Kayaking is a great way to spend time outdoors with your children. It’s a healthy and fun activity that’s easy to learn and doesn’t require a lot of strength to master, so it’s a great activity for kids of all ages. Not to mention, kayaking allows you and your children to interact with and learn about the natural world around you. On the water, under a clear blue sky, paddling, giggling, in awe of nature… these are the kinds of memories your children will cherish long after they’ve grown.
Here are a few tips to ensure you and your family have a fun, safe time out on the water:
1. Safety First! Always make sure your child is wearing a personal flotation device or PFD (life jacket). Whether they’re paddling their own kayak or just riding along with you, a PFD will make sure they’re safe and prepared in case they end up in the water. Make sure you have your child try the PFD on first so that it fits snugly and comfortably. Although it may seem to contradict your instincts, remember to never strap your child into the kayak. This ensures that if the kayak does flip for whatever reason, your child’s PFD will allow them to float up to the surface with ease.
2. Wear Layers. You never know what the weather is going to do, so it’s best to prepare for different situations. Dressing in water-resistant layers will keep your children comfortable and allow them to enjoy themselves more. Also bring a change of clothes so that they can change into something dry in case they end up getting wet during the activity.
3. Bring A Snack. Parents know that when a child gets hungry, they get grouchy and become impossible to please. If you don’t want to have to cut your trip short, try filling a Nalgene-type water bottle with goldfish, trail mix, cheerios, or other kid-friendly snacks. Always remember to bring plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Just remember to avoid disposable plastic water bottles in order to cut down on pollution.
4. Pick The Perfect Spot. Unless you and your children are experienced kayakers, I recommend finding a spot with relatively calm water and low currents, like small protected lakes, bays, and slow moving rivers. Kids tend to tire easily, so be conservative when planning how long your trek will last. Try going in loops around your starting point, so that you can easily return to shore if your children tire. This will keep the trip from turning sour, and ensure that your kids will want to go on a kayak trip again in the future. Also try to plot out where your bathroom break spots will be ahead of time so you’re not caught by surprise when the time comes.
5. Engage Their Imagination. Children tend to need constant engagement to keep them from getting bored, and you should prepare for this ahead of time. Do some research into the kinds of wildlife you might see on your trek, and try to pick a location that has a lot of variety. Allow the kids to get involved during the planning stages, so that they feel more engaged with the activity. Also plan on playing some fun games while you’re out on the water. Here are a couple of ideas:
- I Spy
- The Alphabet Game- Try to find objects that start with each letter of the alphabet in order from A-Z.
- 20 Questions- One person comes up with a person, place, or thing, and everyone else gets 20 yes-or-no type questions to figure out the answer.
- Kayak Tag-Basically the same as regular tag, only you tag the nose of someone else’s boat with your oar for them to become “It.”
- “Fetch”- Throw an object like a ball or frisbee, and have your kids paddle over to retrieve it.
- Leap Frog- Paddle in a straight line and have the last kayaker paddle up to the front. For an added challenge, you have to weave in and out through all the kayaks in line in order to get to the front.
- Racing Without Paddles- Everyone must store their paddles and race to a previously decided finishing spot using only their hands to propel them.
If you have any other tips or tricks for planning a fun kayaking trip with children, please be sure to post them in the comments!