Children have enjoyed sport and water activities since the beginning of time. Some kids are natural water babies, some have no fear and some like to know how stuff works. Each child is different however when it comes to maturity, and you cannot just assume they are tiny adults when considering scuba diving as a new hobby. As an instructor who has enjoyed the company of many a young student diver, I have put together a little guide below for wary parents.
Courses available for young people:
- PADI Bubblemaker for age 8+ in a shallow pool environment of 2 metres. In the Bubblemaker your kids learn to breathe underwater, practice simple skills, swim around and play games like frisbee or swim through hoops for example
- PADI Seal Team. Also for age 8+ but a bit more advanced. Your child will complete AquaMissions to a max depth of 5 metres, also in a pool or confined water environment. Part 1 involves skills practice and part 2 is more specialised diving topics like underwater photography, “wreck” diving and Fish ID. SSI have a similar program called Scuba Rangers.
- PADI Junior Open Water at 10 years old consists of theory, confined water skills and open water dives. This course results in a globally recognised certification. Depending on the age of your child there will be depth restrictions: 12 metres for 10 and 11 year olds and 18 metres for 12-14 year olds. Of course there are other training agencies that offer junior certifications such as SSI, who offer the Scuba Rangers Program, and RAID for example.
All the experiences listed above are supervised by fully qualified professionals. Of course, scuba diving won’t be for every child but if they are medically fit, want to learn, are comfortable in water and show mental maturity, this is an activity that can change their life. See our list below of why Scuba may benefit your children. If you are in any doubt of whether this is a sport for them, read the book Children and Scuba Diving: A Resource Guide for Instructors and Parents by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
- Scuba can help children overcome problems and challenges
Entry level scuba courses focus on persistence, practice and mastery. If your child has a good attention span and can stay rational and act calmly under pressure, then they will thoroughly enjoy diving training. Listening to briefings will of course benefit their learning but so will grasping what they didn’t do quite right in a de-briefing. Retaining a lot of information can be task loading however so some kids prefer shorter training sessions focusing on one topic. E-Learning has certainly made this easier for younger students with bite-size chunks completed at their pace. Learning how to assemble scuba equipment and dealing with failures are challenging but rewarding skills that they get to repeat to muscle memory standard.
- It will help them become more responsible
Diving is a team activity. It will develop social skills but also team building and responsibility for other people, as well as yourself. Students are reminded to check in with their guide and buddy frequently and to clearly communicate whether they are ok or not. This can be difficult for some children with strangers however, as they may be shy or worried to admit they are not comfortable. If your child is good at following rules and instructions for their own safety, they will excel at diver training. They are learning to manage risk as well as have discipline with pre-dives checks and this requires some level of maturity. At age 12 your kids can become Advanced Open Water or Rescue Divers which develops this teamwork and risk management further.
- They will have increased water awareness
Learning to swim is one thing but going below the surface and breathing underwater will give your child a whole new respect for water. The skills you learn at entry level are predominantly survival skills, in the unlikely event that equipment may fail or accidents happen. Essentially, they are learning how not to drown. Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, with children being in the most at risk category. In the Open Water course theory, your kids will learn about the diving environment including risks of currents, surface conditions and aquatic life injuries. They need to complete waterskills tests such as treading water/staying afloat and swimming unassisted. The younger a child is exposed to something like water, the more comfortable they will be with it as they grow.
- It will bond you as a family
You may well be the coolest parent on the planet, but your kids won’t believe that until they see you diving with their own eyes. By allowing them into the underwater world that you love, you are sharing a part of yourself they won’t have seen before. Diving is an adventure – the places you will travel together, the different cultures and marine life you will see all contribute to developing a special bond with your kids. If you are not already a diver, you may want to learn as a family. If you don’t mind your child seeing you a bit vulnerable, then this is a great idea. You can then share your first shark or first boat dive together. Occasionally however it is better for the child to learn without the added pressure of a parent overlooking everything they do. Booking a trip, doing buddy checks, pointing out fish life and filling out logbooks as a family are precious memories that will last forever.
- It will get them into conservation
Enjoying and seeing changes within marine environments will already give your children a greater awareness of topics such as climate change, overfishing and coral bleaching. Use this as an opportunity to get them involved in worthwhile scuba activities like underwater and beach clean-ups and reef restoration. There are many distinctive specialty courses focusing on favourite marine animals like sharks and turtles that they can enrol in. Citizen science projects take little effort but your underwater holiday snaps can be useful to NGOs looking to identify marine mammals (like whale sharks and mantas). Why not take a Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty course to improve trim and buoyancy in delicate ecosystems? There are many ways for you and your kids to contribute to making the ocean environment a healthier place while at home, such as reducing single use plastics, recycling correctly, reducing your seafood consumption and generally being less wasteful.
- Scuba is great exercise
Any outdoor sport is good for kids. It gets them in the fresh air, away from a phone or TV screen which will improve their physical and mental health. Diving also focuses on breathing, which encourages meditative feelings and a calming environment. Of course, before beginning a course your kids need to be medically fit. They will burn calories while finning and improve their circulation by getting moving. Mentally their brains will be exercised learning about the physics, physiology and natural world of scuba diving and they will release feel-good hormones.
While diving isn’t a competitive sport, winning is a great feeling. Being given positive reinforcement by an instructor feels great when you have done something right. Being encouraged to do something better also builds relationships and trust. Scuba courses are not meant to be easy. They focus on safety and procedures which could be construed as boring for kids. What makes them successful is that they are broken down into modules. Every time you complete a module there is a sense of achievement as you have answered questions correctly and mastered skills. Moving on to the next module feels good. At the end of the course, you are awarded with a certification of achievement which lasts for life. There are no grades, just pass or don’t pass and try again. Knowing that your child will be supervised on future diving activities should put your mind at rest as a parent but do remember that they will still need regular check dives and refreshers after periods of inactivity.