Scuba Diving for Children
Scuba diving is descending and exploring underwater through the use of scuba equipment. Snorkeling is the practice of swimming, while equipped with a diving mask, snorkel and fins, and having the ability to view the world below the water surface. It is an adventure of a lifetime to float nearly weightless amongst exotic creatures and unique landscapes. Scuba diving and/or snorkeling is a hobby that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Scuba diving is becoming more and more popular as a pastime and family diving is the hottest new trend. Certification agencies, gear manufacturers, dive destinations and resorts have all worked to make family dive outings, from snorkel trips to full-fledged dive vacations, easier than ever.
Age To Start Scuba Diving?
For the enthusiastic scuba diver parent, or for those who feel their child loves the water and will enjoy learning about diving and undersea life, many options are available. Children as young as 5 years old can be trained to scuba dive on some level, and those 10 - 15 can receive many of the same certifications as adults. If the diver is under 15, they will receive a junior certification. This certification requires them to dive with an adult. Once they turn 15, they may receive a regular certification. For more information on certification and classes see our Diving Program for Kids section.
The best place to build your child's confidence and get comfortable with snorkeling equipment is in the bathtub. Kids will love it, feel secure and have opportunity to get used to the feel of the mask on their faces and how to breath through the snorkel. The next area to practice and build confidence is in the pool. Again, it is an environment where the kids will feel safe snorkeling because they are free of waves. Once your child is ready for the open water be sure to select a site for snorkeling that is calm, with minimal waves.
Any basic scuba diving instruction will begin with snorkeling, which has no age requirements, to allow your child to become familiar with the underwater experience and get comfortable with the mask, fins, and snorkel.
How do I know if my child is ready for lessons?
important to know your child and to determine their physical and
emotional maturity level when making the decision to have them take diving lessons.
A good indication of whether your
child has the strength and coordination for scuba diving is his or her
ability to play another sport. If they are not coordinated enough
for other sports then you should wait to start scuba lessons.
Does your child have the
discipline, focus and respect for authority required to take scuba
lessons? Remember that if your child is not mature enough to dive
safely without direct supervision it will put them or their dive partner
in a dangerous situation.
Ask teachers and other adults
who know your child for their opinion.
Honestly answer these questions about your child and if you find that your answers are all positive then your child is most likely ready for certification:
To give you an idea of the cost involved with scuba diving, to purchase your basic equipment (mask, fins, snorkel) and take basic lessons it is about the same cost as getting into tennis. However, if you really enjoy the sport, then the cost will be more like that of snow skiing. Starting out is the most expensive because you have to get certified and purchase some equipment.
The cost of lessons with vary based on the type of lesson and the location. You can get private or group lessons . Certification classes will cost between $350 and $450. Discounts may apply for each additional child in the same applying group.
Once you are certified diving can be as cheap as golfing 18 holes or as expensive as a ski trip in Colorado. It really depends on whether you live near the ocean and have diving available or if you have to plan a vacation to enjoy this new hobby.
Most instructors recommend that you buy the basic essentials (mask, fins, and snorkel) and rent other scuba gear such as tanks and regulators. Key manufacturers are doing an outstanding job of designing, fabricating and promoting scuba equipment for children and small adults. This equipment will cost about $150. A complete set of dive gear rents for approximately $40 to $80 depending on the location. Most dive shops do not charge students rental during class. You can probably purchase all of your gear for around $600 - $800.
The gear that you will need and use will vary somewhat depending upon your diving environment, as well as your preferences. There are four general categories for dive equipment, but some gear fits in all the categories – for example the mask you use for tropical diving is probably for temperate or cold water diving, too.
It is necessary to take your child with you when you are purchasing scuba gear for them because they should be part of the decision making process. Proper fit is vital but to them the color and style is just as important. You should buy the gear all together, at least the mask and snorkel, so that they will match and fit properly. Remember that you only get what you pay for, inexpensive gear could compromise performance and comfort. If your child is uncomfortable they will be unhappy.
The mask is probably the most important part of your child's equipment. It must fit comfortably and seal well on your face when you are underwater. There are a variety of different types of masks. Masks without side windows will usually cost a little bit less. Be sure the lens is made of tempered safety glass because it will scratch less and it will be almost unbreakable. The mask strap should be easily adjustable and have locking buckles for quick changes if needed. You will find that a plastic strap split in back will slip less during dives than the neoprene wide straps. A Silicone skirt. is softer than PVC so it will conform to the face better and will be more comfortable.
Fins, which are the second most important piece of diving gear, must match your child's leg strength. Flexible blades are very important for kids. If the fins are too large, or too stiff, they will not have the leg power necessary to use them. If you purchase fins that are too soft or small, they will generate too little thrust. Fins have a broad price range and vary greatly in their materials, shapes, and sizes. Full-foot fins are less likely to come off accidentally, and they are simple and easy to use however your child will outgrow this type of fin sooner. Adjustable strap fins should have a protective heel plate for comfort with kids. These fins will give you more years of use but you will probably need to buy booties every year. Check to see if the shop will let you exchange them if they don't work out. Comfort and fit should ultimately help you determine your purchase.
Snorkels come in a variety of shapes, and sizes. Things on top of the basic snorkel are bells and whistles, but they may add to the comfort and fit. Make sure you get a small mouthpiece so that it fits well and does not cut in to the corners of your child's mouth. A store interested in selling to kids will have a way of sterilizing equipment so they can actually try on the mouthpiece. Typically silicone mouth pieces are softer and therefore they are the most flexible and comfortable. The snorkel should have a small bore to match small lungs. Kids do not have the lung power to clear an adult snorkel. A purge valve will reduce the amount of water retained in the bore and make it easier to clear. If you choose the snorkel first you child will have the snorkel in his/her mouth to try on the mask.
Wetsuits are important for warmth as well as protection. In addition, the extra flotation will help to build confidence. A full length, medium weight wetsuit is best for body coverage, comfort and warmth. A good fit is important, never buy one that is too big. Look for a wetsuit that is very stretchy to accommodate growth.
Booties and gloves need to fit properly. Never buy these items large to allow for growing because this will allow excess water in and your child will get cold. Booties with zippers may be easier for your child especially when they are wet.
The rest of the necessary equipment includes: a buoyancy compensation device (B.C.), a regulator, console, a wet suit, and air tanks. This equipment can get quite costly so you will need to make a decision as to whether you are ready to purchase the equipment initially, or if you want to try it out first by renting the equipment.
Renting Vs Buying Equipment
It is best to start out renting your equipment, and then if you really enjoy the sport consider purchasing it. The list below ranks the equipment based on the order your should purchase it.
There is a wealth of other dive gear and accessories that can make any divers underwater life a little easier. It is important to hold off from purchasing these items until you get some idea of your personal style and preference. Here then is a list (in no particular order) of the ten "must have" pieces of dive gear or dive accessories from scubadiving-abc.com
1. A Dive Computer - Scuba diving computers eliminate the need for dive
tables to calculate depth time and decompression needs. Dive computers
are revolutionizing diving and have been one of the greatest innovations
to diver safety since the invention of the aqualung. Dive computers can
be no bigger than an ordinary dive watch.