It isn’t every day that a dad gets to take his kids out of their first snorkeling trip. This winter my family did just that. After a 5 hour flight to Hawaii and several days of “practice” in the hotel pool, we headed out on a half day excursion on a catamaran to explore the warm waters of Maui.
I had packed everything my kids were accustomed to in pool – wetsuits, goggles, a float ring for my 3 year old. My oldest, at 5, was very excited to be on the boat and was interested in snorkeling. He tried on his mask and his flippers. When that captain asked if anyone needed a intro lesson on snorkeling, he quickly raised his hand. And when he pulled into the cove he put in his gear, raced down the steps and froze. “Is this water deeper than 5 feet?” he asked, not so sure of what he was in for now. After a little talking and with the help of a transitional float ring, he lowered himself into the water and had a blast. Always conservative, he wanted to stay close to the boat.
Now my 3 year old, didn’t ask any questions. He just got in his floatie ring and was ready to go. He loved having me dive down and pop up near him. He would laugh when I would dive under him and blow bubbles under his kicking feet. He loved the view of the island and smiled to all the folks waving from the catamaran.
Some Fatherly tips for success:
1) Don’t push it. If your kids aren’t ready to get in the water with the fish, wait until they are comfortable. One bad experience can take years to recover from. This is one of the hardest lessons in patience you may ever experience as a parent. You know the activity is safe and they can do it, you just to be patient and let them lead you into the water.
2) Make it fun. My kids loved having me dive under them and pop up with a funny face or a big splash. They also loved hanging with the other divers when they came up and watching the bubbles. The most important part of any first trip, is to instill a love for the activity. Be amazed at what you see, even if it is only a common squirrel fish.
3) Make it educational. We talked a lot about the marine life and fish. This really peaked their interest. Children are very interested in learning about ocean ecology and adaptations, sometimes the grosser the better.
4) Get out of the water before they ask to get out. There is an old theater saying “always leave them wanting more” – well it works with kids too. If you stop the fun before they are tired and done, they immediately start asking when they can go again. Just end it a little bit early, while they are still engaged and interested. They will have a positive memory of the adventure.
5) Give lots of praise and love! Getting in the ocean is a big challenge for many people. Your children are brave for just getting wet, let em’ know you are proud of them.
At the end of the trip, we were the last family out of the water. The kids enjoyed driving the boat and watching marine life on the way back home – followed by a much needed nap. First snorkeling trip was a huge success and they can’t wait until the next time.