Must have items for Boating with a Toddler

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Summer is here! Summer is here! It’s finally warm! Okay, that’s enough celebrating for now, but summer in Michigan is fleeting and after a long cold winter, it feels amazing.  One of the things we do as a family the most is spending time on the lake. Boating with a toddler can be a struggle, especially when you’re going out for a longer ride/ swim, and not just a short cruise.

Our daughter loves going out on the pontoon, she talked about it all winter, and when she saw the lake was thawing she was so excited summer was coming.  We are a summer family that enjoys the fact that we are so close to the lakes, walking trails, and nature.

For us, when we tell Little Miss that we are going to be going on the boat she is ready to put on her swimsuit and get going. We always explain to her what we are doing before we go, this gives her an opportunity to ask questions because she gets very nervous and scared in new situations.  Even though she knows Gramma & Bunka’s boat, we still explain it to her.

Our boat bag essentials cover a multitude of issues we may run into, but we tend to use all of them when we are out.  To see us, as an entire family, getting on the boat must be comical with all the things we bring along. I will try to sort these into categories as best I can.

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The Essentials

A good, large beach bag

The bigger the better, and make sure it is nice and strong because you’ll be carrying a LOT.  One with a zippered pocket is important as well, because you will want somewhere safe to stick the car keys & your wallet.


 A cooler

You can go big or small.  It just depends on your needs.  We tend to go with a small to medium cooler like this one because we bring one, and any other families on the boat bring their own.  It is just what works for us.


An age-appropriate life vest

Safety first of course.  We always make sure Little Miss has her life jacket on and that it is proper working order, the buckles work properly & it is fitted to her right.  Not only is it law, it’s only right to make sure she is safe.  She is getting old enough now that we are looking to exchange her infant style jacket for a puddle jumper style that will give her more freedom of movement.  Probably before summer is over.



Again, safety first. This Banana Boat Simply Protect Kids SPF 50 is my love!  Fewer ingredients and mineral based. I know there are probably more natural sunscreens I could find, but this one is readily available & I know it works. Little Miss has yet to get a sunburn because I’m a sunscreen fanatic and layer it on her nonstop because I fry if I’m in the sun for 2 minutes unprotected. I use this same one for myself and haven’t been burned since I started using it.

 Baby Wipes

We are beyond the diaper stage, but I feel like I could buy baby wipes forever. These are a must-have on the boat. They’re great for cleaning up messes, wiping up spills & all the other reasons we moms keep them on hand forever.


We can’t take a boat ride without food. It just can’t happen.  Any time we decide to skip the snacks we end up out on the lake way too long and are starving.  We have a family friend with a grill that attaches to their pontoon rail & they are always grilling hotdogs. If we meet up at our favorite swim spot, we know they will most likely be grilling for all of us.

Some of our favorite snacks to have on the boat are crackers, fruit snacks, cereal bars, and chips.  We try to stay away from anything that will melt, like cereal bars with chocolate chips or coating because they just melt all over and make a giant mess. The exception to this rule is no bake cookies… I can’t explain it, but they taste better on the water.

9 Essentials for boating with a toddler. #boatingwithatoddler #boating #toddlers #summertime

We always take a lot of water in our cooler, but we also use it as a time to have treats, so we take a few juice boxes for Little Miss, and some of our favorites for us adults, this usually includes beer and hard cider or stuff to make mixed drinks.

For fun

A fun floaty with a canopy.

Ok, you don’t have to get one with a canopy, but I definitely recommend it.  Little Miss loves to float in her tube in the shade when we stop off at the island on our lake.  Everyone parks their boats around this small island and stands in the shallow water. This floatie gives her something to do when we are standing in water too deep for her to stand in, and keeps the sun off her some.

 Waterproof pouches

You’re going to want your phone nearby, so pouches like these are great to save your phone from disaster unless you have a waterproof phone/ case.  These are great for any valuables you don’t want to get splashed but want to carry.


 Beach towels

If you’re planning on spending any time in the water, you will of course need to bring your beach towels along.  I love to get a little fluffier towel because they absorb water better. The bigger they are the better because you can also use them as a blanket if they’re dry.

 Water shoes

Depending on where you may stop off to swim, you may want water shoes.  These ones pictured are super cute for kids, but the adult swim shoes have definitely evolved.  You can get some stylish swim shoes that you wouldn’t hate to have to run into the store wearing.


What do you think is essential for boating with a toddler?  Did I miss something or need to add something to my boating bag?

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