Paddling with Kids
Canoes or kayaks are a great way to bring younger folk along on outdoor adventures. Carrying infants – and all the extra gear they need – is much easier with paddlecraft than with packs. And since everyone is literally in the same boat, keeping adults and children together is simpler on the water than on the trail.
A boatload of tips for paddling with kids:
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) must fit properly to work properly. This is definitely not the time to buy oversize so your child can “grow into it.”
- Younger children need to be seated within reach of adults while on the water. Very small infants may be able to share the cockpit of a kayak with an adult who is not wearing a sprayskirt. (Be sure both parent and child can exit the cockpit safely in the event of a capsize.) Larger infants and toddlers can travel in the centre of a canoe, in the middle of a recreational double kayak with a single large cockpit, or between the parents on a double sit-on-top kayak. For older children who don't need to be within arm's reach, some double touring kayaks can be fitted with an optional seat that converts the centre hatch into a third cockpit.
- Plan a route where landing spots are always near at hand. Alternatively, equip your boat for bathroom breaks while afloat. (An old bottle should do for boys, a two-litre milk jug cut diagonally in half could serve for girls.)
- Select paddling clothing with the assumption it will get wet. Choose quick-drying garments for use in the boat, and carry shore wear sealed in dry bags.
- Practice getting in and out of the boat in a safe, shallow location, so that everyone is comfortable with the process.
- As children become old enough to progress from passengers to paddlers, invest in kid-sized canoe or kayak paddles. These have narrower shafts, more easily gripped by tiny hands, and smaller blades that are more easily pulled through the water. Be sure the paddle is long enough that the child can reach the water without straining.
- The reflective surface of the water delivers a double dose of UV rays, so sunscreen is critical and child-size sunglasses are highly recommended.
- Print out our Kids Paddling Checklist to help you pack the essential items for paddling trips.