Boating with your kids can be a great way to connect. By giving children age-appropriate responsibilities, they can not only learn how to be safe boaters themselves, but also gain important leadership experiences they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Yet, before parents go out and share their love of boating with their children, there are some things to know and do. Check out these five important safety tips from our boating accident attorneys here at LMAW that can help reduce the chance of your children getting hurt while in open waters.
Make sure your kids (and everyone on your vessel) wear a life jacket
First and foremost, when heading out on a boat trip with kids, make sure children have an appropriate, fitting life jacket and make sure that children (and everyone else on the boat) wear them while out in open waters. A life jacket that may have fitted your child last boating season may be too small this year, so make sure you are properly equipped. Children’s life jackets should be able to turn the child over so that if the child lands in the water, they won’t remain face-down. Ideally, you should choose brightly colored jackets that will increase the child’s visibility should they fall in the water, as well as life jackets that are equipped with a whistle, so they can signal for help.
Teach children how to swim and to avoid reckless behaviors
Before you hit the high seas or lake with your kiddos, make sure they know how to swim. Knowing how to float, tread water, and swim at least one hundred yards are potentially life-saving skills. You should also teach children about the dangers of open water. Swimming in water with currents can pose unique hazards. Diving into shallow water can result in death or paralysis. Children should be educated on the risks of shallow water and about the danger of diving into water with unknown depths. As a general rule, a no-diving policy is best.
Child-proof your vessel
Safe boating means kid-proofing your boat. Boats, regardless of size, present unique hazards that can be especially dangerous for children, so make sure there aren’t any sharp objects or potentially hazardous items lying around or that are easily accessible for kids. However, even the most child-proofed vessels can still pose a risk to kids. For example, docking can be risky in that children’s hands can get pinned between the boat and the dock. A way to prevent serious boating accidents of this nature is to make sure children keep hands and feet inside the vessel at all times. Also, vessel surfaces can quickly become slippery when wet. Children should know the rules of how to move around the boat and shouldn’t be allowed to run while on the deck.
Keep a sufficient supply of food and water on board
When boating, you should always make sure there is enough water and food for everyone on board – especially when boating with children. If you haven’t taken your kids out on the water in the past, you may be accustomed to bringing just enough provisions for one or two people. However, when children are on board, more water and food will be needed, so pack accordingly. It’s also a good idea to bring some kid-friendly snacks, like fruit and yogurt, to ensure proper hydration and prevent conditions such as heat exhaustion.
Pack extra clothes and blankets
Bringing a change of clothes with you when boating will ensure that children stay comfortable in the event they get wet. Young children in particular are at a greater risk of getting hypothermia, so it’s always a good idea to bring extra jackets, sweaters, and blankets in case the weather turns. Even in warm climates, the temperature difference between daytime boating and nighttime boating can be significant. Plan for emergencies and bring blankets and clothes for the unexpected.
Boating with the family can be an amazing and rewarding experience, but parents should make sure that some basic safety protocols are followed before introducing children to boating. These are just five simple tips that can help ensure everyone in your party enjoys a fun and, above all, safe boating season.