Rafting is a great activity to do with the whole family, and it’s a great way to introduce kids to the outdoors. Many rafting companies, including our own, even have special family-friendly trips designed to introduce kids to the sport in mellow river environments.
For many parents with young kids, however, safety is a main concern, and rightly so—if you’re thinking of taking your kids out rafting for the first time, it’s important to teach them a few important safety and communication skills first so that all of you can focus on having fun during your trip. The good news is that, with 6 simple concepts, you can prepare yourself and your kids beforehand so that you can all enjoy the experience safely:
Make sure everyone knows what’s going on, where they should be, and what they should be doing. (That goes for you too, adults—if you’re not sure, ask your guide.) Keeping everyone updated will prevent any chaos from erupting, and it will make sure the whole group is alert and prepared for whatever’s coming next.
2. Keep lifejackets tight
Personal floatation devices (PFDs) are the single most important piece of safety gear you have on a rafting trip. Everyone in the raft should be wearing a life jacket at all times, with no exceptions, and they should always be properly buckled, fastened, and tightened snugly. Do regular PFD checks to make sure that everyone is secure.
3. Explain the “Why” of procedures and gear
Before you leave, look at pictures of the rafts, life jackets, paddles, and other gear you’ll use during your trip. (Or better yet, if at all possible, practice with the actual gear on dry land.) Show your kids how the raft will be set up, where they’ll sit, how to paddle, and how to correctly wear a life jacket. Practicing these skills in advance will make the day of your adventure smoother, and your kids will feel more confident.
4. Encourage them to speak up
Kids are highly observant, and they might see things that you would otherwise miss. There’s a lot going on during a rafting trip, and all eyes are important, so make sure your kids know that it’s okay (and important) for them to speak up if they see something they’re unsure about.
5. Tell them to ask questions
If you want your kids to enjoy a lifetime of engagement with the outdoors, encourage them to ask questions. The more questions they ask, the more they’ll be able to learn and build important skills for outdoor activities and life in general. And always remember that for asking questions to be an effective learning tool, you need to take the time to give clear, thoughtful answers as well.
6. Prep them for the safety demonstration
Tell your kids in advance that there will be a safety demonstration right before the trip, and make sure they understand that it’s important to watch and listen carefully. After the demonstration ends, you might even want to ask them a few refresher questions to make sure they were paying attention and to make it clear that safety should be on their minds.
Here at Arkansas River Tours, safety is our top priority. You can rest assured that we’ll be taking the lead on preparation and education before our trip begins. But a little extra preparation and conversation on your part can go a long way to ensuring you and your kids will make great memories together on your next rafting trip.
For more information about family-friendly rafting trips with Arkansas River Tours in Colorado, click here.