Boating is a great family activity, but anytime you throw kids into the equation – things can get unpredictable. With their short attention spans, temperamental personalities and youthful judgment, having kids onboard can be a challenge.

By following a few tips, you can ensure your day of boating with your kids is both safe and fun for everyone.

  • Wear lifejackets. It’s always a good idea to wear a lifejacket onboard. It’s especially important for kids, as their lack of experience and judgement makes them vulnerable to accidents. It’s also extra important for you to wear a lifejacket, as you can’t keep kids safe if you don’t keep yourself safe first. Some places require a life jacket be worn anytime a boat is in motion, so check your local regulations.
  •  Teach them to swim early on. If your child is going to be around boats, it’s never too early to get them comfortable around water. Sign them up for swimming lessons early on to boost their confidence and skills in the water.
  • Have a first aid kit. Wherever there are kids, scrapes, cuts, bumps and bruises are sure to follow. Make sure you have a first aid kit readily available on your boat to handle any mishaps.
  • Bring sunscreen and bug repellant. It’s hard to enjoy something when you are being cooked by the sun or eaten alive by bugs, so bring lots of sunscreen and bug repellant. Most kids don’t like either and won’t ask for them, so it’s on you to remember to apply it to them and reapply throughout the day.
  • Set rules. Boating is a lot of fun, but it does have its dangers. That’s no reason to leave kids at home, but rather, use this as an opportunity to teach them about rules and responsibility. A few good ones are staying seated when the boat is in motion, hand signals to use when they are participating in watersports activities, no jumping off the boat until the engine is turned off and the captain says it is okay, keep hands and feet inside the boat when in motion or docking, no running onboard, etc.
  • Bring lots of food and drinks. Kids who are hungry or thirsty are unhappy. So make sure to bring plenty of snacks and drinks. Pack extra so you’re not worried about rationing, and maybe bring special treats to reinforce that boating is fun.  See our great Boat Friendly Recipes
  • Pack for the weather. A kid who is uncomfortable is not going to enjoy a day of boating. Make sure to pack sweatshirts and rain gear, and pack your kids a change of clothes in case they get wet or even spill lunch on themselves.
  • Plan activities. In addition to watersports such as skiing, wakeboarding and tubing, keep kids engaged and interested in boating by planning fun activities for them. Most kids love fishing. Have a picnic and go swimming in a cove or at a small island. Encourage them to look for marine life and birds, and bring a journal or paper so they can write about or draw pictures of what they find. Involve kids in the duties of boating and ask them to help navigate and look for buoys, markers and landmarks. Task them with inspecting the boat beforehand for safety gear. You can even have them help pick a new destination to explore.