Kayaking with Kids: 5 Best Tips for Parents

Kayaking with Kids is a great way to have fun with your kids and explore nature. You don’t need to be very fit or experienced to enjoy kayaking. Even little ones can join you in a kayak. You can choose different places to paddle, so you won’t get bored.

 But kayaking with kids is different from kayaking with grown-ups. You need to plan and be safe. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know before you go kayaking with your kids.

Related Article: Best Kayaks for Kids

Tip #1: Planning: Know The When & Where 

Kayak Location and duration of time

Calm waters are best for kayaking with kids. You can find them in small lakes, slow rivers, and bays. They have little or no wind or waves. Even if you are good at kayaking, it’s better to be safe.

Kayak Location

You can see your kids get better and happier on calm waters near the shore. You can try more exciting waters, like the ocean, later.

Top tip – our free map can show you the best places to kayak near you. How Long To Kayak Kids can’t focus for a long time. They are like fireworks – bright, loud, and full of energy, but not for long. The older the kids, the longer you can kayak. But don’t make them tired or bored with long trips.

Start with short trips – 15 to 30 minutes of kayaking and then a break. That’s a good way to begin. You can go longer as they get used to it. Short trips are good because your kids won’t get bored or restless.

Plan Your Route & Outline Expectations

When you go kayaking with grown-ups, you Float plan your route. You should do the same when you go kayaking with kids.

It’s very important to have a good plan when you kayak with kids.

Your plan should think about:

  • How well do you know the area
  • Where to go to the bathroom
  • What to see on the way
  • How far to walk from the car to the water
  • What animals you might meet
  • What to do if something goes wrong

You should tell all the adults what your plan is. Older kids might want to know, too. It can make them feel more responsible.

Tip #2: Safety Above All Else: Essential Safety Gear For Kayaking With Kids 

Kayaking is fun, but it can also be risky. You need to teach your child how to be safe on the water. Tell them what they can and cannot do on the kayak. Make sure they understand what kayaking is all about.

You must have this talk with your kids before you go kayaking. Then, follow the rules and show them how to kayak well. This will keep you all safe and help your kids learn to kayak better.

You should always bring these things to be safe:

PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

kids pfd

You need to wear a PFD when you are on the water. This is a rule for everyone on the boat – kids and grown-ups. It is also the law. Choose a PFD that is made for kids and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Make sure it fits them well. If it is too big or too small, it will not work well. Do not buy PFDs that are too big for your kids to use later.

PFDs for kids are different depending on how big and heavy they are:

  • Babies – Up to 33 pounds
  •  Kids – 33 to 55 pounds 
  • Teens – 55 to 88 pounds

Lines & Floats

You need some things for kayaking that can help you and others. For example, you can use a rope to pull another kayak if someone is very tired. You can also use a rope with a float to save someone who is in trouble, but you need to know how to do it right.

Everyone who is kayaking should have these things:

Something that can make your paddle float A bag with a rope inside A rope that can connect kayaks

  • Paddle floats
  • A throw bag
  • Tow lines

Additional Safety Gear

You need some things for kayaking that are very important. You need PFDs for everyone in your family and ropes and floats for the grown-ups. You also need these things:

A box with things that can help if someone gets hurt, like sticky strips, cream, wet wipes, small scissors, cotton, water, and cream for itching A light that you can clip on something A whistle that you can blow if you need help, and you can put it on your PFD.

Tip #3: What Else To Pack For A Day On The Water? 

You need the same things for kayaking with kids or without kids. It does not matter how old or young your kids are. You should bring these things when you go kayaking with kids:

kayak packing tips

Some snacks that your kids like, and that have a lot of protein, like nuts and dry fruits. Do not bring candy or chocolate. Bottles of water. Drink water often and show your kids how to do it too. Extra clothes and towels for you and your kids. Put them in a bag that keeps them dry. You might need them if you get wet. 

Things to protect you from the sun, like cream, glasses, a hat, a shirt with long sleeves, and a cover if you have a baby with you. Things to protect you from the rain, like a coat or a big plastic sheet, and boots that do not let water in. Shoes that are good for kayaking, like shoes that have holes or sandals that cover your toes and have rubber on the bottom and a strap on the back. 

Paper, wet wipes, and other things for the bathroom. You might need different things depending on how old your kids are. A camera that can get wet and not break, and that you can tie to your wrist or something else. You know what your kids need better than anyone. Bring anything else that you think is important for kayaking.

Tip #4: “Selling” The Trip To Your Kids: Keep It Fun, But..

Balancing safety and fun on the water is like walking a tightrope. But don’t worry, these tips can help:

Trip To Your Kids

Keep it Fun and Safe:

  • When you’re out on the water, it’s important to stay safe while having a blast. Make sure to tell your child about the rules without making it scary – we’re here to have fun!

Practice Makes Perfect:

  • Take some time in shallow water to practice what to do if things get a little wobbly. We’re like superheroes preparing for action – it’s all about being ready!

Team Adventure:

  • Get your child involved in planning the trip. Talk about it in a way that gets them excited! This is our grand adventure, and everyone’s a part of the team.

Learn as We Go:

  • Teach while you paddle. Encourage questions, explain things in simple ways, and see how well they catch on. Remember, every kid is different, so patience is our superpower!

Start Small, Stay Close:

  • Let’s keep our first paddling sessions short and close to the shore. We’ll take breaks for swimming, checking out the sights, and, of course, playtime!

Bring on the Fun Stuff:

  • Pack inflatable toys, pool floats – anything that screams “water-friendly fun”! We’re here to enjoy every splash and giggle.

Tip #5: Special Considerations: Kayaking With A Baby On Board

I took my baby on my kayak when he was only ten months old. Some people might not like that – they think it’s too risky – but I know how to kayak with a baby safely.

If you want to kayak with a little kid, you need to follow some rules, like:

  • They need to be heavy enough, at least 18 pounds.
  •  They need to wear a special life jacket that has a pillow for their neck and head.
  • They need to sit still and not wiggle around (a Bumbo seat can help them stay up).
  •  They need to know how to float on the water by themselves.
  •  You and the other grown-ups need to be very good at kayaking

Family-Friendly Boats: What’s The Best Kayak Type For Kayaking With Kids? 

Family-Friendly Boats

Kids Kayaks: How To Choose The Right One

  • Size it right! Make sure to get a kayak that fits your child’s height and weight, with room to grow.
  • Get stable! Choose a wide, flat-bottomed design that will help keep your little one upright.
  • Stay short! Opt for a kayak around 6-8 feet long for better maneuverability.
  • Keep it light! A lightweight kayak is easier for kids to carry and get in and out of the water.
  • Add backups! Consider a kayak with footpegs and backrests for extra stability and comfort.
  • Get wet! Look for durable kayaks that can handle capsizing and being in and out of the water.
  • Make it fun! Pick bright colors and designs to help get your kid excited about kayaking.
  • Stay safe! Be sure to get a proper fitting life jacket and teach paddle safety.

Kayaking with Kids Age, Skills & Stamina: When Can You Let Them Paddle Solo? 

You know your kid like no one else. You’re the expert on whether they’re ready to kayak on their own. But to figure that out, let’s be real about their skills, strength, and how much paddling they’ve done.

If you’re unsure about letting them go solo, here’s a simple trick: think about these things: their abilities, experience, and if they have the energy for it.

  • Good swimmer?
  • Comfortable alone on water?
  • Previous kayaking experience?
  • Do you know water safety rules?
  • Do you need lessons first?
  • Can do wet exit and re-entry?
  • Strong enough to right kayak?
  • Has skills and stamina for long trips?
  • Check local laws and regulations.

What NOT To Do When Kayaking With Kids 

  • Do not put your child in a car seat on the kayak. If the kayak flips over, the life jacket will not work well with the car seat.
  • Do not think your child can paddle as much as you can. Kayaking is hard work and your child might get tired quickly.
  • Do not go kayaking with your kids if you are not good at it. You need to know how to paddle well and be safe on the water.
  • Do not do anything risky when you kayak with your kids. You do not want to get into trouble or hurt yourself or your kids.
  • Do not make your kids paddle by themselves if they are not ready. They might be scared or nervous. Let them paddle with you until they feel confident.
  • Do not take your kids kayaking if they are too little to follow the rules, sit still, wear a life jacket that fits them, and float on the water.
  • Do not go kayaking without a rope that can connect the kayaks. You might need to pull your child’s kayak if they are too tired or bored to paddle.

How to Choose Kayaks & Paddles for Kids

There are many kinds of kayaks, but we will talk about two things that are important when you pick a kayak for kids.

  • One or Two Seats We think two-seat kayaks are better for kids who are younger than eight years old.
  • Two-seat kayaks let you change things as your kid grows and learns more. For example, with a two-seat kayak, your kid can try to paddle in the middle or front seat while you steer the kayak from the back seat.
  • But one-seat kayaks are the best way for kids to get better at paddling by themselves. When your kid knows how to paddle well and be safe and is ready to paddle alone, you might want to get them a kayak that fits them.
  • Inside or Outside Most kids like outside kayaks more because you don’t need to learn how to get out of the water. They are also more steady, hard to flip over, and can’t sink because they have holes that let the water out.
  • Also, kids like outside kayaks more because they are not tight. They are also easy to get in and out of, so your kid can swim and get back on.

Where to Go Kayaking with Kids

You should go to quiet waters until your kid knows how to kayak well. Think of rivers that move slowly, small ponds, little lakes, or places where the water is calm. It is better to go to places that have different things to see so your kids have fun.

If you don’t know where the best places for kayaking with kids are, you can ask people who paddle near you.

When your kid is good at kayaking and can do the basic things, like paddling, getting out of the water, and being safe, you might be able to go to rivers that move faster, bigger lakes, or near the sea.

When Can a Child Start Kayaking in Their Own Kayak?

Little tikes can test the waters! Let 3-4-year-olds paddle just to get the feel – a few minutes is fine.

Ages 5-7 are prime time to start lessons in the pool or calm lakes. Under 7’s can go a quarter mile in a small kayak.

Once they hit 7, most kids will have the focus and strength to paddle solo for up to a mile. Time to start making waves!

The keys are finding the right kayak size, taking short and fun trips, and sticking close to shore. With the right prep, kayaking builds confidence and makes memories last a lifetime!

At What Age Can Children Start Kayaking?

Toddlers (1-3 years old)

Toddlers (1-3 years old):

  • Too young to kayak on their own
  • Can “duff” (ride in the middle seat) of the tandem kayak if they can sit still and wear a PDF
  • Requires experienced paddler in back to control kayak

Kids (4-8 years old):

  • A great age for “duffing” in front of an adult paddler
  • Can start learning paddling skills with a kid-sized paddle
  • Adult still controls most of the kayaking

Older Kids (8+ years old):

  • May be strong enough to paddle in the front seat of the tandem kayak
  • Can start paddling their solo kayak with supervision
  • Kayak experience depends on maturity level and paddling ability

The key is matching the child’s physical skills and attention span to the right kayaking scenario. Safety is always the top priority with properly fitting life jackets.

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