There is nothing better than spending time with family out in the water. You get to catch up with loved ones and know what’s going on in their lives. It is also important for everyone to enjoy nature and relax every once in a while. That’s why you should never leave your kids behind when kayaking.
Kayaking with kids is very different from going out on a solo adventure. You need to pack more stuff and be more serious about safety. Children get bored quickly too. It is good to plan in advance for a successful trip.
In short, there’s so much to know and prepare. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you out.
Are Kayaks Safe for Kids?
This is the first thing that every parent will want to know. Avid kayakers are always eager to go paddling with their babies.
Kayaks are safe for your child. As long as you adhere to the safety precautions (more on that later).
It also depends on how old they are. It would not be very wise to have infants on a kayak. Toddlers can come but they should weigh 18 pounds and over, according to the U.S Coast Guard. This means that you can find a PFD that fits them well and that they can float by themselves.
What’s a Good Kayak for Families?
Sit on top kayaks (SOT) are ideal for families. Kayakers with older kids may want to get a tandem kayak. That way, they will help you paddle as you teach them. If they are already experienced, their own junior kayak will be perfect.
Most SOTs, single and tandem, usually have a specific spot for the duffer (non-paddling passenger) to sit. It could be between the two adult paddler seats in a tandem yak or in front of you. This allows you to paddle and watch them at the same time.
Planning Your Kayaking Trip
The best thing you can do for the sake of everyone’s sanity is to plan beforehand. It minimizes chaos and will have you prepared for anything.
a. Kayaking Destination
Decide where you will take the children for kayaking. It is better to pick a place that you are already familiar with. A local place where other families go would be great. But make sure that it is not too crowded.
While planning the destination, think about bathroom breaks. Someone will ask to go to the bathroom before the trip ends. So have that in mind.
b. How Long Will the Trip Last?
It is easy to get carried away and plan an entire day of kayaking. But kids get bored easily. Someone may start whining or dozing off after a few hours.
Short trips are more suitable. Depending on how old the children are, paddle for about an hour and get out of the water. If after the break they still have some enthusiasm left, you can go for another round.
c. What Will You Do?
The day can’t be all about paddling around. You want to make it fun so the children will be eager to come back another time.
Encourage them to paddle so they don’t just sit there. It would also be nice to bring fishing equipment and catch dinner while at it.
Children love exploring and discovering. Binoculars will come in handy in this case. Allow them to observe and collect harmless stuff at the beach.
Mix kayaking with swimming and other activities.
d. What to Bring?
This part of planning can be a little stressful. There is so much to bring and a kayak is not big enough. But these here are the general essentials.
e. Snacks and water: you do not want to deal with hungry and/or thirsty kids. Pack their favorite fruit, drinks and high-calorie snacks. Get everyone their own water bottle and remind them to take a sip regularly.
f. A change of clothes: a day full of fun will come with wet and/or dirty clothes. Avoid cotton since you will be around water a lot. Carry clothes that are appropriate for the weather.
g. Sun protection: bring sunscreen and take time to put it on everyone properly. Keep doing it after every few hours or after they come back from a swim. Get them hats and sunglasses as well.
Toys: these will make things interesting for the children and act as a backup plan when they get bored of paddling.
h. Dry bag: carry a waterproof bag to keep the change of clothes and other valuables dry.
i. Seat pad: sitting directly on the kayak without some kind of paddling can be uncomfortable for a child.
j. Anything else: you may require more stuff depending on what you have planned and your family’s needs. Some specific essentials include medication, picnic supplies, a cooler, umbrella, etc.
Note* even if you plan perfectly, things can go wrong. Don’t be disappointed when the young paddlers start complaining and whining. Be patient and try to spice things up for them. If they are tired, get them out of the water.
Safety gear: make everyone wear a USCG-approved PFD. For children, the PFDs are sized according to weight. Some of them have a supportive headrest and neck pad for added safety and comfort.
Have the kids take lessons: this may not apply to toddlers. But junior paddlers should learn a few things about the water and kayaking before getting into the water. If you are not confident in your skills, take the lessons too.
Make some rules: controlling kids can be a headache sometimes. Come up with a few regulations to let them know what is expected of them.
Prepare for an emergency: what would you do if the kayak capsized? Situations like these are not what you hope for but they can happen. Bring a first aid kit, tow rope and an emergency whistle.
Enjoy: nervousness and pressure should not keep you from having a fantastic time with your family. Laugh, play and take lots of photos.