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There is a wealth of advice about snorkeling with young children. But what happens when your kids are too old (and too cool) to hold your hand?

Set some ground rules for your older child or teen. Measure their comfort level, independence, and how much freedom you want them to have in the water. Sit down with your children in a place without distractions and have an honest talk about your expectations and rules. Here are a few to get you started:

 

NEVER go in the water without a buddy. This rule should be absolutely non-negotiable.

Choose a bright color swimsuit, t-shirt, or snorkeling vest to make visual contact easier. Consider a yellow snorkel over a black one, a yellow or pink snorkeling vest, or something similar so you can quickly see where your child is in the water.

Come up with hand signals to communicate underwater easily. Take a look through a fish guide and create signals with your children. Read over the Coral 101 guide together. Snorkeling is a great way to teach your children about ecology and respecting their environment.

Decide on a meeting time and place to go to if you get separated. Outfit all the snorkelers in your group with a water-resistant watch so everyone can keep time on their own.

Make a plan that details when, where, and how long you will snorkel on each excursion. Check with a travel agency, hotel concierge, or local dive establishment to find good snorkeling spots in the area. Short, frequent snorkeling excursions usually are more popular than one or two all-day sessions. Short, frequent snorkeling forays allow for snacks, lunch, bathroom breaks, or even a nap.

Check with your destination ahead of time to make sure you leave home with all the gear you need. More and more destinations and boat operators are requiring snorkeling vests. If your operator does not have the staples, like defog solution, mask scrub, spare snorkel keepers, etc., make sure you bring your own. Nothing ruins a snorkeling experience like a broken fin strap!

Let your children be as responsible for themselves as possible. Let them choose or help choose their snorkeling gear. Make sure they get plenty of opportunities for practice—there’s nobody too old to be uncomfortable in the water. Let your child choose a snorkeling site, or how long the excursion should be. Of course, this includes carrying and caring for their own gear!

Remember that not everyone has to make every snorkeling trip. It’s okay to spend an afternoon by the pool or relaxing on the beach.

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