How to paddle with child?

I am looking for information on how to paddle a touring boat (single seater) with my daughter. She is a toddler. I once read an article that I can’t find anymore about a guy that did this with his boat on extended trips. He somehow had his daughter in his lap and fitted a sprayskirt to the both of them. At first glance it seems like you could just put her in your lap, but my boat is a fairly aggressive boat with a pretty tight cockpit. I don’t know how comfortable it would be for her to sit on the cupholder, or for me, either! Plus, I can’t imagine you can get a very powerful stroke when paddling around a child? I’m looking for any info anyone out there can give me. Thanks!

Better off with a SOT
and one designed with a child seat. A capsize recovery in a SinK could quickly become a nightmare. Getting two folks back on to to a Sit On Top is much less of a hassle then into a single or even double when one of the paddlers is relatively helpless. You child can not survive in cold water as long as you can. Please make sure she has a PFD.

not neccesarily…
" You child can not survive in cold water as long as you can."

I’m not sure in what context you mean, but a child can actually survive longer in a near drowning incident, especially in cold water. There have been documented cases where they have pulled a child out of the water after 30 minutes and once he warmed up was fine. A child’s body is so much more resilant then ours.

I would totally agree that a child cannot get back into a boat as well an would probably give up sooner if the water is less than ideal.

in thier own boat?
When and how do you get a kid in thier own boat?


Ummm, maybe I’m outta line here . . . .
But a TODDLER? With a SPRAYSKIRT? How’s your child going to do holding his/her breath? It would take a least a moment to release the skirt and come up if you rolled over. Even one gasp with no immediate help is a very big danger. And forget about trying to perform CPR while you’re still in the water. I think you really need to think this over. You’re child’s life is just not worth risking over this activity. Get a SOT or something more appropriate.

What’s wrong with…
… this picure?:

A tight cockpit, with a cup holder? L

Hey, beats my initial thought for a response:

“How to paddle with a child?” - Well, first shove a pole…

In the age group of 1-4 25% of US deaths are from drowning. Yes children have a more pronounced diving reflex and a greater chance of a successful resuscitation, but the majority of both children and adults still being actively resuscitated on arrival to the ER, die. Here is a reference for you

Children are easier to bring back from the brink of death, but they can reach that brink much faster than an adult.


tow 'em with a rope - they float

, and Gator’s good eats! NM

Larger sit on tops
Look at the Hobie Oddysey tandem, you can put the seat in the center position and your little one in front, putting your kid in the small cockpit sink is not a good idea.

Child will succumb to hypothermia

– Last Updated: May-18-07 6:29 PM EST –


Think about it, they have a much higher surface area to volumer ratio than adults, therefore they will lose heat faster.

Now it is true a child drowning victim, if core temp is kept low, has a possibility to have less brain injury upon revival than an adult, but that's a totally different thing than dying of hypothermia.

Child in a canoe
We paddled many miles with our young daughter in a canoe. I rigged up a floating car seat with a rain/sun cover. It was designed to float upright. I installed a deck on the front of the canoe, in front of the bow paddler on which the car seat was placed. It was not fixed to the boat but attached to the bow paddler with a line and a quick release attachment. I also modified the system as my daughter got older so that the seat was behind the bow paddler on top of a cooler. Don’t know if this kind of arrangment would be practical in a kayak. Her first trip this way was at about age 8 months and I can’t remember at what age we got rid of the car seat and went with a lifejacket but I know it was after she started swimming.

with a tight cockpit is a poor choice. A canoe is a better approach. We’ve been taking our son in a canoe since he was 11 months old – my wife in the bow watching and playing with our son, and me in the stern, paddling. As my son got older, he got his own paddle, and by the age of four, his seat was moved back to the middle of the boat.

A proper PFD with neck/head support is a must. In fact, make sure that the PFD is properly selected by age/weight, and well fitted – not too loose. Proper fitting is very important. If the PFD is not fitted correctly, it is very easy for a child to slip out. For kids under 3, look for both head/neck support, and between-the-legs strap to avoid accidental slipping.

I would not put a toddler into a single kayak with a tight cockpit, and no second adult to look over him/her – there is probably too much risk involved in this. For that matter, I’d probably not put a toddler in a single SOT without a second adult to watch over.

Your best bet in kayaks is a double with a second occupant to watch over your child, something with a single large cockpit, rather than two separate ones. This type of a kayak can be more stable than a canoe, but you’d need to block off under-deck areas to make sure the toddler does not crawl in there.

I’ll second others regarding the weather – I would be very hesitant to bring out a child in cold-water environment, regardless of the gear.

Been there,Done that.
It may sound silly but the tow them behind you really does work.I towed both my kids in a short fat rec kayak.And when they were tiny I paddled that short fat keowee with a large kockpit .It wasnt that much fun in the slow boat but we were safe if we dumped .the kids wouldnt be stuck under water untill I got them out of the skirt.

My daughter has a Phoenix 120 which is a SOT. We rigged a soft kayak seat in the tank well. It wraps around and her 3 year old is perfectly happy back there. He usually falls asleep. He is not tied in but he wont fall out and does fine in the water. They always wear pfd’s and her husband stays on the rear quarter with his kayak. The 2 older boys have their own kayaks. The boat weighs 38 lbs by the way.

I think using a paddle would be better…
…than trying to paddle with a child.

they squirm and scare the fish.

I can see you doing this under very
favorable conditions (fairly warm water, warm air, low wind, calm water, paddling near shore, and someone in another boat along to help with mishaps), but I do not think you should be planning to make a regular practice of bringing the kid along for just any of your outings.

There is no way that having your child along is going to improve your ability to handle on-the-water conditions, and there are several ways that the child might make things very difficult for you, at least at times.

We started our kids out on easy whitewater when they were about 2 years old, but we had them in a canoe where one of us (me, in the stern) could manage whatever boat control issues came up. We ALWAYS had a couple of chase boats with people who knew and liked our kids and who were paying close attention to what we were doing, not going off and playing on their own.

I’m not advocating this
but I have seen a woman padling with her little girl sitting in the rear hatch. This was on a lake, very calm and paddling with a group. No spray skirt and of course a PFD on the child. Kind of like a mini tandem.

Good one,
they really don’t like those sculling draws…