Babes on Board: 6 BIG TIPS for Successful Boating with the LITTLES!

There is something truly magical about boating with the little guys!

Their unabashed excitement and joy when boating and enjoying life on the water is almost as much fun as seeing through their eyes on Christmas morning.

Who hasn’t felt their heart surge when your little princess squeals as she spots her first dolphin dancing in the wild?

Or how about the thrill you feel when your little man muscles his first fish onto the boat?

What a blast! There are so many wonderful opportunities to share life and adventure with children in tow.  No doubt, we’d all agree that boating creates special bonding moments that last a lifetime.

Many of us at Emerald Coast Marine Center have children of our own. We love taking our kids boating! We’ve gathered some of our team’s best practices in hope we can collectively help maximize your family’s boating fun!


Our Top 6 Tips for Boating with Kids Include …



  • Plan Ahead. While it’s great to be impromptu and to go boating whenever the mood strikes, it pays to plan ahead if the little guys are coming along for the ride.                                                 



Consider pre-packing a special “kids-only” canvas or waterproof bag that’s ready to roll when you are!


Winning bag ingredients might include:

  • Sunscreen (see more details in this blog)
  • A mix of pre-packaged healthy snacks  
  • Bottled waters and juices
  • Extra diapers for the younger set and sealable, disposable waste bags
  • Wipes
  • Towels
  • Brush or comb
  • Small water toys
  • Waterproof books
  • Lightweight blanket
  • Lightweight jacket
  • Change of Clothing
  • Hat or Cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Water shoes


Preparation should also include an advance adult analysis of the boat and its logistics. Consider in advance where you want to seat the kids to avoid conflict at the dock. Also, troubleshoot any potential problem areas that might create safety hazards for little ones, like loose ropes, anchors or other gear that might trip up an otherwise awesome adventure.



  • Fun in the Sun! Yes, all that warm sunshine is great for the soul … but can wreak havoc on tender young skin! Be sure to slather your youngster generously and ALL OVER with an appropriate rated sunscreen BEFORE departure. Re-apply throughout the day, especially following swimming activity.  



In addition to the healthy dosage of sunscreen, it’s smart to bring along a cute sun hat or ball cap, along with kid-sized sunglasses to protect eyes from the harmful glare of the sun. Be sure to check out the Emerald Coast Marine Center parts department for super cute youth-sized hats!



  • Life Jackets for Junior! Some kids complain when having to don a life jacket. However, it is critical safety gear we highly recommend and advocate.  



Some considerations:

  • Choose a life jacket that is U.S. Coast Guard approved and rated. Don’t skimp when it comes to your child’s safety!
  • Check to ensure the fit and weight stipulations are accurate for your youngster. Also, keep in mind that what fits today may not fit six months later due to growth spurts, etc. Kids won’t want to wear something that is too tight, too loose, too bulky, etc.
  • There are different types of vests and each may offer different designs and safety features. For example, some have zippers and snaps with leg straps, while others may sport sleek, neoprene pullovers. Take time to review and try different options to determine what is best suited for your child and boating environment.   
  • For youngsters especially, involving them in choosing the vest often pays dividends. Some manufacturers sport popular themed designs, which may make wearing the vest a lot more fun and agreeable! After all, who’s going to complain when wearing a super cool Star Wars or adorable Disney Princess life vest?    



  • Communicate: Keep it Simple but Make it Clear! Before you take your kids (or guests who are kids) boating, it’s super important to sit down and clearly review the rules of the road.



DON’T wait until you’re on the dock and ready to take off to have this conversation, as there are too many distractions vying for their attention. If possible, meet with the kids before you ever drive to the dock, to explain the appropriate and expected behavior. Then, when you settle your crew on the boat, reference the rules once again.


Communications might include:

  • Remain securely seated while the boat is underway
  • Keep their hands and feet inside the boat at all times
  • Be quiet  when the boat is departing or returning from the dock
  • Never run around the marina or dock area
  • For younger kids especially, hold hands with mom or dad (or whomever) and wait to be assisted onto the boat      

Consider age-appropriate messaging for the little tykes who have little experience and cannot anticipate expectations.



  • Timing is Everything! While an all-day boat ride might be the formula for success for a group of adults, it may be too much for tots. When making plans to take kids boating, keep in mind their ages, routines like nap schedules and other considerations. A few hours may be more suitable based on their circumstances and experience.




  • Potty-Planning.  Depending on the age(s) of your kids and the type of boat you are operating, it is important to anticipate one of life’s natural requirements: potty-time!



First, make sure everyone (adults, too) hits the head before departure.

Second, if your boat is equipped with a head, make sure everyone knows how to operate it and understands unique nuances compared to the traditional household john.

Third, if your boat is not equipped with a head, do you have a portable toilet you can bring along? Or, will you plan to stop en route at a waterfront venue where restroom facilities are available?

Consider your situation and the age of your crew as you plan for your outing. While you may have a bladder of steel, your younger guests may not.   

A final tip … keep a roll of TP in a zip-lock style bag or container just in case you need it!


We truly hope this blog from your friends at Emerald Coast Marine Center is helpful as you plan boating activities and adventures for your family. Our goal is for you to have as much fun as possible!

In addition, we would love pix of you and your kids enjoying the boating life to share on our Facebook page and other social media platforms! Send us your fave pix and if we choose to use it, we’ll reward you with a fun family boating prize! Email

  We hope to see you and your kids on the water soon!

Feel free to share this link with friends and family on your social media channels!