10 Safety Tips to Follow when Boating with Kids
Getting out onto the water and enjoying the spray across your face is a relaxing way to spend a summer day, and an exciting experience for little ones that are getting their first taste of the joy that is boating. Unfortunately, boating can also be a highly dangerous activity when there are kids involved and the adults on board aren’t properly educated on important safety rules. These are ten of the things you should always keep in mind when you’re on the water with little ones in tow.
- Insist on Life Jackets – Kids, especially older ones, aren’t always the biggest fans of wearing a life jacket. Still, it’s a battle that’s well worth fighting. Make a strictly-enforced rule about the wearing of life jackets at all times, and be sure that the devices your kids are wearing let them float on their backs, rather than face-down.
- Stock Up on Approved Flotation Devices, and Teach Kids to Use Them Properly – In addition to life jackets, you’ll want to make sure that there are plenty of United States Coast Guard-approved flotation devices on board, and that kids understand what they’re used for. Teach little ones to toss the flotation devices overboard only when someone in the water is struggling, never as a joke or for play.
- Open Water is Not the Same as a Swimming Pool – In the minds of young children, all water is created equal. It’s important for the adults in their boating party to teach kids that the open water is not the same as a swimming pool. Currents, waves and choppy water can present hazards that simply aren’t present in the average pool, and kids need to be prepared for them.
- No Diving – Unlike a swimming pool that’s clear and visible to the bottom with posted warning signs, it’s impossible to know for sure just how deep the water in a lake or river is in any given area. That’s why it’s essential that kids know to never dive headfirst off of a boat, no matter how confident they feel about the depth of the water.
- Stay Sober – You wouldn’t drink and drive a car that your children are riding in, and you shouldn’t drink while you’re the adult in control of a boat they’re on, either. Alcohol is a major contributor to boating accidents, and should be avoided altogether when there are kids on board.
- Slather on the Sunscreen – Sunburns are a very real danger, causing painful skin irritation and boosting the chances of deadly skin cancer later in life. That’s why sunscreen should be carefully applied every two hours, more often if kids are in the water and the formula isn’t water-resistant.
- Learn CPR – While toddlers and preschoolers aren’t ideal candidates for CPR and first aid classes, everyone else in your boating party should have a working knowledge of how to resuscitate a person that’s fallen overboard and is no longer breathing.
- Supervise Teens Carefully When They’re at the Helm – The rules and regulations that govern teenagers’ control of water vessels varies from one state to the next. Regardless of what your state laws say, however, you should never let a teen that’s immature or reckless take control of a boat, and you should always be present when even the most level-headed kid is at the helm.
- No Roughhousing – Spirits and excitement are often running high when everyone is enjoying a jaunt on the open water, but it’s important that kids never cross the line into rough play. The possibility of knocking another child overboard or causing an injury while you’re on the water and removed from emergency services is a real one, and is one that can have devastating results.
- Pack a Survival Kit and Have an Emergency Plan – No one plans to become stranded on the water or land-bound away from other travelers, but it can happen. Having an adequate supply of food and fresh water on hand can mean the difference between being merely inconvenienced and downright miserable or even in danger of dehydration. Stock up an emergency food supply, and resist dipping into it if your main supply runs low over the course of the day.
When you take the proper precautions and are adequately prepared, a day on the water can be a fun-filled experience that no one in your family ever forgets. Just be sure that you’re abreast of all safety guidelines and procedures before hitting the water and that you’re prepared for accidents or emergencies before they happen.