How to inspire a love for sailing in kids

How to inspire a love for sailing in kids

Encourage a lifelong passion for sailing in your children with these engaging strategies.

Inspiring children can be a remarkable achievement. It may seem challenging at times, but sparking an interest in our young ones, especially in activities like sailing, is incredibly rewarding. How can we nurture a child's enthusiasm for sailing, instill a respect for nature, and foster a desire to captain a boat in the future? Here are some tips to help your children become little sailors.

Why encourage kids to sail

There are numerous reasons why we should encourage our children to take up sailing or water sports. The most significant of these is the blend of healthy exercise and time spent in the fresh air, which contributes to their physical and mental fitness. But it's not just about fun; these experiences teach them valuable life lessons. As parents, we also gain experienced helpers who, after a few years, might even be able to replace us as captain.

Through sailing, they’ll learn the basics of steering and understand the physical principles of navigating water. They'll also pick up essential first aid skills that could be crucial not just at sea, but in many other situations. Sailing introduces them to different knots, and helps build a relationship with nature, marine animals, and ecology. It’s a way to bring science to life, far more engaging than typical classroom lessons. Imagine showing them fish, crustaceans, or birds in their natural habitats, or witnessing an octopus basking on a rock, dolphins playing at the bow, or sea cucumbers on the seafloor. And sailing isn’t just about learning to handle a boat. It’s also about exploring the world. We can take them to historical sites, visit ancient castles, and ruins, or enjoy breathtaking views from unique vantage points. 

Summer landscape on the coast - view of the harbour and Kamerlengo Castle in Trogir on the Adriatic coast of Croatia

Croatia's coastlines are literally lined with historic fortresses and are easily accessible for short trips.

Being on a boat and moving around on board develops a child's sense of balance, dexterity, and body awareness, including understanding their center of gravity and physical limits. It also fosters concentration and, importantly, offers a break from the digital world of mobile phones and computers. Additionally, sailing enhances team spirit, especially when kids sail together, forming a strong 'sailing team' and learning valuable teamwork skills that benefit school or future workplace collaborations.

Besides these practical benefits, sailing is simply fun and a fantastic way to create a memorable summer for your kids. It's an experience they're likely to appreciate even more as adults, when they can share their love of sailing with friends or loved ones.

YACHTING.COM TIP: We wrote more about the benefits of sailing in our article — 7 reasons to fall in love with sailing.

How to spark a childs interest in sailing?

Wondering how to make sailing an exciting adventure for kids? We've compiled a list of activities, principles, and guidelines aimed at increasing their enthusiasm and igniting a passion for the sea.

Films with maritime themes

One effective way to kindle interest in sailing is by introducing children to movies with nautical themes well before they set foot on a boat. This can be an excellent method to build excitement about the adventures that await at sea.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Get inspired by our article on the best sailing films of all time.

Enchanting tales from the sea

Get kids excited about sailing by sharing stories of sailors and mermaids. These captivating tales stir their imagination, fostering a longing for sea adventures.

Knot-tying fun

Introduce knot-tying at home with 1.5-metre ropes. Make it playful: try knotting in water or with gloves. Host a mini knot-tying contest, rewarding winners, to teach them essential sailing skills while having fun.

Hands forming a nautical bowline knot

Children usually enjoy knotting.

Engaging explanations

When talking about sailing with your children, go beyond just 'because I said so.' Explain the why and how of sailing, making the principles clear and engaging. This approach not only feeds their curiosity but also enhances their understanding and interest.

Freedom to explore

While it's natural to worry about your children and the boat, allow them some freedom. Let them play, explore, and interact with the boat’s equipment. This hands-on experience is invaluable for their learning and confidence.

Learning from mistakes

Remember, no one is born a skilled sailor. Instead of scolding for mistakes, use these moments as teaching opportunities. Explain why a certain action was unsafe or incorrect, and then move on. Mistakes are a powerful learning tool.

Active participation

Involve your children in simple tasks related to sailing, like filing or tying. As they grow more confident, let them try steering under supervision or manage auxiliary ropes. This hands-on involvement is crucial for building sailing skills.

Treasure hunt adventure

Organize a treasure hunt or an exploration of a deserted cove. This activity can encourage them to observe marine life and search for interesting items, ending at a unique spot they can claim as their own. Enhance the adventure with a snack, a backpack, or a flag for them to plant at their destination.

YACHTING.COM TIP: But how to survive it all? Discover tips from an experienced yachtswomen and mother in our guide — How to survive on a boat with kids.

Don't forget the water fun

Alongside traditional sailing, remember to cater to the playful nature of kids. Equip your boat with various fun gadgets and toys. Consider items like paddleboards, sea bobs, snorkel sets, inflatable rings, balls, and even a deck chair. The aim is to create a boat trip filled with joyful and positive experiences, helping kids form a lasting, happy association with boating.

What not to do when teaching children the love of sailing?

While it's crucial to know what to do to make sailing enjoyable for children, it's equally important to be aware of what not to do. Sometimes, a single negative experience or approach can permanently affect a child's perception of sailing.

Avoid instilling fear

While it's natural to be concerned for your child's safety, it's important not to project excessive fears onto them. Common parental worries like strong currents, shark encounters, or the boat capsizing often aren't based on the actual conditions of the sailing environment. Remember, significant currents are usually absent in family-friendly sailing areas, shark encounters are extremely rare, and sailboats are designed to lean with the wind. By refraining from expressing these anxieties, you help prevent children from developing irrational fears. This approach ensures they remain open to learning and enjoying sailing without unnecessary apprehensions.

A small child cries and is afraid of the water in the sea. Father and son swimming together in the sea during the summer holidays.

Children who go to the sea from a young age are used to it and are not afraid even in later years.

Mind the weather conditions

When planning a sailing trip with young children, especially if it's their first time, choosing the right season and location is key. Avoid sailing in seasons with unpredictable weather, like late spring or early autumn, where strong winds and rain could make the experience unpleasant. Instead, opt for calmer and more predictable conditions, typically found in summer. Destinations like Croatia, Greece, Italy, or Spain offer ideal settings for a family-friendly sailing experience, ensuring both safety and enjoyment for your kids.

I'll be happy to recommend a boat suitable for family sailing.