Snorkelling with Kids

Snorkelling can unlock a world of wonder for kids. But as we discovered, getting kids ‘snorkelling-ready’ doesn’t happen overnight.

From building their confidence, being patient and getting them in the right gear, there are lots of simple things you can do so your kids can experience the joy of swimming with a school of fish, spotting a turtle or seeing brightly coloured corals.

Here are a few things we learnt on the way to our kids being happy and confident snorkellers (in fact one is now a professional underwater photographer).

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Learn to Swim

Can your children swim?

Whether you are an adult or a child, you should have some basic swimming skills to get the most from snorkelling. Ideally, anyone should be able to float, tread water, swim a short distance and feel comfortable in the water before trying to snorkel.

For children (and adults) this might mean getting swimming lessons from a professional or trusted friend and taking your chances to develop water confidence. From backyard or public pools to the shallows at the beach, the happier your children are in the water, the safer they will be and the more they will enjoy snorkelling.

Stay Warm

Even in warm, tropical water our kids would get cold after twenty or thirty minutes. We bought them each a shorty wetsuit which ended up being their favourite bit of snorkelling gear. The wetsuits allowed them to stay in the water for longer. They also provided a little extra buoyancy and some protection from the sun and the occasional jellyfish.

Snorkelling with Kids

Good Snorkel Gear for Kids

Nothing will end a trip into the water faster than poorly fitted snorkelling gear. Getting the kids kitted out in comfortable fins, mask and a snorkel is critical. If their fins rub, the face mask leaks, or their snorkel hurts their mouth it won’t matter how spectacular the underwater scenery is – you won’t be in the water long enough to enjoy it!

To make sure their snorkelling gear is comfortable we suggest buying it rather than hiring it – especially if it is going to be a regular activity. Hiring isn’t always an option, and you might miss a great experience. I have also never been keen on the idea of a communal snorkel, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Snorkelling Masks for Kids

It’s worth investing time and money to find a facemask that fits your child’s face. Facemasks are not ‘one size fits all’ and they are made from varying quality material. Look for one with a soft silicon seal and a split headband that’s easy to adjust.

It might take a bit of time and effort but it’s worth it. A facemask that doesn’t leak and sits comfortably on their face eliminates one of the main causes of snorkelling unhappiness.

Get them to place the mask on their face without using the strap. If they can breathe in through their nose and the mask stays on, that’s a good sign that it fits well.

Snorkelling Fins for Kids

As tempting as it might be to just forget about flippers all together, you can’t get away without them. They provide the propulsion needed to move in the water let alone combat any currents. Whether it’s buying new ones or swapping between friends and family, having comfortable fins is a must.

The tricky thing about fins is that the feet in them grow – sometimes very fast! As with any other type of footwear if they are badly fitted there is discomfort. While adults might put up with this for a while, kids certainly won’t.

Trying on fins is like trying on shoes. Make sure there is no rubbing or tight spots. Unfortunately, getting a size for them to grow into will only result in sad snorkellers. Their fins need to fit well from day one.

Fins with heel straps rather than a closed heel can be more comfortable and last a bit longer with growing feet.

Snorkel with kids
Introducing Snorkelling

16 Quick Tips to make Snorkelling with Kids Fun

Now that they are dressed for success, here are a few pointers to help you grow your kids into confident snorkellers.

Safety First:

Emphasise the importance of safety to your child. Teach them basic snorkelling safety rules, including staying close to an adult, not touching marine life, and always snorkelling with a buddy.

Let them Learn at their own Pace:

Every child develops confidence at their pace so don’t push them if they are showing signs of uncertainty. Confidence is a fragile thing. If you throw them into a challenging environment and it goes badly, it can take a while to build up their confidence again.

Choose the Right Time of Day:

We all want to snorkel in good conditions, but this is especially important for kids. While experienced adult snorkellers can put up with a bit of swell or current, kids won’t enjoy it at all. Choose a calm, sunny day when there is good visibility. The more positive experiences they have, the more their enjoyment and confidence will grow.

Be Patient & Supportive:

Snorkelling can be an intimidating experience for kids. Be patient, offer encouragement, and allow them to progress at their own pace. Let them take breaks if needed and celebrate small achievements to boost their confidence.

Snorkelling in the Shallows
Snorkelling in the Shallows

Practice in Shallow Water:

Begin snorkelling in shallow, calm water where your child can comfortably stand. Practice floating, breathing through the snorkel, and getting accustomed to the sensation of being in the water with their snorkelling gear. This step is crucial for building confidence.

Use Floatation Devices:

Consider using floatation devices, such as noodles or snorkelling vests, especially for younger or less confident swimmers. These devices provide an extra layer of safety and help kids stay afloat with ease.

Educate About Marine Life:

Educate your child about the marine life they might encounter. Teach them to observe from a distance without touching or disturbing the underwater environment. Instil a sense of respect for the beauty of the ocean.

Create a Comfortable Routine:

Establish a comfortable routine for putting on and taking off snorkelling gear. Make it a fun and stress-free process, This helps build positive associations with the gear. This is much easier if they find their gear comfortable to wear.

Lead by Example:

Demonstrate proper snorkelling techniques and safety measures by leading by example. Show your child how to clear the snorkel, breathe slowly, and move gently in the water. They often learn best through observation and imitation.

Snorkel Together
Exploring Together

Encourage Exploration:

Encourage your child to explore the underwater world at their own pace while pointing out interesting fish and features you see. Foster a sense of curiosity and appreciation for the natural environment.

Capture Memories:

Bring a waterproof camera or use a GoPro to capture the snorkelling adventure. Reviewing photos or videos afterward can be a fun way to re-live the experience and develop positive memories.

Celebrate Achievements:

Celebrate your child’s achievements, no matter how small. Whether it’s successfully clearing the snorkel, identifying a fish, or simply enjoying the experience, acknowledging their accomplishments boosts confidence and enthusiasm for future snorkelling adventures.

Plan for Snacks & Hydration:

Snorkelling can be physically demanding, so be sure to bring snacks and water to keep your child fuelled and hydrated. Plan breaks between snorkelling sessions to rest and recharge.

Exploring Rock Pools
Exploring Rock Pools

Plan for Post-Snorkelling Activities:

Wrap up the snorkelling adventure with post-snorkelling activities, such as beach games, exploring rock pools, or a picnic. This adds to the overall experience and creates lasting memories for your child.

Choose Kid-Friendly Snorkelling Tours:

Guided snorkelling tours are a great way to explore new underwater environments and have some amazing wildlife encounters. Choose operators that cater for families with kids. Some tours provide additional assistance, such as guides to accompany children in the water or special family-oriented activities.

Do not be Discouraged by Failure:

You can do everything we suggest above, and things can still go wrong – but don’t give up.

One of our kids virtually ran on water to get back to shore after seeing a moray eel. The same child’s screams could be heard across Ningaloo Reef when she saw a dozen sharks swimming below her over a shark cleaning station in Coral Bay.

She is now a professional underwater photographer and diving instructor!

Be patient and positive and your kids will come to love the wonder that snorkelling brings.

Steve Klein
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