Getting Kids Ready for Boating Season

kids boating seasonFrom water safety prep to planning summer cruises, get your kids ready for a fun season on the boat

For seasonal boaters, there is a lot to do to get ready each year for boating season. Our season may start in April or May, but usually around February or March we are starting to plan for everything we need to do for the season. We are taking off the shrink wrap, waxing the bottom, doing last minute upgrades or repairs and then preparing to launch.

While all the spring boat prep and maintenance is underway, your boater kids are probably getting anxious to get on the water… especially as the weather starts to warm up. The countdown to boating season begins and those last few months waiting can seem like they take FOREVER!

But there’s a lot your kids can be doing to get ready each year too. From extra swim lessons to checking to make sure they have all the right gear, kids have a lot of spring boat prep to do.

Before your first trip back to the boat, here are some ideas to make sure they are kids are ready to go for your upcoming boating season.

swimming at boatSwim Lessons

Boating means a lot of time in the water swimming – both while anchored out and at our marina’s pool. If your kids don’t do year round swim lessons, having a few sessions before the season starts is a great way to make sure they are ready for a season in and around the water.

My daughters usually get a round of swim lessons that starts late spring, ending just as summer is starting. That way their skills are advancing as the boating and swimming season starts. It also helps them make the most of the season… advancing even further in their swimming techniques throughout the summer.

kids life jacket sizesLife Jacket Review

Chances are your kids grew over the winter, so its important to review your life jacket inventory to make sure that you have the correct size for your child. It may mean advancing from a heads-up style, or simply stepping up to the next life jacket size bracket (like 50- 90 lbs, rather than 30-50 lbs).

It’s also a good time to check that your life jackets are in good shape – with undamaged buckles, straps and zippers. My oldest daughter officially crossed the 50 lb mark this winter so we’ll be buying her a new one for this season.

baby boat gaearBoat Gear Kid “Essentials”

If your kids are anything like mine, they don’t travel light. And they need a lot of stuff (well, in many cases they just want a lot of stuff…). In addition to life jackets, boat gear for us includes:

  • Bedding like extra pillows, blankets and night lights (if you have a baby you are likely putting a pack-n-play on board your boat or some other type of travel bed)
  • Baby gear for the little one (like a travel booster seat and an extra set of other baby essentials)
  • Toy bin with special set of “boat toys” we leave for every weekend (includes books, puzzles and other activities)
  • Water toys like noodles and new blow-up tubes
  • Stuff animals – lots of stuff animals that become “boat friends” that will stay on board all season (usually includes at least one type of pillow or glowing “pet”)

docking boat with kids Review Boat Rules

Kids need rules – and it is especially important on a boat. Make sure you talk a lot about boat safety and general rules on your boat. Discuss the importance of wearing their life jackets on the dock and on board. Reinforce special rules around staying seated when docking the boat or underway. We have a lot of specific rules around not standing or jumping on the salon or cockpit seats and not leaning over the side of the boat. For our littlest one, we have a rule of not being up in the cockpit alone when we are inside the cabin (a rule for her and us). Finally, the “no hanging toys over the side of the boat” rule is one rule that is inevitably going to be broken… but they will learn the hard way that toys that go plop! in the water are gone forever.

Plans for Boating Fun

As a family, we love talking about the plans for boating season. This year we want to go to this place or that place. This year we want these friends to visit. Its always fun to involve the kids in the planning to get them excited for the season ahead. Get out your waterway or cruising guides and show they places that would be fun to visit. Look at charts together to show them cruises you will take or teach them about navigation for upcoming cruises. The first cruises of the season are also a good time to reacquaint them with the boating basics.

It is always so fun to walk down the dock to the boat for the first time of the season… and know that you have an entire season of fun awaiting you!


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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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