Boating is a great, family-friendly activity – it allows you to be outside on the water, and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But boating is a big responsibility and requires a lot of precautions to ensure everyone’s safety, especially if you’ll be sailing with a child on board.
If you plan to take a baby or toddler out on a boat, keep the following safety tips in mind to ensure the child’s security and comfort.
Invest In A Child’s Life Jacket
Before hitting the water, it’s important to buy a life jacket that fits your child properly. The US Coast Guard (USCG) recommends that an infant be at least 18 pounds before wearing a life jacket, or else it won’t fit properly. You may want to consider keeping the baby off the boat until they’re the right size to wear a life jacket.
Unlike buying clothes, you should never buy a life jacket that’s slightly big thinking your child will grow into it eventually. Choose one that fits your child’s current weight. Whereas adult life jackets are measured by chest size, kids are done by weight. When your child is trying on the life jacket, lift them up by its strings. If the jacket slips up past their chin or ears, it’s too big and wouldn’t support them correctly if in the water.
Identify A Safe Space
Depending on the type of water you’re boating on, things can get choppy quickly. There may be situations in which you need all hands on deck to help manage the boat, which means there may not be someone to hold or supervise the child.
These instances may be rare, but it’s important to be prepared for them. Locate a secure, protected area on the boat that the baby or toddler can stay in an emergency situation. It should be a place where there’s no risk of falling or moving around. For example, you may place the baby in a portable playpen or travel seat. Anywhere that will keep them safe and secure will do the trick.
Hold Onto Your Child
Even when it’s not an emergent situation, babies and toddlers shouldn’t have free roam of a boat. There are often lots of steps, ladders, and narrow turns, which can be a falling hazard. Additionally, things can get slippery easily. When the boat is in motion, the safest spot for your child is in your arms. Keep yourself seated with them in your lap. Ensure your child is wearing their life jacket at all times.
Create A Shady Spot
It’s easier to sunburn when on a boat or in water since the reflection of the sun’s rays makes them stronger. Babies and toddlers already have more sensitive skin than adults, so ensuring they have a shady place to hang out is crucial while on a boat.
Set up a space for your child to play or nap in the cabin, so long as it’s not prone to getting to hot. Have a fan blowing cool air to keep your child comfortable, but ensure the fan isn’t within reach and a potential hazard. On the deck, consider putting up an umbrella or using a sheet to make a small patch of shade for your child. You can even bring a long a tent or a portable play pen with a covering to do the same job.
Pack More Essentials Than You Need
Babies and toddlers come with a lot of gear! You may be trying to pack lightly, especially if the boat is small, but don’t forget to bring extras of essentials. After all, when on the water, you can’t run to a corner store if you run out or diapers or water bottles. Unexpected things can happen – your child may get sick, have a diaper blow-out, or you can’t make it back to land as soon as expected. But having extra essentials will ensure you’re prepared for anything and can keep your child comfortable.
Swimming Lessons Beforehand
Finally, if you expect to spend a lot of time on the water with your family, it’s wise to enroll your children in swim lessons as soon as possible. There are even baby swim lessons to help infants get accustomed to the water and to teach the skills in the event they become submerged in water. When boating, there’s a very real risk your child could fall into the water. Though the risk is lower the more safety precautions you can take, the best thing you can do is make sure your child knows swimming basics (like treading water).
Of course, babies and toddlers aren’t going to become skilled swimmers with just a few lessons – it can take years of practice. But introducing them to swim lessons before taking the boat out is a good precautionary skill to take. Plus, they’ll be ready to swim on their own before you know it.
Sources: Boats.com, Tales of a Mountain Mama, Safe Kids, Pontoonopedia,