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Kayaking is an activity that promises loads of fun. From the beautiful scenery around you to the paddling motion of the kayak, and the sound of nature (water, birds, wind), it’s like you are transported into another realm. One thing I like about kayaking is that you can make the sport as intense or gentle as you want. You decide your pace.
Many people got introduced to kayaking from a young age by their parents, relatives, or family friends. And they developed an everlasting love for the sport. You might want to do the same for your young ones and bring them along on a kayaking trip in the near future.
This article focuses on kayaking with a baby and kids in general. You’ll learn when it’s right to bring your young ones along on your kayaking expeditions and how to keep them safe on the water. When kids are involved in kayaking, safety becomes even more paramount.
When Is It Safe for Kids to Go Kayaking?
Babies less than 2 years old should not be on a kayak or any other water vessel. You can start to bring your kids on your kayak once they are over 2 years old. If you aren’t comfortable having your 2-year-old child on your kayak, you can wait a bit longer. Waiting till he/she is 3, 4, or 5 years old is up to you.
The U.S. Coast Guard has requirements for kayaking with a baby and they are as follows:
- Toddlers must be mature enough to sit still. This is important for their safety.
- Toddlers must weigh at least 18 pounds.
- Toddlers must be capable of floating themselves on the water.
- Toddlers must wear a snug-fitting personal flotation device (PFD).
Summary: Babies/kids should be within 2 – 5 years old and meet the U.S. Coast Guard requirement before they can be brought on a kayak. Children over 7 years old are ready to have their own vessel, and a proper kid kayak should be bought for them.
Where to Kayak with Your Kids?
If you are kayaking with your children, you should paddle on calm waters. The paddling intensity that comes with faster-moving waters may cause kids to panic. Also, you won’t be able to properly keep an eye on them if most of your attention is on paddling.
A lake or other calm water bodies will do when kayaking with your children. As your children get used to kayaking, you can then consider slow-moving waters. You should also study the water traffic before you head out and talk to the kids about bathroom breaks so you can plan how long to spend on the water. Chances are the children are going to love being on the water, and they will take in everything with their little curious eyes.
What Type of Kayak to Use with Children?
The best type of kayak to use with children is a Sit-on-Top (SOT) tandem kayak. Children under the age of 7 should be with you on the SOT tandem kayak. Your child should be seated in the front so you can keep an eye on them. Some SOT tandem kayaks have a small seat for kids in the middle while two adults sit in.
SOTs offer many benefits when kayaking with kids. For one, they have an open cockpit which makes it easy to get into the kayak and exit. They are also very stable and have scuppers to drain any water that manages to get into the vessel. If your child is old enough to swim, it’s easy for them to get off a SOT kayak to go swimming. And re-entry into the kayak is also easy.
The reason for a tandem kayak is to have enough space for both you and your child. Some single-person SOT kayaks may be able to accommodate a child but a tandem kayak ensures space will never be an issue. So, it’s better to go for a tandem SOT kayak.
Inflatable kayaks are a great option because they offer all the benefits of sit-on-top kayaks, along with ease of transport and storage. They are made of very resistant materials and are just as safe as hard-shell kayaks.
Sit-inside kayaks, on the other hand, offer much less space in their cockpits. They tend to be less stable and more prone to capsizing. And if you do capsize, it is not as easy to recover with a sit-inside kayak as it is with a sit-on-top kayak.
Essential Gear to Bring Along
PFD for Kids
You already know both you and your child shouldn’t be on the water without wearing a PFD. When choosing a PFD for your child, choose one that comes with a coast guard approved label which contains six-digit of the approval number. Also, the PFD should fit your child snugly, not tightly.
Here are some Coast Guard-approved PFDs:
Since you’ll be kayaking with your kids in the summer, it’s important you give them sun protection to protect their sensitive skin from sunburns. Wearing long sleeves, sunglasses, and hats will help to block the sun too.
But you should also apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. Remember to always add an extra layer of sunscreen to the neck area. If your kids will be swimming, you should apply sunscreen every 30 minutes.
It is also a good idea to get a sunshade or canopy for your kayak for a pleasant experience, protecting you from harmful UV rays.
Bring Some Fun and Creative Toys Along
Kids may quickly lose interest in a kayaking expedition and get bored. And this is where bringing some creative toys comes in. The toys will engage the children and keep them entertained. And this will make them more compliant.
Paddle more slowly than usual. Going fast when you have kids onboard can cause them to lose balance and topple over. Now, you don’t want that, do you? If you are kayaking as part of a group, the kayaks should stay close to each other and shouldn’t venture beyond hearing distance. This way, help will quickly arrive in case of an emergency.
Establish a set of rules to keep the kids in check while they are on the water. Such rules should include no standing, jumping, leaning, or reaching out of the kayak. Children that are old enough to be on their own kayak should always be within earshot, stay seated, and must wear their PFDs at all times.
Never Tie Your Child to the Kayak
This does not add any safety and could actually lead to very dangerous situations. If he/she ends up in the water with a restrained arm or leg, the risk of drowning is real. Again, if your child is not able to sit still yet, it is best to not bring them along on the kayak.
Kayaking is a fun and safe sport you can expose your children to from a very young age. All you need to do is to follow safety precautions and you and your kids are set for a good time on the water.