Kids paddling

I have a 7 year old daughter who enjoys paddling with me on occasion. I really enjoy our time on the water, however short it may be. When I ask her if she wants to go paddling, she is very excited to go, I mean, it’s not like I’m talking her into going. Usually, we get to a put in at a small lake near home, and paddle for only 10 or 15 minutes and she is ready to head in. I ask her if she’s tired, but she says that she isn’t. She is just ready to go in. My question is: how can I ease her into spending more time on the water? Should I make up some paddling games? Should I tow her? Have any of you helped kids extend their paddling time? Thanks for your input.

go big or go home
Try taking her to a larger lake, or a stream, with more to explore.

Go big?
The lake we usually go to is 656 acres with a creek running about 3 miles before it gets too small to paddle. I have never gotten her as far as the creek.

The need to explore.
Paddliing surrounded by water, as out into the middle, is boring for a child. You could also get her a camera.

Go tandem in a canoe.
Towing’s a drag for all involved. She can manage drinks and snacks for both of you while taking a break from paddling and still feel like she is contributing. Plus, in a canoe, you can bring along lots of easily accessible stuff like binos, nature books, etc.

Set incremental destinations with a planned activity (picnic, short hike, fishing, etc.) for each.

“Towing’s a drag for all involved”
“Towing’s a drag for all involved” lol, I think I’ll get some bumper stickers made!

Those are some really good ideas. She has a camera, and we never thought to bring it! We don’t own a canoe, but her kayak is fairly roomy for her. We can get some entertaining stuff in there for her. I really like the idea of planed activities and destinations. I sometimes forget what it’s like to be a kid!

Don’t know if this works…
Harry is my paddle-buddy. but he had a stroke a year or so ago and is afraid to go on the water.

So I haul him and his gear and his boat to the water and he sits on the shore while i paddle.

Last May his sister and neice arrived at the lake and we asked if they wanted to go out. Kid was 7 yrs old.

That forced Harry to go onto the water with them which showed him that he COULD still paddle!

So we taught the kid how to paddle and, like all kids, within 15 minutes was an expert. Well she did very well! Kids are like that.

That eve, there was an 8 mile paddle leaving just before sunset and the kid wanted to go.

Mom and Harry were scared… first time on water, 8 miles on a lake in the dark, wind and waves…

I told the kid that if she wanted to go, I’d go with her but she needed to ask the park ranger for a PFD.

She took off to the amazement of her mother who said she NEVER talks to people.

“All you have to do is offer them soemthing they want bad enough”

So I hung glo-sticks on her bow and stern and paddle then when she returned, on her PFD, lights on my boat so we could see each other and by that time the group was almost out of the bay.

“You start, you have to finish because I cannot tow you back and we have to catch up withthem. You quit, I leave you on the lake for the crocs to eat and pick up the boat on the way back!”

She was in Shea’s Pungo-12 and fought the bay to catch up with the group and by the time we reached the turn-around, fighting wind and mild weaves (I kept her within a dozen feet of my boat but let her do all the work) she was in the middle.

2/3 way back I told her that she was doing good and we could relax and slow down as the put-in was nearby.

She relaxed a bit but still, that little girl did better than Eugene (who is US Army and after two hours on a tiny fishing lake with neither wind nor waves not boats, could not move his arms).

I find that if you tell the kid that you expect them to do it, and make it fun, they will!

Get her her own boat
and have a tow system ready if the weather turns sour.

My eight year old grandson was handed a paddle at two. At four he was in his own solo in a very limited area.

Now he is all over our 771 acre lake. Solo with family in other boats nearby.

The kid is past towing age and chances are that they will be bored being your bowpartner.

could be a good teaching opportunity
I vividly remember that one of the best things about childhood was NOT having to make decisions about what was going on every day. I was too busy exploring the world and experiencing life – I didn’t have to think about whether I was hungry (I was called to the table to eat 3 times a day) or if I was sleepy (I was told to go to bed at 7:30) or whether or not I wanted to do any activity that the family was embarking on (I got in the car when they told me to, went to the beach or park or store with my parents on THEIR schedule.) If I became bored or whined, their answer was “we are going to be here for another hour, so find something to entertain yourself.” I don’t remember ever being upset or angry about that – in fact it forced me to learn skills like self-control, patience and using my imagination to distract myself. I felt very safe knowing that my parents were “in charge” of my life and taking care of the details. I certainly would not have expected them to cut short any outing due to my whim.

A major delight of childhood is blissful obliviousness to responsibility and letting someone else make decisions for you. Kids are impulsive and usually rather out of touch with what they REALLY want or need. Their answers to such questions from parents are therefore apt to be rather frivolous and random. You are the adult and you should be setting the pace (obviously with reasonable sensitivity to your child’s real needs, not whims.)

Could it be she is quitting early not because she genuinely wants to stop paddling but just because you asked her about it and that was the first answer that occurred to her? Or, (if you are not asking) like most kids that age, she has a short attention span. And it appears from your question that you do head to shore as soon as she asks to end the outing, so she is used to that happening.

Why not, next time you go out, DON’T ask her how she is doing and if she wants to go in yet. If she is truly distressed or tired or bored let her come to that conclusion herself and let you know. If she does say she wants to stop too early, tell her Daddy would like to stay out longer to paddle to the other side of the pond to see what is over there. I’m guessing she will say OK and stay out longer with you. Even if she still says she wants to stop, it would not hurt to press your own case, that Daddy isn’t ready to go back yet and would she please be patient and stay longer until he is ready too. She is not too young to learn to adjust to other people’s needs and preferences and practice self-discipline and extending her attention span. These are important life lessons, and much easier to learn in small doses and relaxed and pleasant situations. Like a short paddling trip with Daddy.

I agree that pretty much as soon

– Last Updated: Oct-26-11 1:04 PM EST –

as they gain some stamina, they want their own boat. When my girls were younger, it was my wife and me in the canoe with all the stuff, and them in their Pungos. Towing's almost bearable with two engines running. Even better with a passenger and towing an empty kayak (if it's not windy).


– Last Updated: Oct-26-11 1:05 PM EST –

Yeah, my kids do the same thing. But that is exactly why I got a canoe. They can paddle when they want to and not paddle when they don't. Even then, they're often ready to turn around when I feel like we're just getting started.

Incidently, they do the same thing when we bicycle and that might be more analigous to your situation. I think it helps to start off with short trips and gradually go longer. Kids need to build up some endurance, even for outings that seem very short to adults. Taking frequent breaks helps, especially when snacks are involved. Also, it helps to have a destination so you're actually going somewhere as opposed to just tootling around. For bike rides, it might be a playground or a park. For paddling, my kids enjoy going to spots that are inaccessible by land, like the little islands in the lakes and rivers around here. Often, I'll drop them off and then practice my solo paddling skills while they "explore". Kids also enjoy practicing wet exits (aka swimming) when the water's nice, so that's something to work into paddling trips.

great suggestions here
In my expereince I think the “games” thing works. That and the challenges of learning rolls and such. Standing up in the kayak. Sitting on the stern and trying to reverse your position. Re-entry. Maybe she’s just bored.

lots of options
It seems that I now have lots of options, thanks to you folks! She does have her own boat, two in fact. The kayak she uses most is a stitch and glue I made about 20 years ago. This past summer, I reworked it just for her. I sanded it down to the wood and recovered it with cloth I picked up at walmart instead of glass cloth. The deck is a deep shiny purple while the hull is a butterfly print in pink. When she first got in it, I noticed that she was rather wobbly. I realized that she was really too light for it, and not getting it down into the water enough to settle it down. My wife and I decided to get her another boat that might be better suited for her. We ended up getting a used Necky Tikani. The problem is that she really likes “her” boat, the one “made just for her”. Well, after paddling the butterfly boat a few times, she really can handle it very well. We may soon be trying to sell a kayak that Necky quit making because nobody wanted to buy it!

Kids Need Peers of Their Own
Grown ups are boring, but involve other kids in the paddling activity, and you’ll never get them out of the water, even for food and snacks. Kids like to do their own thing and prefer to paddle their own canoe. So leave the tandem on shore, for it involves teamwork, which kids are not prepared or ready for yet. Let them experiment and figure out on their own how to paddle. You’ll be amazed at how intuitive and clever they are in propelling the canoe/kayak. Main thing is to get out of their way and not hamper the learning process and spoiling their fun. Best investment was buying an Ocean Kayak Poco for kids, which was narrow and fast.

Keep it interesting
Just paddling for kids is boring … if you turn it into exploring the shoreline and stopping to climb on rocks, jump, swim, catch crayfish, fish, photograph birds, find a place with an inlet that you can paddle up so you can go someplace no one can walk, explore the animals and plants in and around the water. Find some gentle moving water.

our experience
We have six kids, five of whom paddle. When I take them out paddling I treat it as their paddling outing, not mine. They set the pace, decide when they are finished, etc. With the younger kids it meant that we didn’t stay out very long and we didn’t paddle very far, but it also meant that they were learning to enjoy being out paddling. As they got older their endurance and their enjoyment of paddling increased. You’ll probably want to experiment a bit and see what works for you, but for us, giving the kids some control over what was happening worked really well.

towing, and moderation
The way it goes with my 8 year-old the last 2 years is that she paddles half-way on her own, and then my wife or I tow her for the second half. She enjoys getting towed quite a bit, and we don’t mind towing because (assuming your boat and the kid’s boat are not barges) it requires very little added effort.

However, don’t get frustrated with her short attention span. Just enjoy short paddles with her. When she wants to do longer that’s great, but if you push her into longer trips than she wants to do, she’ll lose interest in paddling with you. My normal paddling trips are 6 hours or so (about 5 of that on the water). With my daughter and son (5) we usually go out for 2 hours, and spend about half of that time exploring an island. It’s just a different pace.

Remember To Upgrade Equipment
In order to maintain motivation, remember to upgrade equipment as they age, for if the equipment doesn’t improve as they improve, kids will lose interest. The equipment doesn’t have to be brand new, for there are many bargains out there for at least half the brand new cost or less. So let the kids bash them up and have fun. Be patient, eventually they’ll become serious and you’ll have to upgrade to ordering customize boats and paddles for your child.

Try adding a bit of a scavenger hunt to
the itinerary. Such as geocaching, or searching for specific plants (have pictures of them) along the shoreline, fish, frogs or locationg nests in paddling areas, etc., etc. Play it by ear. And the camera idea is great! I’ve never seen a kid that didn’t enjoy photos they took with a camera.

Someone mentioed earlier that she might be bored, then someone else said it might be a short attention span. Could be a little of both. Kids nowadays do seem to have a lot shorter attention span then we did or kids from a few years back. I blame fast paced tv shows, portable video games, and apps on phones! I’ve taken my granddaughter out on her yak a few times. She’s lasted the longest when her mom went with us and my granddaughter could show my daughter up. Just keep it short, and do take a tow rope with you.