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Kayaking With Kids: Best Kayaks and Tips

Kayaking With Kids: Best Kayaks And Tips

Spending an afternoon kayaking with your kids can be an action-packed adventure and is a great way to bond and enjoy time with your whole family.

Kayaking is very easy to learn and does not require a huge amount of skill or knowledge to start enjoying the benefits it offers; your kids will soon be taking to the water, well, like a duck to water!

However, kayaking can also be dangerous if you are not fully prepared. To help ensure that your entire family is able to enjoy a safe day out on the water we have put together our top tips for kayaking with kids:

Safety First

Before you think about taking your children onto the water, you should ensure that they are fully aware of the safety practices required. Enforcing the rules both on and off the water will ensure that practicing safe kayaking becomes second nature to your children. Some of the key areas that you should run through include:

  • Explain that wearing a life jacket at all times, regardless of swimming ability is a rule they cannot break. Tell them that even experienced kayakers have to wear their life jackets while out on the water. Be sure you model good safety behaviour at all times. If they see that you follow the rule, they’re more likely to wear their life jacket without question.
  • Talk about the sun’s harmful rays and how important it is to wear the right protective clothing, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen.
  • Discuss safe paddle usage – Little Luke and Leia Skywalker need reminders that their paddle isn’t a light saber!
  • Help them understand that they may fall into the water and that’s ok. There’s nothing to be afraid of and you will help them get back onto or into their kayak. Demonstrate how to safely get in and out of the kayak and then have them practice. Depending on their age, you can even turn this crucial safety exercise into a fun game.
  • A slightly more difficult concept to convey is awareness of their surroundings. You can give them hypotheticals and ask them if they can think of any other examples where they need to be aware of their surroundings. You want them to understand that there might be current, obstacles such as sharp objects, animal habitats to protect, respect nature and leave no footprint.

Talking these points through with your kids will ensure that they are aware of the dangers that kayaking can bring and ensure they are always focused on the adventure.

Practice Makes Perfect

In a similar way that you want to make sure that they are aware of their safety before getting out on the water for the first time, you also want to make sure that your children are comfortable with how to paddle.

Have them practice the skills of paddling, letting them understand the technique and weight of the paddle before embarking on their first big adventure. This can be done on a local pond or you could even sign them up to take part in paddling or kayaking lessons from a professional.

Start Off Small

Presuming you want your kids to enjoy their first kayaking experience and for it to become a life-long pastime, then it is important not to make their first time too challenging or intimidating. Start off small. You will know their ability and confidence better than anyone else, so find a calm source of water and take things slowly. In the beginning, the best option will be to stick close to the shoreline; allowing you to quickly get onto dry land should they be scared or simply need a break. Pulling up on shore and sharing a treat can be a great motivator.

Be Prepared

If you are heading out for the day, then be prepared for every scenario. We all know that kids’ attention levels are not the longest, so plan out your day in advance and ensure that there are lots of different activities for them to take part in.

These activities could include stops to play games, a day-long scavenger hunt of things to look out for, participating in geo-caching or even including some toys for them to use as you are paddling. Whatever age-appropriate activities you choose, keeping them entertained and active will ensure they do not complain and the entire family can enjoy the excursion.

Depending on where you are going, it is also worth packing snacks and drinks to help maintain energy levels and remain hydrated throughout the trip too. Hangry kids (or parents!) are no fun to be around.

Don’t Stop Teaching

Another great tip for any parents looking to take their kids out for a day kayaking is to not stop teaching. From regularly covering safety measures to explaining why you are doing certain things; it helps to keep them engaged and ensures that they will be able to replicate and learn the techniques needed for a safe and enjoyable day on the water.

It is also important to notice when your child has had enough physically or mentally. Kayaking involves a lot of physical activity that they may not be used to and learning a new skill can be very mentally tiring, so build that into your schedule when you are planning the day. By knowing when to stop, you ensure your child fully enjoys the day and can absorb everything to be excited and ready for the next outing!

Choose The Right Kayak For Your Child

When it comes to choosing the right kayak for your child to use, it is important to consider a number of factors. The first one will of course be their age and experience level. If they are very young or inexperienced, finding them a comfy spot to sit in your kayak with you is likely the best option, but once they are old enough to do some paddling, you will likely want them to be riding in tandem with you, allowing you to observe their paddling technique and to ensure they are ready for their own kayak.

Once they’re old enough and mastered the skills required to navigate their own kayak, then there are a number of different factors that you should consider when deciding which kayak to buy them:


This is a crucial consideration when deciding on the best kayak for your child. They will need to be able to easily move it while paddling and control it when out the water. If it is too heavy they are likely to be frustrated and give up. If you are unable to find a light enough rigid kayak, then you may wish to consider inflatable options or have them in a tandem kayak with you or another adult.


Equally, a kayak that is too long is just as difficult to move as one that is too heavy. Ensure that you choose a solution that they are able to move – typically most children’s kayaks are between six and eight feet.


This might seem like a strange consideration to make when it comes to choosing a kayak, but children tend to have a shorter arm span than adults, which means they are likely to keep hitting their elbow or banging the kayak with their paddle when kayaking. It is important to check that your child can comfortably move and paddle while sitting in the cockpit.


The cockpit itself is another important aspect of the kayak to consider when you are looking to purchase one for your child. A larger one will give your kid more room to manoeuvre around and also make it easier to get in and out of. You should consider whether you want to have a sit-on-top kayak or a sit-in; although most people prefer the latter, the former is safer as it cannot fill with water and is easier to get in and out of (meaning they can jump in the water when they are bored and more easily scramble back onto the kayak!).


This is another important aspect that you should consider when you are choosing the right kayak for your child. For beginners and small children, you will need a kayak that offers a significant amount of stability; ensuring that they feel balanced and stable throughout the day and have an easier time.


Kayaking can be a very tiring exercise for children, so having the ability to tow them can be very useful if you are heading out for a full day. Equally, it gives you the chance to assess their skills in a safe and controlled environment.

Choosing the right kayak need not be an expensive process and with the right research you will be able to find the perfect solution for your budget and your child’s skill level. You should also consider that you will need to purchase a paddle that has been specifically designed to be used by a child. Your local outfitter should be able to assist you in making the perfect decision.

With the right preparation and patience, kayaking with your child can be a lot of fun and be a great family bonding activity.

Kayak On!

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Kayaking with kids


I was first introduced to kayaking as a teenager when I joined a competitive canoe club. It was instant love. But when I went off to school and then got a job, adult responsibilities got in the way. Now approaching retirement, I've rekindled my kayak romance. My husband and I love to throw the kayaks on the trailer and head out on adventures. Maybe you'll join us?!

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