You want to have a fantastic time kayaking with your kid. This is a great opportunity for the whole family to get some sun and exercise. Not to mention being able to bond with your little champ and teach them a few things about kayaking.
A kayak of their own will help them learn faster. So, which junior kayak should you get? There are countless brands from reputable manufacturers. Everyone claims that theirs is the best kayak for kids on the market. This can be confusing if you’ve never bought a kid’s kayak before. Don’t waste your resources on an inferior kayak. Let me help you find the perfect kayak for your child.
Here, I discuss six of the best kayaks for kids in 2023.
Best Kayaks for Kids Compared
Best Kayaks For Kids Reviews
Read on for my reviews:
1. Lifetime Youth Wave Kids Kayak with Paddle
This sit on top kayak is ideal for really young kayakers. It has features that are meant to enhance comfort and make it easier for them to learn. Check the details below.
The Lifetime Youth Wave kayak is made using high-density polyethylene. It is lightweight and super durable. This is exactly what a child needs. Something that can’t be easily destroyed, but is light enough for them to carry and steer. It is UV-protected and will maintain its bright color.
This kayak for kids has some cool features such as a molded paddle cradle and finger handles. There are several footrest positions so the child can continue using it even as he/she grows.
It includes scupper holes and a twin-fin design.
The hull design of the Lifetime Youth Wave kayak is flip-resistant. While the sit on top kayak is not entirely flip-proof, it won’t be easy for it to flip. It has a reversed chine for enhanced stability.
The youth kayak comes with a paddle. Nothing else is included. The only thing the child will need is a kayak PFD for youth and they can get started.
Features and Specifications
- Made with high-density polyethylene
- Molded paddle cradle
- Molded finger handles
- Scupper holes
- Twin-fin design
- Flip-resistant hull
- Reversed chine
- Ergonomic cockpit design
- Swim-up deck
- For ages 5+
- Measures: 6’ x 24”
- Weight capacity: 130 lbs
- Weighs 18 lbs
Kids are having a lot of fun with their Lifetime Youth kayak. Parents and grandparents say they are happy they bought it. The kayak is stable and light. Children are handling it without much trouble. One buyer wishes there was a storage bin.
The next time you are going kayaking, your child can ride alongside you in their own kayak. The six kids kayaks discussed above are the best. They have all the necessary features to keep young kayakers comfortable. You can buy a sit-in or a sit-on-top, depending on what you want for your kid. Choose one now and make kayaking plans. Remember to have fun and make lasting memories.
How to Choose the Best Kayak for Kids
It’s good to see your kids show interest in the activities you love. Kayaking is awesome as it is. But there is something special about having a little loved one(s) to share the experience with. While they can ride with you in your kayak, it is more fun to have a smaller kids kayak for them. Then you can paddle side by side.
This means choosing something that they will like. There are many kayaks for kids but they come in different sizes and designs. It’s easy to pick one if you know what to look for. And that’s the point of this post.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Kayak for Kids
When it comes to weight you need to strike a balance. On one hand, you want the kids kayak to be light and easy for the child to carry. On the other hand, a kayak that is too light may not be safe in the water, especially in choppy conditions.
Get a kayak that won’t be hard for the kid to transport and steer. The last thing you want is to frustrate a young kayaker or to have them whine the entire trip.
There is also the issue of capsizing. When teaching a child, you can’t leave out the crucial skill of righting. So the kid should be able to flip the kayak back up.
Generally, a weight of 20 pounds to 30 pounds would be fine. The kayak will be light enough for the young kayaker to handle, but not too light that it gets tossed about when it is windy.
This may not be much of an issue because most kids’ kayaks come in appropriate sizes. But you still have to consider the specific needs of your child. How tall and strong are they?
The longer the kayak, the harder it will be to control it, more so for a kid. A shorter kayak is preferable. However, don’t forget that kids grow fast. Have that in mind and buy something that they can use for a few years. Go for 6 feet to 10 feet, depending on your child’s age and how fast they are growing.
Size also involves the width. Kids have short arms and wide kayaks will be difficult to use. Their elbows will get hit a lot. While a very narrow kayak would be great, you also have to think about stability. Speaking of…
In most cases, children are not pro kayakers. They are still learning. The kids kayak you choose for your little champ should make the process easier. It should be as stable as possible.
This is where the width, and other features, come in.
Starting with the width, you have seen above that a wide kayak may not be great for a child. But again, a wider kayak is more stable. Just like with weight, you have to find a balance. Let the kayak be wide enough for stability and narrow enough for the kid to paddle without hitting their elbows.
Some of the best kayaks for kids come with anti-capsize features. To be clear, no kayak is capsize-proof. Don’t waste your time looking. Stability features, however, make it harder for the boat to flip. There are primary stability features and secondary stability features.
Kayaks for kids with primary stability are meant to be used in flat water. They are usually wide (30+ inches) and flat-bottomed. This kind of kayak is stable when you lean to one side, but only up to a certain point. If you lean too much, it will capsize. This is the best one for beginners and, of course, kids.
Kayaks with secondary stability allow you to lean too much to one side and even have that side of the kayak immersed in water. And it still won’t capsize. This leaning position makes it easy for the paddler to turn quickly and aggressively. A kayak like this is ideal for rough conditions. It is not good for kids as they may find it tippy.
Most children are super active and adventurous. This means that they’ll probably be rough with their kayak. You already see how they handle their toys; so you understand. A kayak can be costly and you want it to last.
Inflatable kayaks are the best for durability. The child will have to try extremely hard to dent it. Heavy-duty polyethylene is also tough and durable.
Make sure that the material has some kind of UV protection. It may be exposed to the sun a lot and you don’t want the colors fading.
An inflatable or a hard-shell kayak for kids? A sit-on-top or a sit-in?
For many parents, an inflatable kayak is the better option. It is durable, lightweight and cheaper. You also get to save on storage space. All you have to do is deflate it.
You can either decide to go with a sit on top (SOP) or a sit-in. Both of them are okay. But for children who are fairly new to kayaking, an SOP is ideal. Getting on and off is easy. This helps when the kayak capsizes and they have to flip it back.
A sit-in kayak can be hard to drain for children. SOPs usually have drainage holes which save you the trouble.
f. Weight Capacity
There’s nothing complicated about getting the weight capacity right. You just have to factor in your child’s weight and the estimated weight of gear.
Maximum weight capacity of 120 pounds would suit most kids.
g. Extra Features
In addition to the above factors, these other additional features will make things easier for you.
Do yourself a favor and buy a kids’ kayak with a towing feature. Children are full of energy—but they can get worn out easily. After a few hours of paddling, don’t be surprised if they start dosing or complaining that they are tired. When this happens, you’ll need to tow their kayak back to the shore.
Adjustable foot braces are something else that you may appreciate down the road. As the kid grows, they can continue to use the kayak.
Other features include a molded seat, paddle holders and fins.
A Few Important Tips When Kayaking With Kids
Safety: you cannot predict what will happen during your adventure. But you can prepare for possible outcomes. Ensure that the kid knows how to swim and teach them a few rescue tactics. They should also have a PFD, a whistle and every other safety essential.
Keep them close: this goes without saying. Parents don’t even need a reminder. Check how they are paddling and help them perfect it.
Don’t overdo it: the whole experience can be too exciting and you may want to keep going. Start small and keep the trips short and sweet. Let the child build endurance.
Getting the best kayak for kids doesn’t have to be a headache. Use the above factors to find the perfect boat for your little or not-so-little one. It should be the right size, durable and stable. Go ahead and narrow down your options further by looking for additional features. Everything depends on how old your child is and their skill level.
As usual, remember to have fun and make lasting memories.
Kayak for Kids Q&A
Q: How to Kayak with Kids?
A: Kayaking is a fun activity for all ages and your kids will definitely enjoy the experience.
Children under the age of 10 should share a tandem kayak with an adult. They can sit in the front seat and help you paddle as you teach them the proper techniques.
Note that some children below the age of 10 may be ready for their own kayak.
Kids who are too young to paddle can just sit and enjoy the trip.
Before you take the young ones kayaking, make sure everyone knows how to swim. They should be able to swim and float on their own.
The ratio of experienced adults to kids should be 1:1—that is, one adult for one child. Kids can be a handful and you may not be able to handle several of them on your own.
Before you get into the water, establish some rules. These may include: staying calm, no jumping and reaching out of the boat, etc.
Everyone, adults and kids alike, should have a USCG-approved PFD on at all times.
Lastly, bring food, water, and sunscreen.
Q: Where to Kayak with Kids?
A: It would be wise to start with calm waters in an area you know very well. You don’t want any huge surprises.
Study the boat traffic, weather, and currents.
If your children are new to kayaking, start by paddling close to shore. Let them familiarize themselves with the water and observe their paddling strength.
Once they become more confident and skilled, you can look for something more challenging, like a slow-moving river. But be patient and don’t rush anything.
Q: What Are Some Safety Tips for Kayaking with Kids?
A: Kayaking is not a dangerous sport, especially when paddling calm, shallow waters. But in case of any unexpected situation, you want to be prepared.
Before you get into the water, let everyone put on their PFDs (this goes for mom and/or dad as well). Life jackets save lives. Have the children wear theirs around the house so they can get used to them.
Learn rescue techniques. Learning here doesn’t refer to watching YouTube videos. Taking lessons will actually equip you with the practical skills you need.
Don’t tie your child to the kayak.
Have a first-aid kit and an emergency plan. Talk about possible situations with everyone that will be going and discuss what to do if they happen.
Q: What Age Can You Start Kayaking?
A: Kids can start kayaking at almost any age. If they are too young to paddle, they can sit on your lap. When they are older and eager to start paddling, the two of you can share a tandem.
At about 7 years, get them their own kids kayak if they ask.
Q: What Size Is a Youth Kayak?
A: Youth kayaks are generally 6 to 10 feet long. They are short enough for small hands to steer comfortably.
The width ranges from about 22 to 30 inches.