Most kids love the water, even before they learn how to swim it still offers lots of fun possibilities to them. Once they do learn to swim and any initial fears have been quashed, they will begin to get adventurous. This makes it a great time to get them interested in what happens beneath the waves, whilst furthering their interest in water sports in general.
However you need to know how to go about it properly to ensure that they are taught everything they need to know by fully qualified professionals. When done correctly your kids can gain a qualification that can be built on as they grow older.
Where to Start
All of the main diving organisations like PADI, NAUI and SSI run courses for children. Though the structure of the courses may vary slightly, they all cover the important basics of safe diving and equipment maintenance. The average age to start is 7 or 8 years old, though they will not be able to receive certification until they reach the age of 10 or 12 (depending on which course they take).
Those who take the PADI course aged between 10-15 years will receive the ‘PADI Junior Open Water Diver’ certification, whereas those who go with NAUI will receive their certification at age 12. To be able to be certified on the YMCA Scuba Certification course attendees must be aged 15 or over and with SSI (Scuba Schools International) they can qualify for their ‘Junior Open Water Diver Certification’ between the ages of 12-14.
The age they start is probably more dependent on who runs the diving courses in your local area, and which guidelines they follow. For children younger than this they may enjoy the Junior Skin Diver course that NAUI offers, which is based around snorkelling and breath-hold diving which is available to children from 8 years of age.
PADI for Kids
From the age of 8 kids can enrol in the Bubblemaker program, where they get to see what scuba diving is all about in the safety of the swimming pool. All of the activity takes place in less than 6ft of water, and give the kids a taste of what it’s like underwater. The Seal Team covers the same age range of 8+ but is suitable for the more adventurous, again everything is done in the safety of the swimming pool and they will get to grips with underwater photography and environmental awareness.
Children aged 10-14 can work towards the PADI Junior Open Water certificate which allows them to dive, with certain restrictions like always being accompanied by a qualified adult diver, and the water not to exceed 40ft in depth. Junior Advanced Divers aged up to 14 can continue to build their diving skill set and upon reaching 15 years of age can have their certification upgraded which will remove all age related restrictions.
SSI Scuba Rangers
Widely regarded as one of the best scuba courses for children it has been specially designed for children aged between 7-12 and aims to make learning as much fun as possible. The course offers regular progression between the levels and allows the children to feel rewarded for their efforts, moving them up the ‘scuba ladder’ towards certification.
Starting the course as a Red Ranger this level is all about showing how well they can swim whilst learning how to swim with a snorkel, mask and fins. Progressing to White Ranger they get to know the diving equipment, learning all about how everything works before taking to the water with it for the first time.
Blue Rangers learn how to manoeuvre in the water before becoming Silver Rangers when underwater games are the order of the day, complete with all equipment. From silver the next grade is ‘Demo Ranger’ when children get to teach their parents just what they have learned. Once the children have shown that they can clearly demonstrate their diving skills they become fully fledged members of the Scuba Rangers Club.
Club members receive a membership card and become an integral part of the scuba ranger’s network, meeting up with other groups for swim sessions and field trips. These very talented and skilled rangers can also choose to specialise in a specific area of diving like underwater photography or marine conservation. SSI Scuba Rangers also get the chance to travel on special trips and dive in the different environments of the world’s oceans.