Boat Safety Tips for Kids

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Heading outside for a day on the water should be exciting. You can guarantee some fun in the sun if you bring the whole family along. Even if you have been boating for years, it's still vital to remember lifesaving safety tips when young children are involved. Careful planning for trips of any length will help you maximize your day without losing peace of mind.

The next time you adventure out on the lake or close to shore, remember these boat safety rules when traveling with your kids.

1. Make Sure Everyone Has a Life Jacket

Life jackets only help when they fit and people wear them correctly. Everyone on your boat should have a United States Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Taking time to select a life jacket made specifically to suit your family members' weights and water activities could prevent tragedy if someone falls into the water unexpectedly.

Everyone on your boat should have a United States Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

You can set an example for your kids by wearing a life jacket. Stress the importance of boating water safety for kids by helping young ones fasten clips before they get anywhere near the water.

2. Perform a Life Jacket Test Before Boarding

Some boat owners think children can use hand-me-down life jackets, but that's not always the case. Only reuse life jackets if the child wearing the jacket meets weight and water activity recommendations and passes a quick test.

Help your child get into the life jacket. Fasten all buckles and straps, and have them put their arms directly overhead. If the life jacket makes contact with your kid's chin, there's a good chance it is too loose.

3. Leave Infants on Land

Open water is no place for a newborn baby. Have someone stay back ashore to care for children under 1 year old. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are unavailable for newborns. Wait to have kids tag along on a boat until they are old enough to wear a personal flotation device.

If you must take a baby on a boat, always keep them in your arms. Leaving babies in strollers or removable car seats is dangerous, as these accessories sink in water.

4. Dress for Weather Changes

Having the right clothes and equipment is a significant part of boat safety for kids. Boat owners love to head out on the water during warm weather, but the forecast can change. Always pack extra sweatshirts, hats and socks in case kids get cold.

You might plan to stay on the water from dawn to dusk. In that case, make sure you and your family have what you need to stay comfortable in the sun or if winds pick up unexpectedly. Some families choose to go boating on chilly fall or spring days. Always keep your eyes out for signs of hypothermia since children are at an increased risk in the off-season. Stop children from shivering by wrapping them in a warm blanket.

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5. Pack More Food Than You'll Need

As you've probably experienced, many kids and adults get cranky when they're hungry. You should always keep plenty of bottled water and snacks onboard. Boat safety with kids includes having healthy, nutritious foods for all passengers. Prevent feelings of dehydration and lightheadedness by packing refreshments, fruits and vegetables in a cooler.

Additionally, it's wise to bring more food and drink than you think you might need for your trip. You'll be glad you did if you run out of fuel or experience a mechanical issue.

6. Schedule Swimming Lessons Beforehand

Boat owners must analyze a child's swimming capabilities before taking them aboard. Whether someone falls overboard or water activities are part of the itinerary, swimming in a lake, pond or bay is different than a traditional pool.

Enrolling your child in swimming lessons goes hand in hand with your child's safety while on a boat. Everyone in your family should know what to expect when swimming in open water. Inform young ones about the dangers of limited visibility, unknown depths and, most importantly, rip currents.

Enrolling your child in swimming lessons goes hand in hand with your child's safety while on a boat.

7. Develop Water Safety Boating Protocols With Kids

Ensure kids understand what they are allowed to do on a boat. Establishing some ground rules for spending time on a boat helps prevent accidents.

Advise children to keep hands and feet inside the boat or behind safety railings at all times. Prohibiting kids from running on the deck is another way to prevent young ones from slipping, bumping into equipment or creating distractions while you operate the boat.

8. Swimming Aids Are Just for Fun

A day on the water might involve swimming in calm areas. Remember that swimming aids like pool noodles and kickboards are strictly for lounging and exercising. These devices are not a safe substitute for a Coast Guard-approved flotation vest. Anyone using pool noodles and other toys in the water should also be wearing a vest.

9. Learn CPR Techniques

Hopefully, you will not have to perform CPR on a passenger, but it is beneficial to know the correct techniques in case you do. It's a best practice to enroll in a water rescue or CPR class before bringing others on your boat. Understanding the fundamentals of water rescue and CPR can save lives, and you lower your risk of passengers drowning or getting injured during the process.

10. Bring a Mobile Phone and Test Your Radio

You should always have a way to communicate with others on land. If someone has a medical emergency or your boat's engine stops working, a mobile phone or a very high-frequency marine radio is your saving grace. Check to see your phone and VHF radio have power before you depart. These devices make it possible to call for help if you experience a boating safety emergency with your kids.

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