Practice Babies

Just came across an article about “practice babies”… wow. Is anyone here familiar with this? Anyone actually have a practice baby they helped take care of in college?

I think I want to read the book they mention in the article! I’m fascinated.

Wow. Never heard of that. I will tell you that the closest I ever came to attending pre-K/Kindergarten (I’m 49, so those things cost extra, ‘back in the day’) was my oldest sister’s Child Development class in high school. My sister was 13 when I was born, so by the time I was Kindergarten age, she was a senior, and taking this class. Every day, my Mom would drive me to the school and drop me off, and most students in the class had a younger sister/brother/niece/nephew/cousin who came. Then the high school kids were supposed to learn how to take care of kids by ‘taking care’ of us for a school period. :rolleyes:

Amusing related anecdote: when I got to my senior year, all I needed to graduate was one home ec credit and one acting arts credit. So for my home ec, I took Child Development. Guess who taught the class? The same woman who’d taught my sister those years before! She was an oddball. We had strange rules. We couldn’t tickle the children because “tickling causes brain damage”; we couldn’t call the children “kids” because it ‘dehumanizes them’; we couldn’t hug or express affection to one of them unless we were hugging all of them, or one of them might feel neglected. Therefore, one fall on the playground? Sorry. No hugs for you! Strange. Fortunately, after I actually had kids, I figured it out (more or less) for myself.

Sorry, nothing to add, except the thread title reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of Frazier, “Flour Child”, where Niles carries around a 10-pound sack of flour to simulate caring for a baby. By the end, the sack has been torn and burned and dropped repeatedly.

Thread title made me wonder if the OP had never watched a TV sitcom…

I thought this was going to be a thread about dogs.


When has this ever happened in a sitcom? Egg/flour babies, yeah, but actual babies?

Fascinating. I wonder how the babies turned out…

When I was in high school, one of my dates had a “baby” rock from her home ec class. It was a small rock she had to carry around with her all week, I guess with the idea that you have to learn to not lose babies. Because my date wouldn’t let me hold her hand during the movie, I held the baby rock instead. :frowning:

My grandmother would always correct anyone who used the term “kid” when not refering to a goat. I think her family raised goats.

Back to the OP; I remember accompanying my elder brother and a couple cousins when they did the child development class. It was an elective so I never took that class when I went to high school a decade later. Nor did we have any kind of “fake baby” (doll, egg, flour, etc) assignment. I once asked my mother if they did that when she was in school. She very sarcasticly told me that if they did it was after she had to drop out to take care of her real baby.

They actually had those kind of rules 30 years ago? Seems more like a product of our current age to me.

I remember when I was in grade 11 we had to take care of an egg (just the shell nothing inside). I’m proud to say I still have mine 20 years later! (Sitting in a box in the basement that I only open when I forget what that box is there for, but I still have it! In one piece!)

Just a week or so ago, I came across what looked like a high school student with a realistic baby doll on the bus (and was carrying it like a real baby, in a stroller with all the accouterments a real baby in a stroller would have. It then started to “cry”, noisily, for some time, embarrassing the “mother” and the rest of the bus as much as (if not slightly more so) than had it been a real baby.

I wonder if any of those experiments (whether it be with a realistic baby doll, an egg, a rock, or norinew’s situation) has ever discouraged (or made people think twice) teens from engaging in behaviour that could result in them having to care for a real baby 24/7 for realz? (I assume that was the point of it, despite having done it myself, I forgot what the point was).

When I was in seventh grade I had to take a parenting class. Our “babies” were hard boiled eggs. My best friend dropped and cracked my baby so my grade was lowered. :frowning:
And then another friend ate it.

I believe that teacher liked to think of herself of being on “the cutting edge” of child development science, or whatever. As a result, she would believe the latest happy-crappy whatever that she would read in trade mags and such. Thus the ‘no tickling’, etc. (I do remember that several years after I took the class, and a few years before I had a baby of my own, that theory about tickling causing brain damage ‘enjoyed’ some sort of common-belief popularity before dying a quick death.)

A few years ago I read an article about a school district that used special dolls in a parenting class. These dolls were supposed to be the most “realistic,” same size/weight as a newborn baby and programmed to cry at random intervals. To make it quit crying, you had to insert a special key into its back and turn it for a certain amount of time (a technique that works like gangbusters on a real baby, I’m sure.)

The point of the dolls was to drive home the point that being awakened four times a night/ strangers giving you the stinkeye for a screaming baby at a restaurant/ not being able to hear yourself think was a very real consequence of unsafe sex (unlike with the rock, bag of flour, egg etc. where there was no consequence for failure except a bad grade).

However, some of the dolls were defective and wouldn’t stop crying no matter how long the key was in :eek:

The name for that is colic!

I was amused by the sexism inherent in the idea that these young women would attend college to earn a bachelor of science in home economics so that they could go be a wife and mother, rather than attending college to have a career of their own.

LOL that’d be an interesting feature on the next version of the dolls, to simulate that no sleep zombie feeling. Now available with choice of colic, teething, or just plain fussy and won’t settle down!

My personal favorite was another school that made the boys walk around with strap-on full sized breasts and pregnant bellies in an attempt to make them feel what their girlfriends might go through when the boys pull the “if you really love me you’ll let me do you without a condom” stunt.

The book is fiction, just so you know. I found it an enjoyable read, but it doesn’t lay bare a lot of facts about the Practice Baby practice, per se.

This thread is hilarious. No way could an inanimate object truly simulate the willfulness of an actual human baby.

Even if it could (and I agree that it can’t), there is ahuge difference between having to care for a baby for a semester, and having to care for a baby for the rest of its life. That’s what really nailed me when my first daughter was born. I thought I knew about motherhood because I had bunches of nieces and nephews, and I knew the mechanics of bathing, diapering, feeding, rocking to sleep, etc. But when she (my daughter) was born, it hit me. Oh My Freakin’ God. This is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, forever. Kind of overwhelming. :wink:

Obviously, I got over it enough to have two more kids. Still, though, it’s a shock.

I thought it was going to be about abortion. :o

I think what some posters are missing is that the practice babies referenced in the OP *were *real babies.

From 1919 to 1969, several universities across the nation had “practice babies” as part of Domestic Econ, actual live human babies from local orphanages. Groups of students lived in an apartment in 5 week rotations, under the supervision of a teacher, and learned to care for the practice baby. After the end of the class, the practice baby was returned to the orphanage and (hopefully) adopted out.

The book is fiction, but the practice was not. The reason the book was made into a fictional work was because the author couldn’t find out what happened to the babies after adoption - adoption records from back then are generally sealed.

I hadn’t heard about practice babies until reading a similar article about the book. I’m mostly surprised that it lasted until the end of the 60’s. I guess I can’t work up great outrage over it, as the babies were almost uniformly malnourished when they began, and were at least physically healthier by the time they “graduated” out of the program. And while I’m concerned with the development of children without a consistent caregiver, I have a hard time believing that a houseful of attentive coeds would really be worse than an orphanage of the era.