Remember the days when you used to be young and carefree? Hitting the beach and rivers and spending as much time as you could out in the water. But, then you met the one, had kids and haven't been out on your kayak since. We are here to change that, in this article we give you all the advice you need to take your kids out kayaking with you... and what's better than getting them started young?
First Things First
Before you doing anything, buy any bits of equipment and splash out, you want to make sure that your child, or any child interested in going kayaking, is comfortable being on or in water. It is worth keeping in mind that there is a big difference between being able to swim in a pool and being able to cope with currents and moving water. Even with the correct life jacket and safety equipment, it can still be daunting finding yourself in open water. So, before you make any firm plans, test the water first and make sure they are confident and comfortable.
Fun For The Whole Family
Adapting your kayaking style to involve kids is relatively easy. It is probably one of the easiest sports to get anyone out having a good time with some simple adjusting and planning. Now, we have mentioned the kids being confident already, but, what about yourself or other adults? Do you feel comfortable looking after a child and confident you could take control should a situation arise?
One area to think about is, how strong are you at paddling? Maybe it's a good idea to try and group session first? Never take a child on the water unless you are experienced or you have an experienced paddler with you. It's a good idea to plan on having one adult for every child until all paddlers' levels are determined and you know and trust all members of the group. If you have enough adults, then your child can invite a friend or two.
You also want to ensure that you find a location where the water is calm as they have minimal currents. If you are going to try rough waters, make sure that you have the appropriate experience as well as boats and equipment. So, where should you go...? Read on...
Where Should You Go?
As you ease into kayaking, you will probably want to find calm water and minimal currents (unless you are very experienced and have the appropriate boats for these situations) Start on protected smaller lakes, bays and slow rivers in order to develop kids' skills without getting them into a panic. With every additional kayak trip you take, your options for different types of terrain gets wider.
These are a few key points to keep in mind before heading out;
- Plan and research ahead. Study tides, currents and boat traffic with the kids ahead of time. When these conditions come up, your kids are proud to call them out and you all feel safer together.
- Choose Locations with lots of variety.
- Speak to fellow kayakers, watersports places and rentals to find out information first hand from people who have already done trips. They will know 'kid friendly' destinations and locations. It's good to also ask for advice.
- Think about Bathroom Breaks well ahead of time. We probably don't really need to go into too much detail on that one.
How Long Should The Trip Be?
Be slightly reserved when deciding how long to be out on the water for this way, if you exceed your expectations, everyone is a winner. Half an hour to an hour is sufficient for all first trips regardless of age. For babies and toddlers, it may mean just a few moments of sitting in the cockpit at the edge of the shore. One thing to definitely remember is to plan your trip in short loops about one-third the usual distance that you would travel with other adults. Basically, the older the child, the more time you can spend on the water as the more confident they become.
When deciding on how long the trip should be, you should also take into consideration these factors;
- The kids experience with a kayak and paddling
- Familiarity with water
- How old they are
- Their level of fitness and swimming ability
- The willingness to listen to instructions
If you are planning ahead, it might be worth signing the whole family up for some kayaking lessons and maybe some swimming lessons. You will be surprised how quickly a child's confidence picks up and they have practised jumping out of a kayak... it's great practice!
You Might Need A Bigger Boat
The chances are, you may need to upgrade your watercraft to adapt to your new paddling companion. You will need to make a choice between a Kayak or a Canoe. Your choice will depend on several factors including the goals of the trip, ability of your child and their age. Other things to consider include the need to reach a destination, paddling opportunities for the child, seat choice as well as the comfort levels.
Usually, children ages 4 to 7 will do fine sitting in the bow of a kayak but will not provide much momentum, so your distances are limited. For children under 7, a canoe is an excellent choice. Canoes are stable and offer lots of gear and wiggle room for this age group. A large canoe can easily accommodate 2 or 3 kid riders plus adults. There is no real right or wrong though, so do some research and look at the comfort factor, maybe even get them involved in the process.
As well as the boat, you will also need to look into getting a paddle that is better suited for a kid, they can't just use your old paddle. The ages, sizes, physical abilities, paddling experience and other qualities will determine whether they come along in a single or double paddling style. The paddle is the main connection with the water, so how it feels is important. Kayak paddles come in various sizes for children. It might be best to consider ones that are about 200 cm long with a narrow shaft. For canoe paddles, rest the handle on the child's foot; the blade should be about nose height.
This is probably the most important bit, don't be cheap when it comes to safety! One of the hardest hurdles you will have to overcome is making sure the young ones wear and keep their life jackets on! It is such a common thing, that kids just fuss about wearing them. Try showing them that it's fun and cool to wear, lead by example, as this piece of equipment is life-saving. The good news is that you can find various size buoyancy aids or life jackets designed for toddlers, children, youth, and adults.
The neck pad is particularly important in the case of infant personal flotation devices, as it helps position the head correctly. Also, ensure that the crotch strap is always secured. Babies and toddlers do not like wearing them so you may want to prepare them in advance at home. Consider including a treat to make the learning process a fun one. Floats sometime come in handy during rescue situations and to add a bit of ease whilst trying this new venture.
Now Time To Go Hit The Water!
Those are the essentials you need to get yourself prepared to take this first family trip. Don't worry if things don't always go to plan, there will always be obstacles to overcome. Boredom might sometimes set in, so think of ways to keep them entertained. For example, bringing floating toys to hang off the side and drag in the water usually works pretty well. If you are having fun, that will rub off on them and before you know it you have a new family sport to do together and they will want their own kayak!