One of the best ways to get your kids engaged in the boating experience is to assign them specific tasks they are responsible for doing aboard your Heyday boat. By doing this, you turn them from passive passengers into active crewmembers of your boating team. Start with easy tasks and as they gain knowledge you can promote them to higher ranks with more responsibilities.
Kids can be given simple tasks as soon as they can understand and take direction. Some kids can do this at a very young age while others might need more time. The point is to systematically teach your kids to boat, one task at a time. The process should be fun and include lots of positive reinforcement.
Start by telling them you are promoting them to the rank of swabbie and that this is a very important position. Their first main responsibility is to bring the captain certain items you need. Start with dock lines and fenders. Explain to them what they are used for and how important they are. Give commands such as, “Swabbie, get me two sets of dock lines, please.” Ask them to say, “aye, aye!” to let you know they heard you and are complying. By using their titles rather than names, it becomes more of a role-playing game than a parent telling their kids to do things.
As they get older and have watched you place the fenders and lines and understand their use, start letting them do some of the tasks themselves. Start with placing fenders. Work in some nautical jargon, such as port (left side of the boat) and starboard as well as bow (front), stern (rear), and amidships (the middle). Then progress to handling dock lines. Once they have learned to place fenders and tie up the boat, promote them to deckhand.
The next milestone in their learning curve is the position of ski master, where they learn to set up the tow ropes, ensure everyone is wearing their vest properly, retrieve and stow boards and toys, and take turns spotting skiers.
Then, there’s the final big jump to boat pilot, where you instruct them how to safely tow other skiers, dock the boat and navigate to destinations using the GPS.
By making your kids active members of your crew, they will learn by doing and taking ownership of the tasks that need to be done on a boat. Eventually, these learned skills will be stacked together and will make them skilled boaters in their own right. Learning how to work within an established hierarchy will also serve them well not only in school but also as they grow into adulthood.