At 50 Campfires, we believe in getting them started young when it comes to all outdoor pursuits, including boating. As in all things, the key to keep them coming back is having a great first experience on the water. As you probably know, little ones require some extra planning if they’re going to be out all day. When you throw a first time boating experience into the mix, it adds even more complexity.
Simple things that we’ve listed below, like packing snacks and even a coloring book, go a long way with keeping them occupied. The last thing you want is for them to feel bored, or even worse, trapped. We’ve covered ten do’s and don’ts below, to make sure that the day goes smoothly, and if you follow all of them, we’re betting that they’ll be asking when the next boating adventure is.
1. DO ensure everyone’s safety.
Safety comes first, and that means properly fitted life jackets all around. If a child is too small to wear a life jacket, he or she is probably too young to take out in a boat. Learn more about boating and water safety tips.
2. DON’T underdress.
Enjoyment of boating means being comfortable in every way. In the warm sun, it’s easy to take off layers of clothes if you’ve worn them. If it gets cold, it’s impossible to add layers you didn’t bring along.
3. DO go boating on smaller, calm bodies of water.
There are many advantages to sticking with smaller waters for first adventures. First off, seeing shore close at hand can ease anxiety for anyone who is nervous. Also, smaller waters tend to be calmer in any weather, which will prevent motion sickness.
4. DON’T forget distractions.
While the soothing boat ride is the focus for Mom and Dad, young boaters may need distractions after a short time. Try to be creative. Maybe binoculars to look through? Swimming?
5. DO make everyone feel secure.
No matter what kind of boat you’re using for first outings, don’t permit any horseplay. The focus is on the kids and making sure they feel safe. In a canoe keep everyone low to the deck – even if that means an adult sitting on the floor with a child sitting between their legs.
6. DON’T ignore the sun.
In striving for that “perfect day” boating experience, you’ll want to stick to sunny days. However, that means you’ll need protection from the sun. Even on boats with cabins or awnings, you must prepare for the sun. At a minimum, everyone needs sunscreen, a floppy hat, and sunglasses. For more coverage, consider sun-repellent clothing and a face mask, also known as a balaclava.
7. DO bring lunch and snacks!
Boating on small, calm waters is always more fun with a picnic. It can be as simple or fancy as you’d like, but be sure to pack it in a good cooler with lots of ice. Favorite snacks are great as well as beverages. On a pontoon, you might even be able to grill up some hotdogs. If you do, check out our spiral-cut hotdog technique!
8. DON’T let others rock the boat.
Remember – others enjoying the lake won’t know how much experience your new boaters have. Keep a reasonable distance from other boats so there is no chance of rough water.
9. DO secure belongings.
Everyone should place their wallets, car keys, and unneeded phones in a zipper-top bag and put it somewhere secure in the boat. Then when you get back to the dock or launch, assign the responsibility of returning them to one of the beginners. It will make him or her feel like they’re helping out.
10. DON’T overstay enjoyment.
When planning first boating experiences, make sure there is an option for anyone who’s not enjoying themselves to get off the boat quickly. Having this plan in place can make the difference if a youngster will ever come back. One person can easily handle the paddling in calm water.
Easy, right? None of these are difficult to do, but they make a big difference out on the water! Everyone will have fun, and you’ll be prepared for any situation that arises. Our hope is that at the end of the day they’ll already be asking when they can come out again. If that happens, you know that you’re creating memories that will last a lifetime.