The purpose of a drowning prevention exhibit is to expose families to the hazards of water and to methods of preventing a submersion. Ideally, the exhibit is informational, educational and interactive. The following are materials and activities that have been successful at events we have held and attended. Use this as a list of ideas and a starting point for what you may develop. Let us know what works for you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have fun!
- A large banner helps draw attraction to your booth.
- Stay on Top of It activity guide and coloring sheet
- Activity sheets and coloring books from other organizations
- Kids also love stickers or other "gizmos". We have developed stickers, sports trading cards and Frisbees with drowning prevention messages.
Personal floatation devices
Also called PFDs, life jackets or life vests - most people are not familiar with the term PFD or personal floatation device.
- Have life vests of various sizes and types to try on. Parents often have questions about type and fit. We know that if parents are comfortable choosing and fitting a life vest, their child is more likely to be wearing one.
- It is interesting for parents and kids to try on life vests and see the difference in comfort between a vest style and keyhole life vest. You can also illustrate how an adult size vest on a child can slip right off.
- A life vest raffle is a good way to bring people to the booth. Be sure to include child's weight on the form so you will know what size is needed.
- Use a timer and have a family race to pick out the right life vest and put it on. Talk about how difficult it would be if that had to be done in the water.
A large blow up raft filled with all types and sizes of life vests is a great attraction to children under six years of age. We always ask that a child put on a vest before getting in the raft. Then we can talk about safe entry and exit from a boat, how to sit and move around in a boat and then shake it around for a little excitement. We have been able to borrow a raft and pump as needed from an inflatable boat store.
Use a large aquarium tank to demonstrate what floats and what doesn't. You could have a piece of wood, styrofoam, a rubber ball, a rock, bottle, etc. This provides teaching moments about the buoyancy of life vests and about what you could throw to someone in distress out in the water (vs. diving in yourself). We filled one doll with fishing weights and left her at the bottom of the tank. Other dolls were fitted into life vests by the children and put in the water as "floaters."
Inflatable swimming pool
A pool filled with water is an instant attraction. You can demonstrate things that float and things that don't. We have also used toy boats to demonstrate what happens when they are overloaded. At a big event with a spa manufacturer you may be able to set up a mini life vest loan program. Children can swim in the spa with their suits and life vests on.
The tabletop life vest magnetic board has worked well for children and adults. Children are asked to find which children in the picture need life vests. Older children can be asked to differentiate between the small size and large size vests. You may be able to simulate something like it.
Make a heaving jug from a one gallon milk container and attach a rope to it. Put one half inch of water in the jug and screw top on tightly. Have children or adults practice throwing the jug at a target or into a trash can. This is popular with junior high and high school students. Along with the heaving jug, you could also have a "cushion" PFD to practice throwing at a target. Throw frisbees through a life preserver.
Life vest pins
We glued a life vest drawing to a small piece of cardboard and backed it with a small fastener. Elementary age children loved coloring and wearing the pins.
Have some crayons or markers for children to use for coloring sheets or booklets. While they are occupied, there is often time to talk with parents.
We worked with a clown named Spinnaker who had a great water safety routine for health fairs. Her bright colors attracted children. One of the things she did is make balloon fishing poles. First we would ask the child to pick out and put on a life vest to be safe.
Life vest manufacturer
Mustang Survival has been willing to come to some events. If you would like a contact name and number, email email@example.com.