Buying a boat is an adventure the whole family will be going on, and there’s nothing worse than dragging reluctant kids on days out on your new pride and joy. ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ is bad enough in the car! Boredom and lack of screens can be easily avoided by making sure they feel part of the experience and included in the running of the boat. Safety comes first, and we’ve put together a guide to safety for children on boats, but fun comes second and there is so much fun to be had for children on boats. They’ll also learn life-skills, from ecology and oceanology to teamwork, maths and science. Here we take a look at how you can get your children of all ages to share your passion for boating and teach them new skills.
1. Inspire a Passion for the Ocean from a Young Age
Long before you want to take your child on a boat, you can start instilling a love and passion for the water. It’s a lovely path to head down together, and will not only give them invaluable life skills but it’s a wonderful bonding experience. Start from when they’re toddlers and incorporate all things nautical into their fun, play and days out. You could begin with colouring books and puzzles which feature boats, the ocean, marine wildlife or the beach, or buy them role play toys so they can have their own mini adventures.
Spend lots of time together near the sea, rivers or lakes and let children get used to the environment. Kids love the beach, collecting shells, rock-pooling and making sand castles. All these things will begin a lifelong passion for the sea. Take binoculars with you when you go for days out, and see what boats, birds and wildlife you can spot together. Wander around marinas and see the different types of boats, and read stories together about boating adventures. You could even set up a pirate-style treasure hunt for them. You could introduce them to being on the water with kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding to explore coastal areas or inland waterways. Ultimately, they will pick up on your passion for the marine environment and it will become something they associate with fun and adventure even before they’ve stepped foot on a boat.
2. Teach them to Chart a Course
When children are slightly older – probably from middle school age - you can teach them to chart a course and get them involved in the planning of your next family adventure. Whether you use paper charts or electronics ones, take the time to sit down with them and explain how to chart a course. They will not only feel more involved in the adventure, but will get a good idea of how far the boat can go, what is feasible and how long it will take. You can also teach them to use the marine GPS and to set waypoints. Charting a course is a wonderful way to get maths involved in boating without them even realizing it. Practical applications to maths make it seem less tedious, and they’ll be learning a great skill that takes in critical thinking and precision.
3. Let them take the Wheel
Depending on the laws in your country or state, when a child gets to a certain age and you feel they’re responsible enough, you can let them take the wheel and start learning how to manoeuvre the boat. From our experience, children say the best part about being on a boat is getting to drive it! You can teach them about navigation rules, markers and general safety guidelines as they learn to steer and handle the boat. In many countries, it’s law for children to do a boat safety course before operating a vessel, which in the UK is the Powerboat Level 1 or 2 certificate. If you’re in the U.S, go to BoatUs.org to learn more.
By driving the boat, children will feel more connected to the whole experience, and learn new skills. They will understand how the boat feels when it moves and accelerates, they will feel more connected to the nature around them, and it will give them an important sense of self confidence.
4. Enjoy Watersports
If you want to keep kids entertained on a boat all summer long, invest in some water sports gear. Trust us, it’s the best investment you’ll make. Kids love adventure and adrenaline, and boats offer so many ways for them to burn off some steam and shriek with delight. From swimming and snorkelling to towables, waterskiing and kayaking.
5. Wildlife Spot Together
Kids of all ages love wildlife and it can be a fun game to spot marine animals whilst out on your boat. For younger children you could make or buy a wildlife spotting sheet with local species they might see and get them to tick off ones they spot. Older children will enjoy using binoculars and even getting a microscope involved to see what microorganisms are in the water all around them. It’s a good time to talk about sustainability, caring for our oceans and reducing plastic waste too. For more tips check out our guide to wildlife spotting from your boat.
6. Make It Age-appropriate
One of the most important factors to consider when taking children boating, is that you keep their tasks age appropriate. This applies even if you have several children on board of different ages. Very young children could be asked to do fun, light tasks that make them feel helpful and included, such as coiling ropes or stowing cushions. You can teach them new words such as port, starboard or stern, and get them to look at the clouds to decide what the weather is doing. As kids get older, they can learn more advanced skills such as navigation, keeping a look out, and reading signs, buoys and markers.
7. Begin with Shorter Trips
When you start taking your kids on a boat, especially younger children, keep the trips fairly short. There is a lot to learn, see and remember and they can easily get overwhelmed and tired. Plus it gives them time to get their sea legs. It’s also important to make sure they don’t get wet or cold, because soggy kids are miserable kids and they’ll associate it next time. Choose calm days to avoid sea sickness and plan a short but fun adventure that will make them long for the next outing.
8. Join a Boat Club
Joining a boat club as a family is a great idea, and will give you the chance to meet other like-minded families and let the children form new friendships with kids with a shared interest. There will be courses they can sign up to, they will learn boat and water safety, and you can take part in regattas and fun days. Whether it’s a boat club, local sailing club or even a kayaking club, they all allow kids to feel part of the boating community, make friends and gain confidence being on the water.
If your family is ready to take the plunge and buy a boat, Rightboat.com offers thousands of boats big and small to get you started. With brokers and private sellers all around the world, you are bound to find the perfect boat near you and begin making magical family memories.
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