Introducing kids to boating

young girl on boat wearing hat, sunglasses and lifejacket

Boating is an enjoyable activity for the whole family, but it’s important to keep safety in mind when taking children on board with you.


Young children

If you’ve got young kids, they can still get involved and help with simple tasks such as stowing cushions or light equipment. Teach them boating words like port and starboard, and what various parts of the vessel are for.


School kids

School-aged kids can be taught how to get in and out of small boats or dinghies, and about stability and loading the boat. Teaching them to paddle a canoe or kayak or introducing them to sailing, windsurfing or board riding will help them to improve their balance and control.


Hazard spotting

It’s important for kids to understand and respect the water and to learn how to spot hazards. Teach them to recognise the tides, sandbars, reefs and shallows, as well as to keep a constant lookout and avoid collisions. They also need to be taught what various signs, buoys and markers mean and to learn to obey the rules on the water.


Taking the wheel

Once they are old enough, you can let your kids take a turn at the wheel under supervision. However, keep in mind that in Western Australia, children under the age of 10 cannot operate any vessel, even under supervision.



Boating safety can be taught from a young age and should be reinforced every time they’re on the boat. Teach kids to:

  • Wear a proper-fitting lifejacket at all times
  • Learn essential swimming and water safety skills, such as the Swim and Survive program
  • Be sunsmart – apply (and reapply) sunscreen, wear a hat and protective clothing
  • Stay well inside the boat as it is moving
  • Know where the emergency items are and how to use them, including the importance of only using certain items such as EPIRBs and flares if they are in real danger and the penalties for misusing them.
  • Remember what to do in various emergency situations, including staying with a capsized boat to make it easier for rescuers to spot them, and techniques such as the HELP position (Heat Escape Lessening Position).


Digital tools

There are also plenty of great boating apps available that you can download to your smartphone or tablet, which the kids will love!



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