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Boating with Kids: From a Mother’s perspective

I’m the mother of two rambunctious boys, ages five and two.  Like most mothers of young children I go through my day in a foggy, frazzled state of being, my mind constantly stuck between my full time job and what my two- year- old most recently flushed down the toilet.  When my parents suggested a boat trip on Lake Muskoka I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to introduce my youngest to the boating lifestyle.   I was not prepared.

In retrospect, I should have realized we were destined for failure. Had I taken a moment to reflect back on my pregnancy, I would have recalled my eight-month pregnant self sitting on the floor of the boat, over inflated stomach protruding from a life-preserver designed for a size two runway model.  It was determined (by forces stronger than myself, ie. my mother) that a boat ride would settle my stomach and that, currently being approximately the size of a prize pumpkin, I would enjoy the peaceful sway of the boat on the waves.  I did not.  Had I remembered this before putting my two-year-old on the boat I would have known that he was destined to be a landlubber.

Pulling into the parking lot of the marina and presenting my two-year-old with his shiny new lifejacket gave me my first indication that the next few hours were to be challenging.  He refused to contemplate putting on the lifejacket and had to be carried down the dock kicking and screaming.  Depositing him into the boat, he promptly tried to climb out. Recalling an occasion when my now-five-year old discovered that the ladder on the swim platform unfolds and was sent plummeting into the water off the back of the boat (yes the boat was docked and yes he had on his lifejacket), I was sensitive towards the need for a lifejacket; as a matter of fact I’m a drill sergeant when it comes to them.  I wrestled my two-year-old into the jacket and perched him on the front seat.

Settling into the ride, it soon became apparent that, much like his mother when pregnant with him, he was not enjoying the gentle roll of the waves.  Actually he looked like an Angry Bird turning green.  Not good.  We managed to get our big cruiser up on plane, a feat it hasn’t seen since about 1989, in order to return to the dock in time. We realized that boating was perhaps not the ideal pastime for a motion-sick child…but how were we to know until we tried?

This story brings me to the point of this article.  It’s not to chase you away from boating with kids but rather to make sure you’re better prepared than I was.  Here are some mom tips for boating with kids that will make your life easier and your day more enjoyable.

  1. Get them used to the life jacket before you put them on the boat. If you have a toddler, expect them to be unhappy. If you have a chunky toddler the jacket will make them hot and bunch their cheeks up.  Dress them cool because an over-heated kid is a grumpy kid.
  1. Bring a change of clothes. We didn’t expect our five-year-old to fall in.
  1. Bring toys. While we enjoy the scenery, young kids get bored.
  1. I suggest destination boating. A three hour long cruise is asking a little much. Have a planned goal like a local marina for ice cream, a beach or a picnic in a nice bay.
  1. If you do go cruising, try to let them get out for a bit, whether it’s for a swim off the side or a quick stroll at a marina. They need to stretch and use the facilities.
  1. Bring snacks. It entertains them.
  1. Bring an anti-nauseant. You never know.

We’re going to try boating again next year because it’s an amazing past-time for the family and one I enjoyed growing up.  I’m sure that now we know what we need to, our next voyage will be a blast!

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