Kayaking with Kids


It’s always nice to take the kids along when you go kayaking. Proper planning and organization ensures you have a safe and splendid experience.  Your best bet is to take things one at a time, to avoid undue stress and unpleasant surprises.

Planning your trip

Who to take along with you

Young and old, almost anyone can go camping and kayaking as long as there isn’t a strenuous hike or voyage to the spot.  However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t take kids on the water if you’re not at least adept at swimming and a strong paddler.  Also, during planning, try to ensure that you have 1 adult per 2 kids.

Places to visit

As a rule, it is best to visit waters with little rapids and current unless you are an experienced kayaker and there are sufficient safety checks. It is best to start on small lakes, or slow rivers so as to build your child’s paddling skill. As experience increases, so do your travel and location options.

Tips for your trip

  • Your trip destination should have lots of options
  • Understand what you are getting into. Familiarize yourself with boat traffic, tides and current before visiting with your kids. When you do this, you are bound to have peace of mind when you go Kayaking with your kids.
  • Know your limits especially when you are with kids.
  • Your choice destination should be kid friendly. Expert kayakers can help you find the right place. Alternatively, you will need to visit the paddling association in your locality. Helpful information can be found on park service websites.

Length of trip

Don’t be too open in deciding the length of time for kayaking. This ensures you don’t get disappointed in the end. No matter the age, 30 to 60 minutes is enough to have a nice time. If a toddler or baby is on-board, sitting in the cockpit should be exciting enough for them.

For a better experience, your trips need to be in short loops when kayaking with kids. As your kid gets older, you can extend your time with him or her on in the waters. You have to bear the following in mind as well concerning the safety of your child

  • Familiarize yourself with the water
  • Get some experience in paddling a boat
  • Good swimming skills
  • Physical strength
  • Good coordination ability.

First Master all needed skills

If your trip is about a month away, you need to enroll yourself and your kids for swimming lessons. You can take such lessons in community pools. Kids have a way of quickly learning how to be comfortable while paddling, with proper practice.

To add more fun to your training, consider trying out some workouts. Going for a long run which gives you that feel of paddling, will be a good choice to start with. Do some weight lifting, push-ups and pull ups, so as to build more strength in your arms needed for paddling.

Options for Family Boat

Canoe or Kayak

Some factors that needs to be put into consideration in making a choice are; your child’s skill and age, and your trip destination. For more comfort, put into consideration the boat’s seating arrangement. Ensure that there is room for everyone to paddle.

Kids within the age bracket of 4 to 7 can comfortably sit in the bow of the kayak even though they will provide only a little thrust. If your kids are in the age bracket of 1 to 7, it is recommended you go for a Canoe. Sea canoe will be your best bet. Canoes offer more stability and control, having lots of gear and wiggle. Canoe can comfortably contain 2 to 3 kids with adults.

Once your kid crosses 8, you can then go for a kayak. Kayak builds up your child’s paddling skill.

As a safety check, make out time to practice wet exit and high braces.

When on colder waters

A decked Kayak will be your best bet for such paddling condition. The best location for your kid is the bow or in the middle with one grownup being at the bow and another with good kayaking experience being at the rear. Only when the child has gotten enough experience can you change this arrangement. As the middle part of kayaks are designed for gears and not gears, there is no spray skirt there, making it very susceptible to splash. But when sailing in still waters, it is okay to sit in the middle.

When on warm waters

Waters in Baja, Hawaii and Florida Keys are usually calm and warm especially in summer. The best sitting position is at the top of the Kayak. Proper arrangement can accommodate as much as 3 kids. Inflatable kayak is another option to consider especially if you have limited storage space. We don’t recommend Sit-on-top kayaks especially when sailing on longer distances.

Paddle or Duff, Single or Double

Your choice will largely depend on your child’s age, paddling skills, experience and some other related qualities.

Duffing otherwise referred to has sitting in the boats middle. It is an excellent choice of beginner paddlers. Duffers may not provide sufficient propulsion, it is excellent for learning how to man a boat.

Recommended age

  • For 8 and below, Kayak duffers is a better choice
  • Bow paddle for 8 and above
  • Double kayak or bow rider for 4 to 7
  • Single and medium Kayak for 14 and above
  • Single small canoe for 14 and above

Size of paddle

Paddle size is an important factor to be put into consideration. There are different sizes of paddle which are meant for children. 200 cm long paddle with narrow shaft is the best option. When riding with a child in a canoe, place the paddle at the foot of your kid, while  keeping the blade at nose height.

Safety gear

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

Safety ought to be taken very seriously. The law mandates that all canoe, kayak or similar crafts to wear a PFD. The right PFD must be approved by US Coast Guard and must adhere to rules. There are PFDs for infants, children and young adults. Infant PFDs are designed to position the child’s head in an upright position, in the event of capsizing. Ensure that the crotch is always strapped.

It should be borne in mind that babies and toddlers do not enjoy wearing PFD. The best thing to do is to make them get used to it right from home. Either give them incentives for keeping the PFD or explain the purpose it serves.

Lines and Float

This is another safety check used in rescue operation. You will need to understand how they work in the event your canoe capsizes

It is not enough to read books or watch tutorial videos about safety, take up a class and then do lots of practice.

Float gear and safety line comprises of;

  • A paddle float for every adult
  • Throw bags for every adult
  • Towing line for each boat

Note of caution: It is a grave mistake to latch your child to a boat. It does more harm than good.

Stimulating the interest of your kids

The more passionate you get when talking about kayaking, the more likely it will be for your kids to pick interest. Other than talking about it, get a boat, place it on top a cushion, and then allow your teenage kids to play with it.

More tips:

  • Make thorough research about your trip: Consult guidebooks, animal charts, tide current chats etc. Is a good of steering kids into science fields
  • Put the interest of your kids first in planning your trip: Get them to make certain decisions. If possible, allow them to come along with a friend
  • Lay emphasis on tradition: Stimulate their interest by showing them pictures of your past kayaking experience.

Preparing for the trip

If you don’t have issues with packing, you can provide some assistance to your kids. Create an authority figure that will determine what needs to be packed. Let be packing responsibility be shared by all including the adults. Packing is an adventure on its own.

Tip: Kids that are 7 and above love to take responsibility for their packing. Give them a free hand in deciding what needs to be packed, but crosscheck their bags to ensure they did their packing correctly. Give them some form of encouragement for a Job well done.

Food and water

Take food items that are easy to handle. Examples include; dried fruits, mangoes, smoked salmon, apples, hard-boiled eggs, fresh red pepper, cookies and bars, cheese and vegetables.

You need to take sufficient water along too. Either ensure a water bottle is kept close by, or drink what will take you the whole day. Paddling a kayak or canoe, staying for an extended period of time under the sun can dehydrate you faster than you expect.

Water pillows are excellent storage for water in paddle crafts as even when filled to the capacity, they can comfortably fit under the craft’s seat and has negligible effect on the weight of the craft.

The right clothes to wear

For comfort, go for water repelling clothes like breathable fibers, polyester and merino wool based clothing. Take along with you more pants for your kids that are less than 7 because they are sure to mess the one worn on them up. There might be no need for cotton, except you find yourself in very warm condition.

Tips: Put all the clothing that will be worn in a water resistant bag, and then strap it to the boat. Avoid lose loops from lying around to avoid paddles from being caught by them.

More tips

  • Take a hat which should be waterproof with breathable pores, as protection from the rain and sun.
  • A waterproof boot will also be handy both in warm weather and other wise. It is okay to take sandals along so long they are worn in hazard free locations
  • Raingears for your kits should be right in size
  • Clothing that keep sunlight out should be taken along too.
  • There should be provision for bathrooms especially for the toddlers

If you are paddling in waters near home, some of the items mentioned here won’t be necessary

Put the following into consideration if your kid is between 5 to 9 years of age

  • Books
  • Monocular or Binocular
  • Pole for fishing
  • Pencil and notepad
  • Small tents for lengthier stay

Tips for all age brackets

  • Distress whistles
  • Sunglasses
  • Towing rope
  • Songbooks
  • Individual water bottle
  • Seat pads, with very low center of gravity
  • Tarps for rain or picnic
  • Umbrella

On the day of the planned trip

Before leaving, rehearse the procedure for wet exit over and over again with kids and adults alike. Take your time to learn how to respond to emergency situations. Answer all possible questions.

Before setting sail after all loads must have been packed unto the boat, ensure that everything needs to be in place, and the kids have used the bathroom and are wearing their sunscreen. Bear in mind that calorie is expended when the boat is being loaded. So carry enough food.

When on the water

Paddle slowly: Move at speed which is 1/3 times of what you would normally do, and ensure your kid’s boat is close to yours. Separation is okay if there is an adult in their own boat. When sailing on rough waters, do your best to avoid separation, but there should be no crowding.

Teach: Show your kid how to respond properly to the tides of the water. This could either be by circumventing around the currents, or bracing.

Enforce rules: Make rules and stand firmly on them. No one should be permitted to stand or lean. Make your kids understand the consequences of breaking such rules

Empower: Switch the paddle from the slowest paddler to the fastest. It is raw fun, and also stimulates the interest of kids the more. When using two paddles and there is a kid onboard, take as much breaks as possible. Also allow the youngest of the kids to do some paddling. It will encourage them to do more.

Have fun: Let there be lots of breaks. Try to avoid criticizing them when they don’t get it right. A little praise for a job well done won’t be a bad idea. Give out instructions and tips, but don’t let it ruin the fun. Enjoy your moments on shore

When things go wrong

There are lots of unforeseen mishaps you might encounter while on water. Just roll with the tide and don’t fight it. Don’t be wearied by duffers. Kids have a high tendency of getting bored by duffers. This is why it is important for them to paddle every now and then.

Try adding more fun to your outing either by playing games or singing camp fire songs that kids love. Breaks are very important, as paddling can easily weary your kids. Try doing most of the paddling yourself or better still for the whole trip. If your kid is paddling in a single kayak and then gets tired, you will have to do some towing.

Most importantly, never renege on your promises. Whether is dining in their favorite restaurants, or staying on the phone for an hour to share their experience with their friends, make good of your promises all the time. If you plan camping, take s’mores along with you.

If you are looking for more tips then please visit our home page here.

One Response

  1. Jon kayaker August 1, 2016

Leave a Reply

The Best Fishing Kayak PFDs
Shoreline Marine Ultimate Kayak Bag Review
Easy Fish Finding: Deeper Smart Fishfinder Review
Emotion Renegade
Emotion Renegade XT Kayak Product Review
Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-In Kayak: Which is The Best For You?
Shoreline Marine Ultimate Kayak Bag Review
Easy Fish Finding: Deeper Smart Fishfinder Review
Before Buying Your Fishing Kayak: 5 Tips for Prospective Kayak Anglers
Best Fishing Kayak Accessories
Are Inflatable Fishing Kayaks Good Enough?
Care and Maintenance of PFDs
3 Top Kayak Storage Tips
Kayaking with Kids
Tips on Casting from a Fishing Kayak