When can children start to scuba dive?

When can children start to scuba dive?

When can children start to scuba dive? This question seems to get a plethora of answers. If you’re trying to find all the key facts about when children can start scuba diving, then you are going to love this post.

This post is direct, fact based and to the point. By the end of this post you will know what ages, exclusions, health considerations and what’s involved in kids learning to scuba dive.

Let's get started

You can use these links to navigate the section guide that most answers your exact question.

  1. How old do you have to be to scuba dive?
  2. Is there a minimum age for scuba diving in the UK?
  3. Scuba diving lessons for kids
  4. What exclusions are there for children scuba diving?
  5. Additional considerations for kids’ scuba diving

These should answer most answers you have, but we understand that there are always specific questions about unique circumstances, our team can help, so reach out to them.


How old do you have to be to scuba dive?

1. How old do you have to be to scuba dive?

The short answer is 8 years old.

But this is only answers the question of when you can first try scuba diving. With the rise in popularity of scuba diving in the late 1990's early 2000's, more and more families wanted to go scuba diving together. There are some age restrictions and they vary in what they allow a youngster to enrol on to. Please bear in mind these ages are minimums and not a recommendation about when a child should start. The concentration and maturity of each child varies, but you, the parent, will know your child best.

8 years old

The for first scuba diving for kids starts at 8 years old. This starts with a try dive experience that children complete with a PADI Professional as there's more to teaching than just knowing how the equipment works. This age limit is mainly to do with lung development and there is a lack of research on the effects diving can have on a child's body. Little is known exactly how scuba diving affects children compared to adults, as of course there is little experimentation in the area, so it's best to err on the side of caution.

The child's size is a big factor too as finding kit small enough for them can be hard, there is dedicated children's kit out there that will make their first dive comfortable and encourage them to want to continue. At eight they are limited to the pool with a maximum depth of 4m for their safety but it's a great way for them to get used to the gear and how it works in a controlled environment with a professional diver.

Once you (and we) are sure your child is happy and confident in the water they can enrol onto a Seal Team program. This is ideal for kids who have tried scuba diving and know they want to do more. This program is run over 5 sessions and starts introducing children to the basic skills needed to be safe and have fun underwater. 

Saying that the most important thing is that you never force your child into a hobby that they don't want to, they have to want to learn and pushing them into it too early can backfire.

10 years old

At ten years old kids can enrol in their first official qualification which is the same course as adults but with shallower depth limits and they must dive with an adult even after qualified. Once qualified their qualification will stay with them forever and is recognised all over the world with them just needing to top up their skills from time to time.

12 years old

At this age kids have greater depth limits but must still dive with an adult certified diver even when qualified but the adult diver doesn't need to be a professional level diver.

15 years old

PADI consider any diver qualifications under the age of 15 years old to be 'Junior', meaning they will have special guidelines and depth limits until they turn 15. So under 15 you'll get a Junior Open Water qualification or Junior Advanced Open Water. The curriculum and requirements are much the same just with different depth limits. Once qualified Junior divers must dive with a qualified adult.

18 years old

Welcome to the rest of the world of scuba diving...


2. Is there a minimum age for scuba diving in the UK?

There is no different minimum age for scuba diving in the UK, however, due to the cold, we use drysuits to keep us warmer for longer. If your child is small, they may want to wait until they grow or fill out a little before enrolling on to a course in the UK. A rough guide is between 11 and 13, depending on their build. 

In warmer waters where you can dive in a wetsuit all year round, then crack on from 10 years old.


3. Scuba diving lessons for kids

For scuba diving as a sport, the critical age is 14. Below that age all people are limited to the range and type of diving they can do. The child's parent or guardian must sign a medical statement and other documents before the child can take part in these activities. Lets look at the range of scuba diving training that is available, all of which we offer here at Scuba Leeds.

PADI Surface Supplied Air Source

This program is available from ages 6 to 8 upwards. This allows the junior diver to experience the thrill of breathing and moving underwater in a shallow pool while not leaving the safety of the surface. Participants breath from a regulator and get comfortable with breathing through an external air source.

PADI Bubblemaker

This is also known as the try dive for kids and is the best option for any child above the age of 8, this course is the introductory experience. There are a few safety drills to learn and practice before we all play games and have fun underwater. The diver gets to wear a full scuba system. This experience takes place in a pool.

PADI Seal Team Program

The PADI Seal Team is the premier scuba diving skill development for children. All dives take place in a pool and there are strict depth limits in place for safety. The program consist of 5 Aqua Missions (mini dives), and in each module the Seal Team member develops and increases their range of basic diving skills. These skills include simple tasks such as breathing underwater, clearing a mask, recovering a regulator and hovering weightless underwater. During the final dive they show their instructor that they can comfortably accomplish the skills they have learnt.

Whilst these skills are a great stepping stone to the PADI Junior or full Open Water Diver. Most Seal Team members master their skills and fly through the start of their Junior Open Water Diver course. The skills learned in the Seal Team serve as a great introduction to diving for those who intend to go ‘all the way’.

Each Aquamission takes about an hour or so, but allows plenty of time for enjoying the experience and having fun.

PADI Master Seal Team

Once the Seal Team has been completed there are a range of 10 Seal Team Adventure Aqua Missions, which allows the Seal Team Member to continue their diving and explore some of the fundamentals of the Speciality Dives in a simple and fun way.

These includes adventures like creature identification, search and recovery diving, and skin diving. Complete all of these and they qualify for the award of become PADI Master Seal Team Member - joining an elite group of young scuba divers.

The Master Seal Team can be ordered as a block of 10 or as individual Aqua Missions.

Scuba Leeds Distinctive Deep Aquamission - Here at Scuba Leeds we are unique in that we have access to one of only an handful of Olympic depth diving pools in the UK. This means that we can offer Confined Water Dives down to 5.5m.

Those doing the Master Seal Team programme and aged 10 and over can join us in the pool to experience the closest thing to real scuba diving in a pool.

From the age of 10 upwards kids have the option to take the Junior Scuba Diver or Open Water Courses. Here they undertake all the same knowledge learning and diving skills as any adult that takes the same course. Once the diver turns 15 this qualification automatically upgrades to the adult Open Water.


4. What exclusions are there for children scuba diving?

Naturally, for safety reasons, there are some exclusions for children.

Up to the age of 10 Juniors are not permitted to dive in Open Water and all experiences and courses take place in Confined Water – in our case a lovely heated indoor swimming pool.

All the other restrictions vary with age and apply to depth. (Note – there are other restrictions that apply to the Instructor – such as number of students etc. but these don’t impact the student.

Diver Age Restrictions

See instructor guides for complete standards. Also see Youth Leader Commitment in the Commitment to Excellence section.

8 and 9 Year Olds

Depth —The absolute maximum depth anyone these ages can dive to is 4 metres/12 feet – although there are restrictions for various parts of the Bubbelmaker and Seal Team Aquamissions. They can only dive in Confined Water under the supervision of a PADI professional.

10 and 11 Year Olds

After certification, 10- to 11-year-olds are restricted to diving with a parent, guardian or PADI Professional to 12 metres/40 feet maximum depth

12 to 14 year Old

12 to 14 year old divers can dive to a maximum 18 metres for Junior Open Water Divers. If they take additional training to the level of Junior Advanced Open Water Diver they can then achieve a Maximum depth of 21 metres/70 feet for continuing education. After certification they must dive with an adult certified diver.

Under 18 Year Olds

Responsibility and Risk — Parent/guardian and child sign administrative forms (if local law defines “legal age” as older than 18, parent/guardian sign administrative forms up to that age).


5. Additional considerations for kids’ scuba diving

What next? After the age of 10, the PADI Junior ratings are available, from Junior Scuba Diver all the way through now to Junior  Advanced Open Water and beyond. There is plenty to keep the younger diver occupied and progressing

What equipment? 

Lets be frank. Diving equipment is expensive especially if you need to keep up sizing as your budding diver grows. However some kits is worth investing in. We recommend that all divers (regardless of age or size) own and bring their own masks and snorkels to every session. If your planning on doing all Aqua Mission you could also invest in a child's wet-suit. Whilst not essential this will keep them warm and comfortable. Similarly, a pair of child's open foot fins with adjustable foot straps can last a long time. All of these can be taken on family holidays and used when snorkelling etc.

We suggest that, initially at least, that more expensive items (regulators, BCD’s etc) are hired until a long-term commitment to the sport of diving is committed.

Family Diving Holidays

Do Mum and Dad dive. If not you could sign up for a course and gain a qualification. Diving is a great activity to do on your holidays.


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