One of my favourite things about summer holidays is spending time in the water and snorkelling is such a wonderful way to experience life under the ocean without having to suit up and scuba dive. It’s also great fun to do as a family. The first time the kids put on a snorkel and mask was when we went to Akumal, near Tulum, in Mexico. The sheltered bay there is home to dozens of green turtles and was a great place to introduce kids to snorkelling.
This summer we’re planning more snorkelling adventures so I was delighted to team up with Simply Scuba, an award-winning dive shop based in Kent, U.K. They’re keen to encourage more people to take up snorkelling and so I thought I would share some of my tips for getting kids comfortable in a snorkel and mask.
Teaching kids to snorkel
When to start snorkelling with kids
My oldest two children were six-and four-years-old when we first tried snorkelling with them but some parents have tried when their children were younger and others have waited until they’re a bit older. The main thing is that they feel comfortable in the water. They don’t have to be brilliant swimmers as you can put on lifejackets or swim floats, but you do need to know that they enjoy being in the water!
Getting kids started with snorkelling
First and foremost, make sure you have good equipment. If the mask is too big or the snorkel leaks water, you can pretty much guarantee that snorkelling will be off the summer agenda. It’s worth spending a bit more to get good quality equipment and, if you’re unsure what to buy, ask an expert.
Before you go leaping off the side of a boat into the ocean blue, get your kids used to the idea of wearing a mask and snorkel. Little kids can start by just playing with the equipment in the bath or a paddling pool if you have one. Bigger kids can try out their gear in the shallow end of the pool.
Start with the face mask by itself and place the front of the face mask on the child’s face (without putting the strap on). Make sure there’s no hair caught in the mask and, if you get your child to breathe in, the mask should stick to their face. When it’s in the right position, pull the strap of the mask over the child’s head and into the right place. It’s often easier to do this if the child’s hair is already wet as the rubber straps can pull on dry hair. Get them to look into the water with the mask.
Once they’re comfortable with the mask, try adding the snorkel. You don’t have to thread the snorkel through at this point, you can just let them hold it as they place their face in the water (don’t attempt swimming quite yet!). For younger kids, you can always place some pool toys at the bottom of the shallow end of the pool so they have something to look at – this often works as a good distraction from the actual task of breathing in and out of the snorkel.
As soon as they feel comfortable standing with their snorkel and mask face down in the water, get your child to try swimming in the pool. When they’re comfortable with that, it’s time for the open water.
Lakes can be a good place to snorkel because the waters are generally calm although you’re not guaranteed a plethora of Technicolor marine life. If starting with the ocean, choose a calm, sheltered area so that your child doesn’t have to battle swells or waves throwing water down their snorkel. A lifejacket or equivalent is a good idea so that kids can enjoy floating along looking for Nemo rather than spending all their energy simply trying to keep afloat. And there you have it, your kid can snorkel! Just remember to teach them snorkelling etiquette; no kicking of the coral…or other snorkellers.
Where to snorkel with kids
If you’re looking to snorkel in the UK, here’s a great list of some of the best places to try including Studland Bay in Dorset, one of the few places in the UK where you can see seahorses in the wild. At Prussia Cove, in Cornwall, you may even be joined by a grey seal while you’re looking at the colourful anemones. Further afield, here are some ideas for snorkelling in the Caribbean and other idyllic islands around the world. Good lucky and enjoy your summer snorkelling adventures!
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Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with Simply Scuba. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.