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Boating is one of the best ways to spend time together outdoors as a family. More importantly, it can also present a good opportunity for you to teach youngsters about boating safety at an early age. Keep these ten safe boating tips in mind any time you bring kids aboard.

1. Make sure every child on board has a properly fitting life jacket. Children should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device in a bright color that fits snugly and keeps each child’s chin above water. Never use any type of swimming aid, such as water wings or noodles, in place of a life jacket.

2. Consider enrolling your kids in swimming lessons. If you are a boater, sign your child up for swimming lessons as soon as you feel he or she might be ready. Make sure kids know how to tread water, float, and stay near the shore.

3. Make sure kids wear UVA/UVB sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and UV protective clothing. The sun is strong and powerful when reflected off of the water, so make sure kids are protected.

4. Pack plenty of hydration drinks, water, and healthy non-perishable snacks. Snacks like protein bars, raisins, frozen grapes, and turkey jerky are good choices for a day on the water. Keep a few electrolyte-enhanced hydration drinks in your cooler that contain sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, along with vitamins and minerals.

5. Keep boat trips short for kids 6 years of age or under. Remember that youngsters will get bored and tired fairly easily — limit your trips to a couple of hours at most. Make sure that kids are supervised at all times.

6. Run through basic safety rules with kids. Make sure children can follow simple rules, such as keeping hands and feet inside of the vessel at all times, and not to run while on board.

7. Educate kids (and everyone else on board) about the danger of propellers. Never allow anyone to board or exit the boat from the water when engines are on, and don’t allow anyone to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seatbacks, or other locations where they might fall overboard.

8. Set a good example. You will have a hard time enforcing family boating rules pertaining to life jackets or any other safety considerations if you don’t apply those rules yourself. Practice what you preach. Don’t just tell kids what they should do to be safe, but show them that you take safety seriously too.

9. Keep fishing hooks, filet knives, gaffs, and other sharp or potentially dangerous objects safely stashed in locked storage compartments.

10. Weather can change quickly, so teach kids to help your family stay alert and aware of dark clouds, sudden drops in temperature, or rough water conditions.

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