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If you are a parent that enjoys paddling, the question of whether and how you can go kayaking with your kids is one you often have to ponder. Knowing when to introduce your kids to the wonderful world of kayaking is also another consideration.
It is confusing enough to go paddling as an adult but to include a toddler? That brings a whole lot of new considerations to the table.
What should they wear? Should they have special canoes and what about their safety? The good news for you is that we are done extensive research to bring you a guide when kayaking with toddlers. We have also covered tips that would prove handy for kids. Follow this guide, and hopefully, you'll never have to worry about not bringing your children along for your kayaking trips.
All it takes to enjoy your trip is proper preparation to ensure that your stress levels remain low.
Planning the trip
There are many things you should consider when planning a canoeing trip with your toddler or kid. For starters, the spectrum of people who are right for paddling is just as wide as the sea.
The most important thing you should keep in mind is that unless you have experience, you should never take a toddler on the water. You should plan for one adult for each toddler until the experience of all the paddlers is determined, and you can trust all the members of the group.
When you are comfortable with everyone's ability you can have your child invite a few friends if you have enough adults in the group.
You also want to ensure that you find a location whose waters are calm as they have minimal currents. If you are going to rough waters, ensure that you have the appropriate experience as well as boats and equipment.
- You want to start slowly with small protected bays, lakes, and slow rivers.
You can broaden your options with every trip. Other destination tips include choosing places with variety, and knowing what you are getting into. Ensure that you study the currents, tides as well as boat traffic beforehand.
When such conditions are pre-countered, you can enjoy your paddling vacations. It is also important that you know when the bathroom breaks and when you need to change the diapers.
Experienced paddlers and paddling experts can help you figure out the ideal locations for kayaking with toddlers and kids.
Another important consideration you should think about is the length of the trip. It is important that you be conservative when deciding how long you will be out as this will ensure that you all win even if you exceed the expectations.
In the case of toddlers and babies, this may mean simply sitting in the cockpit at the edge of the water. The rule of the thumb is to plan your trips in short loops and about 1/3 of the usual distance you would go with your adult friends.
The older a child, the more time you can spend on the water. Other factors that you should consider include the child’s familiarity with water, coordination level, physical strength, swimming ability, age/level of maturity as well as their experience with paddling and boats.
If you are planning a trip in the future you should consider signing up for kayaking lessons. You can easily find one of these at community pools. Fun workouts with your kids can also provide an additional layer of training.
Go for long walks, do pushups and pull-ups at home or lift weights together. We would always suggest that children should be competent swimmers before taking them kayaking.
What are your boat options?
You will need to make a choice between a kayak and a canoe. Your choice will depend on several factors including the goals of the trip, ability of your child and their age. Other variables you should consider include the need to reach a destination, paddling opportunities for the child, seat choice as well as the comfort levels.
Children aged between four and seven will do fine sitting in the kayak bow. This will, however, may not provide enough propulsion and as such, your distances will be limited.
- Sea canoes are advisable for any kid below the age of 7.
This is because canoes have plenty of stability, gear and wiggle room for such kids. They can accommodate one adult and 2-3 children. If they are older than seven, they can paddle in a kayak or canoe as they are more capable of executing kayaking skills. You will not need a separate boat for your toddler as you can paddle with them in the same boat.
Whatever boat you choose, make sure that you practice safety techniques including high braces and wet exits.
Consider a decked kayak, preferably one with a spray deck, if you intend to paddle in calmer waters. Have the child sit in the middle of the canoe with the more experienced adult in the stern and the other at the bow of the boat. Practice this until the child learns to handle a single in the waters. It is important to note that the middle section of kayaks is usually not for children but gear. It is, however, okay to use the section for your kid if paddling in colder waters.
If paddling in calm inland freshwater in the summer or warmer waters, sit-on-top kayaks are a great option.
With some creativity, you can fit up to three kids in one kayak. Inflatable kayaks are an even better option if you do not want to invest in a carrier or have little storage space.
Don’t go for sit-on-top kayaks if you are going for a long paddling trip.
The paddling experience, physical capabilities, size and age of your kids will determine whether you choose a single or a double and whether a paddler or duffer. Duffers have a middle section where kids can sit.
They are a great place to start for young kids below the age of seven. Any single kayak will suffice for children aged ten or older. The size of the paddle helps you connect with the water, and as such, the feel is necessary. The ideal paddle for kids is 200 cm long and comes with a narrow shaft.
What about the safety gear?
You should never skimp on safety, especially if you plan to go paddling with kids. Everyone is required by law to wear a personal floatation device. The good news is that you can find various sizes fitted for toddlers, children, youth, and adults.
The neck pad is particularly important in the case of infant PFDs as it helps position the head correctly. Also, ensure that the crotch strap is always secured. Babies and toddlers do not like PFDs, and as such, you may want to prepare them in advance at home. Consider including a reward to make the learning process a fun one.
Floats and lines sometimes come in handy during rescue situations. Knowing the safety techniques that accompany their use is important. Such include wet exits where under forced conditions like emergencies or capsizes, the paddler leaves the cockpit and climbs back into it.
The ideal line and float gear include a tow line for every boat, a throw-bag for each adult as well as a paddle float for every adult. Take care not to over-rely online and float gear. Also, ensure that you never tie a kid or toddler to the boat as this creates more danger.
What to pack for the trip
Consider packing easy to bring items such as dried fruits, nut, fresh red peppers, mangoes, apples, hard-boiled eggs and smoked salmon. Hydration is also important so be sure to bring along a bottle of water for each kid.
When it comes to the clothing, consider ones made from water-resistant and breathable fiber. Extra pairs of pants for kids under the age of 7 are a good idea because they kids easily get wet and filthy.
- Whatever you do, don’t pack cotton.
- Or Jeans!
Other necessities you should pack include:
- wide brimmed hats,
- bathroom essentials for the youngest,
- as well as mid-calf to knee-high waterproof boots.
When on the water
Go slow, about 1/3 of your average pace and take care not to get separated from the kids especially in rough waters.
Talking to the child about the action of the water also helps a great deal as they learn a great deal including navigating the currents, bracing against a wave as well as drawing into an eddy.
Provide simple and clear rules i.e. no leaning, no standing, etc. Also, make sure that they know and understand the potential consequences of not following the rules. Take time to enjoy the scenery and praise your kids if they paddle well.
If things do not go as planned as something goes wrong, just go with the flow and stick with it. Consider spicing things up with games like follow the leader and tag. Ensure that you do most of the paddling and when the trip comes to an end; don’t forget to give them the rewards you promised.
Remember that your kids will most likely rely on you to have fun and looking bored will get them bored too.