As kayakers, canoe & kayak shop owners, and proud parents, we suggest that with just a little planning, preparation and supervision, kayaking with children may just be the perfect adventure for you & your family!
THE SECRET to introducing children to kayaking is the sooner the better! The earlier children become accustomed to riding in the boat, the quicker you both can enjoy the benefits of the outdoors together. Christine & I began kayaking with our son, Justin, when he was only a few months old. At five he was paddling his own recreational kayak, and by the age of six, he was confidently in charge of his own sea kayak.
Unlike a canoe where ‘small children’ have limited visibility and support, a kayak provides a far more interactive medium. Some cockpits are large enough to allow for a small child to be safely supported on your lap. This affords them the opportunity to take in the new world around them while maintaining the warmth and security of Mom or Dad. One of the most powerful bonds in life is between a child and their parent(s); we can’t think of a better way to solidifying this special gift than to seal it with nature itself.
Your first few trips must be a positive experience, so make a special effort to create a fun and interesting paddling adventure. Pick short destinations not more than 30 minutes away to stop and picnic. Bring lots of snacks and drinks while cruising the shoreline explaining nature’s intriguing sights and sounds. Unlike canoes, children sit low enough in kayaks that they are able to touch the water immediately. This provides lots of opportunity for little ones to splash about. A wooden kitchen spoon makes a great 1st paddle, just remember to drill a small hole for a wrist leash… unless you want to pick it up about 50 times. Often your young companion will quickly fall fast asleep from the rhythmic motion of your kayak long before reaching home.
Even RAINY weather won’t dampen your day as long as you’re dressed properly with rain gear and maintain a positive attitude. Kayaks being more enclosed leave little exposed to the elements. In fact, some of our most enjoyable adventures have been on quiet, rainy summer days.
As children grow (two or three) we suggest you change their seating position from your lap to the rear hatch of your kayak. By facing the child towards the stern of the kayak they gain valuable legroom. Placing a cushion under them will raise them up and provide more comfort and insulation.
By the age of five or six, youngsters may express a desire to paddle on their own. Initially, paddle shaft size, weight, and technique may be awkward, but with a little help and guidance they quickly catch on. Like a child riding their bike for the first time without training wheels, you both will find the experience very rewarding. At first your child will tire out quickly, but by purchasing a kayak towline, you can ensure a longer, more positive day for all. Our son Justin would say, “Dad I have no energy,” so we would hook up the towline. After a while he would say, “Dad I have new energy,” so we would unhook the towline and away he’d go again water flying everywhere.
The safety of a child while kayaking is the sole responsibility of the adult. As kayaking does impose some risk, the principles of SAFE kayaking must be instilled at a young age. It is essential that grown-ups know their own paddling limitations and can read changing wind & weather conditions, and above all, use common sense. Parents and little ones must wear proper fitting, quality PFD’s. Sun hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, water shoes, cover-ups and lots to drink are recommended, even for the shortest excursions. Children should be taught how to take off their spray skirt by pulling down one side and even how to do wet exits and entries. Make it FUN and you will be amazed how quickly your child’s skills improve. At thirteen years of age, our son Justin paddled a sea kayak better than many adults… He was even willing attempt his 1st Eskimo roll!
Today more than ever people are seeking a “back to basics” release from the pressures of modern culture and returning to simpler family values. Remember what fascinated you as a child: explore an island, climb a tree, or swim a secluded beach. Inspire your children’s minds with the thrill of discovery, on nature’s terms… by choosing a paddle NOT a motor!
Kayaking with Kids sound easy, it is!
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