When the weather is this beautiful, you’ve gotta get out on the boat – no matter what! And to all the new mommies and daddies out there, yes, you can even bring the little ones along. Here’s a guide on ways to keep it safe (and keep yourself sane) when bringing an infant or toddler on board. Ahoy, little mateys!
Double Check the “Duh” List
Here’s the best advice you’ll get – make sure to pack sunscreen, food and drinks! We know what you’re saying, these items are on your “duh” list. But sometimes when we are preparing for an unusual situation, we forget to do the most apparent things. So, when you leave the house, just double check to make sure you have the most obvious things you will need out on a boat.
We recommend lubing them up with sunscreen before leaving the house (you’ve got other things to do once you’re on the boat!) We have also tried every sunscreen on the market and we like the Coppertone Sport Sunscreen – it is thick enough to work on the fairest of skin and the sweat-proof formula keeps it from dripping into your sweet one’s eyes. Make sure you have plenty of juice boxes (try Mott’s For Tots since they include 40% water).
There’s something about being out on the water and in the sun – it just makes big and little kids hungry, so double the amount of food you think you will need. Think of whipping up a special sandwich, like pimento cheese or salami sandwiches, or a snack that you only have when you’re out on the boat. Finding Nemo fruit snacks are always a hit since they come in the shapes of their favorite fishy friends. Tropical fresh fruit is always delicious.
OK, Sunscreen? Check. Hydration? Check. Edibles? Check! Then you’re ready for the next (less obvious) steps.
Keep it Safe – Life Jackets for Kids
Most boating accidents that involve children occur from falling off a boat. So, start by choosing a boat that is designed to be safe for everyone such as a pontoon or hybrid boat. These offer plenty of room for your little one to scoot, crawl and toddle about with a wall that’s tall enough to prevent him or her from falling over.
Everyone on board must have a life jacket. If you rent a boat, the marina will fit everyone to make sure that they have the correct life jacket. If you own your own boat, you need to make sure you have all the life jackets – in the correct sizes for your passengers – prior to getting on the boat. In Florida, it is mandatory for all children under 6 to wear a buckled life jacket while the boat is underway. If you are more than 9 miles off shore, then it is mandatory for all children under the age of 13 to be wearing a life jacket while the boat is underway. Sizing depends on your child’s height and chest size, so find out more details on sizing at the Boat-Ed site. Please note that not all life jackets that you can buy at local stores are coast guard approved, so make sure that you check the tag and see it labeled “Coast Guard Approved.” And buy a comfortable life jacket for your child, so it won’t be a constant fight to make them keep it on.
Keep it Comfy: Sun-safe Clothing and Napping Spot
With the gentle rocking of the boat, your kids are sure to crash while you’re out on the water. So if your little one has a comfortable (and safe) place to snooze, you could have a little time to yourself. Have a plan ready for when his or her eyeballs start to get heavy. Taking a few seat cushions off the seats and putting them on the floor makes a cozy (and safe) bed.
Make sure to bring a few changes of clothes (and plenty of diapers) for the kids. Long-sleeved rash guards are now available for boys and girls. It means less sunscreen applying that you’ll have to do and more time in the sun for them! Make sure to invest in one of these. We love hats too – just make sure you get one that has a velcro strap under the chin so it won’t fly off.
Keep It Fun: Games and Pirate Talk!
Make your voyage more interesting by turning it into a game. Count and identify the birds you see or play “Sea Bingo” by making up a bingo board with different sea creatures and landmarks you may spot along the way. With the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean films and Disney’s new series, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, your kids would be thrilled if you all pretend to be pirates. So throw in some “Aye, Mateys!” and of course, there’s always the classic, “Arrrg!” Kids love a treasure hunt, so why not pull up to an island and search for a treasure? For those crafty parents out there, design a treasure map before you go, give it to the kids when you get on board and they’ll be happy little pirates all day long! “Aye-Aye, Captain!”