If you’re new to boating and ready to take your family out on the water, you’re about to begin a new chapter in your life. Boating as a family creates lifelong memories and also helps your kids develop valuable skills they can apply to many aspects of their life.
Boating helps minimize distractions from the outside world and lets everyone focus on family time. Studies about kids spending leisure time with their family have found that it can be beneficial for their psychological development and cultivates positive life skills.
Here’s a closer look at some of the benefits of boating with your kids:
As with any aquatic adventure — safety is the priority. Here are a few things you can do to keep everyone safe and happy:
All young kids should wear a life jacket onboard. The legal age varies by states, so be sure to check your state’s age requirements before you head out. Even if your kid can swim, a life jacket is still a good idea — 76 percent of boating fatalities in 2017 were due to drownings, and 84.5 percent of those people weren’t wearing life jackets.
Not all life jackets are created equal, and there are four important functions that make for a good children’s life jacket:
You also may want to test any lifejackets in a controlled environment — like a pool — to make sure it functions properly before you take it on your boat.
While life jackets keep your kid safe even if they don’t know how to swim, it’s essential that children learn how to swim so they aren’t afraid of the water. That way, when they get a little older, they can comfortably and safely transition into not wearing their life jacket.
This one goes for the adults, too, but kids are notorious for not using sun protection. Hats are always a great option, and be sure to bring plenty of water-resistant sunscreen. We like to recommend leaving sunscreen and hats on the boat, so you don’t have to worry about leaving them behind.
Being a kid near water usually means getting wet at some point. It’s a good idea to carry an extra set of clothes on your boat to prepare for an unexpected dip.
You’ll also probably want to pack some foul weather and cold weather clothes. As soon as the sun dips below the horizon, it can get a little chilly. Be ready with warm clothes, blankets and hot chocolate to cozy up and enjoy the evening.
Sometimes, calm waters aren’t in the near future, so it’s best to keep seasickness prevention onboard your boat. Nowadays, there are many different ways to prevent and help reduce motion sickness besides Dramamine. Here are a couple:
Find the option that works best for your kids and maybe consider keeping a few different types of remedies onboard so everyone can use the one that works best for them. And remember — always avoid going below deck if you don’t feel well. Get fresh air and watch the horizon instead.
With all the fun and games when kids are onboard, there’s bound to be an occasional scrape. Keep a first-aid kit on your boat as well as tweezers to remove splinters.
Especially for the first few trips, kids need to know that being on a boat means being more careful and aware than they are at home. Explain things like never put yourself between the vessel and the dock, never swim underneath the boat or the swim step and never run on deck. Show them dangerous areas like on the bow, and to always be seated when the boat is moving.
The best time to explain the rules is before you get on the boat. That way, your kids understand what you expect from them, and you won’t have to stop to explain once you’re underway — it’s better for everyone.
Now that we’ve covered safety, we’ll share a few of our favorite ways to maximize fun with your family. These strategies change depending on age, of course, but they all help you spend quality time together.
The early years require a bit more care and attention, here’s what we’ve learned works best:
If you have kids under seven years old, it’s good to create an area for them that feels safe and comfortable. Create a cushy zone with pillows and maybe a few of their favorite toys to keep them entertained and happy.
The key to keeping young kids happy is to only take short trips on the boat — at least at first. As they become more comfortable and start to like the boat more, you can go for longer.
A break is an excellent way to soothe short attention spans, and it can be nice for everyone to get off the boat at lunchtime. A nice walk around the marina and a change of scenery can be a refreshing change of pace before you settle in for a relaxing afternoon cruise.
There may be no better distraction than toys to keep little ones entertained. If you can, save a few toys for on-the-boat use only — it can help excite your young ones to go on the boat. Most toddlers are interested in what’s in front of them more than their surroundings. But if you keep them boating and happy, they’ll soon turn their attention to being on the water and boating itself.
When you’re on the boat is a perfect time to spark your kid’s imagination. Tell pirate stories, make treasure maps and get creative.
If your kids are a bit older, here are a few things you can do to help them enjoy your boating excursions even more:
When your kids can play with their friends, they’ll create their own fun and games. Also, it can buy you a little time to relax as they entertain each other.
Remote control boats are relatively inexpensive and fun, and they are enjoyable for everyone when you’re on anchor in protected water.
Kids love inflatable water toys — it’s fun to get a big one that everyone can climb aboard and play on at the same time. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can pull a tube behind the boat for high-speed fun.
One piece of boating gear that makes for a great birthday or Christmas present for your kids is a wetsuit. Kids usually get cold before they’re ready to stop having fun in the water, and a wetsuit helps them to be more comfortable and excited to swim.
A mask and snorkel can reveal an amazing underwater world, and you and your child can explore underwater marvels together. Who knows — it may just spark an interest in oceanography or marine biology.
It’s nice to switch up the pace of your day to keep your kids entertained. If you can, anchor up and paddle to shore for some sandy playtime.
Wildlife books are great ways to entertain your kids if they have an interest in plants and animals — it’s interesting for the adults, too. Even if the animals and plants aren’t around, a guide with pictures can be entertainment enough on its own.
Besides playing pirate, binoculars are fun for looking at wildlife and other vessels in the distance — it’s nice to keep a pair on the boat.
When your kids are older, a kayak or paddleboard is a great way to give them a little freedom. Just be sure to know where they’re going and when they plan to be back. A waterproof radio or walkie talkie set is always a useful communication tool to keep onboard.
Especially for teens, watersports like wakeboarding and water skiing have the intensity and excitement teens love for hours of entertainment. Let them put on their favorite music, and you might be inspired to give it a go before you know it.
Boating is an excellent opportunity to learn. Kids love to be in control, and you can help them gain valuable skills and have fun at the same time. Once they’re old enough to take direction and handle responsibility, let them help with things like:
Since 1976, Formula boats has been family owned and operated with pride. As boaters ourselves, we want to share our passion with our customers and help them enjoy their time on the water as much as we do.
When you boat with your family, you want a boat that has uncompromised design, reliability and safety, and that’s exactly what we make.
If you have any other questions about boating with your family, or would like more information about our boats, please contact us today.