Are Houseboats Safe For Toddlers?

If you are thinking about taking a family vacation on a houseboat or are just curious how safe it is for toddlers then this article is for you! 

Are Houseboats safe for toddlers? A houseboat is only as safe as the passengers make it. If the adults in your group don’t want to watch the kids or don’t make sure that the children are always in sight and wearing life jackets it could become unsafe quickly. 

As with a lot of things how safe a houseboat is for toddlers and younger children is dependent on the people who are there. It also can depend on how well the houseboat is set up. 

In this article I will talk about ways to help make your houseboat safer as well as things you can do to make sure your toddler stay safe while on board. 

1. Ways To Make Your Houseboat Safer

I will start with things you can do or check on the houseboat to make the boat itself safer for your toddler. 

~Check the railings 

This is an important first thing as some of the railings on a houseboat will be sturdy and close enough together where a toddler can’t get through while others won’t be. If it’s your boat and the spindles are not close enough together you can fix it by adding extra spindles or by making it into just a solid wall style railing that would have to be climbed over. 

~Check the door and window latches

On the cabin portion of the houseboat I would make sure that the doors and windows all have latches that cannot be undone by a smaller child. I have a child who is almost 2 and she loves to open doors. All it takes is for the child to wake up in the middle of the night, get out of bed, and go open the cabin door and they are steps away from disaster. 

Making sure that every door and window has a latch that is high enough that it can’t be reached by a toddler is super important. Just latch it once everyone is down for the night and your toddler will be much safer. 

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~Keep all fuel, oil, etc. put away

You should probably be doing this already but after fueling your generator or adding oil to a jet ski it’s easy to leave those things out for the “next time”. The problem with that is toddlers don’t know that those things can be dangerous for themselves or for the wildlife if they get it into the water. 

It’s always a good habit to keep those sort of things put away where they can’t get to them to avoid this situation. It’s also safer for the boat in general to not have fuel or oil near running engines. 

~Check carefully for hazards 

Any houseboat you buy or rent is bound to have some hazards on board. Whether it’s trip hazards like uneven decking or thresholds or sharp edges on some metal there will always be places that people can hurt themselves. 

If you own the boat or are borrowing it from a friend, before you take any children on board it’s a wide idea to fix as many of those hazards as possible. Many times we get used to the way something is and will naturally avoid the danger but toddlers won’t have those instincts. 

Sanding down sharp corners, fixing loose nails or screws, scraping and repainting spots that are peeling, etc. are all excellent things to do before bringing young children on board. These little maintenance things should be done to help keep teens and adults safe as well but they are easier for adults to see and avoid while toddlers won’t normally be able to. 

~Have life jackets on board

Not only is this important for the safety of everyone on board but it is also the law. You are required to have a life jacket that fits each person on board somewhere on your boat before ever leaving dock.

 That means if you have 5 adults and 5 children on board you should have 5 adult sized life jackets and 5 child sized life jackets. Yes, the law requires you to have a life jacket on board for everyone including all the adults. 

These life jackets should be easily accessible in case of emergency as well so not buried in the hold somewhere and they haven’t been seen in a few years either! 

There are many laws that the government puts into place that don’t make sense but this one is just common sense. In the event of an emergency you need to be able to get life jackets fast and you need to have jackets that fit everyone who is on board. 

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2. Things To Help Your Toddler Stay Safe

In the above section I went through and listed some of the things you can do to your houseboat to help keep your toddler safer. In this section I will give you some things you can directly do to keep them stay safe. 

~Watch them carefully 

Children are fast! If you’ve never had children than you probably think I’m being overly dramatic but believe me they can be in one place and then completely gone in a couple of seconds. 

Many toddlers run everywhere they go. Maybe it’s because they have little legs and they are trying to keep up or maybe it’s just because they are full of energy but young children are deceptively quick. 

Watching your toddler carefully while they are on the houseboat is vital to keeping them safe. It’s easy for use to get engrossed in a conversation and forget to keep an eye on them for a minute or two but when you aren’t looking they could easily be getting into something that could hurt them or be in the water! 

Always pay very close attention to your toddler to help make sure they are safe. 

~Have them always wear a life jacket

Even if your toddler knows how to swim or float this is still important. If they fall (or jump) into the water they probably won’t be used to jumping into the water from any height so having a life jacket on could certainly mean the difference in their safety. 

Anytime my kids are on board I make them wear a life jacket anytime they are outside the cabin for the day. I mean before I unlatch that door from overnight they will have a life jacket on. 

Yes that’s a little extreme, I know, but I would rather be a little extreme and my kids be safe than to have an accident and be riddled with guilt for the rest of my life. 

I’m the same when may when it comes to my pool. We have a fenced in inground pool in our backyard. The gate doesn’t get opened until my wife or I are there and as soon as we walk in our 4 year old gets his water wings and our year and a half old gets into her floater. The last thing we do before leaving the pool is to take those things off. 

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Keeping your children safe around the water is far more important than the small inconvenience that they will feel by having to wear a life jacket all of the time. 

~Don’t have more toddlers on board than responsible adults

This is not necessarily a hard rule I set but just a general rule. I would not want to ever have more toddlers on board the boat than people who are willing to watch them. 

As I mentioned earlier, kids can be quite fast. While you are looking or helping a toddler in one area another child could easily be getting into something they shouldn’t or be in danger while your back is turned. 

A perfect example of this happened yesterday. I was getting some food for dinner and I had sliced up a tomato and had it on my plate sitting on the counter. I turned my back to stir the mashed potatoes that I had just taken out of the microwave. Less than 5 seconds later I turned back around to grab my plate and one of the tomato slices was laying on the floor next to my toddler! 

In less than 5 seconds of my back being turned she had reached up, found my plate, grabbed a tomato off of it, and sat down on the floor to eat it! Kids are fast! 

Making sure that you have enough adults on board to properly supervise the children will make your days less stressful and also allow you to have some company while keeping an eye on them. 


I hope this brief article has given you some ideas on how to make a houseboat safer for toddlers and how to keep them safe when they are on board. 

There are certainly far more things that you can do to help keep them safe while on the water but doing this simple things will help you keep your houseboat trip fun and safe! 

If you want to need some things to do with your toddlers while on board I wrote an article with 10 fun things to do on a housbeoat for toddlers that can be found by clicking here.

As Always, 

Happy Boating 

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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