Boating with a Baby or Toddler

Having a baby or a young toddler is no excuse to skip a day of boating.

In fact, just the opposite: when they’re young is the best time to sow the seeds for a lifetime of boating enjoyment.

Yes, boating with a baby has its challenges, and it can be even more challenging with a mobile toddler. But there are steps you can take to make sure your kids not only stay safe onboard a boat, but have a great time.

Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Have a properly fitting lifejacket. Wait until your children are at least 18 pounds to take them boating, as that is how big the Coast Guard says they need to be for a baby’s lifejacket to fit properly (any younger than that, and you’ll be more worried about catching up on sleep anyway). When on a boat, make sure they are always wearing a lifejacket, and never put them in any non-floating device.
  • Childproof your boat. Just like at home, you need to make sure the surroundings are as kid-friendly as possible. Stow away anything that is breakable or might be dangerous to your child.
  • Start small. Keep your first few boating excursions with your baby or toddler short, as you can’t be sure how they will react. If they have a meltdown, it might be best for everyone’s sanity to end the trip quickly. Also, you don’t want them to be left with a negative impression of boating. Start small so they begin to enjoy it, then slowly extend your adventures.
  • Have a safe place. Set aside an area where you can put your little ones down without the risk of them going overboard. It’s also a good idea to have an area where they can take a nap.
  • Protect them from the sun. Babies and toddlers have sensitive skin, so it’s extremely important to protect them from the sun. Use strong sunscreen and reapply it frequently. Also, have a shaded area where they can get out of the sun for a while.
  • Bring supplies. Be sure to pack all the gear you need, plus extra. Don’t forget to pack food, juice, formula, diapers, wipes, extra clothes and sunscreen.
  • Let them have fun. Make sure your babies and toddlers get a chance to enjoy the fun parts of boating. Have a picnic on an island or beach. Allow them some time to play in the water. Keep them from getting bored by bringing along toys, paper and crayons.