Baby On Board – Guidelines for Taking your Children Aboard  


Planning to take advantage of the numerous opportunities for boating is an outstanding idea, but if you are traveling with children things become a bit more complicated. While there are many who are perfectly fine with taking infants aboard marine vehicles, there are certain guidelines that need to be followed in order to ensure the safety of everyone.

How Young is Too Young for Taking a Boat Ride?

The United States Coast Guard strongly recommends that children under 18 lbs be excluded from water travel as it can pose a serious threat to their safety. Though they do not necessarily enforce this in any way, it is something for parents to keep in mind. If your child is over that weight limit, there are still certain precautions that you’ll want to keep in mind, which we’ll address now.

Basic Protection for Children on the Water

Safety on the water starts with a life jacket for both adults and children, and when you are choosing one for your child, you will need to take their size into account. Now in many cases the boat owner will have the craft stocked with Type II life jackets, but sometimes a child sized life vest is something that you’ll need to seek out on your own. An infant life jacket features a built in cushion near the top which is tasked with keeping the infant’s head out of the water. This is especially useful considering that the majority of infants are unable to support the weight of their own head.

Note that while the Coast Guard does recommend keeping children under 18 lbs off of marine watercraft, there are no hard rules about sitting in the slip and simply enjoying the amenities that the boat has to offer. This usually goes for large yachts and party boats, but you can still enjoy a pontoon boat or a fishing boat in this manner. In the end, it’s really up to you.

In choosing any type of life jacket suitable for your child, is important to understand that children tend to panic when they fall into the water, and understandably so! With that in mind, with any life jacket you choose to get for them, make sure that it fits snugly, and that it is difficult to wiggle out of. Always test the life jacket before you put it to practical use, and ensure that it cannot be simply pulled over your child’s head. Finally, and most importantly, inflatable toys are NOT to be used as life preservers.

Child safety with boating excursions do not end with a life jacket. While staying afloat is important, staying safe from the sun is perhaps even more so. Infant skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and with that being the case, having them exposed to the sun for long periods of time can potentially be very damaging. That being said, it is strongly recommended that you equip them with a wide brimmed hat to help keep the sun from directly affecting them. Always chose light colors to avoid overheating – they can overheat much faster than you realize, and certainly much faster than the average adult. The rule of thumb to follow: if you’re hot, they’re hot.

Sunscreen is another very important method of protection, and while an adult will be able to make do with an SPF of 20 or 30, children should be given an SPF of 50 just to be on the safe side. Child safe sunscreen will ensure that the lotion does not melt and run into their eyes while you are on your boating trip.

Other Considerations

Along with keeping your children safe from the more obvious detriments, when you are in the mood for boating, you must also consider sea sickness which is common in children who have never been on a boat before. Of course your child might already have their sea legs, naturally, but do you really want to find out the hard way? If not, then look in your local drugstore for motion sickness patches. They’re a great way to help ensure that your child doesn’t succumb to illness, potentially ruining your vacation.

Taking a child on vacation can most definitely present some challenges, but nothing that you can’t handle. Follow the above tips and you’ll be all set for the perfect boating vacation with your family.

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