An innovative video created by a public health nurse introduces the safe sleep message to preschoolers through doll-play.

The film was the brainchild of Sharon Ayto, a public health nurse and the Southern District Health Board’s Child Youth Mortality Coordinator, who won $10,000 in the 2015 Southern Innovation Challenge towards the educational video to teach early childhood teachers and workers how to model safe sleep practices to preschoolers.

Ayto said the inspiration behind the idea was two preschoolers playing with a doll during a wahakura workshop at Awarua Whānau Services in Invercargill. The girls put their ‘baby’ in the pram and covered the doll completely with the available blankets. She realised doll-play was an opportunity to guide ‘tomorrow’s parents’ in safe sleep practices.

Every year in New Zealand about 50 babies die from Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). SUDI can occur when infants are sleeping in an unsafe sleep environment and many SUDI incidents can be prevented by ensuring every sleep is a safe sleep. 

“By introducing safe sleep messages to preschoolers in doll-play, we are creating an ongoing generation of individuals who have safe sleep practices as their norm,” said Ayto. The simple message that teachers are taught to give to preschoolers is Face Up, Face Clear, Safe Place.

Jenny Humphries, Southern DHB’s midwifery director, said it was a wonderful initiative as it was such a simple and innovative idea that could be shared with early childhood teachers and support staff across New Zealand and even wider afield.

Featuring in the film are children from the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) Early Learning Centre, early childhood teacher Emily Wilson, Change for Our Children founding director Stephanie Cowan, and paediatrician Dr Viliame Sotutu.

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