid manual tells how to cope with cuts, fevers, nosebleeds and such emergencies as fire and a break-in.

The 61-page Sitter's Resource Guide elaborates on the video material with plenty of advice on how to make playtime more creative and hold your own with a stubborn tot. When it comes to dangers, even the sitter is considered in this thorough package: Never, never, notes the guide, let a drunken parent drive you home. (Super Sitters Inc., $34.95; 800-558-2001 ext. 118)

THE VIDEOGUIDE TO SAFE BABY-SITTING

The information dispensed on this 30-minute tape is compromised by a presentation that is ponderous and awkward. Starting with a silly sketch featuring performances—by a cast of actors who seem straight out of Melodrama 101—was a misguided notion. As a sitter, Christina Gooding is so sugary she seems suspicious. Mom (Mary Ann Burger) and Dad (Terrence Kiel) act as if they don't know each other or their kids. And narrator Kathi McDonald, with her dress-for-success suit, floppy bow tie and crisp manner, seems an odd choice for training teens on how to care for young children. Apparently well-intentioned, this video covers the same ground less comprehensively than the Salk production, and amateurish direction makes the tape seem as ungainly as a first kiss. (Laclede Communications Services, Inc., $14.95; 800-633-5014)

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