Snorkeling with Tots  

Don't let the fact that you have small children stop you from enjoying the best of what St. John has to offer. One of our favorite memories of St. John, 
is snorkeling with our 5 mos old baby and 3 year old daughter on Haulover reef - a fabulous snorkeling spot on the remote East End of the island.  The underwater scenery is some of the best (if not the best) to be found around the island.  One cautionary note -- Haulover can be quite rough when the wind is blowing from the north, so be careful to pick a calm day for your outing.

So how did we do it with a baby and three year old?  Well, our 3 year old daughter Missy learned to snorkel that year in our bathtub. Then, a couple months before our trip to the Caribbean, we began bringing her mask and snorkel to her swim class, and 
the instructor would coach her. By the time we got to St. John, she was doing well and, with some assistance from dad, learned to love it. 

Kids love the adventure of 
sailing aboard Breath; Missy's blowing the conch shell horn.
Raf's teaching our daughter Missy how to windsurf at 
Cinnamon Bay

Kids on St. John

Our contributors have some great tips 
about cool activites to share with your kids 
on and around our favorite island
As for our 5 mos old baby, Allegra, we put her in a swim vest and dropped her into a swim ring. I towed her along with me and put her face in a mask so that she could look through the water with us. She was excited by all the amazing sealife and coral, and when she got tired, she was able to lay her head down on the swim-ring and fall asleep.  Mom got to enjoy some excellent snorkeling while towing her napping babe!  We saw some elegant soft corals, colorful parrotfish and a beautiful spotted eagle ray -- we 
loved it!

-- Thia & Raf Muilenburg

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St. John Essence
Copyright 2012 by Thia Muilenburg
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Kayaking with Kids

 "The quality of life here, as far as I am concerned, cannot be beat. I surf, sail, powerboat, kayak, hike, snorkel, and on and on.  Last week, in the evening after work and school, I paddled at sunset out from Hawksnest, where I leave a couple kayaks, around Ramgoat and Henley Cays, with my 8 year old daughter sitting on the stern, chattering like an animated chipmunk the whole way - and balanced as well, naturally. As we made our approach back to the beach, we spotted a good-size green turtle and glided up on her – once alongside, we stroked her on the back of her hard, slick shell, and she just laid there looking at us....a very cool experience, and all the more special when you can share it with your child. With this gorgeous ocean right there, surrounding us, and with the Park helping to protect the land...this is an amazing place."  
-- Brion Morisette
Sailing and Snorkeling 
with Young Children

When you visit the USVI, you must go sailing.  There is no better way to see the islands, than to be on a sailboat traveling between them, being in sync with the wind and the flow of nature.  Exploring the waters and anchorages around the various nearby islands makes sailing a great adventure.  With children aboard, you'll enjoy it even more, and they will bring home amazing memories that will last a lifetime, like the first time she ever saw a graceful spotted eagle ray, felt the sharp spines of a black sea urchin, or swam along side a baby hawksbill turtle.

There are so many amazing sites to see around the coral reef, so take it slow in the water, and let your children take it all in.  Even 
a baby or toddler can enjoy the underwater sights with the help 
of a swim vest, blow-up swim ring, a mask and Mommy or Daddy’s secure hold.  The swim ring will help them effortlessly float along with you, and they can choose when to put their face in the water at their own pace, with or without a snorkel.

While snorkeling with your school-aged children, help them to see things up close by teaching them how to clear their ears and dive down deep with you.  They’ll be delighted when they find their first sea star or triton’s horn, and what fun to look for lobsters under coral ledges.

If possible, have fun taking a dingy ride to a remote beach to search for shells or to explore 
the terrain.  Be sure to bring along your sandals, hats and sunscreen, a camera and a 
bag for collecting treasures.

The sail back home into the harbor is often downwind with gentle movement, and is a peaceful and relaxing time for children to sleep after all the excitement of sailing and snorkeling off the boat.  

Great tips for parents:

Here are some valuable tips on how to ensure a fun adventure with kids on the sea:  

Thia and her daughter snorkeling at age 3
Keep ‘em close: Use a front pack for babies and a back pack for toddlers when the boat is under sail.  They like being close to you anyway because they’ll feel safe and you’ll feel confident knowing they’re right with you.

Bring activities along: Bring activity & coloring books, rope for learning to tie knots, for kids to use in the cockpit (for downwind sail), and for down below (in case it rains).  Familiar activities will help your child feel secure, and will ease boredom or restlessness.

Get older children involved: Stowing gear, raising the sails, steering the boat, making lunch, spotting birds and sea animals, identifying fish, helping younger children are all great ways to ensure a fun and memorable sail.

The captain is King (or Queen): Teach your children to respect the captain and follow their directions at all times.

Keep children safe:  Life vests are necessary for children of all ages while aboard the dingy and the boat.  When snorkeling off the boat, young children must have float vests on. For additional security in the deeper water, you can put them in a swim ring or lay them on a flat swim float or boogie board. Even children who are good swimmers should use swim vests in rough water or on a long snorkel trip because it’s easy to get tired.  Always accompany your children and stay close.  Teach your kids what to stay away from (fire coral, sea urchins).

Boost their confidence:  The best way for your children to develop a love of sailing and snorkeling is for you to show them your confidence, calm and enthusiasm. If you are positive and have a psyched attitude, they will too.  

-- Thia Muilenburg

Follow this map to find the Pirate's Treasure!
Stand up paddle boards are easy for kids and parents to enjoy together.
Bring a ball to the beach for hours of fun!
Your kids will love the donkeys who live along the road to Coral Bay.
All you need is a rope, some kids, and you're ready for tug of war!
Your kids will never be bored on a St John vacation with a few simple games to play.
Before you know it, your kids will find new friends to play with.
Be cool, bring your mask and snorkel!
For events, info and photos from St. John USVI,
visit the St. John Essence Blog
"My children and I are planning a vacation to St. John the ending of this month. My children are 10 and 2, and I found your website to be very informative on what activities I can do with them once we arrive. Thank you!"

-- Sharon Clarke Maximin
Orlando, FL