How to Choose Your Kid’s First Sailboat

What age should kids start sailing?

Generally, children can begin learning to sail as early as five or six years old. At this age, they are usually able to follow instructions and have the physical coordination required to handle basic sailing tasks.

Why is sailing good for youth?

Sailing is an incredible activity for youth that offers a multitude of benefits for their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Firstly, sailing teaches important life skills that are invaluable for their development. Kids learn about responsibility as they take care of their boat and make decisions on the water.

They also develop teamwork skills by working together with their crewmates to navigate the boat and manage the sails.

Furthermore, sailing allows youth to connect with nature and the outdoors. Being out on the water exposes them to the beauty and serenity of the natural world.

Sailing is also a physically demanding activity that encourages kids to be active. Operating the sails and maneuvering the boat requires strength, coordination, and balance. Regular sailing sessions help children develop these physical skills, promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.

How do I get my child interested in sailing?

Getting your child interested in sailing can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Here are a few tips to help spark their interest and foster a love for the water:

1. Start with storytelling: Introduce your child to the fascinating world of sailing through books, movies, and stories. Share tales of famous sailors, epic voyages, and thrilling adventures on the open water. This will capture their imagination and create a sense of wonder about sailing.

2. Take them to sailing events: Attend local regattas, boat shows, or sailing festivals with your child. Let them see the beauty of sailboats up close, watch the excitement of races, and interact with experienced sailors. This exposure to the sailing community can inspire them to get involved.

3. Offer sailing experiences: Look for sailing schools or youth sailing programs in your area that offer introductory lessons or camps for kids. These programs provide a safe and structured environment for children to learn the basics of sailing and get hands-on experience on the water.

4. Organize family sailing trips: Plan family outings on sailboats or join friends who own boats. Involve your child in the preparations and let them participate in the sailing activities, such as raising the sails or steering the boat. These shared experiences will create lasting memories and a sense of excitement about sailing.

5. Make it fun and interactive: Incorporate games and activities that introduce sailing concepts and skills. Build model sailboats together, create paper boats to sail in a pool or bathtub, or play sailing-themed board games. This hands-on approach makes learning about sailing enjoyable and engaging for your child.

  • The key is to nurture your child’s curiosity and let them explore the world of sailing at their own pace. By making it fun, educational, and accessible, you can cultivate a lifelong passion for sailing in your child.

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5 types of Kid-Friendly Sailboats

When it comes to choosing a sailboat for your kid’s first sailing experience, there are several options to consider. Here are some popular types of kid-friendly sailboats to consider:

1. Optimist Dinghy

This small, single-handed boat is perfect for young beginners. It is stable, easy to handle, and provides a safe and comfortable learning environment. The Optimist Dinghy is widely used in youth sailing programs around the world.

Prices for a new Optimist Dinghy is about $4,000 and a used one is around $1,500~$2,000.

2. Sunfish

The Sunfish is another popular choice for kids and beginners. It is a simple, single sailboat that is easy to rig and maneuver. With its stable design and responsive handling, the Sunfish offers a fun and enjoyable sailing experience.

Prices for a new Sunfish start around $3,000.

3. Laser

The Laser is a popular choice for older kids and teenagers who want a more challenging sailing experience. This single-handed boat requires more skill and coordination but provides a thrilling and rewarding adventure on the water.

Prices for a new Laser start around $6,000.

4. Hobie Cat

The Hobie Cat is a catamaran-style sailboat that is perfect for older kids who are looking for a more exciting and fast-paced sailing experience. With its twin hulls and trapeze setup, the Hobie Cat allows for high speeds and thrilling rides on the water.

Prices for a new Hobie Cat start around $6,000.

5. O’pen BIC

The O’pen BIC is a modern and innovative sailboat designed specifically for kids and youth sailors. It is lightweight, fast, and easy to handle, making it a popular choice for those looking for a more advanced sailing experience.

Prices for a new O’pen BIC start around $2,500.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Kid’s Sailboat

When choosing a sailboat for your kid’s first sailing experience, there are several important factors to consider.

Your child’s age and skill level

Younger children will need a boat that is stable, easy to handle, and provides a safe learning environment, such as the Optimist Dinghy.

Older kids and teenagers who have some sailing experience may want a more challenging boat, such as the Laser.

It’s essential to choose a boat that matches your child’s abilities to ensure their safety and enjoyment on the water.

Sailing experience

Additionally, you should consider the type of sailing experience you want to provide. Do you want to focus on recreational sailing or racing?

Different boats offer different capabilities, so it’s crucial to choose one that aligns with your goals. For example, the Sunfish is a great option for recreational sailing, while the Laser is more suitable for racing.

Boat’s durability and maintenance requirements

Kids can be rough on equipment, so choosing a boat that is built to withstand wear and tear is important. You should also consider the ease of rigging and launching the boat, as well as the availability of replacement parts.


Safety should always be a top priority when sailing with kids. It’s important to choose a sailboat that has a stable design and is equipped with safety features such as buoyancy aids or life jackets.

Additionally, teaching your child basic sailing skills and water safety practices is crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

What do kids need for sailing?

When it comes to sailing with kids, it’s essential to have the right gear to ensure their safety and comfort on the boat. Here are some essential items to consider when outfitting your little sailors for their first boating adventure:

1. Life Jackets: Every child onboard should have a properly fitting, Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Choose a life jacket that is appropriate for their weight and size and make sure they wear it at all times.

2. Sun Protection: Protect your kids from the sun by providing them with hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen with a high SPF. It’s important to reapply sunscreen regularly, especially if they are spending extended periods of time on the boat.

3. Proper Clothing: Dress your kids in comfortable and weather-appropriate clothing. Opt for quick-drying and moisture-wicking materials to keep them dry and comfortable on the water. Also, consider bringing extra layers or a lightweight rain jacket in case the weather changes.

4. Footwear: Choose non-slip, closed-toe shoes that provide good grip and protection. This will help prevent slips and injuries while onboard.

5. Snacks and Water: Keep your kids hydrated and energized with plenty of water and nutritious snacks. Sailing can be physically demanding, so it’s important to have fuel to keep them going.

6. Safety Equipment: Ensure you have essential safety equipment on board, such as a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, whistle, and throwable flotation device. Familiarize yourself with how to use each item in case of an emergency.