Now that the school summer holidays are here you may be planning some day trips on the canal, or even a full boating holiday. Boating is a great activity for kids; if they’re old enough they can get involved with the locks and steering.They might also enjoy drawing or photographing the wildlife, or dressing up as pirates! First get out your Nicholson’s guide and get the whole family involved in planning your cruise. You can give each child age appropriate responsibilities, such as casting off, mooring up and winding paddles. Younger children can be asked to watch out for the next bridge, lock or tunnel, or make a game out of spotting herons, swans, ducks or other wildlife.


The Boaters Handbook gives a really good overview of safety on board, and parents should aim to teach the basics to any children who are going to get involved in operating the boat.

Ifyou’re using a hire boat the hire boat company will provide life jackets free of charge. Otherwise they can also be bought from your nearest large chandlery. When I lived aboard with young children we used toddler reins secured to a mushroom vent on the roof of the boat to keep our youngest from falling overboard, as was done by Victorian working boat families. If you’re going to try this yourself be aware of risks from brushes with overhanging branches, low bridges, flying ropes etc. and never leave your child unattended. I also sellotaped a list of basic lock rules to the kitchen cupboard and got my pre-school aged children to repeat them back to me:

• No running
• Stay close to a grown up
• Hold hands when told to
• Keep away from the edge

Decide who is the ‘skipper’ in your family and make sure that every crew member knows some basic rules and what roles they have to play. It’s a good idea for everyone to read the Safety Check List at the beginning of The Boaters Handbook. Making sure that everybody is safe should ensure you create some holiday memories to treasure this summer.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a boat Boatshed has handbooks for that as well! Check out the links below.

Blog by Peggy

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