Getting Kids to Love the Ocean
So you love the ocean and you want your kids to love the ocean right? Or maybe you're a bit fearful of the water but, you don't want your kids to carry that same fear. So how do you get your kids to feel connected to the water? Fear not! There are MANY ways to generate interest and an inevitable love of the ocean. Allow me to assist!
Human beings have a strong affinity for the beaches and oceans. I mean where do you go to relax on vacation? The beach right? Being near the water has a comforting and meditative affect on our bodies and minds. It's a place for inspiration, relaxation and reconnecting with ourselves. Not to mention, cell phones have a way of conveniently getting turned off whilst one is at the beach. The ocean is a place of fascination as well. What lies beneath? Was that a whale!? What's that fin?
That affinity for our oceans is something I want to pass along to my family and I'm thinking you probably do to.
So here are a few recommended guidelines from me....
Babies and Toddlers:
This is where it all begins. This is where the magic really happens. From early on it's important to have kids feel comfortable with water. Make bath time a fun experience! Pour water over your child's head (gently! Don't deluge them!), get them used to that feeling of water in their ears because it's a strange sensation if you aren't used to it. Make bath time fun! Play games, splash around or heck, even get in with them! Kid's learn through play and by example. If you have fun in the water, they will see that they can have fun in the water.
Join a Mommy and Me (or Daddy and Me) swim class. This is a great introduction into swimming for little ones. It's also a great way for kids to learn some water safety tactics. This is EXTREMELY important considering that the rate of accidental drownings in babies and toddlers is one of the leading cause of death in young children (among the top three causes according to the World Health Organization). Sadly here in Florida, we see it far too often. So safe practices, early on are a great idea. But, enough about that morbid topic.
Read books with an ocean or environmental theme. There is no shortage I promise you! US Borne books in particular have an amazing array of topics and kids absolutely LOVE ocean books (Here's a link to my US Borne rep. She's amazing and we have a whole library of books that we adore/are obsessed with https://j3443.myubam.com/)
Most importantly, have fun! Get in the water with your kids and play games! Again, kids learn through play and by example. Don't be afraid to get wet! Playing with your kids is a huge bonding moment and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our daily lives we forget to have fun! Play hooky and go to the beach! I'll write you a note, I'm sure your employer will be fine with it.
So you've survived the baby/toddler stage and now you have this awesome little human being that can somewhat function in society. Hooray! You deserve a medal! Now is the time when you can really have some fun. Get your kids out and about to the beach! Let them explore the tide pools, talk with them about what they are finding and let them get hands on with their explorations (please be mindful of the animals and plants they are finding though).
Take them to aquariums. Let kids see what can be found in oceans, rivers and lakes. Remember, to kids, the ocean looks like a big, glassy object that can be a little scary. Let them see the massive amounts of life that lies beneath the surface. I guarantee you they will be fascinated, just as we are. That being said please be aware that some aquariums are better than others, in my opinion. Try not to go for the big flashy ones with all the marine mammal shows. Those animals were not always obtained through good intentions. So do your research. There are many local aquariums that feature local animals, issues and use humane approaches to education.
Take the kids on a snorkeling adventure! Let them see life underwater up close and personal. If you aren't sure how to do this, go to your local dive shop. Most run snorkeling tours and can get you to the best snorkeling spots. Your kids will awestruck seeing all the colorful fish and invertebrates! It's a fabulous way to do something exciting together as a family.
This is also a good time to start introducing kids to issues involving our oceans and waterways and how each person can make a difference. Plastic pollution, for example, is a great topic that needs attention and it's also a way for kids to actually DO something for the good of the ocean. Here's a great article on 5 things you can do to help our oceans: http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/how-you-can-help-ocean. In fact, these are things we should ALL be doing. Not just kids.
Get them involved in volunteer work (ummm.....so.... this is my opinion but, this is not optional. A life of service is a life well lived. We can all do something to make this world a better place). Volunteer with them for a beach cleanup, fundraiser or event. Every, and I mean every, area has a need for environmental volunteers. A simple Google search will put you on the right path to an institution in need of volunteers .
If you don't live near the beach, visit a local water body. Lakes, rivers, creeks, whatever! Just connect! In fact, simply connecting with nature does amazing things for the body and soul. I'm not just making this up either! There have been countless studies proving this. Do you doubt me? Here's a link to just a few http://www.liveyournature.com/10-of-the-best-scientific-studies-that-prove-the-benefits-of-connecting-with-nature/. Something as simple as home gardening can have a great impact on health and wellness with an added bonus of fostering a love for the environment.
Did you know that as early as age 8 kids can get in the pool with dive equipment and blow scuba bubbles? The PADI Bubblemaker program is the first step into a dive future :) Hello?! Birthday parties anyone?!!?! This is a great opportunity to set up future divers and let them see what it's like to breath underwater. Or even better, the PADI Seal Team let's kids (at least age 8) complete "AquaMissions" while using scuba equipment. Where was this when I was 8????? We all know kids LOVE feeling like they are on a mission. And not just a mission to drive mom bonkers.
Then the big day comes. Your child is now 10 and is eligible to be a junior open water diver. Cue the band! This is the moment you've ALL been waiting for. The heavens have opened, angels are trumpeting and applause can be heard around the world. Maybe that's just my dream...Now don't freak out, your baby isn't going to be traversing the deepest depths of the ocean. Kids are are limited by depth (40 feet). Nonetheless, this is the age that all your previous work for creating an ocean lover has built up to. You now have a permanent dive buddy! I mean that's what kids are for right?
After junior open water certification the possibilities are endless. You can now take volunteer work underwater, go on adventures together and relax together! As your child grows and you, hopefully, survive the teenage years, you can grow as divers together, travel together on dive trips and create a fierce force of ocean advocacy and fun lovers.
So parents, now you have a hefty and passionately put together guideline for how to get your kiddos connected to, and loving, the oceans. How will you start?