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Introducing Kids to Boating

Often times the biggest hurdle to overcome when introducing kids to boating, is simply getting started. It may seem overwhelming to put your small children on the water, but with the right preparations everyone will have the best time! The key to getting started with introducing kids to boating is to start small and keep realistic expectations.

Introducing Kids to Boating - Start Small & Keep Realistic Expectations

Planning a 5 hour day with multiple locations the first time on the water can potentially be setting yourself up for a rough day. However a short cruise to a local sandbar for a few hours will help build everyones confidences on the water. Consider one or two activities you would like to take on for the journey and stay open to changes! As everyone learns more about boating, safety and destinations they enjoy, the trips will naturally become longer and more adventurous!

Here are some easy and kid friendly rides from our Gulfstream Clubs:

From Palm Beach Gardens:

Cruise to Peanut Island and snorkel with the tropical fish, and then head to Frigates for a delicious waterfront treat. Member Services can hook you up with the perfect snorkeling gear for everyone aboard.

Introducing Kids to Boating

From Hypoluxo:

Just North and West of the Boynton Inlet lies a sandbar that locals call Beer Can Island.  A nice little sand bar that, on a good day, exposes dry sand the size of a football field.  Get there on an incoming tide to enjoy the clearest water of the day.  You can expect to see kids, and dogs, and plenty of locals soaking up the sun!

From Delray:

A quick ride down the waterway enjoying the beautiful houses and nature will bring you to Two Georges Waterfront Restaurant. Dock up for a delicious lunch and catch some live music.

From Tierra Verde:

Just around the corner is one of the most beautiful places to toss an anchor and swim at Shell Key Preserve. You can pack a lunch and enjoy hours of fun in the sun with shallow and calm waters.

You’ll find Bunces Pass just a stone’s throw south of Shell Key. The area has beautiful white sand and clear water. There’s a gentle lagoon with a sandbar that fends off the waves coming in from the Gulf, and plenty of space to anchor.

From Tampa:

There are few locations in Florida better suited to introducing kids to fishing than in Tampa Bay! Ask our member services for all your gear and they’ll point you in the direction of some great places to drop a line.

Give Them Responsibility

Kids want to feel included in the process and apart of the crew, so why not make the most of the extra hands on deck! When introducing kids to boating Start out by assigning them little jobs. This empowers them and makes them feel as if they’ve accomplished something of the utmost importance. In most cases, the tasks will require your supervision until your child is old enough or well-versed enough to handle things on their own.

introduce kids to boating

Cleaning - Simply wiping down the vinyl in the cockpit or making sure the interior parts of the boat are squeaky clean with a washcloth.

Packing and Tidying Up - Carrying light weight gear on and off the boat, and packing up to go home at the end of the day can be extremely helpful.

Helping the Captain - This includes prepping for meals before heading out on the water, making sure the captain has everything he/she may need, and being an extra set of eyes.

Tying Knots and Handling Lines - Start with learning how to tie essential knots and allowing them to tie up loose lines in the cockpit. Eventually, they can progress to bigger tasks like helping tie the boat to the dock.

Learning to Navigate - Teaching your child to steer properly and keep an eye out for buoys or channel markers to help keep the boat intact is essential.

Taking the Wheel - With the right supervision and boater education courses, of-age children are more than able to operate the boat or at least be an interactive co-caption. Giving your child this task will allow him/her to understand the responsibility of driving a boat and protecting the safety of the people on board.

Remember not to over-task anyone. Too much may be worse than no responsibility at all, as it may create a dangerous situation. Judge any questionable situation carefully. You don’t need to step in every time your crew has a problem. Unless it’s a potentially dangerous situation that could too easily escalate, let them work it out.

Designate “Safe Zone”

If possible, creating a ‘safe zone’ onboard can be great locations for stocking up extra toys and pillows so your kids have a comfortable place to relax and pass time. This will also give the captain/crew a particular area where they can focus their supervision if there’s a lot going on (weather, fishing, docking, etc). If you don’t have room on your vessel, something as simple as assigning seats for each person means they’ll know where to be when moving (and so will you).

Establish and Enforce Rules

When the boat is underway there is no more important thing to remember than rules are there for a reason. Ensure you talk to your family about boating safety rules before ever going on the boat, and make sure everyone is compliant. Make boating an activity that you do as a family to spend quality time with one another, but not in a way that it becomes babysitting for adults.

Some Rule to Keep in Minds

  1. Everyone should keep their hands and feet inside the boat at all times.

  2. Point out safety features and practice routines. Create a safety plan and be sure everyone is aware of what to do.

  3. Kids should be in their safe zone during docking and anchoring to be sure the captain can give full attention to the vessel.

  4. NEVER bend the rules on life jackets. Over time, kids will become so accustomed to wearing them that going without will feel unnatural.

  5. Know when and where it is safe to swim and always keep your eyes out for hazards.


Every step of the way your children are going to learn more and gain more confidence with boating. When introducing kids to boating, there is so much to learn and explore and the natural curiosity of children can bring out the best in any trip! When boating continue to foster their sense of wonder with the water, point out animals and landmarks, be open to questions and maybe even as some yourself! When you get back home reading books about the Florida waterways, coloring books with wildlife, and practicing skills like tossing a line in the backyard all can help create a love for the water for a lifetime.

For more information on how to have a fun boat day for the whole family, check out our guide on tips and tricks to keep kids entertained while aboard! And as always, our Member Services team can point you in the direction the best locations to cruise to with the little ones in mind.


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