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Tips On Safely Boating with Kids


Boating can be a fantastic opportunity to teach your kids so many useful things about the open sea. It can also be incredibly fun. But like any adventure you embark with the kids, having some ideas to keep things on track and take some basic precautions is helpful.

Swimming Skills

Children should generally know how to swim and swim well. Make sure they know how to float, how they can tread water if needed, as well as how to swim at least 100 yards. If your child has not mastered skills like these, you may not want to boat in deep water.

Don’t assume that just because a child knows how to swim that they are perfectly safe. Especially when boating, there are objects and circumstances in lake or ocean water that make swimming particularly difficult.

Wear Life Jackets

This is mandatory. Perhaps at one time it was considered optional equipment, but no longer. The child’s life jacket should be put on correctly and feel snug on them. Use a collar that will make sure the child is face up if he or she gets into the water. Make sure the vest or jacket has a handle and also that is brightly colored, particularly for high visibility.

Many people attach a plastic whistle somewhere on the life jacket, which could come in handy in an emergency. Talk to your children about not removing the life jacket, no matter what. Children are bound to complain about wearing such things, but discuss with them why it is important that it stays on at all times.

For children under 5-years-old, make sure and use a vest with straps between the legs and head support. For these, the collar keeps the kid’s head and face out of the water. Remember that arm devices (like water wings) and inflatable vests are not effective and not recommended for protection against drowning

Set Basic Boat Rules

Children need rules. Whether they are common sense rules or not, whether you are driving in a car or sitting at the dinner table, children need rules. In the case of boating, there are real dangers that they should know about, especially if they have not been on boats much or they are particularly young.

For example, kids need to be taught about keeping proper balance on a boat. They should know the importance of keeping the weight relatively equal on both sides. Children should know to keep their hands and feet inside the boat, just like in a car. On a boat they may suddenly think that it is fun to reach outside the boat or that these rules don’t apply because boats are different.

It is actually very easy for feet or hands to get injured when kids begin sticking them in to the waters. Another example is running. Your kids may think a boat is just like any other play surface, but it can be both slippery and unstable. With smaller boats running could actually destabilize the boat itself, making it capsize. A boat is not a playground and although you want to have a good time, respect for the boat, the water, and the dangers that are present is needed.

And don’t forget the sunscreen!

Set an Example

With all the rules, make sure that you abide by rules yourself. Be a good role model for the children. This means following the same rules that you expect them to lead. Wear a life jacket, even though you may not think you need it. Don’t run and keep yourself generally safe and sound.

Don’t drink alcohol. Stay alert. Be engaged in what is going on with the boat and lead them in the fun and activities that are there. Don’t get too bogged down with operating the boat or distracted with other adults that may be there. Boating is a great opportunity to bond with your children and you should take advantage of it.

Prepare for Fun

This means thinking through basic things that will make sure you are prepared, both for safety and for fun. Make sure you pack a cooler. Pack drinks for the kids, but also pack ice pops, fresh fruit, or yogurt pops. These keep everyone hydrated, but they are also going to keep people happy on hot days.

Be prepared to get wet. If you’re truly prepared for the children to have fun, that means bringing swimsuits as well as bringing towels and extra clothes to change into.

Other Boating Activities

Don’t just go out there and expect children to make all of their own fun. Plan for it. This may mean renting equipment such as snorkeling equipment or diving masks. Take the time to plan for just what they might find fun and will be asking for as soon as you embark on the open water. There are “boat games” that you may consider, especially for young kids.

These games can be, for example, how many fish you can spot, the neatest looking bird you can see, or spotting marine items that start with letters of the alphabet.

How about fishing? Fishing is a fantastic way to spend time out on the sea with your kids. Bring fishing equipment and for smaller kids bring fishing poles that are appropriate for their size.