To reach children strive for interactive, fun

Make the activity fun as well as educational

The Teddy Bear Clinic sponsored by Browns Mill, NJ-based Deborah Heart and Lung Center was interactive, fun, and educational.

These three factors helped make it a successful outreach at an event called a Kid's Fest that had activities such as headline entertainment, helicopter water rescues, and booths located at various pavilions. The booths were organized by categories such as the learning lab, youth and the arts, kid's spaces, kids in sports, family health, pampered moms, and the exceptional child.

While signage identified the Teddy Bear Clinic and its sponsor, the opportunity to make a handprint on the canvas walls surrounding the booth by dipping your hand into a tub of bright finger paint proved very attractive to the children. Two teen hospital volunteers helped children put on a vinyl glove, select a color, and make a handprint.

"As the day went on we were creating a beautiful display of many colored hands all different sizes," says Laura Gebers, BSN, RN, BC, patient care services programs health education coordinator.

A volunteer from the Deborah Heart and Lung Center Foundation signed children in at the entrance by obtaining the parents' name and address for future promotional activities. As families entered they were given a teddy bear dressed in a T-shirt that had the name of the medical center along with contact information including the web site address.

Children with their Teddy Bears in tow progressed through three stations in groups of 10. At the first station they gave the stuffed bear a name, which was written on a pink or blue patient identification band by a pediatric nurse. Each child took a turn placing the bear on a baby scale to weigh it and its height and weight were also printed on the band before it was placed around the bear's neck.

This personalized the bear for the child, says Gebers.

At the next station children had an opportunity to learn about nutritious foods with the help of physician assistants. Gebers selected this topic for the educational component because of the obesity problem in the United States and its impact on heart health.

To make this section interactive Gebers had the media department at the center create pictures of different types of healthy foods, including fruit, vegetables, meats, and dairy products, as well as foods that didn't have nutritional value such as soda and potato chips.

"The children were asked to select which foods were good for you and which were bad and how many of each they should have in a day," explains Gebers.

A poster of the new food pyramid was hung in the booth for the parents to review. Children also received a nutritional coloring book so they could continue to learn about healthy foods at home.

At the last booth children met Deborah Heart and Lung Center's pediatric cardiologist and a nurse manager. They could put an isolation mask on the teddy bear and ask medical questions about themselves or their bear. If the children were afraid to ask a question about themselves they frequently attributed the problem to the teddy bear, says Gebers.

In addition, the physician would ask who wanted to be a nurse and who wanted to be a doctor. Children received either a nurse's or physician's hat based on their career choice and each had the Deborah Heart and Lung Center logo. Gebers says children wearing these caps and carrying their teddy bears could be seen all over the festival grounds.

Organization is extremely important when trying to reach a large audience at a children's event like the Kid's Fest, says Gebers. Otherwise participants may not spend the amount of time needed to hear the message at the site or they will be distracted. By creating stations and rotating children through in groups of 10 there was structure.

"If you don't have some kind of control by going through the exhibit station to station a lot is lost. Parents and children are willing to abide by the guidelines you set," says Gebers.

It's important to get the message across when spending money on an outreach. The cost of the Teddy Bear Clinic was just less than $6,000. Expenses included the cost of the teddy bears with the Deborah logo and information, the nutritional coloring books that also had the medical center's logo, canvas sewed into side panels for the canopy, and other supplies. Gebers was able to have the fee for the booth waived because the center is a nonprofit organization. Everyone who helped in the booth volunteered, so there was no labor cost.

Gebers says when so much time, effort, and resources are invested it is important to get the message across. Children and adults left the Teddy Bear Clinic knowing more about nutrition, Deborah Heart and Lung Center, and the medical field as a career choice.

Sources

For more information about creating a Teddy Bear Clinic as a children's outreach project, contact:

  • Laura Gebers, BSN, RN, BC, PCS Programs Health Education Coordinator, Deborah Heart and Lung Center, 200 Trenton Road, Browns Mills, NJ 08015. Phone: (609) 893-1200, ext. 5258. E-mail: gebersl@deborah.org.