Monday, February 19, 2018
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Josh the Otter


Josh the Otter teaches children about water safety.

“When it is hot and swimmin’ weather, it’s fun when we can float together… Learn to Float. Learn to Float.” The song, “Learn to Float” is part of a children’s book called, “Josh the Baby Otter: A tale promoting water safety for children” that is designed to teach the young to stay away from water unless they are with an adult and learn to float and/or swim before playing in the water. The Maryville Community has identified Josh the Otter as an effective way to prevent drownings in early childhood.

The story of “Josh the Baby Otter” begins when Alex the otter swims over to ask if the new baby otter, Josh, can come play. Josh’s mom tells Alex that Josh can’t play until he learns to float. She explains that even though learning to float helps young otters to become good swimmers it is NEVER EVER a good idea to float or swim alone. Josh then learns to float with the support of his friend Alex, and constant supervision and help of his mom, an adult.

The goal of the Josh the Otter project is to move drowning, the #1 cause of death for 1 to 4 year olds, to virtual non-existence by creating a water safety behavior for all children that will be passed on from generation to generation .

Here are some ways that we can help Josh the Otter achieve this goal:

  • Never leave children unattended, even for a moment, around water. Young children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. That means drowning can happen where you'd least expect it - the sink, the toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, pet bowls, birdbaths, wading pools, melted ice or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rainwater.
  • Assign a water watcher to monitor children during social gatherings.
  • Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath, swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of preschool children should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.
  • Teach your children water safety and to always stay away from water unless they are with an adult. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent unsupervised access, are still important.  Preschool children can be enrolled in swim classes, but no amount of instruction makes a child "drown-proof."
  • Post CPR instructions and make sure adults and child care givers know how to administrate it. In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.
  • Stress that the last person to leave the pool area closes the gates, doors and covers the pool before leaving the area. Cover and lock the hot tub, spa and whirlpool, or fence it in like a pool. Install a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the pool area from the house and yard. The fence should be at least 4 feet high. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children. Also, consider additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access or alert you if someone enters the pool area.
  • Always wear your lifejacket while boating or on the dock. Don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as "water wings", "noodles" or inner-tubes, instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe. Put on a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • “When it is hot and swimmin’ weather, it’s fun when we can float together… Learn to Float. Learn to Float.” Remember, water can be fun but ONLY when we are all TOGETHER! For more information on Josh the Otter please visit their website at:

Many individuals and organizations in the Maryville are working to spread the life saving message of Josh the Otter by providing books, audio CDs and swimming instruction to children kindergarten age and younger.  These individuals and organizations include the Parker James Wilson Family, the Maryville Rotary Club, the Maryville Aquatic Center and the Nodaway County Health Department.

For more information on Josh the Otter, please visit

Sources: Josh the Otter and CDC

Nodaway County Health Center • 2416 South Main, Maryville, MO  64468 • 660-562-2755 (phone) 660-562-4995 (fax)