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Kayaking with Kids: An Essential Guide for Parents

Planning a kayaking trip with kids? This guide helps identify the right age for children to start kayaking, what to pack, and safety considerations.

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If you’re looking for a fun way to get your kids interested in the great outdoors, kayaking is an excellent place to start.

Compared to other sports, kayaking is relatively low intensity, and even young children can manage short trips in solo or tandem kayaks. And, because it’s possible to paddle on various waterways, they’re less likely to get bored.

Of course, kayaking with kids is not like kayaking with an adult. It takes more planning. That’s why we’ve put together this guide with everything you need to know before taking your kids paddling.

At What Age Can Children Start Kayaking?

Kayaking with a child will depend on the child’s maturity level, physical ability, and your own kayaking experience. However, we’ll use ages to simplify this explanation.

Some experienced paddlers choose to take toddlers duffing (riding as a passenger in the center seat) in tandem kayaks. But duffing is not recommended unless your toddler can sit still for extended periods and can float themselves face-up while wearing a PFD.

You’ll also need an experienced stern paddler who can control the kayak independently if required, and you’ll need to be able to take care of yourself and a toddler in a capsize.

Kids aged between four and eight are perfect for duffing in a tandem kayak if they can sit still long enough. Duffing is a fantastic way to introduce kids to kayaking, and you can bring a kid-sized paddle so they can start practicing basic paddling skills. Kids aged eight and over may be strong enough to paddle in the bow position.

When Can a Child Start Kayaking in Their Own Kayak?

Some kids start practicing in child-sized kayaks as young as three or four years old. But at this age, practice will primarily involve holding the paddle and paddling for just a few minutes.

If you want to get your kid into the sport early, five to seven is a good age to start practicing in a swimming pool or calm waters. Under sevens may be able to paddle continuously for up to a quarter of a mile in a small kayak.

As with tandem paddling, most kids over the age of seven will be able to paddle a small kayak. By this age, most kids will have developed a longer attention span and the physical strength needed to kayak continuously for half a mile to a mile.

Getting Kids Enthusiastic About Kayaking

If you want your kids to share your love of kayaking, then start talking about the sport with them. Perhaps you can share your epic paddling adventures or watch videos about kayaking together to pique their interest.

You can also encourage them by letting them try sitting in a kayak at home or at a kayaking store. Alternatively, you could enroll them in a kayaking class if they’re old enough.

Once they’re interested, start planning the route together so that your child feels involved at every step of the journey. Suggest routes that you know will be interesting for them. Or consider letting them invite a friend if you have a second adult available to help supervise.

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