small children & boat recommendations

Hi - I am looking for a rec yak that would accomodate my 2.5 year old active daughter. Being a single parent, I would like to start taking her paddling - so that I can go too! I think I should go with a tandem w/ bulkheads but really, really would like advice from you “seasoned veterans”. If any of you think this idea is “unthinkable” please let me know too !! Thanks much! Andrea

Not sure how hard / far you paddle
…and will you always have your baby with you ???

Paddled alot in a single sea kayak with my niece and nephew right on my lap until they were a couple years older than your child.

Fun for all and both of us were comfortable for the duration of the kid’s patience… always had a destination planned with them.

skip the tandem
I probably wouldn’t get a tandem…it’s not like she is going to be able to help you paddle it, and that’s a lot to paddle by yourself. Also at 2 or 3, I like them a little closer to me. If you are looking for shorter trips in calm waters, a regular rec kayak, with the larger openings can easily accomodate a young child with you in the seat. My 5 year old still fits. She can sit on my lap or leaning against me, and either of us can paddle, or she scoots all the way to the front of the opening, and I paddle behind her. occasionally she lays down with her head in my lap. The stability of a rec boat is ideal with a youngster on board, I haven’t tried this in my sea kayak, and don’t know that she would fit. If you start out with a smaller rec boat (like a swifty or something of that size) the added benefit is when she hits 6 or seven, she will be able to paddle it herself, and you can move up to a nicer boat. My 7 year old son really enjoys paddling the rec boat alongside my sea kayak. We just take it nice and slow.

I am not sure if the newer …
models of the Perception Keowee which I think are called Swifty or Sparky still come with a childs seat directly in front of the main paddlers seat, but if they do I think that would be just the thing for you.

They are nine foot recreation kayaks and are very stable, plus the fact that the toddler is just about in your lap they are very safe.

My take on paddling with a child that young; I would not be in water that I could not stand up in.



Rec Tandems
I had a OT Loon 138 and a Wilderness Systems Pamilico to use with my wife and kids (when they were younger). The Loon 138 has a big cockpit with one sliding seat. You can seat your child upright with some sort of foam seat and still have room for yourself (I actually took a plastic kid’s chair and took off the legs to use as the front seat). The Loon 160T is a true two seater but heavy as heck to carry. The Pamlico is also a two seater, with moveable seats, and also very heavy.

Have your child in front and play around with your seat position to figure out what is the best trim (balance) and to minimize weatherhelming (turning into or down wind).

Kid’s paddle - Werner makes a “lil dipper” paddle that kids can use. Obviously you kid won’t paddle much but will still want a paddle anyway (and you want to encourage that). Having a paddle park is useful when the child gets tired.

Given your child is only 2.5 years, I would strongly suggest the Loon 138 just because it’s much lighter (and you can likely carry yourself) and it will be less expensive than the others.

Also with all rec boats, make sure you get floatation bags to fill the unused spaces. Don’t believe their hype about built in floatation. Once the boat gets filled with water, it can barely stay afloat alone, never mind with you and child trying to get back in. Finally, these boats are NOT intended for open water.


Agree to this comment
I’ve had my daughter out with me in my Perception America. I do have a solo/tandem SOT, which she rides in either the front or rear paddling seat while I paddle from the center (solo) seat.

  • Big D

Possible Tandem for Adults & Child
Here’s a link to a Japanese page. It can be translated into English using either Google or AltaVista translation tools.

Check out the links - many pix of this family paddling a Puffin II configured for tandem paddling, but without the tandem spray-deck during urban and camping paddles in, I think, Europe.

Also some good assembly photos.


What are acceptable risks and management

– Last Updated: Nov-07-05 10:19 AM EST –

What are the risks and ways to manage them? Different for each parent of course. But knowing what they are is a good starting point.

1. When, not if you capsize how will you a. 100% be able to keep your chiild from swallowing water and b. while keeping ahold of your boat and paddle.

2. How will you get child and yourself back into boat, emptying the water, etc.

3. If you cannot get back into boat, how will you survive and your child survive, (small children are very susceptible to hypothermia in remarkably benign conditions).

4. How will you signal for help?

5. What methods will you employ to reduce capsizes and to reduce the severity of consequences, paddling near shore, low or no wind conditions, minimum water temperatures, etc.

Please view these ideas as guided thinking and NOT as should or should nots.

Starts with the kid’s comfort level
in the water. If the child is comfortable floating in a PFD in the water you’ll be paddling, that’s a good start. A wetsuit can be a good investment. My son would get cold in the wind even with water and air temps both in the 80s. From there it’s a matter of teaching the kid to hang onto the boat if you go over and being sure that you can stuff them back in from the water. My kid boat is (was? gathering dust now) an OK Cabo tandem SOT, which worked well for us.

Puffin II is an American product
The boats are available at this web site:

American company, boats manufactured in China. The Japanese link was provided because that site belongs to a family who purchased the Puffin II specifically for paddling with their toddler. No intention of suggesting it was a Japanese boat, although the Japanese do make folding kayaks ( )

I like the folks at Pakboats, and purchased my PII from them, as opposed to buying from a distributor.

The P2’s very stable. I’ve paddled it with early elementary school age children, and they seemed to feel safe in the bow, and enjoyed the ride. For my part, a kid in the bow helped trim the boat, and it was fun being a part of the child’s adventure.

There’s a lot of information about the various Puffin kayaks at the forum on

Just wanted
to let her know the company was in America in case she wanted to buy one. I’m actually very interested in them, though not in a financial position to purchase one, even though they are very affordable. Thanks for the PII review. That’s helpful to me, as well.

Getting a Puffin
The folks at Pakboats sometimes have demo boats available at a pretty good discount. It’s worth phoning and speaking with Alv or Mike, since they’ve got the toll-free number.

Sorry if I sounded snippy in my previous post.