Surviving a Boat Trip with Kids
A guide for parents
If you’re like me, having your child roam around on a large boat can be quite distressing. Especially if the child is under five, like mine is. Children that age don’t understand many dangers and often struggle with impulse control. So how do you survive a boating trip without coming home with an ulcer? I will explain.
One of the first things you need to keep in mind is that underneath the boat is just water. If you’re on a sail boat or a smaller boat like a row boat or fishing boat, there isn’t much that can happen if your child does accidentally fall into the water.
First comes first: Always ensure that your child, no matter the age, is properly equipped with safety attire. Life jackets are a must in Canadian water ways, but that doesn’t mean all parents use them as they should. The life jacket must be the correct size (most life jackets are sized by weight) and they must always be strapped and zipped properly. Life jackets tend to be bulky and uncomfortable for children, and complaints are expected; especially if the boat ride requires a lot of sitting, so try to find a life jacket that the child likes (Toys R Us has a great selection of Disney character life jackets). Explain to them that wearing the life jacket is a must for boat riding and that if they will not wear their jacket, they cannot go on the boat.
Secondly, as you’re enjoying the wind in your hair and the sun on your face in the open water, your child may not – especially if they’re really young. If you’re on a power boat, try to be sensitive to how your child is feeling. If you’re driving especially fast, your child may choke on the air, feel unsafe or be just plain scared. If you need to stop, stop. Don’t risk your child standing, walking, or acting out because he or she is feeling insecure. If you’re on a large sail boat, moving at a snail’s pace, boredom could become a factor. Remember to bring toys – puzzles, colouring books, boat-themed toys, but try to encourage them to enjoy the water and the scenery. Don’t put your child below deck to watch a movie. It’s important in this age of overwhelming technology to get your kids out to enjoy nature every now and then. If you have the chance to do it, take it.
And lastly, teach your child about boat safety before getting on the boat. Young or old, they are always able to understand that what mom says goes. If your child is young, explain in simple words that he or she is always to listen to mommy or daddy, not to run on the deck or stand while the boat is moving fast. If your child is older, perhaps a book or video about the importance of boat safety would be suitable. It is never too early, or too late, to educate. According to Stats Can., drowning and water injury is the 4th most common cause of death by unintentional injury in Canada. Drowning and water injury is the leading cause of death for recreational and sporting activities. It is vital that we ensure we are alert and focused at all times. This is not a time to be neglectful of your child’s safety. For more information on boat safety see http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-menu-1362.htm.
If you are able to provide proper education, direction and activities for your child on the boat, there is no reason why your boating experience should be anything but enjoyable. Although the worries we face as parents can be overwhelming, we can face these challenges head on by being educated. And also remember, the more you stress, the more the child will act out. So try to seem as in control as possible at all times, even if you feel like pulling your hair out!