Teach Your Kids the Difference Between
Open Water and Pools
Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: They need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
Make sure kids swim only in areas designated for swimming.
Teach children not to dive into oceans, lakes or rivers, because you never know how deep the water is or what might be hidden under the surface.
Actively Supervise Kids In and Around Open Water
Every child is different, so enroll your child in swimming lessons when you feel he or she is ready. Teach children how to tread water, float and stay by the shore.
Make sure an adult is present whenever a teen is operating a personal watercraft. Let your teen operate a boat only in a supervised setting and in adherence to the laws in your area. Laws regarding the operation of a boat or watercraft vary from community to community.
Wear a Life Jacket
Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports.
Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have kids make a "touchdown" signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits a child's chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.
Infant Appropriate Life Jackets
According to the U.S. Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety, babies should not travel on a boat — including rowboats, kayaks, motorboats, and sailboats — until they are at the appropriate weight to wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD). Here's some more information on how to choose the right life jacket.
Hold on to your baby while also wearing your own life jacket. Car seats are not a good option. If the boat were to capsize, the seat would sink instantly.
Keep Little Kids Warm
Infants and young kids are at a higher risk for hypothermia, so if you are taking a baby on a boat, just take a few extra precautions to keep your baby warm. If your children seem cold or are shivering, wrap them tightly in a dry blanket or towel.
Don't Rely on Swimming Aids
Remember that swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD).
Childproof Your Boat and Develop
Some Basic Rules
Explain some basic boat rules and have everyone follow them. Children need to understand and follow rules such as keeping their hands and feet inside the boat at all times and not running on a boat.
Learn From the Professionals
Enroll older kids in a boating safety course. Better yet, enroll with them.
Get a vessel safety check every year for free from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons. For more information go towww.uscgboating.org and click "get a free safety check."
Use Your Best Judgment
A large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers. To protect your safety and loved ones around you, it is strongly recommended not to drink alcoholic beverages while boating.
We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training.
Make sure there's a working carbon monoxide alarm on any motorboat to alert your family to any buildup of toxic fumes from the engine.
They want to be helpful
Our kids were always helpful in camp because they had assignments that were age appropriate. At four, a kid can collect twigs for tinder; at six, pump a water filter. At eight, they can help start the fire, and at ten they can start the fire themselves. At twelve they help with dinner; by fourteen they’re cooking dinner.
They get bored faster
This is especially true with passive activities when they’re younger, like sitting in a canoe while Mom and Dad do all the work. Again, they’re not little adults, and I’ve seen adults who are unable to grasp the opportunity to observe the world around them.
Be fair; don’t expect a kid to have the attention span of an average adult. Darren’s Rule is that for every year of age, a child can stand about 15 minutes of an activity before they need a change. It has worked every time. Just a few weeks ago I took some friends for a little river paddle with their kids, eight and ten. After two hours, the eight year-old started poking the ten year-old, almost to the minute. A half-hour later the ten-year-old wanted blood. We stopped, did something else for a while (chased dragonflies on shore) and we were able to continue. No problem.
They get hungry faster
That’s probably not exactly true, but it is a fact that my kids would not tolerate hunger as well as we did. Rather than three squares a day, count on feeding them snacks throughout the day as well as good sized portions at breakfast and dinner. You will be shocked at how many pancakes a hungry twelve year-old can wolf down after a few days of outdoor life.
Keeping high-energy snacks handy is critical and can help avoid meltdowns. Gummi worms worked for our kids, with the added benefit that we got to chug a few once in awhile. Granola bars, GORP, etc. are best packaged in small baggies to be dealt out as needed. Bonus: the kids can help prepare it before the trip.
This is not the time to withhold calories. If your kid is overweight, don’t use the outdoors as an amateur fat camp. They’ll resent you and hate the outdoors. Feed ‘em lots of good fat and carbohydrate-rich foods. They’ll burn it off with activity, plus their bodies burn more in general to keep their temperature regulated when there’s no thermostat.
They get hot faster
Of course they do. Keeping kids comfortable in the heat is just as important as keeping them warm. Again, you may not notice because you’re not hot. A red flushed complexion is a good sign things are toasty. Make use of evaporative cooling. A baseball cap dipped in water can cool them off quickly, and a wet bandana around the neck is helpful too.
Long-sleeve nylon wind shirts are wonderful for everyone. They keep off the sun but allow air to move freely. A wind shirt is one of my key pieces of gear for paddling, hiking, or backpacking.
It goes without saying that many adults forget to apply (or reapply) sunscreen. If you forget, chances are it’s not even on your kid’s radar. Make it a point to reapply every hour, even if it’s just a touch-up. Let the kids be in charge of watching the clock. A bad sunburn can ruin a trip in an hour. Prevention is the best cure.
They get cold faster
It’s simple thermodynamics. Little bodies lose heat faster than big ones. They get cold before you do, so don’t assume because you’re not cold that your little ones aren’t either. This is especially true in cases where you’re active (paddling a canoe or what have you, generating heat) and they aren’t (sitting in the canoe, shivering).
The solution is easy. Take more clothing than you think necessary. Because their clothes are smaller, it’s no big deal, and after a certain age (around six for our kids) they started carrying a lot of their own clothes and gear.
Kids are not little adults. Their needs are very different, and if you want to enjoy your time with kids, pay attention. There are five things I tell people when they ask about taking kids camping or hiking or paddling:
1) They get cold faster 2) They get hot faster 3) They get hungry faster 4) They get bored faster 5) They want to be helpful.
Camping with children can bring you back to
the simplicity of nature. It increases your awareness
of your surroundings and can refresh your appreciation for the many things that so often go unnoticed.
Many things are learned and experienced for the first time during each day in the life of a child. Patience is almost unavoidable. It is so important to take the time to enjoy the journey of these new experiences with your child.
In nature there are so many amazing things to discover. Camping can be a wonderful adventure. Just think – the birds and animals, the plants and trees, the rocks, the streams and ponds, the insects, the sounds, the weather, the wildflowers, and the many activities that can provide so much excitement.
The possibilities are endless! By planning successful, enjoyable camping trips when your children are young, you will set them on the path to a lifetime of outdoor adventures.