As adults boaters, we learn a great deal about safety on the way to earning our boat license. What we often don’t learn, however, is how to share these skills with our children. This can be tricky business because kids tend not to learn well when they’re disinterested and when we overload them. The key then is to seize their attention and to expose them to the information in bite-sized chunks.
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Here are a series of tips that should help:
Tip #1: Teach the kids to swim, and make sure they have ocean experience. Swimming in the ocean is a very different experience, and those with pool-only practice may freeze up in an emergency.
Tip #2: Once the children know how to swim, introduce them to personal flotation devices (PFDs), and explain to them why a PFD is so important. Stress the importance of wearing a PFD at all times, and give them experience wearing the PFD in and out of the water before their first boat trip.
Tip #3: Don’t wait until the first time on the water. Acclimate kids to your boat while you have it on the trailer parked at your house. Make a game out of understanding the terminology, safety locations, danger zones and so forth.
Tip #4: Ensure that they understand the risk of horseplay while on the water, and a great way to avoid this type of behaviour is to give children seated responsibilities while you are driving. If they are having fun and feel as if they are doing something important, they will continue to focus on that activity.
Tip #5: Stress the importance of sitting at all times while the boat is in motion. Standing is only OK when the boat is stopped, and stress that it is never all right to sit or stand on the sides of the boat.
Tip #6: Expose children to all of the equipment on board, and let them learn how to operate it. Begin teaching children how to operate and drive the boat at a very young age. This can prove invaluable in an emergency, and the safest boaters are self-reliant boaters.
Tip #7: However, stress that it is never OK to use that equipment without adult supervision unless there is an emergency. It also important to be strict about your rules, so if the child breaks them, they should lose boating privileges.
Tip #8: While on the boat, always set a good example. Don’t let kids be around adults who don’t take the experience seriously. Keep your eyes on them at all times, and consider using a safety harness for particularly young children who may stray on larger boats.