All Hands on Deck with Boat Duties for Kids at Every Age

all hands on deck

Is it time to give your kids more duties on the boat? Here are some age appropriate jobs for your kids to help out on the boat (as seen in Lakeland Boating magazine)

It may seem like just yesterday they were learning to walk and get their “sea legs” on the boat for the first time, but your kids are growing up fast and may even be ready to become a more active member of your crew.

As boaters, we all know that there are endless chores and duties associated with our boats. From daily chores like cleaning and tidying up to bigger duties like docking or driving the boat, there’s ample opportunity for kids to start getting more involved and take on added responsibilities.

Kids like to feel included and take on little jobs – it empowers them and gives them a sense of accomplishment. And for parents, anytime you can make tasks or chores a learning opportunity there’s an equal sense of accomplishment.

Even if your kids are younger, there are still plenty of ways they can help out around the boat or at least start learning about the many responsibilities that come with boat ownership.

Choosing age appropriate duties

When delegating new duties on or around the boat you obviously need to consider what your own child is ready and able to tackle. As always, boat safety comes first so you’ll want to be sure any jobs are supervised until they are old enough or capable enough to handle it independently.

That being said, younger kids can start assisting with smaller things on the boat and as they get older there are many tasks where kids can actually be a helpful addition to your crew.

In most cases, you’ll want to be sure to supervise tasks carefully to ensure both your child’s safety and that proper care is given to the boat.

Here are a few ideas to get your kids involved on the boat… progressing from simpler tasks for younger kids to more skilled responsibilities for older children.

  • Cleaning – the task of cleaning a boat never seems to end, so “start ‘em young” with helping out! You can hand your little ones a damp cloth to help wipe down the vinyl in the cockpit, while older kids may be able to help wash the boat’s exterior.
  • Tidying up – from stocking provisions in the cabin to pulling the dock cart to and from the boat, kids can help with many daily chores. Tidying up is needed carrying gear onto a boat, stowing gear before or after a cruise and packing up to go home. Assigning ongoing responsibilities will give them a sense of ownership with daily chores or duties. stocking boat
  • Assisting – every captain needs a good first mate – or a first mate in training! Assistance jobs can be tasks like fetching gear for the captain, prepping or preparing meals on board, being a spotter with watersports or even being a helpful hand during maintenance work.
  • Handling lines – the handling of boat lines may start with learning to tie up loose lines in the cockpit and progress to bigger tasks like helping to dock and tie off the boat.
    handling lines kids
  • Navigating – the companion seat next to the helm is a great spot to learn the rules of the water while assisting with navigation. Your little one could be the look-out for buoys or channel markers and help keep an eye on charts. Get them even more involved by helping to decide on itinerary or chart a course ahead of a trip.
  • Driving – with proper supervision and boater education courses, older kids can start driving a boat (or at least co-captaining). Be sure to check with the specific rules in your state as the age a child can drive a boat or personal watercraft unsupervised can vary.

Teachable boating moments

cruising buddyGoing to the boat is about more than just having a fun day out on the water – it’s learning about what it takes to own a boat, care for a boat and operate a boat. These moments on a boat will create a lifetime of knowledge.

An early sense of responsibility or duty will only increase the connection your child has with boating. Usually it’s a hands-on activity showing a proper technique – or showing how things can go wrong – where kids learn best.

This season, our 10 year old is eager to help with the lines while docking – a task we’ll likely do together for the next few years until we are satisfied she can handle it safely. Meanwhile, our 6 year old is mommy’s little helper stocking the refrigerator with water bottles, and simply enjoys being daddy’s cruising buddy at the helm.

Talk to your kids about what new responsibilities they want to take on this boating season. Their eagerness to learn coupled with their enthusiasm for boating just might make it the perfect time for them to lend a hand.

This article All Hands on Deck originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Lakeland Boating magazine.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE (PDF opens in new window)

Lakeland boatingCruising with Kids Column in Lakeland Boating Magazine

As a boater with two boat kids I am thrilled to share my experiences in a summer Boating Kids column for the regional boating lifestyle magazine Lakeland Boating.

Diane Seltzer

View posts by Diane Seltzer
Diane is the founder of as well as the boating lifestyle site Active in the boating industry, Diane has also led the marketing for multiple recreational boating businesses and startups and is the author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.
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