Fun Tips to Teach Kids About Boating

Prepare your kids for a lifetime of boating adventures by involving them early! There’s plenty to learn – and we’ve got some tips to help kids gain a deeper appreciation for boating and have fun doing it. 

Whether you’re planning a trip to the lake or just want to ignite your child’s curiosity about the vastness of the ocean, these tips will ensure that your little sailors are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to embark on their boating adventures. So, grab your life jackets and get ready to set sail on an unforgettable journey of learning and fun!

First Things First: Boating Safety for Kids

Boating safety should be the foremost priority when introducing kids to the world of boating. It’s crucial to teach them about the potential risks and how to stay safe on the water. 

  1. Life jacket fashion show! Start by explaining the importance of wearing a life jacket at all times, regardless of their swimming abilities. Show them different types of life jackets and let them try them on to understand how they work.
  2. Teach them about the dangers of overcrowding a boat and how to maintain proper balance. Have fun teaching them the concept of balance, like stacking small toys or dolls on a toy raft, but be straightforward – not playful or joking – when actually explaining the rules.
  3. Instill in them the significance of following safety rules, such as not running on the boat, always keeping their hands and feet inside, and not distracting the person driving the boat.
  4. Help kids to be aware of the weather conditions and how it affects boating. Budding scientists and engineers might enjoy topics like how weather affects currents, how GPS works, or how to consult tide tables. Other important topics include how to understand navigational markers, how visibility is affected due to weather, when to postpone boat trips due to weather, and how to practice UV safety even on foggy or rainy days.

By emphasizing the importance of boating safety from the beginning, you’ll ensure that your kids develop good habits and stay safe while enjoying boating.

Teach Kids What To Do In Emergencies

Boating safety education should also include teaching kids how to respond in emergency situations. 

  1. Explain to them what to do in case someone falls overboard, and practice throwing life rings or flotation devices to simulate a rescue scenario.
  2. Teach them how to use a whistle or horn to attract attention if needed.
  3. Show them how to call for help if necessary.

Encourage them to be observant of their surroundings and to always have a designated adult supervising them while on a boat. Empower them with the knowledge and skills to make responsible decisions and stay safe on the water.


Family Fun Activities

Hands-on learning is fun and presents great opportunities for kids to ask questions. Here are some family-friendly activities to try:

  • Build a model boat together — Find an age-appropriate model kit and build it as a family project. There are snap-together models as well as elaborate scale models to choose from. As you assemble the parts and paint the boat, explain its different components and how they contribute to its functionality. This is a great bonding activity that helps kids visualize how real boats are constructed.
  • Go on a virtual boat tour — Many museums and boating organizations offer online tours of various boats, including historical vessels and modern yachts. These virtual tours allow your kids to explore different types of boats from the comfort of their own homes and learn about their unique features. Encourage them to ask questions and discuss what they find interesting about each boat.
  • Plan a visit to a local marina or boat show — Let your kids explore different types of boats, ask questions to boat owners or experts, and even take a short ride on a small boat if available. This hands-on experience will make boating more tangible and exciting for them.

Boating-Themed Games

Train their observational skills, stimulate curiosity, and encourage exploration!

  • Boating bingo — Create a bingo card with different boating-related items or scenarios, such as “sailboat,” “life jacket,” or “a dolphin.” Give each player a card and let them mark off the items as they spot them during a boating trip. The first player to get a line or a full house wins!
  • Scavenger hunt — Create a list of boating-related items or objects, such as a fishing rod, a buoy, or a seagull. Let your kids search for these items either on a boat or around a marina. Encourage them to take pictures of the items they find and create a scrapbook or a digital album afterward.
  • Boating trivia quiz — Prepare a list of boating-related questions and let your kids take turns answering them. You can include questions about boating safety, types of boats, famous boat races, or even boating history. This activity will not only test their knowledge but also encourage them to learn more about the fascinating world of boating.


There’s so much to learn about boats! Kids will soak up boat knowledge each time they go out with you. These fun lessons go a long way towards building boating knowledge as well as awareness and confidence. 

Learning to Identify Types of Boats

Create a matching game or flashcards to learn about different types of boats. Kids can help make the cards themselves. Introduce them to different boat types, what they look like, what purpose they have, and what their unique features are. Encourage kids to ask questions and share their thoughts about what they find most fascinating.

Learning Proper Boating Terminology

Using the right vocabulary will enhance their understanding and teach them to communicate effectively on a boat. Start with simple terms such as “bow” (the front of the boat) and “stern” (the back of the boat). Explain the concept of “port” (left side) and “starboard” (right side) and why these terms are used instead of “left” and “right.” Show them the different parts of a boat, such as the hull, deck, mast, and rigging, and explain their functions.

As your kids become more comfortable with the basic boating terms, you can introduce more advanced vocabulary related to navigation, weather conditions, and boat handling. Encourage them to use these terms in everyday conversation and reinforce their learning through practical application.

Learning Basic Boating Skills And Techniques

Learning skills can help your kids become confident and competent boaters. 

  • Basic boating knots — Start by teaching them how to tie basic knots, such as the bowline knot and the cleat hitch. Let them practice tying and untying these knots until they become proficient. Explain the purpose of each knot and when it is commonly used on a boat.
  • Basic navigation skills — Teach them how to read a compass, understand navigational charts, and identify different types of buoys and markers. You can create a simple navigational chart using a map and markers to simulate real-life navigation. Let your kids navigate a route by following the chart and identifying the correct markers along the way. This is a great way to practice problem-solving and critical thinking.
  • Basics of steering a boat — Safely show them how to hold the steering wheel or tiller, how to control the speed, and how to steer in different conditions. You can use a small model boat or a boat simulator. Let them take turns being the captain and give them simple instructions to follow, such as “turn left,” “slow down,” or “maintain a straight course.” This hands-on experience will help them develop a sense of control and responsibility while on a boat.
  • Basic navigation and reading nautical charts — Teach about navigating and reading nautical charts. Explain the key components of a nautical chart, such as the compass rose, depth soundings, and symbols for different navigational aids. Show them how to interpret the information on the chart and how to plot a course using latitude and longitude coordinates. When you go out on your boat, involve them in the navigation process. Let them help you plot the course on a chart, calculate the distance, and identify potential hazards along the way. During the trip, encourage them to actively participate in monitoring the navigation and make adjustments if necessary. This is a great confidence builder.

Learning To Respect Wildlife

Teach kids to respect marine life and to avoid touching or disturbing any creatures they encounter. Explain the importance of not feeding wildlife and maintaining a safe distance to avoid any potential harm. It’s also important to respect habitats, including coral reefs and rocky outcrops or jetties along a shore. Use a kid’s natural empathy to teach respect for wildlife.

Resources for Further Learning and Exploration

Encourage your kids to read books about boating, ranging from picture books for younger kids to adventure novels for older children. Visit your local library or bookstore and let them choose books that pique their interest.

Online resources can also be valuable tools for learning. Many boating organizations, museums, and educational websites offer interactive games, videos, and articles specifically designed for kids. Explore these resources together and let your kids delve into the world of boating at their own pace.

Additionally, consider enrolling your kids in a boating safety course or a junior sailing program. These programs often provide hands-on training and a structured curriculum to teach kids the essential skills and knowledge needed for safe and enjoyable boating. Check with local boating clubs or organizations to find out about available programs in your area.

Final Thoughts

Teaching kids about boating can be a rewarding and exciting journey. By incorporating fun activities, emphasizing boating safety, and providing opportunities for hands-on learning, you’ll ignite their curiosity and build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills. Remember to make boating enjoyable and engaging for your kids, and let their natural sense of wonder lead the way.