Boating is one of the most enjoyable pastimes there is, and a wonderful activity to bring families closer together. Children who boat usually grow up to be passionate boaters and fishermen. Having a hobby they can identify with also helps children stay focused and develop self-confidence.
Being on the water carries a good amount of personal responsibility, and it is up to the grown ups to teach children how to be safe around the water. Here are a few important things to remember:
1. Children should ALWAYS wear a life jacket, even if they are good swimmers. You never know what could happen. Your child might complain about having to wear the jacket, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. They’ll get used to wearing it!
2. Teach them how to swim – This one should go without saying, and it is not a replacement for the life jacket. However, knowing how to float, paddle, and swim efficiently is required skills for anyone who is on the water.
3. Keep infants in your arms – Completely reversed from the common rules outside of boating, the safest place for a baby is in your arms and not strapped to their car seat or carrier. Never strap your baby to something that doesn’t float. Keep the baby safely on your lap (and, it bears repeating, make sure they’re wearing their life jackets).
4. Teach kids proper boating “etiquette” – Teach them to keep their arms and legs inside the boat while it’s in motion and especially during docking, to not run around the boat, and know how to balance the boat. These are all essential rules that will become second nature to your kids.
5. Other important tidbits – Make sure everyone is wearing sunglasses and sunscreen, NEVER leave children unattended, instruct kids to stay seated when you are cruising at high speed, and it is best to have at least one other adult on board to help watch them.
These safety tips are important but not all that boating is about. After all, the boating lifestyle is about FUN – not just a bunch of rules. Here are a few ideas on how to keep children entertained on a boat:
1. Let them play Captain – Kids love feeling grown-up and important. Let them sit at the helm with the captain and help steer the boat, and watch how their sweet little eyes fill up with excitement.
2. Play I-Spy – Have them help you find and point out markers, landmarks, other boats, or high waves. Make a contest game out of it if you wish.
3. Naptime! Most babies fall into a deep sleep while cruising. Bring their favorite blankie or stuffed animal as a trusted companion.
4. Teach your child how to fish– You’d be surprised at how even highly-excitable children will sit patiently with a fishing rod waiting to catch a big fish. There’s lots of tiny-sized equipment made just for kids, from colorful tackle boxes to superhero- or princess- themed fishing rods. Let them keep their own set and watch how a new hobbyist is born.
Boating with kids is a wonderful experience. Make sure to bring along waterproof cameras, snacks like fruit and cheese, and fishing supplies (if applicable). You will be building truly priceless memories.