Children ages 2-4 are at the highest risk of drowning of any age group. And, while the drowning rates for older children are slowly decreasing, the rates for toddlers are actually increasing.
I have yet to find a study that explains why. Based on my research (and my own experience as a mom), I’d venture to say it’s because water is everywhere and it’s fun. It’s a magnet. It draws those little rascals in. At that age, kids not only don’t stay where we put them, they are busy exploring and pushing boundaries. But the biggest reason? Most kids aren’t learning how to relate to the water safely.
So, what do we do about it? The status quo is not working, unless we think it’s OK that children keep dying. I don’t. I think we need to reach them on their own turf, in ways their brain can understand. We need to teach children as young as one to respect the water and how to interact in the water safely and we need to do it in a way that acknowledges that water is fun.
We know kids learn best from repetitive, positive, age-appropriate messages. We know kids are hardwired to learn through stories. We know kids like to engage with characters they like, trust and want to emulate (Disney anyone?).
So let’s introduce a central character—the Smokey Bear of water safety—to American kids. Surround him with a band of characters that represents a broad range of kid personalities from rascal to responsible; distracted to know-it-all; twirly girlie to sporty. And, launch them on a variety of platforms, from books, activity pages, beach signs and posters to DVDs and children’s television.
Yes, it’s a big vision. But it can be done. In fact, I’ve already started. Meet Jabari, a lion cub who teaches young children about water safety. https://www.jabariofthewater.com/content/jabari-book Currently in book form, I’m ready to put him and his band of buddies to work on a variety of platforms to make a real dent in some dismal statistics. I’m looking for someone who shares my vision to pilot the concept.