Kicking off a New Boating Season for Kids

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boating-season-kidsTips to get kids ready for an awesome boating season this summer

Bottom painted… check.

Boat washed & waxed… check.

Batteries charged… check.

All systems ready to go!

Boating season is FINALLY here and your kids are probably just as excited as you are to get back on the water.

Our kids usually start asking “when are we going back to the boat??” sometime around February… and it doesn’t stop until the day we are driving to our marina for the first day of boating season.

Admittedly, your first weekend back is a bit of a chore. Even if all the main work getting your boat prepped is done, you probably still have a lot to do to get settled.

As the first mate my job is to think about everything that needs to get ready for the INSIDE of the boat as the captain is busy getting the boat hull and any engine parts ready. Before kids I would help with the boat prep (really… I did!), but now that we have kids it is easier if we just split the duties. Of course we are anxiously awaiting the day when we can actually have the kids help with the boat prep.

Every year I try to streamline the process of getting everything ready for the boat as much as possible. For the kids it hels to get them involved in the prep as much as possible so that they can keep busy and give them something to focus on rather than constantly ask “when are we going back to the boat??”

Here are some of the things we do to get our kids ready and excited for an awesome boating season ahead of them.

20150429_173832Extra Swim Lessons

One of the first things we do to start getting ready for summer and the boat is sign up for swim lessons in the spring.

Swim lessons at our local YMCA for 8 weeks in the spring is the best way to sharpen up their swimming skills ahead of summer. I also like that summer begins as soon as the sessions are over – so they immediately keep swimming and improving on what they just learned.

This is the first year my 3 year old is getting official lessons, so I am excited to see her start off the season with more confidence in the water. We talk about how much fun it will be at the boat this summer and how good of a swimmer she’ll be when we are anchored out & at the pool.

kids boat gearGetting Kid’s Boat Gear Essentials Ready

For us, the first weekend back on the boat means a car FULL of gear (thank goodness for the minivan!) It usually takes us at least 2 dock cart trips to haul all our gear from the car to the boat.

There’s the usual stuff everyone needs – like bedding, toiletries, galley basics – and then there’s the KID stuff that you have to bring to the boat.

Since space is limited for toys on the boat, I let them have ONE bin that they can fill up with toys to bring (which usually turns into a pile of stuffed animals). We already have books & movies on the boat that we keep year-round, and most of their time is spent in the water anyway, so one bin of toys is really all they need.

Keep in mind all the things that will make their “home away from home” comfortable:

  • 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”)

New life jackets for kidsNew Life Jackets

Chances are it is time for some new life jackets. Your kids are growing fast… and the start of boating season is a great time to double-check what size life jacket they should be wearing.

It may be time for your toddler to step up to a youth jacket… or maybe your kid needs to step up from 30-50 lb jacket size to a 50-90 lb size.

Last year my daughter was ready to hand-down her fairy wing jacket to her sister and get a more cool watersports style life jacket that she thought was more “grown-up”. It was just the thing she needed to make wearing a life jacket cool again.

A new life jacket can be a fun way to kick off a new boating season… even if they are not quite ready for a new size. A new life jacket design or style can be a fun way to get kids excited about wearing their life jacket for the upcoming boating season – which is a very good thing!

Looking for recommendations? Check out our Life Jackets for Kids by Size for some top picks.

boating trip kidsPlan Some Fun Boat Trips

Now is the time to plan your itinerary and make the most of every weekend on the boat! If you are a seasonal boater like us, you really want to maximize your available months in the water.

Having another baby (who then became a handful as a toddler) admittedly slowed us down a bit over the last few years with boat trips. Now we are ready to put some hours on the engine and visit some of our favorite places on the bay.

This year we hope to make it to the aquarium in Baltimore and definitely a trip or two to other favorite destinations like Rock Hall and Annapolis.

Ask your kids what they want to do, who they want to invite to visit on the boat and how they want to spend weekends. Getting them involved in the process will make trips even more fun for them.

Make some plans, set up some transient reservations and get ready for an AWESOME summer of boating!

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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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