How Early Can Kids Learn to Dive?
It’s a story we hear all too often… ‘My wife and I use to love to dive, but after the kiddos came along, we stopped’. Why is it that so many parents give up on a hobby after they start having children?
Is it lack of time? Money? A combination of both? While some families continue to travel with their children, and even do adventurous things like camping, hiking and even skiing, scuba diving isn’t a sport that quickly comes to mind. As a female dive professional who is newly married and moving towards that next chapter of my life, its something that’s on my mind a lot lately: being able to keep the diving dream alive and starting a family of my own. And not having to pick one over the other!
A Diving Holiday with Little Ones - the Dilemma
For many families, it is the apparent lack of resources when it comes to finding child care for the younger ones while on a dive holiday. Finding resorts that are family friendly can be difficult. And many parents feel guilty leaving the little ones with hotel ‘daycare’ while they head out on a dive boat, or alternatively, at home with friends or family. Planning the next family vacation then takes a predictable turn: a trip to Disney World, a cruise, or a long weekend at the beach. A lot of parents hang up their wetsuits and don’t think about diving again until much later in life.
Family Divers, a US based company, has been working to change that since the year 2000. Partnering with family friendly resorts all over the world to run all-inclusive family vacation events known as Kids Sea Camp, the company provides exciting weeks full of adventure for just about every member of the family that promote bonding over a common love of travel and the ocean. With fully supervised programs for kids starting at age 4, mom and dad can head out diving and rest assured that their little ones will be taken care of in a fun and safe environment geared to find the future diver in them too.
How Early Can Kids Learn to Dive?
It’s a question we get a lot. Kids can actually become fully certified divers at the age of 10. And for those younger than 10, PADI has programs like the SEAL team and others to help get them comfortable in the water and familiar with scuba at an early age. Here’s a closer look at those programs.
The SASY program, which stands for ‘Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth’, is designed for 5-7 yr olds to introduce the basic concepts of snorkeling and breathing underwater and get the little ones excited about the oceanic world. Essentially, the SASY unit is a life jacket that resembles a tiny BCD, with a small tank and regulator attached. Participants get to experience the feeling of breathing through a regulator underwater, but since the jacket is buoyant, they remain on the surface the entire time creating a safe and comfortable setting. Kids Sea Camp is one of the only entities in the world to offer this program.
The PADI Bubblemaker program is a chance for kids aged 8 and up to try scuba in a confined setting (like a pool) up to 2M/6ft deep. This experience is designed to let the young ones see what it feels like to breathe underwater and hopefully continue on to the PADI Seal team. With no skills or exercises required, it’s a great introduction to Scuba without the pressure of taking a class.
PADI Seal Team is for kids ages 8 and up, and introduces them to the basics of scuba in a fun and safe learning environment. Participants learn about things like buoyancy, pressure, and the aquatic world, and begin practicing basic scuba skills like equalization, regulator recovery, mask clearing, and neutral buoyancy through a series of ‘Aqua Missions’ in a swimming pool. For kids who might be a bit older, but not quite ready to get certified for some reason, the Seal Team can also be a great stepping stone to the open water course. During the Padi Seal team, participants dive underwater in a confined setting (swimming pool) to a maximum depth of 12ft. Due to our reputation and safety record, however, Kids Sea Camp is one of the only entities world wide that has a special waiver by PADI to take the Seal Team participants on a shallow ocean dive at the end of the week, so participants with KSC can put what they’ve learned to use and enjoy the reef and all it has to offer. Upon completion of the Padi Seal team, participants receive a card certifying them as a padi seal team diver. They can even complete an additional set of Aqua Missions to become recognized as ‘Master Seals’. After completing the Padi Seal team, kids are more comfortable in the water and more ready to become certified divers.
At 10, Kids Can Be Certified Junior Open Water
10-14 year olds earn a Junior Open Water certification. Essentially, it is the same exact Open Water course an adult would take with the same requirements for skills and dives, with a couple key differences being a smaller student to instructor ratio and shallower depth limits. 10 and 11 year olds certify to be able to dive to 12M/40ft, whereas 13 and older get certified to dive to 18m/60ft.
Aly is Director of Training at Kids Sea Camp & Family Dive Adventures.
Kids Sea Camp runs in 13 different countries including The Cayman Islands, Roatan, Palau, Philippines, Bonaire, St Lucia, Fiji and the Galapagos. They have issued over 7000 youth certifications since 2000 with not a single dive accident. Most Kids Sea Camp weeks offer SASY, SEAL and Junior Open Water programs, as well as Advanced Open Water (ages 12 and up) Rescue (12 and up) and even Divemaster for those aged 18 and over.
Kids Sea Camp was created by then single mom Margo Peyton who was dreaming about a family vacation for all members where travel and diving could serve as a valuable educational tool. Experiencing new cultures, new cuisines, and different ways of life is already enriching. Top that off with learning a new sport and discovering the underwater world whilst making life-long friends and it’s a vacation unlike no other!
For more information, visit Family Divers’ Website