"You have to change the baby's clothes and diapers and feed it," Pelzer explained. "It takes time."
Pelzer was required to take sole responsibility for the doll as part of a Parenting and Child Development class. She and the nine other students in her class took turns caring for the infant simulator.
"It's as close to an actual child experience as there is," said Karen Odberg, class instructor. "Using eggs or a flour sack doesn't compare."
The Baby Think It Over doll cries when it needs attention. Students insert a key into a plug in the back of the doll for five to 35 minutes, depending on the attention needed. The key used is attached to a wrist band that can only be removed by cutting it off. This ensures that the student assigned the child are the sole care givers of it.
The infant must be given attention in less than a minute at all hours, be held correctly, be kept clean, and ride in a car seat. Any neglect or abuse is recorded in an electronic monitor that cannot be tampered with.
"Abuse and neglect do happen," Odberg said, "but most of the kids take this assignment very seriously, which they should."
The school owns two Baby Think It Over dolls, one of each gender. The dolls come with a realistically weighted diaper bag that has to be carried. A child seat is used to transport the doll.
Pelzer didn't have any problems with her experience, though it wasn't without its challenges. "I felt like I had to be home at all times and bring the baby with me everywhere I went," she said. "At night it would wake me up every two to four hours. That was the hard part, waking up. I didn't want to, but I had to."
The Baby Think It Over doll was invented by Rick Jurmain, a former aerospace engineer from San Diego, in response to the problem of teen pregnancy. He saw flaws in other teaching methods which were less realistic. The Baby Think It Over doll is now used in parenting education programs in schools across the nation.
"There was a big change in attitude from the students," said Odberg, of the experiences of her students. "They start out thinking it will be fun, but by the time they bring the doll back, they think they'll wait to have children."
Keith Winters and Sue Pelzer display the two infant simulators used for a parenting and child development class at Paynesville Area High School.
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