15 Ways to Make Boating Fun For Kids

boating fun for kids

We all love a day on the boat and it’s a great way to make memories with your family. Without all the outside distractions, boating provides a fantastic opportunity for family bonding. And, boating can teach your kids about teamwork and help them develop new interests and skills, so it’s great for their self-esteem, too.

But little ones can get bored after an hour or two, so it’s smart to have a few ideas planned out ahead of time to make boating fun for kids when you’re out on the water all day.

Here are 15 ways to make boating fun for kids so the whole family can enjoy a day on the water.

See Also: 15 Fun Swimming Pool Games for Kids

How to Make Boating Fun For Kids

#1 – Invest in a Big Tube

kids towable tube safety

If you want to make boating fun for kids, there’s nothing better than investing in a big tube to pull behind the boat. Tubing will keep most kids occupied for hours, and they’ll be begging you to take them out every weekend.

Be sure to get a tube that’s big enough to accommodate at least a few kids at a time, because tubing is always more fun in a group.

See Also: 13 Tips When Tubing Behind a Boat

#2 – Bring a Little Fishing Pole

Fishing is one of the most fun activities you can do on a boat, no matter how old you are. If you bring along a kid-sized fishing pole, you’ll have your little one hooked on boating in no time.

It will break up the day and help them feel like they’re included in the fun. As an alternative, a small 2-person pontoon boat for fishing makes for a great father and son (or daughter) outing. 

#3 – Bring Lots of Fun Snacks

eating snack on boat

It’s no secret that kids love snacks, and fun snacks on a boat will add even more enjoyment to their trip. And, you don’t want to have to cut your trip short when the kids get hungry, either. Focus on snacks that aren’t too messy and will hold up well in the sun’s heat.

Here are some ideas: 

  • Pretzels or trail mix and mini marshmallows
  • Granola bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Apples, bananas, and other fruit that doesn’t require refrigeration
  • Cheese cubes, ham, and crackers if you have a cooler
  • Order pizza and meet the delivery guy at the dock. The kids will love it!

#4 – Bring Some Friends

Kids are almost always happier in a group, so let each one of your kids bring a friend or two if you have enough room on your boat.

It will have the added bonus of making them extra popular with the other kids and they’ll love teaching their friends all the rules of boating safety.

#5 – Get a Slide

boat slide

Another accessory to make boating fun for kids is an inflatable slide. While the older kids can swim and play on the tube, younger ones can slide right off the side of your pontoon boat into the water.

A well-made slide can last for several seasons and it’s well worth the investment.

#6 – Bring Crayons, Playdough, and Small Toys for the Littles

Keeping a toddler busy on a boat can be a challenge. If you have a pontoon boat, consider setting up a little table or blanket in the shade of your bimini.

Little ones can do activities like play games, color, or play with playdough and small toys while the adults are fishing, swimming, and lounging in the sun. It’s a great way to keep toddlers from getting bored and cranky, especially after they lose interest in looking at or going into the water.

See Also: Is it Safe to Bring a Baby on a Boat?

#7 – Put Them in Charge of the Skier Down Flag

skier down flag

Little ones might not be brave enough to get in the rough, cold water, but they can still have fun on the boat.

Bring along a long, orange downed skier flag and put your little one in charge of waving it whenever a tuber or skier hits the water. It’ll give them something entertaining to do, and most kids love having a job.

#8 – Get Your Child a Wetsuit

Little kids don’t have as much tolerance for cold water as older kids and adults do. If you get your little one a wetsuit, he’ll enjoy going in the water a lot more and the trip will be more fun for you and them.

Related: Wetsuit vs Drysuit Comparison

#9 – Let Your Kids Practice Driving the Boat

kid driving boat

Be sure to check the laws on this one first. In many states, it’s perfectly fine for kids to drive the boat while they’re sitting in your lap. You can let your kids control the steering wheel while you’re in charge of the throttle.

Obviously, you’ll only want to do this when you’re well away from other boats and obstacles. Your kids will love it, as long as you’re there to take over at a moment’s notice.

#10 – Have a Picnic on the Beach

You can make boating fun for little ones by breaking up the day with a picnic on the beach. Little kids can get bored watching the older kids on the tube or adults skiing, but the beach offers something for everyone.

After lunch, you can swim, toss a frisbee, look for seashells, or just stretch out in the sun. It’s also the perfect opportunity for a bathroom break, which is a must for little ones.

Related: 12 Fun Beach Activities for Toddlers

#11 – Don’t Forget to Bring the Essentials

child having fun boating

There should be a life jacket on board for every passenger on the boat. Life jacket laws vary by state, so be sure to check those before you head out. 

Keep a first aid kit on board, too. With kids climbing in and out of the water, there’s bound to be a scrape or two.

Sunscreen is also super important, for everyone. Kids will be more comfortable if they have a hat to keep the sun out of their eyes, too.

And, being on the boat means getting wet. It’s a good idea to have an extra set of clothes for each kid so they don’t have to sit around in wet clothes all day. Don’t forget a jacket and some warmer clothes if you’ll be out on the water after the sun goes down.

Related: 7 Essential Supplies Every Boat Should Have

#12 – Let Your Child be the DJ

Being in charge of the music is another great job that can make boating more fun for the kids. If you have a Bluetooth stereo or speaker on the boat, your child can pick the songs off of a playlist on your phone.

It may seem like a small thing, but kids love to be in charge of something and it’s a great way to keep them entertained.

#13 – Be Prepared for Motion Sickness

child on boat

If the water’s choppy, your child might get a little nauseous. Be prepared for seasickness by bringing along some peppermint candies, seasickness bands, or another kid-safe remedy. 

#14 – Watch a Movie on the Boat

If you’ve got electricity on your boat, one of the best ways to make boating fun for kids is to watch a movie on the boat. Hang a big white sheet from the bimini and project the movie from the bow. It’s the perfect way to end a fun day on the water.

#15 – Explore a New Cove

When it comes to fun things to do on a boat, you really can’t go wrong with a little exploring. Instead of anchoring in the same cove every time, try to find a new spot to explore every now and then.

It might just be a few minutes down the river, or it could be on the other side of the lake. The point is to find some new scenery to look at and a new place to drop your fishing hook.

Be sure to bring along some binoculars and some wildlife identification books so the kids identify the new sights.

Wrapping It Up

If you’re new to boating with kids, you’re in for some fun adventures. Boating as a family is a great way to create lifelong memories and help your kids develop new skills and self-confidence.

It also eliminates outside distractions so you’re all more focused on family time. With a little advanced planning, boating can be fun for the entire family, even for your little ones.

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