Join Date: Jun 2006
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Get a cheap pair of binoculars for each of them...I mean like $10 plastic ones... and send them forward (tethered, naturally) to "officially" identify birds, nav markers and other boats. Get the five-year-old to I.D. possible collisions by teaching the usual "if the relative angle isn't changing" rule, and to give you info via the "boat at 10 o'clock, 10 boat lengths".
Basically, give them a boat job, whether it's needed or not. Also, under benign circumstances, let them work the boat for real. I let my kid (now 6 years old) round up in eight knots of wind because it won't damage anything and he gets to see the relationship between sail set, course and sheet tension.
In light air, even a child can hold a sheet, and in my admittedly limited experience, once a kid feels that sheet PULLING them with every puff, they start to think the boat's alive in some fashion, and they take a far greater interest.
Just remember to put in a stopper knot...