canoeing with kids, need help!

I’ve just recently purchased a new canoe and have been canoeing for several years, but that was before I was married and now have a son, who is 21 months old. My wife and I are intrested in going on some float trips, however were not sure about taking our son or if we do take him how he will handle the trip. Were not talking about a week long excursion, just a day trip to start out with, but for those of you who have children and have paddled with them since they were little I’m looking for some advice. one of my biggest fears is where do you put them up front with mommy or by themselves in the center of the canoe. How do you keep them occupied? Maybe I’m being silly thinking I can take him out at that age. Anyway I would appreciate all the info I can get. For those of you who might have rude comments about taking out a child that small keep your opinions to yourself. I’m looking for positive feedback, thank you.

here’s what we did
Put one of those $30 2 man inflatable boats in the center and blow it up so that it fills the center of the canoe. Put a proper PFD on the child. PFD’s for that age have a cushion behind the neck to keep the head up. Test it to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do and that your child is acquainted with being held up by it.

Then, put child in the inflatable boat. The inflatable provides an air cushion on the floor, keeps the child in the center, keeps the child from getting bruised. You can even put an inch or two of water in the inflatable for the child to play in. Keep to the shade, keep to flatwater(we did small, shaded flatwater streams) and have fun with your child.

Games stories food whatever the child
loves. My daughter tool lots of naps on walden pond before she was two!

clarion thank you
thats an excellent idea’ Did you child become ansy or ever want to jump out of the boat? putting the little inflatable in the center is a great idea. Ourson loves to be in the blow up pool, I think that would work well by putting water in the inflatable. Anyway thanks alot, happy paddling.

Started small
First off, it just has to be said - Canoeing will never be the same as it was now that you have a child. Just like everything else in your life. Get used to it. Adjust to it. Love it.

We started with small ponds to be sure our first child, and then second and first followed the rules. Just like riding in a car, cruisin’ in a canoe has rules to. Stay in your “seat” (canoe chairs in the center), no throwing things out the “window”, pay atention if you want to “drive” this thing on your own. They learned how to do things right from the beginning, muddy feet scrambling onto the deck and over the seat keeping low and on the centerline as they were able.

As the water grew, the time on it grew. Just being out on the water was enough to occupy them. Sure they lean on the gunwhales and reach for the water. That’s part of the fun. We adjusted. They looked for frogs and birds, and turles, and snakes, and fish, and flowers, and dragonflies, and … Gee, everything I’m looking at.

They had/have their own paddles. They learned to coordinate even their clumsy strokes so the bow and stern paddlers didn’t collide with their’s.

Now they can paddle the Adirondack by themselves, often go back out after mom & dad are done. Or give dad a relaxing nap inducing cruise. When they go to camp, they are typically helping the other kids relax and have fun (unlearn what the counselors taught. And the counselors sometimes pick up a tip or two.) By the way, they are 12 and 9 now, and have seen more time on the water than I have in the past 5 years.

Take your time. Don’t push Jr. Kids naturally want to do what you are doing, if you don’t force iton them. Have fun doing it. Take breaks. Make it an adventure.


my kids loved canoeing
Since my daughter and son were big enough to fit a lifejacket we have taken them canoeing on a lake on Northern Ontario/Canada- we still have that beasty 17ft coleman ramX - very wide but sturdy. We would just put them in the middle -one in front of the yoke and one behind and taught them the “rules” of safety. (ie no standing or moving around) They were amused mainly by just being on the lake so no toys needed but all kids are different. The most important thing we did was tip the canoe with them explaining what we were going to do - they had a ball -sitting in it filled with water/under it making noises and never ever had any fear of tipping after that. They are 15 and 14 now and we are just learning to kayak and tip them now too - it just keeps on going! Enjoy canoeing with your son -in the future, he’ll thank you for it!


Make it something they enjoy
a small child will only put up with being in a canoe for a short period of time.

When my son was about 5 we would get out and find spots to explore, hunt for crayfish, sneak up on birds, look for little streams that you can paddle up, stop and climb out on rocks and logs. Make it a game and keep it fun and safe. Day trips are not going to cut it, a couple of hours at most. I did not take my sons out until they were comfortable swimming in a life jacket if capsized, that was about 4 years old.

Thank you guys so much
I would just like to say thank you. All your comments and suggestions have been wonderful and

I am glad to get sound advice from those who have been there. I welcome anyone elso who has advice or suggestions. Many thanks to all yall.

Can’t Give You Advice on the Kids…
…but if you’re from E.MO there we have a bi-annual Ozark Rendevous on the Current. Here’s a link to the latest thread on it. Take care! WW

My wife and I started cnoeing with our kids at 19 months and 30 months. Bring lots of snacks, have them paddle and turn them on to all the critters you will encounter. Bring paper and crayons to have them document what they see.

Both the kids are now avid canoeists and paddle a minimum of once a week. The Everglades paddles are always a blast with a chance to encounter everything from gators to snail kites.

Its a gift your kids will have forever.

20 Months Old
We took my daughter out in the canoe at 20 mos. old. She’s turning 2 in one week.

Don’t plan a full day trip yet. Plan on an hour or two on a calm lake.

My wife isn’t comfortable yet paddling with her back to our kid, so she sits in the bow seat facing the stern with our daughter in front of her. I’m able to paddle them both around pretty easily, even on a windy day.

To give her more mobility, we take a Thermarest sleeping pad, inflated into the hull jammed under the gunwales to force it to curve around the hull. This gives her a nice soft play area and room to move around from side to side.

We also got a little 24" paddle from Campmor (made by Old Town I think) to give her something to play with/do. She loves it.

She rarely lasts more than 2 hours before getting bored, so luckily our state park lake has a beach and park to let the girls off on and keep paddling :slight_smile:

Just wait
I can’t add to the advise already posted, but I can tell you one thing you are in for; one day your son will want to paddle himself, ok you say, give him a paddle, he gets in, and you shove him off. Fully expecting to have to go out and get him when he starts to go in circles, and cries and panics. But wait, his stoke may need some polish, and he doesn’t go to fast, but he is going as straight as an arrow, and your so amazed you just stand and watch, then all of a sudden, he is on the other side of the lake, or going around a bend, out of sight. Your panic level goes into the red zone, your eyes bug out, you pant like a dog, you are ready to go find him, or call the CG. Then he comes back into view, and a wave a relief washes over you, and you realise he is no longer a passenger, but a participant. You also have to go out and buy another boat.

Kids in Boats
We’ve been paddling with our son for nearly 9 years now. He’ll be 10 in October. Give them a stick to play with in the water - less disruptive than an actual paddle. Also, we used a whiffle ball bat - it floats! They still feel like they’re paddlng. He sat up front with me until he could sit alone, then used a short fold up children’s chair until a portable seat fit the bill. Toys are a good distraction and he would also fall asleep on the floor of the canoe if he got really bored. (Used a thermarest pad as well.) Now he likes to paddle us around the lake with his own paddle. You can pick little paddles up at swap meets or end of the year sales. The bat worked great for a few years and they’re cheap. Enjoy seeing the outdoors through their eyes and it’s even better. Remember, they are experiencing these things for the very first time. He did much better in the canoe once he was big enough for the PFD’s without the head support. He HATED those. Best of luck and enjoy it no matter what. Dori

Make it fun for your child
My daughter (coming up on 8 years old in a few months) has been on the water since she was 8 or so months old. We would drop her in the car seat (not strapped in) with her life jacket on in the middle of the canoe. She slept alot. I mean alot, that first year while paddling. We paddled lots of lakes that year, and some slow moving rivers. Start slow, don’t push things, make it fun, and make it fun. Did I mention you shold make it fun?

By the next year she would shriek in glee while going thru rapids, had her own paddle, and would put up with a 6 to 8 hour float (with plenty of stops to let her stretch and goof off). She has now floated rivers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

All kids are different, but if you make it fun, keep it only as long as they are having fun, and bring their favorite toys (that must float!), you’ll have the next generation of pnet user in no time.

I took my daughter paddling

– Last Updated: Jul-31-06 11:54 PM EST –

on her first overnight trip when she was 4 years old and she loved every minute of it! I brought along a plethorea of small playthings but she was too interested in watching the wildlife I was pointing out to her and a lady friend of mine (I was divorced for over a year before I met the lady). She didn't get bored until after we set up camp so we did a little bit of swimming, caught crawdads for bait, went fishin'(the only one in camp to catch anything and it was a largemouth bass over 3 pounds. a story in itself), I showed her how to clean it and she helped me cook it, helped me clean up after supper, and taught her some of the basics of camping. After that trip she was hooked!
Took her paddling at least 3 times a year until she turned 18. On her 16th birthday of all the options she had she chose to go paddling down a flooded, fast moving creek with her daddy and afterward told me she thought it was the best birthday present ever.
She's now 27, married and has blessed me with a now 2 y.o. grandson. This fall or winter she wants me to take her family out canoeing, camping, and fishing on the Chassahowitzka River... and another generation takes to the paddle.
So by all means, with some common sense, a positive attitude, and a priority for the child's safety, take your son out with you paddling and the rewards will last a lifetime.

Some kids are easy…
We went paddling on my son’s first birthday. We were novices ourselves, but the Niangua River is slow and quiet, and Seth was a quiet, watchful sort of kid. We rented a canoe, made sure everyone was properly dressed and equipped, and paddled serenely for two hours. Seth loved it. He saw turtles and birds and just watched the scenery go by…he loved dragging his hand in the water…he was quiet and happy.

Your mileage may very. He’s still a most unusual kid, about to start his senior year in high school.

I’m looking forward to it.
We are expecting in October and I got a really cool book called Cradle to the Canoe. I got it used at amazon for like $5 including shipping.

Last month we went canoeing with some friends and their 10 month old. He did not like the life jacket, and he cried and nursed himself to sleep. My plan is to “break” our kids in by wearing the life jacket in the house. Be warned: since our baby has not been born this has not been tested.

If he leans too far and falls out,
just lift him back in. However, neither of our kids ever fell out of the canoe, and except for keeping them within reach of one of us when they were very little, we took no special precautions. Our rule was that we never attempted conditions beyond what we were absolutely sure we could negotiate safely. For us, this meant class 1 and easy class 2 rapids on rivers very familiar to us.

I’ve got the hook up for you
First I want to thank you for your advice, second I would like to mention to you and all those that were interested in the ozark fall float that I am from Van Buren which is the headquarters for the National Park Service, and I used to be a seasonal ranger with them. I still know quite a few folks down there and the guy that takes the reservations for the campgrounds is a freind of mine. I know every inch of that river and if you have any questions about anything I would be more than glad to answer them. Thanks again for your advice and for informing me about the float, I would love to go if my schedule permits.

Well, I Hope Your Schedule Permits
We’d love to have you. Tried to make reservations back in June to no avail. Since the NPS gave the “Reservation” service over to “ReserveUSA” it’s a pain in the butt! I wish you could still make the group campground reservations through the Riverways. I’ll try again in the next few days and if I strike out again we’ll see if your friend can give us a hand! WW