There are few thing that could ruin a nice, relaxing Sunday out on your pontoon more than a bunch of bored and whiny kids. And if you don’t want that to happen but still want your little ones to get out of the house for at least a couple of hours and join you on the ‘toon, you’ll have to provide a few alternatives to keep them busy. Here’s what we thought of:
1. If your kids are over the age of 7 and fond of swimming and other activities that imply getting yourself wet, get a diving board. They might be a bit iffy about if they’ve never tried it before, but believe me, once they try it for the first time, you won’t hear another “when are we going home?” remark anytime soon. Teens and adults can enjoy them as well – the only thing you’ll need to consider when buying the board is the maximum weight it can support.
2. Let them invite a couple of friends. That is especially important if you have only one kid in a group of adults – if that’s the case, you’ll catch them playing games on your smartphone or tablet about 10 minutes after you’ve set sail. Having company is important for the little ones, especially when it comes to outdoorsy activities. If your kid isn’t the most outgoing person, they probably won’t hit the sliding tube or the diving board by themselves. Cousins, family friends, neighbors, or whoever your kid feels comfortable with – and pontooning will become twice as fun in no time! If they find it hard to make friends or communicate with others, being in an isolates space with someone else their age will actually encourage them to practice their social skills as well. Two birds with one stone!
3. Get a towable tube. Most kids would give anything to be able to ride a towable tube with their friends on a hot summer day – bet your little one is no exception! Again, this activity is much more fun if you invite their friends as well – and don’t forget to get some lifesaving inflatable jackets for each passenger before allowing them to go onto the tube.
4. Get a sliding tube or a simple slide for your boat. While not everyone might be as fearless as to jump from the diving board, a slide is much friendlier and less terrifying. They are less extreme, and your wife won’t freak out every time a kid jumps into the water.
5. Invest in some diving glasses and snorkel masks – kids will love observing the underwater life, even if it’s nothing more spectacular then a couple of rocks. Just tell them there’s a bank of fish nearby and watch them have fun looking for it for at least a couple of hours. Or enjoy a cold one in silence for as long as you can
6. Which brings us to the next point – get some fishing rods for all the family and put that fish finder to work! Find a decent hot spot and let them throw the bait – the feeling of catching a fish on your own and having your dad grill it for dinner is incredible (even if you don’t like eating the fish, that’s also OK.) The thing is kids love being of any help, and if you make them feel useful by doing something new and unique (such as fishing, for instance), they’ll bless you with some well-deserved silence.
7. Bring some devices. At this point, you can’t really beat around the bush – sooner or later, they will get too tired of swimming or sliding down the tube, and you will want to relax with your group of friends and not drive at full speed while towing five little humans on an inflatable banana behind your ‘toon. For those times, it’s best to have your tablet, or even better, a laptop with a small projector on hand. The kids are going to have the time of their life watching a movie with some snacks, or just showing each other YouTube videos after a full day of swimming. Just make sure that whatever device you bring on board is in a waterproof cover – as you don’t want a little splash of water on your new iPad ruining your wonderful day.
8. Prepare some food you know your kids will enjoy. Keep it simple, and don’t go for anything too sensitive to heat – keep those chicken nuggets and cheese fries in the freezer for dinner. Instead, you can take chips (just get a pack of paper plates as well to keep them from getting crumbs all over the deck), fruit, sweets, and soft drinks! If you have some fancy equipment like a rail mount grill on your ‘toon, you can get a pack of graham crackers, some chocolate, and a big bag of marshmallows to let them make their own s’mores. Just make sure you keep an eye on the little ones while doing this – after all, there’s fire AND chocolate involved. If you even have a cooling station/refrigerator on the boat, the possibilities are endless – you can throw a little burger party where you can play the role of grill dad, and the kids can help you assemble the burgers for the guests!
The point is, there are endless possibilities to keep kids of all ages entertained using food. Whether it’s learning how to prepare something or just stuffing their faces with snacks while watching a movie, you will get a bunch of happy and satisfied faces at the end of the day.
9. Let them take control. For a change, you can try letting the kids steer the pontoon for a while – especially if you have hydraulic steering. In any case, if they are already in their teens, you can assist them for a couple minutes and they’ll be ready to drive you around the late for ever – after all, it’s much cooler to Instagram yourself driving a boat rather than your family car. Younger kids can enjoy this experience too – just make sure you have them on your lap and monitor the situation constantly.
10. Bring a couple of beach mattresses and let them get lazy under the morning or afternoon sun (no midday sun though, that can be dangerous). If you have a removable Bimini top or anything like that, it will be a piece of cake to expose the rear of your deck and let the young enjoy some beach time with a deck of cards and some soft drinks.
This would be some ideas you could take into consideration when taking kids with you on the lake. As you can see, pontoons can be very versatile when it comes to providing entertainment – you can let your teenage daughter and her girlfriends get a tan on the rear of the deck, while at the same time letting your hyperactive 7-year old roam around in the water with a snorking mask. You can let them all watch a movie when darkness sets while stuffing their faces with snack or s’mores they just grilled themselves.
One thing to remember is protection – it’s very important to take care of the kids’ safety before anything else (especially if your child invited some friends over and their parents aren’t around). It’s a must to have lifesaving vests for each one of them, as well as a lifesaving buoy.
However, don’t push yourself into thinking that you always have to take your kids on the boat with you. You can’t deny that it is hard to keep them entertained, especially for a whole day out on the lake – and sometimes you just need that time to be alone, or just spend some quality time with your wife, or with a small group of friends. Don’t hesitate to leave the kids at home for a Sunday if you don’t feel like looking after them for a whole day long – you’ll be doing both of you a favor.