Advise me - new paddler - 2 young kids

Looking to get into kayaking. Done some canoeing. Will be nothing more than small lakes, rivers or near shore on bigger lakes.

We have two 6 year old children we want to include. Are they old enough to sit in front on a tandem?

Is there a kayak with a large enough cockpit they could sit in front of us until they were old enough to do a tandem? calm situations and we could do a spray skirt for when my wife and I go without the kids.

What age do most of you let your kids paddle their own boat? Teenager?

Thanks for your input.

Are they swimmers?
If they are swimmers and you are in reasonably calm conditions and you keep them in their PFD’s they are old enough to take the front seat in a tandem. If they aren’t, I suggest swimming lessons first. They will be more comfortable and so will you.

6 is old enough for the right kid to paddle the right boat - child scale! I have friends whose 6 yo’s run class II whitewater in Jackson 1 Fun boats… they aren’t timid kids, they are swimmers and they have competent parents who have taken the time to teach them all the right precautions and they aren’t out of reach of the parents… So in calm water, yes, they can rapidly progress to their own boats.

Just keep in mind (I’m sure with 2 6 yo’s you know this) - kids have a limited attention span, limited strength and GET COLD (and hypothermic) much faster than adults - plan for short sessions with plenty to see and make sure they are dressed for the water temps!

our kids’ kayaks
Our kids are 7 & 8, and are good swimmers. We have rec boats, and the kids are fine in their own 10-ft long Acadia Scouts. The 8-year-old has done up to 6 miles on a calm river, and the 7-year-old likes to just tool around on the local lake (small, calm, & shallow) right now. We don’t push them at all, and are always prepared to tow them.

I’d vote for getting the kids kayaks if they are good swimmers, but a canoe if they are not.

You are funny! I’m a big fan.

done both
if your children are of average size, a 6-year-old is getting to the limit of sitting comfortably in the front of a single person kayak. you will need to go up to a tandem. even that would be a tight, and soon to be outgrown, fit for 4 people. what you’ll need, if you elect to go tandem, is get 2, with you and your wife taking a child each. keep in mind that you’ll only get sporatic help from the child with paddling.

regarding a 6-yr-old paddling on his/her own. it shouldn’t be a problem, my 7-yr-old has his own and loves it, but don’t expect to cover any distance and expect to be towing a lot. my theory is at his age, i’m just happy he’s getting out on the water.

as some already suggested, a canoe is probably your best bet as it can grow with your family. you didn’t mention anything about canoe camping but if that’s even a remote possibility, you should look into a canoe that’s at least 18 feet long, if not a 20 footer. that’ll be better than 2 tandems.

my wife and i took our 2 kids (7 and 5) and the dog on a multi-day trip this summer and the 20 footer was perfect.

kids are usually old enough to paddle their own boats by say… 9yrs old.

Yeah, a canoe for the family is best
We have several boats, and the seating capacity keeps growing as the family grows. We now have 3 little paddlers, the oldest is 6 this month. We started with a Big rec sit in side tandem kayak, OT Loon 160T. It worked when the boys were 2 and 4. Then we moved up to an OT Camper 16 canoe. Talk about a world of difference. They both have their place, but the canoe is easier to carry and carries more paddlers for sure. We had all 5 of us in it for a short, about an hour, paddle. If you supplement a canoe with two single kayaks like you talk about, you should be set for years as your two grow and start helping with the paddling.

Enjoy, Don

Hobie Tandem
will seat adult and two kids no problem, very good kayak for families.

My 10 year old
got her first kayak, a perception Acadia Scout when she was 7. She is going to get her first real sea kayak next spring, probably a Necky Chatham 16 like mine or a Necky Eliza. Got a great little Perception Acadia Scout for sale! $200 takes it.


bummer on the location
Too bad you’re in NY. Too far to make it worthwhile…

I’m a Canoe Guy but
Kids will have a lot more fun paddling their own boats than they will riding in Mom and Dads.

I put my two in small touring kayaks (Wilderness Systems Picolo’s) when they were about 6. They certainly seemed to like that better than riding in Dad’s canoe.

As others have said make sure their PFDs fit and be prepared to tow on longer paddles.