Tips for safe boating with children

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Almost everyone loves a day out on the water, and your children are probably no exception. However, when you take your, or your friends’ children, out in your boat, there are some rules everyone needs to agree upon to ensure that all parties have a good time. This includes having a frank discussion with parents of younger children about whether their child is ready to safely ride in a boat.

How young is too young?

Official guidelines state that a baby should not ride on a boat until he or she weighs at least 18 lbs and can fit snugly in a personal floatation device (PFD), according to BabyCenter. Babies usually reach 18 pounds between four and 11 months old. However, it is advisable that you wait until your child is old enough to hold his or herself in a moving, bouncing boat without the aid of a parent. Additionally, you should consider how your child would react, were he or she to fall overboard – even in a PFD. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

PFDs must be worn at all times

While laws vary by state, The U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety says that children under 16 should wear a life jacket at all times while on a moving boat unless they are inside a closed cabin. The life jacket should be snug, so that he or she cannot slip out of it by accident. A quick test, recommended by Safe Kids Worldwide, is to have your child make a ‘touchdown’ sign by raising their hands above their head. If the jacket or straps end up touching your child’s chin, it might be a little too big.

Your children will probably start to give you mean looks about wearing a life jacket when they get into their early teens. While you may be tempted to let them off the hook, depending upon their swimming ability, a better option is to nip this complaint in the bud by always wearing your own life jacket as well. PFDs regularly save adults’ lives as well as children’s.

Keep children warm

An easy mistake to make as an adult is to neglect your child’s warmth – especially if you let your children go swimming and you stay back yourself. Small children can get cold quickly in the wind, so pay attention. If your child is shivering or unusually quiet, wrap him or her in a blanket or a dry towel until you get back to land.

Enroll your child in courses

If your child is curious about boating, or you want to take him or her with you more frequently, it’s a good idea to invest in boating and swimming courses. A swimming course is essential for anyone who plans to spend time around boats. When your child is comfortable swimming in a pool, make sure that you talk with him or her about the differences between a pool and the open water. Currents, jagged floors, undertow and quickly changing weather patters all make open water swimming more dangerous – especially to a child.

A boating safety course is a great idea for a child interested in boating with you – and isn’t a bad idea for you either. If you take the time to sit through a boating safety course, your child will understand that even adults must adhere to rules when it comes to the open water. As an added bonus, your boat insurance company may offer a discount for taking the course. Boat insurance can be pricey, so a boating safety course is a good investment for your wallet, as well as your child.


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