Kayaking With Kids Guide – Kayak and Kids

Kayaking with kids

As a parent, you must wonder: Where should we go? How am I going to keep them safe? What should I bring with me? What can I do to make this a memorable bonding experience? I’ve compiled a list of helpful hints to ensure that your first time kayaking with kids goes as well as possible!

Preparing for the Journey

Check the weather forecast, be familiar with the places and other routes, and have emergency contacts. Planning is essential for a good trip, as it is for most outdoor activities. The most critical items to consider while arranging a kayaking vacation with kids are mentioned here.

Location for Kayak

Some children as young as three or four begin training on child-sized kayaks. If you want to start your child early in the sport, five to seven years is a suitable age. In a tiny kayak, children under the age of seven may be able to paddle consistently for up to a quarter-mile.

Most youngsters over the age of seven will be able to paddle a small kayak, much like tandem paddling. Unless you’re an expert paddler, you should stick to calm waterways with few waves and wind. Even if you’ve been kayaking for years, it’s best to take it easy at first.

Choose routes that provide a lot of variation to keep your children from becoming bored: slow-moving rivers, ponds, tiny lakes, or even a protected inlet. You’ll know when it’s time to go into more dangerous seas, such as ocean sea kayaking. If you’re unsure where the most incredible spots for kayaking with kids are, your local paddle club might be a great resource.

You may be able to explore faster-flowing rivers, more giant lakes, or paddle along the shore after your youngster feels competent in a kayak. When planning your kayaking routes, keep water traffic in mind. Not all boaters pay adequate attention to their surroundings, and some are impatient with beginner kayaks.

Kayak Trip Duration

For babies and young children, half an hour to an hour is adequate; for older kids and adults, a few minutes is ideal. Break up your journey into small loops roughly one-third the distance you would go with other people.

The older your child is, the more time you should spend on the water with them as they gain confidence. It could be worth enrolling the entire family in kayaking and perhaps swimming courses if you’re thinking ahead.

You may spend more time kayaking with younger children as they have a shorter attention span than adults. Start slowly — 15 to 30 minutes of paddling followed by a short rest is an excellent place to start – and gradually increase your time. One benefit of shorter kayaking outings is that your youngster is less likely to get bored and restless.

What is the minimum age for youngsters to begin kayaking?

Some skilled paddlers take children duffing (riding as a passenger in the middle seat) in tandem kayaks. This is not recommended until your child can sit still for long periods and float face-up wearing a PFD.

Kids between the ages of four and eight are ideal for duffing in a tandem kayak. Duffing is an excellent method to introduce kids to kayaking. You’ll need a skilled stern paddler who can independently manage the kayak if necessary and the ability to care for oneself and a child in the event of a capsize.

Weather and Water Conditions

If you’re taking your kids kayaking for the first time, check the weather forecast to know what to expect. It’s recommended to postpone your journey if there’s a danger of rain or severe winds. On a warm, bright day, kids will have a lot better time on the water. Choose a decked kayak, or a spray decked canoe (a cover made of waterproof fabric).

Most kayaks have a middle compartment for gear rather than children; sitting in the center is OK on calm seas. A sit-on-top kayak becomes an appealing alternative in warm-water locations like Baja or the Florida Keys. These crafts may accommodate up to three little toddlers with a bit of imagination. If you don’t want to invest in a carrier, you can also buy inflatable kayaks.

Protective Equipment

PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices)

Children must always wear a coast guard-approved PFD even while paddling in shallow seas or near shore. You could want to start by having your children wear a PFD at home or while swimming. Some youngsters may naturally tilt forward or fear following a capsize.

Take your youngster to a safe location where they may practice floating with a PFD. Swimming pools or calm seas with adequate depth for you to stand beside are perfect. Find a model that the US Coast Guard has authorized and follow the use and size guidelines. First, learn how to recline and float face-up.

PFDs are available in sizes for newborns (8-30 pounds), children (30-50 pounds), and teens (50-90 lbs.). The neck pad on an infant PFD is crucial for keeping the child’s head in the proper posture during a capsize. Always keep the crotch strap fastened, and it should be snug but not too tight.

PFDs are not something you want your child to grow into, even if you can get away with purchasing big apparel for youngsters. Buying a PFD with adjustable shoulder, waist, and side straps is a wise investment since your kid will be able to wear it for a more extended period. It’s also crucial to compare your child’s weight to the weight capacity of the PFD.

Navigating the tranquil waves can be deceiving; tranquility often masks potential dangers, more so when young ones join the adventure. Imagine letting a child ride a bike without headgear; would you? Similarly, it’s crucial for children to don a kayak-specific helmet.

These helmets shield them from unforeseen knocks and potential mishaps, like toppling over or colliding with underwater obstacles. Choosing the best kayaking helmets is essential – it should fit comfortably, not constricting, and have proper air circulation. Consider this a modest step in guaranteeing your child’s safety during their water escapades.

Line floats and throws bags.

Always have a tow rope with you until you know how far and how long your youngster can paddle alone. The plain string may be used to pull a younger paddler’s kayak when they get too exhausted to continue. On the other hand, lines with flotation devices attached may be utilized in rescue scenarios if safety methods accompany them.

In a rescue crisis, lines and floats may be employed. When the kids get weary or bored, you may attach a tow rope to their kayak and securely transport them home. T tow ropes are also helpful if your youngster learns to paddle a solo kayak. A long cord connecting your kayaks will allow you to act if required and may also make your youngster feel safer.

Throw bags are buoyant bags that can be thrown at a capsized paddler. The swimmer may grip a rope inside the bag while bringing them in. Paddle floats are inflatable or buoyant paddle blade coverings. They provide a solid surface to push against when getting back into your kayak.

Paddle floats are essential if you’re taking a young child on a kayak trip, as they will not be able to assist you in re-entering after a capsize. Throw-bags are typically used for whitewater kayaking and operate best while the thrower is standing on land so that you won’t need one for flatwater paddling. They may, however, be helpful if your youngster panics after falling out.

Medical kit

Remember to have a first aid kit and pack it in a waterproof bag is a golden kayak safety tip. The contents of your first aid pack may vary depending on the duration and location of your trip and any medical concerns you or your kid may have. Minor cuts, scrapes, and insect bites are the most common injuries, so ensure you have antiseptic wipes, waterproof bandages, and plant and bug sting ointment in your bag.

Supplementary Packing List for Child

Water and Food

Fruit, almonds, and granola bars are perfect since they are packed with nutritious calories and take up little room. Remember that a hungry child is a grumpy child, so bring adequate food for the duration of your trip.

Bringing a lunch is a great way to extend a short paddle trip into a full or half-day adventure. However, remember that your meal may take some time in the sun, so avoid carrying perishable meals. Water is even more important than food, so have a water bottle handy and often drink when paddling.

Check your route ahead of time to see how much water you’ll need and if there are any spots to stop and refresh. Hydration is also crucial. Keep a water bottle handy and make an effort to drink enough water throughout the day. Paddling activity might result in higher fluid needs than you would assume.


Bring extra trousers for children under seven, who always tend to get dirty and damp. Clothing should always be stored in waterproof dry bags that are securely fastened to the boat’s interior. The key to comfort is layering with water-resistant, breathable fibers (e.g., merino wool, polyester, weather-resistant shell).

Choose lightweight synthetics like polyester, which dries fast, or merino wool, which stays warm even when wet. If you’re going on a more extended trip, you should also include a waterproof and wind-resistant jacket and a dry change of clothing.

Open sandals are appropriate footwear during the summer, while wet suit shoes are preferable in milder regions. A pair of mid-calf waterproof boots might be better if the water is frigid. Rain and sun hats with a wide brim (waterproof, breathable “sombreros” are perfect) are durable and suitable for rain or sun.

Waterproof boots are mid-calf to knee-high and may be worn in warm weather. Sun-protection apparel that fits comfortably (UPF rated). Keep in mind that you pack the same stuff for one night as you would for a week. Some things may be omitted for day paddles or short excursions near your vehicle.

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Kayaking with Kids Tips

Never let your youngster on a kayak by himself. Wear a PFD at all times, educate your child how to float in one, and practice wet escapes. Instead of fastening a youngster to the kayak, a line with a quick-release buckle might be used to connect you and a little child.

Every youngster should always have one experienced adult paddler. Kids will not equal your typical pace. However, they may eventually surpass you. Expect to walk at a third of your average speed and map out a route appropriately. Be calm and avoid hurrying your youngster unless necessary. Children learn rapidly, and giving them some practice time can help them much.

If they are paddling their kayak, you should also establish boundaries for how far they may float away from you.

If you’re paddling tandem with your child in the duffer seat, make sure both paddlers are aware of what to do in the event of a capsize. The actual event will be less stressful if you practice on calm water. Also, each time you go paddling, make a float plan and notify a friend or family member.

Maintain constant communication with all children and adults in the group. Don’t get separated by going at a third of your typing speed. It’s acceptable for additional adults to split from the group, but the rougher the water, the closer all boats should be. Discuss the motion of the water with your young paddler while demonstrating the proper reaction.

There will be no standing, leaning, etc. Make the youngsters list the rules and understand the consequences if they don’t follow them. If you’re paddling a double with someone young or inexperienced, take your time and let them rest. Allow the slowest paddler to take the lead, then swap – this may be turned into a game to keep the youngsters engaged.

On a paddling trip, take frequent stops and take in the sights – if safety is a concern, refrain from criticizing performance. To avoid spoiling the experience, provide advice, demonstrations, and practice, but keep formal teaching for later, onshore. On paddling expeditions, the shoreline is just as vital as the sea. Praise excellent paddling at all times, and don’t be afraid to ask people what they want to know about paddling.

How to Select Kayaks and Paddles for Kids

Choose a kayak with a shorter hull – 6 to 8 feet on average – is often more kid-friendly. A kayak for children is classified according to their weight and height; make sure you pick the proper size. When it comes to the load capacity of the kayak, consider growing and allowing some “wiggle space.”

Tandem vs. Single

Duffing, or sitting in the center seat of a kayak without actively paddling, is an excellent place for inexperienced paddlers to start. If you’re kayaking with a child and the kayak’s capacity permits it, you may be able to get away with a single-person kayak. Upgrade to a tandem if your child is between 3 and 5.

Children under 7 or 8 should be paired with an adult paddler in a tandem kayak but may actively engage in paddling as bow paddlers. This is an excellent time to begin teaching a child correct paddling techniques. Remember that the children should sit in the front of the tandem while the adult should drive the kayak.

I recommend buying a kayak that can accommodate three people so that everyone has ample space. Before enabling them to transition to a tiny single-person kayak made for youngsters, I’d wait until they were at least ten years old. Tandem kayaks are recommended for children under the age of eight.

Tandems provide you with some flexibility as your kid grows and develops their abilities. They may practice paddling in the center (duffer position) or bow seat of a tandem kayak. Single kayaks are the perfect option for youngsters to practice their paddling abilities alone. You may want to consider obtaining your kid a single kayak if they’ve learned the fundamental paddle strokes and safety methods.

Sit-on-top vs. Sit-in

When kayaking with kids, I usually suggest a sit-on-top kayak. Thanks to the broad and open deck, the kayak will feel like a floating platform created for enjoyment. Some choose sit-in kayaks because of their efficiency and maneuverability. Allowing the youngsters to jump into the water for a little swim can make getting back on a SOT kayak much simpler.

Sit-on-top kayaks are the most popular choice for kids since they eliminate the need to practice wet exits. Because they contain built-in drainage holes, they are also more sturdy and more brutal to capsize. If your youngster is more experienced or prefers the safety of an enclosed cockpit, go for a sit-inside ‘yak.


Paddles for kayaks are often polypropylene, aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. Most children will find standard paddles too lengthy to use comfortably. Your child’s ideal paddle length will be determined by their height and the breadth of the kayak. Paddles designed for children are generally shorter, lighter, and have smaller blades.


Can you put a child in a kayak with you?

While single kayaks may undoubtedly be used to kayak with toddlers, you’ll have to keep your child on your lap for most of the voyage. This may restrict your paddle action and put your youngster in danger of being struck if you need to make a sudden adjustment.

The seat cushions on this kayak are in a position that allows the young paddler to sit forward, with her legs tucked under her. Kayakers should sit their children in this manner, as it helps limit the risk of a possible life-threatening accident when they get into more severe watercraft.

Can you put a toddler in a kayak?

According to the US Coast Guard, children should begin kayaking at two to five but share a kayak with a parent or adult. The following are the basic guidelines for taking a toddler out in a kayak: they must be able to sit still.

They should be able to float in water by themselves, and their arms should be able to reach their paddling skills. Their mobility is not an issue for kayaking, as the adult in the boat will paddle with them. Transporting a child in a kayak on a public waterway is relatively easy.

Can you take a baby kayaking?

Kayaks are not suitable for use with a baby. Rafts can carry many stuff and people, but they’re sluggish, heavy, and often have standing water on the bottom, which means there’s no safe place for a child to hang out but in your arms. If a child falls overboard, they’re likely to drown. The kayak is a popular recreational boat.

Often, it’s used for easy transport of items and people. However, it is pretty heavy and can be challenging to maneuver when the boat is in rough seas due to its size and weight. Rafts are much lighter than sea kayaks, but their performance isn’t as good.

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