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Our family (Admiral, Skipper, and 4 year old, 2 year old, and 5 month old) started sailing this year through a local club. The boats we use right now are Rhodes 19s. Eventually we'll move up to J-22 and some other smaller cruising boats.

Our sails this year have been short at 1-2 hours at a time. By the time we're into hour 2, the 4 year old is asking when we're heading back. She's still uncomfortable with the boat heeling the slightest bit. I have noticed, however, that minor distractions take her mind off the motion of the boat.

We sail in a harbor that really doesn't have any place to land, other than the club dock, without sailing for something like 1.5 hours each way, so there's really nothing to do but look at the scenery: other boats (waving to them when they go by), buildings, planes, etc.

Does anyone have any thoughts on good activities to keep the 4 year old's mind off of the motion of the boat?

Thanks.
 

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Hi MIT,

If you read my post on "What's Your Biggest Bone-Head Move Sailing?" you will see that I almost deterred my 6 year old from ever sailing again, due to an out of control heel! :eek: He has since accepted that Dad will never let that happen again and is back to looking forward to our sails. :)

Even at his age we get the "When are we going back?" question out of boredom, not fear! So, we try to make him a big part of each outing.

First of all, he has his own "Pre-Sail" checklist and I let him go around and check all the rigging, safety items, etc... it’s very funny because he often reminds me of things I’ve forgotten (such as tying the jib sheets!) :laugher

Once under sail we give him the tiller (ready to help if necessary), or ask him to "adjust" the jib sheets.

We get out the binoculars and point out items of interest for him to look at on the water as well as the shore, he ALWAYS looks forward to lunch, sometimes we drop the sails and fish, and his favorite activity is to drop the sails and swim off the back of the boat using a dock line to hold onto and, of course, wearing our life vests. Mom usually stays at the tiller just in case.

Sometimes we let him bring a friend, or cousin and he seems much more eager to stay out. As a last resort, we bring his DVD player or PSP (charge ‘em up at home or in the car, sailboat batteries don’t last long powering these things!) and he can go down into the cabin with them and relax, or even nap! :cool:

We found that the swimming really does the trick though!
 

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Been there (she's 16 now and INSISTED on a sailing birthday party on the boat tomarrow; something must have worked).

* Swim breaks.
* When a few years older, towing a tube, even very slowly, is fun.
* Fishing. Makes no difference what you catch; think small. Carry a bucket to watch the catch.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, swimming is out of the question at this time since the inner harbor (need to sail 1 hour + to get out) is downright dangerous for swimming, and the water is 55 degrees still.

I want to get her more involved in getting the boat ready to go and driving. She did a good job here:

YouTube - ‪Prepare To Tack‬‏

I'm also thinking about some "scavenger hunts" that she can do with papers that we prepare ahead. I'll think about fishing. I've never been much of a fisher myself, so that would be a whole learning curve, equipment acquisition, etc...
 

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My two 9 year old girls have to be pried out of the V-Berth as they love making forts down there for their stuffed animals.

Fishing is a really good idea, maybe I'll try that to get them up on deck- at least for the time it takes me to land the fish!
 

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Like I mentioned in the other areas, ocean, island related adventure books, play doh, coloring books or pages from the Internet related to the ocean, have them color dolphins or try to get the Arial cartoon stuff. Legos are great especially the ones related to the ocean.
 

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Folks, he is sailing in a Rhodes 19!!! No V-berth or cabin.;)

MITBeta, The reality is that the boat you are sailing in is not especially conducive for longer jaunts with small kids. My best advice to you is limit those trips to about an hour or so for now. As the kids grow or their tolerance improves, you can begin to stretch it out.

Now you understand why so many of us spend what we do to have our own boat with a comfy cabin that can be set-up with all the entrapments of family life. It's either that, or much shorter sails in daysailers. :D :D
 

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Have them drive - any child 7 yrs old can drive a boat in moderate conditions - they love it.
 

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they make good chum and poor ballast. once upon a time, they were good powder monkies. strap into a boatswain chair for chores up the mast, my wife is too heavy for that.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I discovered on Father's Day that my 4 year old accepts ice cream bribes and will willingly come sailing, even if she has to make noises like she's scared the whole time.
 

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All I can suggest is games games and more games, Board games are the best. Was caught not long ago holed up hiding from 40knt gusts and pelting rain for seven days. Would not have survived without monolopy, uno, checkers (and chess) cards - all the things that was done before play stations were invented......
 

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I have similar problems with my 9 and 11 year old. Sailing just seems to be too quiet for them. I think we will try boat-camping next (I have a 16' daysailer, so no cabin).

Ice cream works. So does fishing or trips to remote islands for exploring.
 

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A small toy boat that can be towed behind on a string. Be ready to practice MOB drill to pick it up when the string gets loose.

Racing rubber ducks. Yes you have to pick them back up before they get away too far.

Play pick up Dad's hat when it blows overboard.

Riding on the bow with Mom or Dad, given safe conditions. Take turns.

On the tip over thing. The best solution that I have heard about was that lucky boats sometimes have the Troll named Keel living under the boat. The Troll Keel is very strong does not like it when the boat tips, so Keel holds the boat from tipping too far. Sometime kids have to help Keel by letting the jib or main sheet out a bit. Sometimes Keel makes funny growling sounds, but the kids usually catch Dad pushing a button when that happens. It's often good to investigate the bildge to see if Keel is down there. (Disclaimer - not my story - search SA for the Troll named Keel - just love it)

Stay safe.
 

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I like the Troll Keel story...
We liked it too when we read it. Ought to be a different version for the Lee and Weather Helm Troll, but I'm not a smart enough children's writer to work it up.

My wife has an uncle who liked to distract a kid and then put a small fish on his line. Then he would call the child back to pull in the fish. Really had a great time, with the kid and then telling the parents after. Went a little sideways with our boy. He made uncle clean and aunt fry it up for him. After all, he caught it.
 

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Get a book of games for road trips. We play a lot of ISpy, I'm going on a trip and taking something bigger then a bread basket, etc. Thinking your kind of stuck with short trips for now though... Our min trips are 3hrs with most being 4 or more by the time we get to the lake from the river we keep the boat on & back.
 

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A 4-year-old might be a little young for this, but I've had pretty good luck keeping kids entertained by doing a quick plankton tow and showing them the results in a glass jar. I realize that not everyone has access to an "official" plankton net (it's one of the many advantages to being a card-carrying Marine Biologist, unlike this guy: clicky-clicky), but you can pretty easily fashion one out of a wire hoop and the leg of an old pair of pantyhose (regular, fine-mesh ones, rather than the "fish-net" kind, SmackDaddy). It should look like this:


Just knot the end (so it doesn't still look like a stocking when you bring it back on deck) and tow it twenty or thirty feet behind the boat for five minutes or so. You may have to add a lead fishing weight or two to get it to sink properly. When you bring it back up, turn the net inside out as you dump the contents into a large glass jar full of sea water. The planktonic critters will last for an hour or more (at least some of them), as long as the water stays cool. The same thing also works in lakes, but there just isn't as much stuff to see (either in total quantity, or overall diversity). The results will look something like this:


Magnifying glasses will give everyone a better view of the critters (most are on the verge of microscopic), but tend to trigger Mal de Mar in some folks.
 

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Let them have a go at the wheel, something seems to be pre-programmed in to us all, and almost (famous last words) all of us can hold a course, and my youngest now 9 can do it far better than some older ones can! :)
 
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