A Parent’s Guide to Kayaking with Kids

One of the best ways to get kids outdoors is to have something exciting for them to do.

When you kayak with kids, this can deliver all you need to keep them occupied and excited.

When new to kayaking and you want to take your kids along, there are some things parents need to consider.

kids gear for kayaking

There are different ways kids can tag along, but the ultimate goal will be to have children in kid’s kayaks and paddling under their own steam.

We will look at the best ways you can get started kayaking with your children, and how you can choose the best single kayak for them to enjoy.

Choosing Your Gear

The first bits of gear you will be looking for is your kayak and paddles. Because there are children involved, you will also need some PFDs (Personal Floatation Devices).

Which Kayak to Choose

When you begin looking at kayaks, it can quickly be confusing which one to choose because of the variety on offer.

You can select from recreational kayaks to ones that are designed for white water or ocean use. You then have sit-in kayaks or sit-on-top kayaks.

The sit-in kayaks are better for more experienced kayakers because if they tip, they are hard to turn
upright.

A sit on top kayak will be more stable, and it is impossible to fill them full of water because they have scupper holes, which lets water, drain from the top of the kayak.

This makes these a better option when kayaking with children.

In the beginning, and depending on the age of your children, you can select a tandem kayak.

The larger ones of these allow for two adults and a smaller child to travel around in comfort.

If you have children who are older, then they may be looking at having their own kayak. This puts a different bearing on the kayak you select, as it does need to be suitable for them.

Kid-Friendly Kayaks

You may not be sure how well your kids can take to the water; this is especially true if they are on the younger side.

You will need to be sure they can handle their kayak, and it is suitable for them to paddle on their own over long distances.

Using a popular child’s kayak as an example, we can see what things you need to look for.

The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is a great choice because it is a design specifically for children.

A children’s kayak needs to have a carrying capacity, which is sufficient. The larger your child and you may be better off with a youth kayak than the one in this example. This one, for example only holds up to 130 lbs.

For other features, it may be lacking, but when you children are new to kayaking, it delivers plenty.

It is very lightweight and only 6 feet in length. It can be thrown onto a roof rack easily, or in the back of a pickup.

Kid’s kayaks need an open cockpit so it won’t flood. Drainage (scupper) holes are a welcome addition. A kayak this small needs to cater to kids of different sizes and ages.

Multiple footrest positions will be required, as they will use this pressure to help them paddle.

Two areas that make kids kayaks for ages five and above are to make it easy to enter the kayak by the shore, and if they fall, off while out on the water.

If they fall off on the water, the easiest way is from behind. The Wave, for example, has a sloped back end and swim on platform. By use of this rear step, allow the rider to safely and easily re-enter their kayak.

kid’s kayak paddles

Kids Kayak Paddles

If you are purchasing paddles separately, these are different for children than adults. The kayak paddles are included in the above example, but you can use the following if you need to purchase others.

If paddles are too long or too heavy, it can make the task of paddling too hard for smaller children. Here are the recommended paddle lengths for height of children and widths of the kayak.

Kayak Width23 inches and under24 to 28 inches wide29 to 33 inches wideAbove 34 inches
Child Height
Under 5 feet five inches82.5 inches to 86.5 inches86.5 inches to 90.5 inches90.5 inches to 94.5 inches98.5 inches
Above 5 feet five inches86.5 inches90.5 inches90.5 inches to 94.5 inches98.5 inches

These lengths will be suitable for sit-on-top kayaks. You will find kid’s paddles are thinner for smaller hands and shorter than adults are.

However, it does need to be long enough so the rider can easily push the blades under the water’s surface.

Kid’s Safety When Kayaking

This will be the most important part of any kayaking adventure with children. Although this information is geared toward children, every person who goes kayaking needs to wear a PFD.

The difference with children’s though is the size, and making sure, they are safe if they do fall in the water.

Here is some information on keeping your kids safe while kayaking.

Finding the right kids PFD

All children under 13 should wear a PFD when on a water vehicle of any kind. There are laws in some states, so it is better to be safe and make sure they wear one.

There are generally three sizes available

  • Infants: 8 – 30lbs
  • Children: 30 – 50lbs
  • Youths: 50 – 90lbs

Life jackets that are too big could slip off your child in the water, and if too small, it may not have sufficient buoyancy for support.

Additional features are quick grabs on the shoulders, higher neck braces, and straps around the crotch area.

Keeping Children in Sight

It doesn’t matter if you are using a kayak, which is a tandem or single seat. It is imperative an adult always has eyes on the children.

In tandem kayaks, children must always sit in the front, and if they have their own kayak, they need to take the lead so they can always be seen.

The Right Sized Kayak

Although there are kid-sized kayaks and youth kayaks, there are still different sizes in these to cater for kids of different ages.

For smaller kids, some sit-on kayaks can be overwhelming if children are very new. While they still offer a stable paddling platform, it can be hard for them to paddle easily.

Using the example above, you do need to select the right size of kayak for your child’s size. The wide stance provides a stable platform for children while being small and light enough to paddle easily. With its unique hull, it keeps children safely in the kayak.

The hull design is also critical, as these enhance the wide stance even if the width of the kayak is not overly wide. This still makes them easy to maneuver for smaller children.
If your child takes to kayaking, one of the best, models available are a kids fishing kayak as these are designed to be stable while still being easy to steer while fishing.

child safety in kayaking

Other Things to Consider

This is the main area regarding equipment and kayaks, yet there are still things which need considering ensuring your child gets to enjoy their time in their kayak.

Parents do need to set rules, and just because a kayak may be stable, they should not stand or jump in their kayak.

As well as this, they should never eat or drink and toss their trash into the water.

Other areas are the weather before setting off. Depending on the time of year, this could be too hot or too cold, so dressing accordingly is vital.

If they have their own kayak, they may need somewhere to keep their own sun protection, or a jacket if it is on the cooler side.

The next thing is the location. Heading into the great outdoors is very different in real, life than it does in pictures.

Waters need to be calm until your child has experience, so larger lakes and rivers should be avoided to start in case the weather changes.

Resting areas will also be welcome. Children won’t be able to paddle as far as adults, so pulling over for lunch can give them some welcome rest.

Lakes, which have picnic areas and a beach, are ideal. This not only offers up the chance for a rest, but it will also prevent your child from becoming bored too quickly.

With all the above information, you should be able to take your child safely kayaking with you on your next adventure.

Doing this and all the family can reap the large number of health benefits and memories kayaking will deliver.

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