Some simple tips for keeping kids safe, happy and entertained whilst on-board
Most children like adventure... Swallows and Amazons, The Famous Five and Sinbad all revolve around water and can hold a special place in a childs imagination. What could be better than setting sail on your very own adventure in search of treasure, exploring Rivers and Canals to find Toad of Toad Hall, or saving the crew from Evil Pirates (commonly known as Mum or Dad)....
Not much in our view....
To make sure our little adventurers are safe, happy and engaged at all times, there are a few simple steps we can take to avoid shipwrecks, mutiny and messages in bottles. The safety of our children on-board is of paramount importance and that can be influenced and supported by many different things. We've listed a few of the basics below;
Set the Right Example
Kids can be like sponges. When the wrong word leaves our mouths, we know that all too often it's registered in their brains for use at the most inappropriate time. The same can be true of our actions as children often mimic parents and their behaviour, so the trick here is to behave as you would like your children to. If you're not wearing your Lifejacket, the chances are your child won't feel they have to. Behaving on-board in a way that's appropriate for kids to observe teaches them by example, which as we all know is much preferred to classroom techniques.
We recommend introducing children to boats over a period of time. When they first step foot on a boat all that's coursing through their mind is that this is fun. Without taking away from that fun we should take time to show them the boat and explain how it works. A child will not instinctively know whether a propeller or boom is dangerous unless we tell them. Another great idea is to "zone" the boat so they know where they can go and where they shouldn't. It can be a lot for young kids to absorb in one go, so why not start with a few introductory visits.
Make if Fun
At the start of every visit to your boat it's always good to have a list to run through of what they need to do - a bit like a captain of a boat would with their crew. This can range from putting their lifejackets on, checking the Life Rings are where they should be and them indentifying the areas they should not venture unaccompanied. You can add to this list and have great fun by making them "Salute" with an "Aye, Aye Captain" everytime an action is completed.
Older Sisters and Brothers
Asking an older brother or sister to help take charge of their younger sibling not only makes them more responsible, it reinforces their own boat safety standards. All too often older kids can think they already know everything, but subconsciously this is a great way to make them repeat proceedures you have introduced to them on your boat. It goes without saying adults should always be overseeing children but it can help your eldest ones feel very grown up and and adhere to the rules themselves.
Swimming and Water Proficiency
It's frightening how many children in the UK can't swim, let alone with a degree of proficiency or knowledge about the waters around them. Swimming lessons are a must, but it's also important your child understands the dangers of both coastal and inland water such as rip-tides, currents and hidden objects in Rivers. Inflatables water toys should always be used under adult supervision whilst tethered to the boat.
Should a child enter the water it should be second nature for them to understand what they do and do not do. A lifejacket does not do everything for them as they should know how to breathe so they don't inhale water, cold water survival techinques and host of other water survival techniques.
Entertaining Younger Minds
Mischief comes naturally to most kids, especially when they're contained in small spaces. Boating may be our passion, but every now and again our kids might not be in the mood for boating. A few simple jobs for them to do on-board (which you can make sound very important and helpful) can help re-focus them and calm their behaviour. Board Games are a tried and trusted way to engage children but the one we like the most is "Finding the Hidden Treasure". Simply hide some foreign coins around the interior of the boat and "set them loose to find the loot". For kids younger than iPhone age this works particularly well.
Other People's Kids
It's great to have your friends and family bring their kids to the boat as it's a real treat for you to be on the water and be able to share the experience with them. But whilst your own child may be familiar with the boat, the visting children won't be. Never be embarrassed to ask parents to look out for their own children and explain the potential hazards and safety proceedures to them. If you own child is competent in boat proceedures, it's worth asking them to also introduce the boat their friends. What kid doesn't love showing off eh....
We want to encourage a younger generation to share our love of boating and have a dedicated section listing sailing clubs. A great place to start is by introducing children to local sailing schools and watersports clubs. It's outdoors fun, social and active and will help them develop a better understanding of water and the fun that can be had..!