Summer holidays: sailing with children

a father, two children and a dog sit on a boat deck looking out to sea.

What do you need to remember when sailing with children? The summer holidays may or may not be full of sunshine, but longer days certainly mean that more time can be spent on days out by boat. You may be taking your children or grandchildren out to sea for the first time. Or perhaps you’re learning sailing skills together as a family. The next generation is always important when it comes to sharing a passion. So how do you enjoy sailing with children safely and joyfully?

Age based tips

The younger the children, the more your sailing experience will be concerned with safety. From babies to teens, there are key basics to remember.


Having a baby in the family shouldn’t stop you from sailing. Indeed, the earlier that your baby is involved in sailing life, the easier it will be to instil understanding, passion, and keep them safe. Babies should wear an age appropriate life jacket at all times. 


As well as a life jacket, consider further safety measures for wandering children. Safety nets are helpful, but no precaution will be as good as vigilance. Someone should have eyes on a toddler at all times. Small children are notoriously curious, so old fashioned attention really is the best safety precaution. 


As your children grow, they come to understand instructions and rules. Whether they follow them or not is another matter. It’s important, then, to repeatedly reinforce safety rules to your children while on the boat. Make sure that your children can swim. This is a life skill that can make the difference in an emergency situation.


Even before they reach teenagerhood, get your kids involved in helping on the boat. Tasks don’t need to be complex, but the more that they are involved, the more you’ll feel connected as a family unit. That’s because the second thing to remember is to give them space. As well as chipping in, let your teen retreat to the soft seating to read a book (or scroll their phone..!)

Unbreakable rules

Safety rules are so important on the boat. You might want to send your kids on an introduction course when they’re old enough. Of course this may not be necessary if you’re teaching through exposure. So what are the key things that we should all drum into our children when sailing as a family?

  • Step on and off the boat. No jumping and keep your hands free.
  • Keep a hand on the boat.
  • Don’t go onto deck alone. This is probably one for the adults to directly enforce as much as the kids.
  • Wear your life jacket at all times.
  • Don’t touch anything that is out of bounds. Be clear about which areas these are and repeat the information.
  • Practice safety procedures and drills. 

Sharing joy

If you have a passion for sailing, you’ll almost certainly want to pass this to your children. A sailing trip shouldn’t be about rules and fear. You can’t control whether they will love being at sea, but there are some things you can do 

Taking it slowly

Build up distance and scale of an excursion. Going straight into a ambitious adventure will just pile on the pressure and carries a high disappointment risk. Remember that the shortest trip will feel like an adventure to little ones. It just might not to you!

Pit stops

Mix things up by organising stop offs. They don’t have to be for anything amazing. It could be simply to have a ramble, to explore rock pools, or toast some marshmallows (safely!) This will stop small kids from getting stir crazy and rampaging all over your nice seating!


No matter how small, kids can be involved in navigation. From learning to read a compass to planning a route, try to work as a team. This will teach valuable skills along the way and keep the whole family engaged. 


While many aspects of your sailing trip can be turned into a game, the kids might also need downtime. They might play games based on the boat, or retreat below deck to play a traditional board game or console. It’s important to maintain balance. 

Sailing as a family can be an activity that you can enjoy for many years, as it evolves as children grow. It’s worth putting in the effort in the early years to reap the rewards.

More Posts