What is the minimum age for a child to dive? According to PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors), children can be certified as Junior Open Water Divers as young as 10 years old. Whether or not this is recommended for all children is a topic of debate within the diving community.
Not all children are ready to dive at the same age.
The issue is that children develop physically and mentally at different rates, making it difficult to determine a specific age at which all children can safely dive. A child’s maturity, reasoning skills and physical limitations must be taken into account when determining if he or she is ready to begin diving.
If you want to do everything you can to help your children succeed, ask yourself these questions to find out if they are ready to dive:
Does your child really want to dive?
First things first. It’s common for children to get infatuated with an idea, only to discard it after five minutes; make sure their desire to dive is a genuine interest and not a whim. It is also advisable to analyze whether your child’s desire to dive is not more yours than theirs. A person should not try to dive simply to please someone else (parents or friends). While these people can be inspirational, for diving to be safe and enjoyable the child must want to be underwater.
Is the child medically fit to dive?
All student divers must complete a medical questionnaire before beginning a diving course. The high pressure a diver experiences underwater affects the functioning of his or her body in a variety of ways. Physical conditions that may not be bothersome (or even noticeable) in everyday life can be dangerous underwater.
Lung problems (such as asthma), ear problems (such as problems with equalization), allergies and certain diseases are potentially dangerous underwater. If in doubt, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
Are you sure your child is mature enough to dive?
If he is, you won’t have to force him to take the class. He will read the materials without being asked to do so, and he will have a sufficient attention span to listen and learn from class discussions, pre- and post-practice briefings in the pool and open water, and other interactions with an instructor.
Maturity also translates into sufficient self-control and the ability to respond to a problem by following the rules and asking for help rather than acting impulsively. Most dive centers and training agencies require children and young adolescents to dive with an adult who can respond to situations unforeseen by them. However, an adult cannot always prevent a child from reacting to a situation inappropriately, such as holding his or her breath or shooting to the surface. The child will also need to understand and discuss hypothetical situations and basic abstract concepts such as space and time, as they will need this in order to navigate underwater.
Are you able to step back and let the experts do their job?
While it can be difficult to sit back and watch while your child is learning to dive, you should resist the temptation to jump in and interrupt the lesson. By allowing your child to recognize the dive instructor as the person “in charge,” he or she will pay more attention to what is being taught. It will also help build their confidence in the instructor, which is particularly important when it comes to in-water sessions, where they can rely on that confidence to overcome nerves or barriers. Remember, certified dive instructors are professionals, and they know exactly what they are doing to ensure a safe and rewarding experience for children.
Once you’re confident you can answer “Yes” to the above questions, you’re ready to get the most out of learning to scuba dive with your child. You’ll be able to enjoy a family vacation together – above and below the waves – and give them a firsthand appreciation of the ocean.
Ready to take your first steps as a family? Find out more about possible scuba diving certifications for kids.
Want to dive as a family but not ready for the commitment that certification entails? Aquaworld’s Discover Scuba is for you.