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Ashley Lizzi

By: Ashley Lizzi on May 19th, 2022

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Boating with Kids: Everything you Need to Know

If you’ve read any of my articles you know that I am a member of the Barletta team, I own a Barletta, and I spend every possible waking minute on my Barletta with my family.  I tell you this because I’ve got a new niece named Lia who will be making her maiden voyage this May.  

 

This will be Lia’s first boat season and that means I need to be prepared to bring her onboard well before it begins.  Luckily, I've been on the water with plenty of friends who have children ranging in ages from babies to teens.

 

Because of that, I know the dos and don’ts and even the tricks for making sure everyone has a snack and a floatie readily available.  Miss Lia will not be the first baby to board the Barletta but she’ll have it made in the shade as her aunt makes sure her first on-water experience is perfect. 

 

As I prepare for boat season with my new niece, I thought it would be helpful to share my list with you.  If by chance you plan on boating with children of any age, this article should help you prepare for a great day on the boat.  

Safety is Top Dog

There is nothing more important than safety when it comes to the boating lifestyle.  This is amplified when you bring children along for the ride.  You must be prepared to safely boat with children before you even leave the dock.

 

PFD

It is recommended that you wait to bring a baby on board until they weigh at least 18 pounds and can wear a properly fitted life jacket also known as a personal flotation device (PFD).  If you’re unsure where to find the right lifejacket, check out your local watersports shop or talk to your dealer.  Most dealerships sell this type of gear in their pro shop.  

 

For me, this means sourcing the right lifejacket for Lia by making sure it complies with the U.S. Coast Guard PFD laws.  I need to make sure it fits well by following the weight requirements listed on the PFD and that it’s comfortable for her to wear.

 

Once I find a lifejacket that meets the requirements, we will test it out to make sure it will keep her safe.  As Lia grows, we will need to continuously upgrade her lifejacket to make sure it meets the weight requirements through each stage of her life.  

 

USCG law requires that any child under 13 years of age wear a lifejacket while the boat is underway.  Local and state laws may vary, so make sure you know the age limit for wearing a lifejacket in your area.  

 

Choosing the right life jacket for children will also play a big role in swimming.  If you plan on boating with children, I highly recommend putting them through swim lessons before they step foot on a boat.

 

If you’ve got company in town and their kids haven't been through lessons, then it’s up to everyone on board, especially their parents, to make sure they’re safe while swimming.  Ensure that each child has their properly fitted life jacket on at all times and they’re only swimming with adult supervision.  

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Onboard the Boat

Next, I need to consider what will make Lia most comfortable on the boat while keeping her out of harm's way.  She’s still a baby so she can’t sit on a seat by herself just yet, so where do we put her while the boat is underway?

 

Always remember that you should never keep a baby in their car seat or any type of carrier while the boat is underway.  The safest place for a baby while underway is in the arms of someone responsible enough to protect the baby as the boat bounces through chop.

 

Keeping the baby in a carrier or car seat while the boat is bouncing is unsafe for a plethora of reasons, one being that if it’s tossed overboard, the carrier will sink quickly.  If the boat is parked and turned off in calm enough water, it’s a safer situation for a child to be set down in the boat in a carrier.

 

For children who are old enough to be mobile, make sure you secure any possible way they can access the water.  For instance, if you’re on a pontoon boat make sure the gates are closed at all times.  This will help prevent the child from falling into the water from these access points.

 

Remember, not all boat types have gates like pontoons do so staying vigilant and knowing where the child is at is key.  Just the same, you will want to keep an eye out and make sure mobile children are not getting into anything that can harm them on the boat itself.

 

Hidden Dangers

Look out for things like sharp edges, slippery surfaces, and choking hazards.  Take storage spots, for example, many ski lockers have heavy doors that slam shut and the last thing you want is a child’s hand in the way.

 

Another hidden danger is the toxic fumes that emit from a running engine.  Once the motor is off and it’s safe to swim, give the fumes some time to dissipate from the stern of the boat.  This is especially true if you have a boat with an outboard engine.  

 

A lot of these things might be an afterthought so it’s good to stay aware of the items on board that pose a threat.  There’s also a possibility that some of the boat gear onboard such as anchors can be dangerous for children as well.

 

If you’re boating with children who are mobile keep in mind that they can get into just about anything.  You may want to take extra steps to secure boat gear and lock down any areas of the boat that could become a danger.  

 

Sun Protection

The age of the child will impact the amount of time you will be able to spend on the boat.  If you’re boating with a baby, you shouldn’t plan to spend all day on the water.  You’re less likely to put a baby in the water to cool off and slather them in SPF at a young age.

 

That makes overheating and sunburn a bigger threat to younger children.  If you’re with kids who enjoy the water and can signal when they need a drink or sunscreen, you should be able to spend more time on the boat.

 

Hydration, sunscreen, and a way to cool off are critical for long days on the water no matter how old you are.  That’s why a bimini will be your best friend when boating with kids.  When we get Lia out on the Barletta, I know the bimini will be deployed before we leave the dock and it will stay up the entire time she’s on board.

 

Being able to provide shade while on the boat is critical when you’ve got kids of all ages on board.  Keep this in mind if you’re not one for using the bimini top as it will play a big role in how long you can stay on the water.  For babies, you may want to take this a step further and put them in a large-brimmed sun hat and even consider purchasing tiny sunglasses.  

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The Fun Stuff

There are many safety considerations when it comes to boating with children.  Once you’ve got those bases covered you can start to bring on the fun.  From water toys to water sports, boating with your kids can be one of the most rewarding family pastimes.  

 

If you plan on floating at the sandbar, you will want to bring along items that will keep the kids preoccupied.  This will also buy you more time to relax and enjoy the boat.  Splash pads are a favorite among my friends’ kids.  Floaties and water guns are close second and third.

 

If your kids are a little older and can participate in water sports, make sure you know how to go about this safely.  Once you’ve nailed that down, tubing, wakeboarding, and other activities can be a blast for kids.  

 

If you’ve got a boat with ample table space such as the Barletta Ultra-Entertainer or a large cabin cruiser, you’ve got plenty of room for other activities such as family game night.  Picnics on the water are also a great way to go with this type of setup.  

 

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If you’re just getting into the boating lifestyle and have children, I recommend considering a pontoon boat as your vessel of choice.  Pontoons are considered the “SUV” of the water because they’re super versatile and can be used for all different types of on-water fun.  

 

Kid-Friendly Snacks

It’s no secret that fun in the sun will create hungry bellies.  One of my favorite memories as a boat kid would be coming together with all of my lake friends to chow down on a PBJ sandwich after we swam on the sandbar all day long.

  

That’s why it’s important to bring kid-friendly foods onboard no matter how long you’ll be out on the water.  Boat snacks are loved by everyone, so here are a few ideas that are great for your boat kids.

 

First, you’ll want to avoid foods that are prone to melting such as chocolate or popsicles.  That’s because as soon as these items are out of the cooler and in the heat of the sun, they will melt all over your boat and can potentially stain the interior.

 

The same goes for really sticky substances such as candy and syrups.  Stick with simple foods such as string cheese, pre-made sandwiches, and individually packaged snacks.  A premade peanut butter sandwich, a small bag of chips, and a string cheese paired with a juice box hit the spot after a long day of swimming.

 

Other items such as pre-cut fruit and mini water bottles are perfect for keeping kids hydrated and full of energy.  A good rule of thumb that I’ve learned from personal experience is to bring along more than you think you’ll need, doing so will keep whining at bay.  

 

Boating with the Whole Family

As I mentioned, boating can easily become your family's favorite activity to do together.  I grew up boating so love and respect for water come naturally to me and I still enjoy it to this day.  Some of my fondest memories are from those long weekends at the lake.

 

Introducing your kids to the boating lifestyle opens up an entirely new world for them to learn about and grow with.  Making them aware of the importance of safety on the water should be your priority as a parent.  

 

Knowing the potential hazards and how to avoid those situations will help your child learn respect for the boat and the water.  This can keep them safe as they start to venture out on their own and eventually, become a captain of their vessel.  

 

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About Ashley Lizzi

Barletta Content Manager, 8+ years Manufacturer Marketing, Brand Management, Customer Experience, and life-long boater.