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Kayaking Fundamentals: Kayaking With Kids

Kayaking with kids can be fun, but keep in mind that it takes a different mindset than when paddling with other adults. Tandem kayaks work especially well with a young one. Place them in the front of the boat, so you can keep an eye on them, while better controlling the speed and direction of the boat. A sit-on-top kayak is a great craft when paddling with kids; it’s wide open so they can wiggle around, jump off for a swim and scramble back aboard. A young child can sit on your lap, in a tandem kayak or even a solo kayak.

Be sure the child is always wearing a life jacket. There are many good child life jackets; make sure you get one that fits them well. A jacket “they can grow into” can be very dangerous. Get one that really fits. After you have it properly adjusted, lift up on the shoulder straps. If the jacket slips up around the head, you’ll need to readjust it, or get a different jacket. Jackets with leg straps can be an excellent and safe choice for hard-to-fit kids.

Kids have a limited attention span, so don’t overdo the length of earlier paddling trips. Make the trips fun by letting them have a paddle and giving them some paddling tips. Play some games out there: “Count how many birds you see”, or “Help me watch out for motorboats,” etc. Protect them from the sun and bring along snacks and drinks.

Paddle in calm, sheltered areas, and close to shore in case a potty break is needed. You want the paddling sessions to be fun. An early scary or negative experience can turn your young one off from wanting to go again. Make sure it’s safe and fun for them, and you can create a lifelong paddling partner!