Boat holidays: Fun activities when boating with kids

Boat holidays are great fun for kids, particularly if you get them involved in boating and pack some of their fave toys/ books for downtime.  The main question that friends and readers have asked since we returned from our boating holiday in France with Le Boat is how did we keep our kids entertained on board the boat.  This article shares some of the fun activities we recommend when boating with kids.

Boating holiday with kids

My boys loved our week cruising along the rivers and canals in Brittany.  We got them helping out around the boat and they also kept themselves thoroughly entertained in their cabin when they weren’t up on top deck steering with us.  This four minute time lapse video shows what it is really like boating with kids and highlights our week onboard.  It was taken on my iPhone held in place by a tripod near the steering wheel.  My kids absolutely loved being featured in the time lapse videos and asked to watch the clips back time and time again!  (If this video inspires you to film using a tripod check out this brilliant guide to 12 of the best travel tripods).

Fun activities when boating with kids

Fun activities when boating with kids

Get them involved

From day one our boys took it in turns to play captain, steering the boat, following the map and choosing suitable mooring spots.  They loved helping out and got stuck in with boat chores including filling the water tank, helping with locks, taking recycling up to the bins and even sweeping the floors.  It was all part of the boat holiday fun for them, very different to being asked to do chores at home!

Boating holiday France with Le Boat

Encourage them to speak the local lingo

Our boys needed a little encouragement to greet fellow boaters, walkers, bikers and fishermen in French but once they received enthusiastic greetings in return they said bonjour/bonsoir to every person we passed.  It was lovely to see their confidence improve through the week.  At one of the last marinas we stayed at I couldn’t get a word in when my eldest son was talking to a Dutch family moored next to our boat.  He was telling them all sorts of tales!

Wildlife spotting

They literally sat for hours with their binoculars looking out for kingfishers, flying fish, cattle in the fields and otters.  They really enjoyed looking out for the cranes which seemed to hide in the river banks until our boat got quite close and then take off, flying low over the water before swooping up high into the sky, circling around and then returning to their place on the river bank. Seemingly waiting for the next boat to go by which really amused my boys!

boating holidays in France with Le Boat

They wrote down a long list of wildlife that they spotted on the river banks and in the water and enjoyed drawing pictures of what they had seen too.

boat holiday France wildlife

Fancy dress and props

As soon as we mentioned to our boys that we were going on a boating holiday in France they started pestering to have a pirate fancy dress day.  We did it as a surprise for their Daddy’s birthday. It was great fun and one of our most memorable days.  (Although slightly embarrassing when both of our boys went below deck to play in their cabin leaving my hubby and I dressed as pirates, with arms covered in tattoos.  We got some very strange looks from lock keepers!)

boating with kids

I also took onboard some extra fun props for the kids including a captain’s hat.  The props and fancy dress costumes only cost a few pounds and yet made the boating holiday experience so much more fun for us all.

boat holiday France games and fun activities

Fun and easy meals

Self catering holidays can be hard work if you continue to cook big lavish meals like you would at home.  I kept all meals on our river boat holiday really simple and fun for the kids.  We had crepes with lots of fruit, pizzas, fajitas, burrito boats, croque monsieur. All meals were quick and simple to make, reasonably healthy and most importantly, easy to eat with one hand if we were eating whilst steering the boat.

easy meals when on a boating holiday


My boys spent hours with their fishing rods dangling in the water.  It must be a boy thing because fishing doesn’t interest me in the slightest although I did love the peace and managed to read two books whilst they were trying to catch fish!

boat holiday with kids fishing

Feed ducks and swans

The first thing my boys wanted to do every morning was rush outside to feed the ducks and swans. Having wildlife literally at our back door was so exciting for them. Some of the birds were very tame and were nearly coming into the boat, much to their amusement.

boat holiday with kids feeding swans

Scooting or biking along the canal paths

We took our scooters onboard to make it easier to explore local villages and stock up on grocery supplies.  We also found it good fun to race the boat to the next lock on our scooters.  This photo was taken by my hubby from onboard the boat… My boys were giggling the whole time racing Daddy and the boat.

Fun activities. boating holiday with kids

Explore the local area

My boys absolutely loved looking through the info file we were provided with, reading up about the villages we were passing and choosing somewhere to spend a few hours exploring.  On our route we passed huge chateaus, castle ruins, outdoor pursuit centres, outdoor pools, fancy marinas… all very exciting places for kids to explore.

boating holiday with kids

Quiet games for down time

My boys really enjoyed chilling in their cabin and on deck, reading favourite books and filling in sticker books.  To be honest they played together better onboard than they do it home, (I think because there were less toys to argue over!).  Radios that we took onboard kept them entertained for hours and they also played for hours with a great card game that we’ve just discovered called Dobble. (An affiliate link which will not cost you any extra). 

boat holiday with kids

I hope you find the above ideas useful if you go on a boat holiday with kids.  Please do pop your ideas for other fun activities in the comments section below. I’m always looking for new ideas to entertain my energetic boys!

Further info – Read our full review of the boat and our cruise itinerary here – Boating holiday in France: Our incredible week with Le Boat!  Find out what it is like to go on a boat holiday with kids here – A boat holiday with kids: What is it really like?

Disclaimer – We were kindly invited to review a boat holiday in France by Le Boat.  All words and opinions are, as always, our own.  All images copyright Travel Loving Family. 

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Boat holidays fun onboard activities for kids including fishing, wildlife spotting and fancy dress. #boatholiday #boatholidayfrance #boatingwithkids #adventureholidayswithkids




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