My wife and I started boating with our kids from a very young age. In fact, our youngest son took his first trip on our pontoon boat when he was only 3 months old.
And just because you have a newborn it doesn’t mean that your love of the water should stop. In fact, the younger you introduce them to your boat, the better. Our older kids are now very comfortable on our boat and are extremely knowledgeable of safety too.
It’s a life skill that you can’t really put a value on.
When it came to our youngest baby, both my wife and I soon realized that some products are better than others. There are some marine stores that sell accessories designed as baby boat gear, when in fact they aren’t always that great.
Some of the best baby boat gear is absolutely essential, functional, and designed with safety in mind.
Other accessories and gadgets are simply fun and comfortable that will make you and your baby’s time on the boat so much more memorable, and not to mention easy!
Every accessory and product that we recommend on this page we have personally used with our own baby. They offer great value for money, are safe to use, and you will end up using at some point whilst at sea or on a lake or river.
So, without further ado, here are the very best products that fall in the baby boat gear category including eating and playing gear, and most importantly, safety gear or accessories.
I firmly believe that if you own a boat and have a young family including newborns, babies, infants, toddlers, and older children up to teenagers, then the best memories you will make will be on board.
I hope that you enjoy our list of the best boating gear you would ever need for your baby or toddler as much as we have down the years!
1. Baby Life Jacket
By far the most important accessory you will ever own will be an infant life jacket. The thing to look for can be shown in this handy infographic I prepared below, followed by our recommendations on what the best brands on the market currently are.
Choose a life jacket that comes with a crotch strap and a heads-up flotation pad, as this will keep your baby more buoyant should they end up in the water.
It absolutely must be US Coast Guard Approved and be the right size for your infant.
Here are some of the best, depending on how large your boating baby is.
Best Life Jacket for Toddlers Under 30 Pounds
The Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket is a superb PFD and will fit infants who weigh between 8 to 30 pounds. Any lighter than that and you shouldn’t really be taking them on a boat, and in fact there could be local states law recommending you don’t.
However, for babies who can go on boats, this product is superb.
It comes with a quick release buckle, high visibility color options, crotch straps, grab handle, and is approved by the coast guard not just in the United States, but also Canada.
It’s one of the most highly rated life jackets on Amazon – click here to view current prices.
Best Life Jacket for Toddlers from 30 to 50 Pounds
This recommendation is great for older or heavier toddlers and can be used when boating, tubing, or swimming in a lake or pool.
It has 3 adjustable buckles plus a leg strap to make a more secure fit, as well as a durable nylon shell with PE flotation foam.
Available on Amazon, it’s also one of the top-rated life jackets for toddlers weighing over 30 pounds, so go read the reviews and prices now.
2. Puddle Jumper
Puddle jumpers should also be purchased in addition to a life jacket as they are much easier for swimming.
However, please be aware of how the two things are very different to each other, despite both being promoted as approved PFDs.
We use paddle jumpers on our pontoon boat when we’re anchored, and the life jackets always go on once the boat is in motion or when we’re waking around a dock or marina.
To find out why and which puddle jumpers are best for toddlers and babies, plus to see our recommended brand, read this additional guide.
3. Baby Sun Hat
Continuing on with the safety theme, it’s imperative that you protect your baby from the sun. Sometimes just being under a cover or under a Bimini shade won’t be enough to shield them from the sun.
Choose something that will cover their neck, and not just their head. It’s also handy to find one that can secure under their chin, so it doesn’t get blown off by a sudden gust of wind.
Something like the Breatheasy Sun Protection Hat is just perfect and comes with very good online reviews.
4. Baby Sunscreen
Normal sunscreen, even the stuff manufactured for kids isn’t suitable for babies.
You need to find a sunscreen suitable for babies, and there’s a great product on Amazon which fits the bill called Aveno Baby Continuous Protection.
Handy Hint: You should not apply sunscreen to a baby under 6 months old. Their skin is too thin for it, and it can actually harm them. Instead, keep them covered up and in the shade properly.
5. Baby Sunglasses
But what about their eyes? Just like their skin, a baby’s eye can also be at risk from the sun.
The sunglasses my brother uses for his 8 month old when they come out with us pontooning are the Tuga UV 400 brand with adjustable straps.
These glasses block out 100% of both UVA and UVB damaging sun rays, which can lead to cataracts and come with a UV 400 safety rating making them a great choice.
6. Baby Beds for a Boat
Moving onto baby boat gear for comfort now, as you might need a bed, co-sleeper, or rocker for your youngest.
We don’t personally use anything like this, as our trips on our pontoon boat tend to be limited to just a day, and the baby will always be carried at all times.
There aren’t any boat specific baby beds on the market, but you can pick up highly-rated products which will do just what you need.
For example, the Baby Delight Bed on Amazon is compact, comfortable, and just the right size for a younger baby who will need to sleep on your boat’s bed with you.
Other options to consider here would be a baby rocker, depending on how much deck or floor space you have on you boat.
I would imagine that you already have one of those from home anyway so no need for a gear recommendation here.
7. Baby Boat Seat
Any booster seat should work, providing that it’s position safely and securely – for example, the best place is probably in the corner of a bench seat so it doesn’t slide around. But even then, you run the risk of the seat getting shifted around by wakes and waves.
So how about something a little bit more suitable to your boating lifestyle which is also secure?
Here’s just the ticket and it’s the best baby boat seat I have seen in recent years. It’s something called the Searock Marine Baby Seat and Swing.
This swing seat can be set-up under your boat top or Bimini using a harness and stabilizer safely. It offers a shaded seat area which will rock naturally as your boat rides the (gentle) waves.
I think it’s an awesome baby boat seat, and just wish I had bought one during the earlier years as it works really well on a pontoon boat.
8. Water Splash Detection Child Safety Alarms
It’s an electronic wristband which goes on your baby or toddler’s arm. If it senses water or wetness, a loud alarm will sound off alerting you to trouble.
Whilst I can’t imagine for a moment you would ever take your eye off your baby when boating, it will give you the peace of mind in knowing you have an extra layer of safety.
To find out more, go take a look at the Safety Turtle Child Immersion Alarm Kit on Amazon. You can buy them as single kits, or as a pair if you have more than one youngster.
9. Porta Potties
For older toddlers who are getting to the stage of being toilet trained, you’re going to need a small and easy to use potty on board.
There are some great boat porta potties available which are just the right size for little legs, and I’ve reviewed the best ones you can buy in this guide to boat porta potties.
10. Baby Swim Float
One of the most popular accessories for baby boating amongst our friends is a baby swim float. It provides a great way in which you can get your youngest used to the water.
If you do decide to buy one of these, make sure that your baby is also wearing an infant lifejacket or PFD – and never let go of the float at any time.
Choose one with a shade to protect them from the sun and well-designed grab handles. The Swimways Baby Swim Float is ideal for this purpose, plus is designed to let mom or dad face the baby and hold the float safely at all times.
11. Boat Themed Baby Toys
Keeping your baby entertained whilst on the waters is a never-ending task as parents will no doubt know. If they aren’t asleep or eating, you need something to keep their active mind occupied – and something for them to pick up and examine.
You’re already bound to have baby bath toys at home, so bring a few of those along with you to have handy at all times.
Handy Hint: For more idea on how to keep a toddler or baby entertained whilst on your boat, take a look at the Pontoonopedia guide to boating with a baby.
12. Portable Baby Bath
This inflatable bath tub is perfect. It blows up in a couple of minutes and can be folded away in seconds after use.
The Last Word on Safety
I hope that you have found this list of accessories suitable for babies on boats helpful.
I won’t lie, my wife and I have found it sometimes challenging to have babies on our pontoon boat, but if you’re prepared (and safe) things are so much easier.
As your baby grows into a toddler, it will become more and more used to being at sea or on the lake.
The earlier they get started, the better, especially when it comes to being boat safe and aware. Based on that, you might find this child boat safety procedure and plan that we use helpful.
On every boat trip we take with kids, we run though that 6 point plan so they know exactly what to do in an emergency. It will set them up for life as a responsible boater.
Handy Hint: The Stop Drowning Now website is an excellent resource for parents and those wanting tips on how to be safe around water with young children including babies, toddlers, and teenagers.