Kayaking is a wonderful activity that can be enjoyed at any age. For children, it can ignite a lifelong passion for outdoor adventures. But how do you choose the best kayak for your little one? In this guide, we will recommend the top kayaks for kids, provide tips on paddling with children, and discuss important factors to consider when selecting a kayak.
Is My Kid Ready to Paddle?
Determining if your child is ready to paddle on their own can be subjective. It is often helpful to introduce them to kayaking by paddling together in a tandem kayak or having them sit in front of you in your own vessel. This allows them to gain some experience and gives you an opportunity to assess their readiness. Additionally, it is important for children to know how to swim before venturing out on their own.
Consider enrolling your child in a kayaking lesson before they have their own kayak. This will give them a taste of kayaking and help you determine if they are ready for their own vessel. Lessons can be a fun way to introduce kids to kayaking without any pressure. They also provide an opportunity for kids to see their peers enjoying the activity.
The decision of when your child is ready for their own kayak will depend on their size, maturity, and physical abilities, rather than their age. However, regardless of their readiness, it is crucial that children are always accompanied and supervised on the water by an experienced adult. If your child does not want to paddle on their own, it is best not to force them as it may discourage them from trying again in the future.
What Type of Kayak Would Be Good for My Little One?
When choosing a kayak for your child, it is important to consider factors such as size, weight limit, and style.
Select a kayak that is easy for your child to learn in and maneuver on the water. A shorter length can be ideal, as it allows for better turning. Additionally, a wider hull provides more stability, which is beneficial for younger paddlers. Kids’ kayaks are often designed with these considerations in mind, offering a good width for easy paddling without compromising stability.
Check the weight guide provided for each individual kayak to ensure it is suitable for your child. This will give you an idea of whether they will outgrow the kayak quickly or if they might be too small to paddle it. Lighter boats are generally easier for children to maneuver, and they may even be able to help carry their own vessel to and from the water. However, keep in mind that smaller kids may still struggle to lift lightweight kayaks, so it is important to consider this when selecting a kayak.
There are various styles of kayaks available for kids, including sit-on-tops and sit-inside kayaks. Sit-on-tops are a popular choice for beginners, as they are easy to get in and out of and offer more freedom of movement. They can also be enjoyable for kids who want to play in the water, as they allow for easy on and off access. Consider the hull design as well, as flat hulls and pontoon-style hulls provide good initial stability for kids on calm water.
Tips on Paddling with Kids
When paddling with children, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind:
Ensure that your child wears a properly fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times while on the water. This is not only essential for their safety but may also be a legal requirement in many areas.
Keep in mind that your kids may not be able to paddle as far as you had hoped. Plan rest stops along your route or choose a shorter route, especially if it is their first time kayaking. Bring plenty of drinks and snacks to keep them hydrated and energized throughout the trip.
Having tow ropes on board can be helpful when paddling with kids. Children might decide mid-trip that they no longer want to paddle, and a tow rope allows you to tow their kayak behind yours until they are ready to paddle again.
Consider using kid-sized paddles for younger children, as adult-sized paddles may be too large and difficult for them to handle effectively.
Choose calmer waters, such as slow-moving rivers or calm lakes, when taking your kids kayaking for the first time. Avoid areas with hidden currents and excessive boat traffic to ensure their safety and help them get accustomed to the water.
Always supervise your children on the water, regardless of the type of water you are kayaking on. Children should be accompanied by an adult with paddling experience and kayak safety training. Accidents can happen, so it is crucial to prioritize their safety.
Top 7 Best Kids Kayaks
Here are our top picks for the best kayaks for kids:
1: Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak
- Length: 6 foot
- Width: 24 inches
- Weight: 18 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 130 pounds
The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is specially designed for children aged five and above. It features molded footrests for different leg lengths and a Twin Fin design for improved tracking. With its durable and lightweight construction, this sit-on-top kayak is an excellent choice for young paddlers.
2: Emotion Sparky Youth Kayak
- Length: 6 foot
- Width: 24 inches
- Weight: 22 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 140 pounds
The Emotion Sparky Youth Kayak is another great option for kids. It offers an open seating area with molded-in footrests and a small storage deck at the stern. This stable and durable sit-on-top kayak is suitable for a range of waters and is designed for kids aged five and up.
3: Sun Dolphin Camino SS
- Length: 8 foot
- Width: 30 inches
- Weight: 40 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 225 pounds
If you’re looking for a slightly larger kayak for your kids, the Sun Dolphin Camino SS is an excellent choice. With its wide and stable hull, this 8-foot kayak is suitable for older children and even adults. It offers ample storage space and can be used for longer paddling trips or overnight adventures.
4: Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak
- Length: 8 foot 7 inches (inflated)
- Width: 36 inches (inflated)
- Weight: 18 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 400 pounds
The Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak is an inflatable kayak that can accommodate both children and adults. It is compact and easily portable, making it convenient for transportation and storage. This kayak features a wide and stable design, ensuring a safe and enjoyable paddling experience.
5: Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8ft Kayak
- Length: 8 foot
- Width: 28 inches
- Weight: 27 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 260 pounds
The Sun Dolphin Aruba SS is an 8-foot sit-inside kayak suitable for kids, especially in colder conditions. This stable and lightweight kayak is designed for recreational use on lakes and rivers. It offers convenient storage options and comes with a contoured seat for added comfort.
6: Old Town Heron Junior Kids Kayak
- Length: 7 foot 5 inches
- Width: 25 inches
- Weight: 26 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 115 pounds
The Old Town Heron Junior is a compact sit-inside kayak built specifically for kids. It features a padded seat and seat back contoured to fit young paddlers. With its durable construction and easy maneuverability, this kayak is a great choice for family paddling trips.
7: Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
- Length: 9 foot (inflated)
- Width: 30 inches (inflated)
- Weight: 28 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 220 pounds
The Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is an inflatable kayak suitable for recreational use by one person. While not specifically designed for children, it can serve as an affordable starter kayak for older kids. This kayak is portable and comes complete with a hand pump and paddle.
Having your kids join you on a kayaking trip can create lasting memories and foster a love for outdoor activities. Remember to prioritize safety by ensuring your child wears a properly fitted PFD at all times. Choose a kayak that is suitable for their size and skill level, and consider factors such as size, weight limit, and style.
Follow the tips provided for paddling with kids, including planning ahead, using tow ropes if needed, and selecting appropriate paddle sizes. Lastly, supervise your children at all times and choose calm and safe waters for their kayaking adventures.
If you found this guide helpful, please share it with other parents who might be interested. Feel free to share your own experiences of kayaking with kids with us. Happy paddling!