This article was contributed by LateSail.com, where you can find a wide range of sailing advice and the best deals on discounted bareboat charters.
There’s no doubt about it- sharing the pleasures of sailing with your children is an incredible opportunity for family bonding. Simply the idea of spending the day (or overnight!) on a boat can be a thrill for kids of any age; when they’re young they can just enjoy the views and sea breeze along with everyone else. As they get a bit older the real fun begins; they can learn how to actually sail the boat.
How Young is Too Young?
Anyone who’s been sailing with very small children knows that it can be hard enough to keep babies and toddlers entertained in a small space, much less teach them how the boat works. To start off, however, toddlers and pre-schoolers can begin to learn the names of the bow, mast, sail and other parts of the ship. They’ll also love being able to help ‘steer’ with mom or dad at the helm.
You can also begin to instill important safety precautions when sailing with young children- it’s never too early to teach them where they can and cannot be on the boat, to wear their life jackets at all times and how to safely board and step off the boat. Swimming lessons can also not be over-stressed at this time. A child who knows how to swim, and swim well, will not only be safer on board, they’ll be able to enjoy swimming, snorkelling and water sports with the whole family.
The Right Age to Start
Experts say that once kids reach the age of about 7 they can really start to learn more about sailing the boat. For many the transition will come naturally, as they’ve already become very interested in the process of sailing with their parents. Those who may not have had the chance to sail much in the past may need a bit more of a push to get bitten by the sailing bug.
As expert John Thorn, the RYA’s national sailing coach, mentions “The key thing is if they’re interested it’s probably time to let them do it, but don’t push them if they’re not interested”. Sailing is like any other activity- those who are inclined towards it will naturally be more motivated to learn more about it.
How to Make it Fun
If you have the chance to take your kids out on your own boat or a rented sailboat, try to make it a fun experience. Wait until the weather is warm and take them out with a friend or cousin. They may have a better time if they can learn alongside a buddy. You might even be able to start teaching them the ropes during a charter in the Caribbean or another vacation destination- what kid wouldn’t want to take a vacation to somewhere sunny and experience the joys of a full sail in stunning surroundings?
One very important point is that you don’t have to teach your child or children to sail on your own. Sailing lessons are readily available in many places- they make for a great afterschool activity. This will also help you avoid frustration if teaching isn’t exactly your strong point- again, learning to sail is supposed to be fun. Kids can take sailing lessons at your local harbor or even start off with a short sailing camp.
Sailing Encourages Life Skills
Kids who learn how to sail will be developing teamwork and decision making skills, among others. It’s also a great way to get them outdoors and away from the TV, tablets and video games. Sailing requires just a medium level of fitness (to move around the boat, position the sails and manage the ropes), but kids should definitely know how to swim. Sailing can also be appropriate for kids with special needs.
If your child doesn’t show much interest in sailing, don’t despair! Many a talented sailor didn’t actually have notion for the sport until much later in life. You can still encourage them in the direction of the seas without pushing them into it.