A good way to determine if your child is ready for scuba diving in open water is to enroll them in the Bubblemaker, Seal Team or Discover Scuba Diving program first. The Bubblemaker program is a one day experience program in confined water for children 8 yrs old and older with a max depth of two meters. The Seal Team program is a more extensive program for kids 8 yrs old and older that covers basic scuba diving skills in addition to fun activities such as taking underwater photos, practicing buoyancy and learning environmental awareness.
PADI’s Junior Open Water Diver course is similar to the adult certification program and prepares kids to become full-fledged divers when they are of age. To begin the program, students must be at least 10 years old and be able to swim. To ensure that young divers don’t exceed their limits, the Junior Open Water certification comes with restrictions. Divers 10-11 years old must dive with a PADI Professional or a certified parent or guardian, and dives cannot exceed 12 meters/40 feet. Divers 12-14 years old must dive with a certified adult and dives cannot exceed 18 meters / 60 feet.
After receiving a junior open water certification, young divers twelve and older may continue to increase their experience and certification levels (Junior Advanced Open Water, Junior Rescue, Junior Master Scuba Diver). In these courses, dives may reach a max depth of 21 meters.
After the age of 15, depth and buddy restrictions default to those of a regular PADI Open Water Diver. Divers who were initially certified as a junior diver and wish to receive a new card that simply says “Open Water Diver” can order a replacement from their PADI Dive Center or PADI’s website.