4 Tips for Boating Safely with Kids

Boating is one of the best pastimes you can share as a family. It gives you the opportunity to spend time together in nature, away from the distractions of daily life at home. For many families, a passion for boating is something that is handed down from generation to generation, creating memories that children cherish for the rest of their lives.

Since children typically don’t have the same level of boating experience as adults, it’s important to follow some basic safety procedures when they are a part of your crew. Here are four tips for boating safely with kids.

1. Life Jackets – It’s the Law. 

Federal law requires all children under 13 to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket whenever the boat is under way. State regulations vary and may mandate life jacket use for older kids as well, so be sure to check the age range in your area. However, the best way to ensure your children will be safe around the water is to have them wear their life jacket at all times during a boating outing, including when the boat is not in motion, and even when they are on the dock. Adults can set a good example by keeping their life jackets on as well. Make sure your child’s life jacket fits properly, both for safety’s sake and because kids are more likely to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) without complaint if it is comfortable.

2. Work on Their Swim Skills. 

Whether it’s anchoring out in a quiet cove or spending the day on a sand bar, your boat is the perfect platform to launch watersports activities from swimming and snorkeling to wakeboarding and tubing. The kids can swim with their PFD on, but they will be safer and have more fun if they are competent and confident swimmers. If your children don’t already know how to swim, consider taking them to classes at the local YMCA or pool so they can hone their skills before going out in the boat.

3. Practice Sun Safety. 

When kids are having fun on the water, sun safety is usually the last thing on their mind. Make sure they wear hats and consider dressing them in UPF 50+ sun-protective clothing. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on children, regardless of their skin tone. If you are going snorkeling near coral, look for a reef-safe formula. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day according to the product’s directions and don’t forget to keep yourself and your crew well hydrated.

4. Keep Kids Engaged. 

While you might be content to sit in the cockpit or on the sunpad of your boat for hours simply enjoying the view, most children have a short attention span. Pack a bag with books, waterproof toys, and portable games. Boating also provides a great opportunity to educate your kids about nature by identifying the birds, fish, foliage and shells you see during the day. Once the kids are older, start teaching them basic boating skills like tying knots and following your route on the chartplotter. This will help them to become able crew members and ultimately share your passion for boating.

If you have children, few things in life are more rewarding than including them in your boating adventures. By taking a few extra precautions each time they join you on board, you can prepare them for a lifetime of fun on the water.


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