Introducing kids to kayaking

How long do you wait to introduce kids to kayaking?

It make sense to me as soon as they can swim they are ready to go.

I think about investing in a small sit-inside double like the WS Echo (out of production so I have to find a used one) or Eddyline Whisper.

Any suggestion?


Kids & kayaking
My kids were 5 & 6 the year we went to a cabin on the edge of the BWCA. This place had boats, canoes, and kayaks for use. My kids each jumped into an Old Town Otter and took off. Low to no learning curve for them to get the kayak to go where they wanted and to have a lot of fun.

When we got home, we bought two OT Otters for them. The rest is history. The kids are now 12 & 13.

My Daughter
was five when I first started taking her out in our Perception America (huge cockpit, child seat), on calm lakes, with PFD always on, of course. after a while, she started getting a kick out of ‘paddling Dad’ around; I’d give her the paddle and let her go to it-she learned sweep strokes this way. Now, at eight going on nine, she has her own Umiak, and handles it quite well, and has a real sense of pride in owning her own, and being able to paddle solo.

My daughter has been out about 150

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times. I have a pamlico and put her in it and we dolly out to the pond nearby. (yes, I know I am lucky) Next year at age 4 she will get a paddle. Of course this is no guarantee of future success. Having good things to look at, (like animals), decent sunglasses and a good pfd to keep her comfortable, (I really love the extrasport pfd I got for her. it's thick but has a big neck hole and is very short so when she sits in the boat it does not get jammed into her chin!) bringing her favorite meals , snacks, and a couple of toys that float, getting her used to the boat rocking, letting her see my strong paddling friends, (especially the ladies), having her watch her mom paddling (mom is not a strong paddler yet, she has been too busy raising our daughter, and does not have the athletic history or drive to paddle that I have), reading her favorite books while we float, and papa's paddling antics, (Papa, can you do another roll?) are helping build her future in the sport. It is hard for a kid to be a long time in a boat without getting bored so we plan other things to do. Games, swimming or floating, picnics on the boat or on the shore, games of tag with mom (on or off the water), etc. Always quit while the child is still happy if you can. That way the associate being happy with the boat. Swimming dogs are great pond companions. I still rember chasing ducks in the pond with my old black lab.

Seidmans "the esential sea kayaker" has a whole chapter on paddling with kids. Available at the library or your local outfitters or bookstore or amazon.

I have dreams of paddling some minorly challenging destination with a warm bed and really good food with her for my 55th birthday. Only ten more years. We'll see! ;-) (We'll rough it some other time but I've been thinking of Elba for my 55th. Mom can stay on shore and paint if she likes, or come with if her skills continue to progress.)

Good paddling to you and to all children everywhere.

Have a look at Eric Jackson’s site:

He is now building WW kayaks specifically for kids and he has a whole section of his site devoted to gear for kids and the like. You may not be interested in WW but there is still lots of useful information there.

At 5…
…one of my grandsons couldn’t figure out a double paddle, but did OK w/ a single. I think at 6 he’ll be able to double. His 8-year-old brother took right to both. Never go without a PFD in their presence.

I started putting my son in my lap for short paddles when he was still in diapers. He was only 8 months old when he went on his first overnight canoe trip.

Then when he was about three we bought an Eddyline Grand San Juan - three cockpit kayak and began taking him on day trips and occasional overnighters. He then gradulated to the front of the boat and spent many happy years there. Eventually when he was 10 I bought him a Looksha IV for use in protected bays and small lakes. (His legs grew so fast that he would have outgrown a childs kayak in less than a year.

Now 15 he takes week long trips with me in his single kayak.

My philosophy is teach a child to kayak as young as you can. The most important thing is to keep them out of situations (high winds and waves ect. )that would scare them out of wanting to paddle again.



Wait? Why wait?
My two daughters were six and almost two. Got my first yak last spring, took our kids for their first paddles with me last summer…all summer. We’ve got two large cockpit rec boats and put a kid in each. They love picnic/park destinations and just playing out front of a boat launch just as well. Make sure they have ample room to move around and play, and make sure they have a seat that gives them a view OVER the deck. Once we had decent seating for them, my girls fell in love with kayaks. Let them paddle you around when their arm strength and coordination allows them to go to the next level. I’m building a 12’ SOF for my soon to be seven year old now. She’s all about helping to build HER kayak. I hope she’s as eager to paddle it too.


They started in the womb
Both of my kids, 3 and 6 went on backcountry trips before they were born and paddled in their moms lap when they hit their first summer. Obviously we only go on calm inland lakes with warm air and water temps. Lots of hand and/or paddle dragging is allowed and they’ve been known to sight a croc. or dinosaur occasionally. My daughter just started going solo in her boat last year, she likes being towed.

For little ones the best advice I have is to keep it safe and fun. Both kids have well fitted pfd’s and wetsuits. Bring snacks, tell silly stories, keep the paddle duration REALLY short when they are young. If you are going to be on the water for a while, make sure they are comfy enough to nap. My daughter has been lulled to sleep several times on longer daytrips.

Our neighbor has twins that are 7 and started paddling my daughters boat solo last year. Both are good swimmers. First thing we did was practice “tipping over”. They both did so hesitantly at first, but in their second year of paddling (last year), they ask me if they can tip. They can both paddle solo around the lake now (1.5miles) and fought so much over who got to go first that their parents bought an Episea kids kayak that I saw on paddlingnet for them for Christmas this year.

Things to Bring Along
Definitely buckets, sand toys, etc. for impromptu stops at beaches. Binoculars are great as well. One helpful thing to have is a throw bag with tether line. There have been one or two more recent outings when her enthusiasm outweighed her endurance-it’s often difficult to gauge with kids where the ‘wall’ lies. They generally have little in the way of pacing themselves. Mine tends to get antsy, sprinting for no rhyme or reason, exploring little channels, circling out beyond the dock at the local lake in hopes one of her classmates might spot her…

Some circles say that age 9
is a good starting age for kayaking training. And they should know how to swim -sorry but I think it’s the responsible thing to be able to swim before enterring any watercraft. It’s a safety thing as far as I’m concerned.

My daughter
was born April 29, 1985. She was in a canoe at 6 weeks. She was my bow partner (paddling) at age 4 and did a week long trip into the BWCA at age 5 as my bow partner. At age 12 she got a kevlar Merlin for her birthday. When she was 15 a guy took her out in a 3x27 pro boat. He came back in with wide eyes and said, “She is awesome. I sugessted we go left and she cocked her hips, did a cross draw and tip the canoe on its side and we flew through the turn. Absolutely awesome!” I am a proud daddy!

Should they know how to swim? No, but they must wear a pfd. I paddled decent whitewater for years with a guy who couldn’t swim. A hell of a paddler and he always wore his pfd. Should you teach kids about tipping a canoe? NO!!! And that advice came to me from the late, great Harry Roberts. Teaching kids how to tip a canoe puts the thought in their minds that canoes are tippy. And they are not. My daughter was about 8 when I wanted her to practice tips. She wondered why, “Because canoes are not tippy, Daddy. Why should we do it?” We did anyway and she was fine, just couldn’t understand why some people thought canoes were tippy.

So, get your kids started as young as possible and make sure they wore a quality pfd. Let them have fun! They will be fine. Teach them about safety, but not fear.

I promise you are safe
Does this include paddling a pond in a PFD in a rec tandem with a parent who is lifesaving trained and PFD equipped?

For paddling her own boat my safety criteria are very much in line with yours. On the other hand, I have vastly different criteria for her paddling the tandem in front of Papa or mama. If it is cool out, we have a change of clothes in a dry bag. When the water goes below 50 that is it for our season. Before she was two, I drew that line at 60 degrees

I will not attack you, you are as safe with me as my daughter is. If you really think I am doing something dangerous, I will respect your opinion and give it more thought. Your posts are always reasonable and respectful, and often fun.

I blame

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I learned to swim by age 5. Sure it wasn't the best way to learn, but my older sister (of 4 years) put me on an inner-tube and pulled me out toward the center of the lake we lived on & left me. I had no choice but too learn, cause I was drifting farther out. After that "incodent" my mom set up swimming lessons for me (& beat my sisters butt.....LMAO!!). Until that age I wasn't allowed to go out past waist deep. Now I swim like a "frog" (*some of you squids should understand that term*.).

As far as these "circles" & "groups" what makes them such experts on when a child is ready?

Northman's daughter who was 7 at the time took my boat and paddled around the lake better than their golden retriever!!!! AND, Longshadow's 7 year old daughter loves to ride around the lakes on the bow of my boat & just "jump off" at anytime. She swims farther & better than I can...LOL!

My (our) generation didn't have these stupid little "groups" & "circles" & we turned out just fine. Have alittle more faith in your childrens capabilities and the lessons that you have taught them! Plus, show alittle more self confidense in yourself & your decisions for you child!

I got the following from a friend of mine. It is an e-mail, so don't blame me if you don't like it:


I Can't Believe We Made It!

According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who
were kids in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's or even the early 80's, probably shouldn't have survived.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based
paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or
cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.
Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air
bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a
special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank soda pop with sugar
in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and
no one actually died from this.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then
rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running
into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we
were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all
day. No cell phones. Unthinkable!

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no
video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, video tape movies,
surround sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat

We had friends! We went outside and found them. We played dodge
ball, and sometimes, the ball would really hurt. We fell out of trees, got cut
and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these

They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and
learned to get over it. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate
worms, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out
very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the
door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those
who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Some students weren't as smart as others, so they failed a grade
and were held back to repeat the same grade. Horrors! Tests were not
adjusted for any reason. Our actions were our own. Consequences were
expected. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law
was unheard of. They actually sided with the law. Imagine that!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and
problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years have been an
explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure,
success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Please pass this on to others who have had the luck to grow up
as kids, before lawyers and government regulated our lives, for our
own good.

Paddle easy,


If They Interested…
then the time is right. Would be nice if they knew how to swim but safe kayaking isn’t about safe swimming. Wear PFD have safety gear, know about hypothermia and signs, read the water, read the weather. My kids can swim now – one better than the other – but didn’t when they first started boating.

My kids started when I did, over three years ago. Guess they were 9 and 7. They are not as into as I am but they get out in the summer and each has his own touring boat and has access to my ww boats. Last year’s highlight was getting them into an easy class II rapid, watching them capsized and safely wetexiting, hanging onto their boat and equipment and following directions on getting back to shore.

We see what happens in the coming year. The older one said he wants to surf.


Tipping fear???
The main reason to tip is to remove the fear. I think it is important that a kid can properly wet-exit before they paddle a solo kayak. The kids that I have introduced to kayaks have seen me hanging upside down and rolling up literally hundreds of times. They have also climbed all over my boat while swimming, been towed behind me in the water(a good workout), and tried to tip me multiple times. They ALWAYS wear pfds when in the boats. I don’t think kids have to be swimmers, but they should be comfortable in the water. When the 6-7 year olds tipped the first time they didn’t even get their hair wet. They now hang upside down in the boat with swim goggles. I’ve found it easy to make kayaking fun by introducing it while the kids are already at the beach swimming and playing. They also have gotten a kick out of kayak tag; teaches manuvering and stopping. I paddle backwards and they try to catch me.

OT : Coffee I am so pleased
to see such a passionate, well written post without profanity from you. I agree with you (to a certain percentage). I always agree with you (to varying percentages), even when you call me a ___________. One day I will be able to say that about everybody, but I am not that good yet!

I will also agree (to a certain percentage) with whatever Linda posts.

Laughingly happy.

Peter K

HAHAHA!!! thx…

Age to learn
My grandson was 7 months old When we took him on his first trip.We went out and bought a keowee 3 when he was born .When the weather warmed up I strapped his infant seat in place of the removable third seat we put him in his pfd and laid him in the seat in 2 min he was asleep.Last year we bought him a plastic shovel shaped like a small paddle and let him drag it along down the river By the end of the year he was sitting up front on grandmas lap and holding the two bladed paddle like a pro. This year he will be up front by himself. To lindabaron if you need to swim to get in a watercraft I still would be landlocked .