Boating is one of the most fun and healthy family activities there is, and all across the world parents and their children take to the seas, lakes and canals every weekend. Researchers have found that children who get to enjoy boating tend to be healthier and more physically fit than their land-lubbing peers, outgoing and confident in their abilities, great problem-solvers, and have strong bonds with their families. Whether it’s toddlers or teenagers, the benefits are the same; boating is fun, relaxing and educational for children.
Whilst undoubtedly fun and relaxing, boating comes with its own set of risks, and as adults we are fully aware of those risks. Children by nature are less risk-adverse, so it is important to set clear ground-rules and have procedures in place to ensure children of all ages stay safe on board. Search by boat categories for finding your right boats for sale like RIBs, PWC, Inflatable Boats, Cabin Cruisers, Ski and Wakeboards, Dive Boats, and more.
Here we take a look at the top boating safety tips for keeping children safe.
1. Teach them to Swim
The first and most essential criteria for any boating child is that they can swim. While this may not be possible for the very smallest babies and toddlers, the earlier a child can swim, the safer they will be on board. Enrol them in official swimming lessons and ensure that they learn and perfect the skills of floating, treading water and of course being able to swim a good distance.
In addition to the basic skills, children will need to understand that swimming in a pool isn’t the same as in the open ocean where there may be currents, waves, lower water temperatures, undersea hazards such as rocks and coral and other boat traffic. Without being alarmist, teach your children about the hazards and how to deal with them should they ever find themselves in the water. The key is to teach them respect for the ocean, not a fear of it.
2. Always Wear Life Jackets
Children learn by watching their parents, and so if you don’t wear a life jacket, they won’t want to wear one either. By role modelling a respect for the water and the hazards involved in boating, wearing a life jacket will become second nature to them their whole boating lives. Ensure the jacket is certified by your national safety agency and is fitted to your child, which includes collars, leg straps, a whistle and handle for younger children. There are separate infant life jacket models for babies. They should be wearing their jackets from the moment they arrive at the marina or dock, as the most common falls in water occur when boarding and disembarking the boat.
3. Create Rules and Safety Procedures
When something is practised enough, it becomes second nature, and that is a valuable skill for your children to have when dealing with boat safety. There should be a clear-cut set of rules which are set in stone and must be adhered to when boating – both at the marina and whilst at sea. Everything from never being alone on deck, to wearing life jackets and not touching anything they’ve been told is out of bounds.
Likewise, safety procedures should be practised and understood by everyone on board, even children. Knowing what to do in an emergency, repeating the safety rules each time you board, practising drills – everything from fire drills to man overboard - and explaining what and why you do certain safety-related actions will help children understand and feel part of the process, rather than preached to. Older children can be taught how to use the radio in case of emergency too. Once again, you don’t want to create fear on board, but generate a respect for the hazards.
4. Learn CPR and First Aid
As parents in charge of children on boats, it is highly recommended that you enroll in a CPR and first aid course before doing any kind of boating. Older children in their teens can take a course too. There are many courses available, and lots which specialise in boating and safety-at-sea, which will include dangers such as harmful marine life and water-related emergencies. Practice your skills from time to time to stay fresh.
5. Childproof Your Boat
Ensuring your boat is suitable for children is not only good safety procedure, but will make being on your boat a more enjoyable experience for both you and them. There are many ways you can child-proof a boat, starting with ensuring the keys are always locked away and never left in the ignition. The electrical panel and battery selector switches must be off-limits – teach children not to touch any switches at all – and ensure boat lines, fishing gear, or anything else that might be a danger is kept out of their way in a locked locker. Keep a constant eye for trip hazards, too.
Installing lifeline netting might be a good idea, especially if you are boating with toddlers or younger children. Install the netting over areas of open deck, where the danger of falling overboard is highest. As a plus, it also stops toys and other items from becoming fish food. In addition, (or alternatively), you could use harnesses to ensure children stay clipped onto the boat. This is especially relevant on sailboats, which lean more when under sail. The safety harnesses connect to the child’s life jacket at all times.
6. Get them Involved
Children love to feel part of everything, and boating is one of those special activities where they can truly get involved. In doing so, not only will they learn faster, but they will take a greater sense of responsibility too. There are many things children can do on board, from helping with the lines when mooring to being the bowman, manoeuvring, dropping anchor and stowing things away. So long as they are always supervised and know they are never to do the tasks alone, then it will make them feel helpful and important, and increase their sense of self-confidence, boating knowledge and reduce boredom. All that makes them safer boaters. From the age of around eight, children can enrol in boating courses and learn basic boat handling and personal safety too.
7. Be Prepared for all Eventualities
Take the time to make sure you have everything you could need when taking children out on a boat. From a well-packed first aid kit, to an endless supply of snacks, you can’t be too ready for any eventuality. Ensure you have enough warm clothes (even if you don’t feel you’ll need them) plenty of water, things to keep them entertained should you get stranded anywhere by poor weather, and even an overnight bag just in case.
Here at Rightboat.com, we love boating with our children and firmly believe it is one of the best, healthiest and most fun activities there is. Memories made on the water will last a lifetime and teach your children invaluable skills. Whether you’re thinking of sailing around the world or looking for a nifty weekend boat, you’ll find family-friendly boats for sale all over the world. Check out our boats for charter section, to travel a sailing holidays to experience the water with your family, friends etc. We have over 1000s of yachts available for charter, book a bareboat, crewed charter, or with skippered to your favourite places or destinations to travel across the world.
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