Kayaking With Kids: Here’s How!

Going out with kids can be challenging, but kayaking is an excellent sport for kids to enjoy and develop cognitive and motor skills. With forethought and the right amount of planning, you can bring the kids along and have a great time. Here is the ultimate guide to kayaking with kids.

Before the trip

Planning is essential for every trip, even when traveling without kids. You need to research where you’re going and confirm if it is children-friendly. Below is a detailed overview of what you’ll need to do before the trip.

1. Know Where You’re Going and For How Long

Anyone can go kayaking and have a great time while doing it. However, some locations are better suited to different people. When kayaking with children, you want to find a spot with calmer waters and currents. This includes small lakes, bays, and slow rivers that allow you to monitor everything and everyone on the water. 

Tips for choosing a place to go kayaking are:

  • Study the weather, tides, currents, and boat traffic.
  • Choose an area with a variety of activities
  • Map out spots to sit, relax, and eat.
  • Map out locations for bathroom breaks.
  • Ensure that it’s a kid-friendly kayaking spot.

Keep the length of your trip as conservative as you can. Most kids become a handful when they’re out for too long and too tired to do anything. 

Here are a few tips for determining how long your kayaking trip should be:

  • Consider the kids’ ages 
  • Think about their level of experience and yours.
  • Their level of maturity
  • Can they swim?
  • Consider how strong and coordinated they are.

2. Decide Who’s Going

Decide which of your kids are going on the trip, and ensure that you have at least one adult in charge of every child. If you have more kids, assign an adult to 2 children or invite a friend to help you out. 

3. Build Necessary Skills

Before going on the water, we recommend knowing how to swim. This doesn’t apply to just adults – kids must know how to swim before kayaking or canoeing so that if they ever find themselves in the water, they can stay afloat until help arrives. If the kids can’t swim and you have enough time, sign them up for swimming lessons. 

You can also help them build endurance and strength by going on a run a few times, doing pull-ups and push-ups, or lifting age-appropriate weights. 

4. Packing For The Trip

Packing for kids differs from packing for yourself or any other adult. It could all be a logistical nightmare if you don’t get it right. 

These are the best tips for packing for kids:

  • Start with a list. Everyone thinks they can remember it all without having to write anything down. They’re usually wrong. Whether it’s missing something minor, like a pair of socks, or something more serious, like medication, a list is your best chance at staying in control. 
  • Don’t forget the toiletries.
  • Include a first aid kit
  • Prioritize snacks, food, and water
  • Pack any gear or protective equipment you’ll need
  • Involve the kids in the packing and if they’re old enough, delegate some of it to them but let them know you’ll double-check.
  • Staple items to pack are binoculars or monoculars, fishing poles, books, a notepad and pencil, pop-up tents, blankets, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Additional items to pack are personal water bottles, whistles for emergencies, throw rope, and an umbrella. Check here to find more kayaking essentials.

5. Personalize the trip and get them excited

Children are more likely to cooperate if you personalize the trip to their interests. Beyond involving them in the packing, let them join in on deciding what to do while you’re having your adventures. Tell fun stories about where you’re going, share photos, and make them excited about going kayaking with you.

6. Double-check your list

Finally, before you lay the preparation to rest, go over everything again. Ensure that you have all you’ll need.

The trip

Do They Duff or Solo?

Duffing while kayaking is a term that describes having a kid ride in the kayak’s storage compartment while an adult or experienced kayaker paddles. This is an excellent option for kids who have no experience being on the water. They’ll get used to the feeling and hopefully enjoy it enough to want to keep going. 

The downsides of duffing are that it doesn’t work with kids who can’t sit still for an extended period and will slow you down – having to monitor the water and the kid.

Depending on their age, size, coordination, and experience, they can also go solo. If your kid is going to kayak solo, ensure that they’re fit, willing to listen to instructions, and know-how to swim. Alternatively, they could join an adult in a double kayak and paddle

The general age recommendations for kids are:

  • Eight or younger with no experience – Duffing
  • Eight and older – Bow paddler in a double boat with an adult
  • 4 – 7 years old – Bowrider/paddler in a double kayak 
  • Ten and older with experience – single small kayak
  • 14 and older with experience – single medium kayak
  • 14 and older with experience – single small canoe

Paddle sizes for kids

Paddles come in different sizes, including kid-friendly sizes. The best kayak paddles for children are those with shafts narrow enough for a sturdy grip. For children shorter than 4 feet, use paddles shorter than 72 inches. Kids between 4 feet and four and a half feet tall should use paddles between 72 and 75 inches long. Children who are slightly shorter than 5 feet can use paddles between 75 and 83 inches long, while kids taller than 5 feet can use the same paddle sizing chart as adults. 

Safety equipment and clothing

Your safety gear checklist for your kids while kayaking includes:

  • Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs)
  • Emergency whistles
  • Clothing for the weather, including a change of clothes for when they get out of the water – choose light, comfortable, and breathable fabric.
  • Rain gear
  • Sunscreen 
  • A map
  • A watch

Food and hydration

Kayaking can be a draining sport. With the exertion of paddling, the sunlight beaming on them, and all the excitement, your little kayakers will need refreshments. Bring healthy food and snacks with enough water to keep them energetic and hydrated. Avoid disposable bottles and use personal water bottles instead.

Go slow, be patient, and teach

As with any other activity with kids, take things slow. You might need to go about a third of your usual pace and stay close to monitor them. The rougher the water, the closer your kayaks should be without crowding.

Keep your young kayakers engaged by talking to them and sharing their experiences. Show them how to paddle, what to look at, and how to navigate the water. 

Lay down the rules

Firmly lay down the rules and tell the kids why they should follow them – no standing, no leaning, and no rocking. Have them say the directions back to you so they remember. 

Be encouraging

Encourage the kids to be active on the water! Leave no one behind. Let the kids take turns paddling. Then allow them to take breaks in between. Praise good paddling and encourage slow paddlers. Share tips, demonstrate techniques and provide help when needed.

Have Fun!

What matters most is that the kids have fun while staying safe. Take lots of breaks and let them watch and enjoy the scenery. Reward the kids at the end of their kayaking adventure and keep things fun. 

Kayaking with kids may sound like a challenge, but it’s a wonderful way to spend time with them and bond. Click here if you’re interested in learning more about kayaking with kids.