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Tips for Kayaking With Kids

By Brandon Rome

With a little thought and planning, kayaking with children is a great way to foster a love of nature and help them develop hand-eye coordination. With kids, it’s usually a good idea to choose a kid-friendly destination without a lot of boat traffic or strong currents. You may want to begin in small lakes nearby until they get a bit more experience. Here are some tips to help you plan a kayaking trip with your children, including advice about where you should go, what you should bring and when your kids are ready to paddle on their own.

What to Bring

The first thing you need to bring, of course, is your kayak! Most families can enjoy a day on the water with an inflatable kayak, which is easy to store in the trunk of the car and inflate when you get to the water. You’ll also need a paddle for everyone that will be actively involved. Look for child paddles, which are usually around 200 cm long with a narrow shaft that’s easier for small hands to hold. PFDs (personal floatation devices) are also necessary, so select models that are approved by the United States Coast Guard. You can find infant-sized PFDs, as well as those for children between 30 and 50 pounds and youths between 50 and 90 pounds. A word of advice here: if you plan to bring a baby, get them used to the PFD before your trip because they may refuse to wear it when you’re ready to hit the water.

Along with these basics, make sure you bring along plenty of snacks and food, a change of clothing and a first aid kit. Small kids will also likely appreciate their own camera to take pictures, binoculars to spot animals, a journal, books or even a fishing pole of their own if you plan to do some kayak fishing.

Choosing the Best Spot

When you’re enjoying paddle sports with your kids, try to choose areas that offer a lot of variety and great scenery to keep them engaged. You’ll also want to know the area well beforehand. If possible, research state parks in your area to find great kayaking areas that are kid-friendly and include a couple of stops for bathroom breaks. You’ll also need to think about the length of the trip, as younger kids won’t be up for a long 6-mile paddle. Keep in mind your child’s strength, coordination, age and swimming ability when you’re planning your trip to make it safe and enjoyable for everyone.

When Can Your Kids Paddle?

Some kids can begin paddling their own kayak by 8 to 10 years of age, if they have the experience. You’ll still want to venture into safe areas until they gain more experience. Younger kids do well with inflatable kayaks, which are lightweight and a bit slower. For kids 10 and older, select a small kayak. Kids over the age of 14 can learn to paddle medium-sized inflatable kayaks. If your child is under 8, the middle of the kayak is the best place for them to sit with an adult. They won’t help to propel the boat, but they will learn how the kayak feels as it moves. By the age of 8, they can also begin riding in the bow of a double kayak to help you paddle.

Involve Your Kids in the Planning

Don’t forget to involve your children in the planning of the trip as well. If your kids have never been involved in paddle sports before, let them get in the kayak at home so they can get used to how it feels. They can also help you research the trip by looking through guidebooks, animal charts and pictures online.

Additional Tips for Kayaking with Kids

Be sure to give your kids lots of praise and don’t criticize their efforts unless it’s a matter of safety.

Make rules clear beforehand, including no standing or leaning in the kayak.

Go slowly and don’t get separated from the rest of your family.

Take plenty of breaks to enjoy the scenery and point out interesting things to your children.

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Years ago, a salesperson showed Kitt two boats that were within his limited budget. He ended up choosing the wrong one.

“I was furious,” Kitt says. “I had that boat for three months before I had to get rid of it and get one more appropriate for me. I was so mad at the guy that sold it to me that I opened kayak store in CNY.”

ROGER’S NEW PROJECT IS THE BUILDING OF A PYGMY MURRELET KAYAK FROM A KIT TO PUT TOGETHER.

Day 69 – 1 hour

I finally got the first coat of varnish on the hull thinned 25% with mineral spirts, per my painting expert. We will find out tomorrow how well that worked.

 first coat of varnish

Day 64-66 – Sept 25-29- Day 71-74 – 2 ½ more hours

I couldn’t do too much each day. Applied a coat of varnish each day after a little sanding. It looks pretty good although I wish I knew more about applying varnish. It is tough to get that smooth finish. The thigh pad assemblies are completed as much as I could without setting in the cockpit and finding their final position and the angles necessary for my legs.

I did find a good number of runs from the hull onto the deck. They are a real pain to sand out. I applied masking tape to the hull to try not to repeat the mistake. Hopefully I will have it water ready by next week.

Applied a coat of varnish each day after a little sandingApplied a coat of varnish each day after a little sanding

Day 75-76 – 3 more hours
I have put on the last coat of varnish, installed my deck cords and straps and I am 99.9% completed. All that is left is positioning the thigh braces and foam pads. This has been a unique project. I have learned so much about the process, much of it the hard way, and am looking forward to my next project. I know where I went wrong and the boat does have the scars to prove it. This weekend it meets the water and I am certain all will go well.

As for the amount of time required, the guidelines called for 80 hours. I have almost doubled that but I did install the sliding thigh braces, bulkheads and hatches and every deck related item available. That accounts for a good portion of the extra time. The other component that took much too much time was in trying correcting my error in allowing runs and drips of epoxy run all over the boat. What I have learned there is to cover my seams and wire holes on the outside of the hull with plastic tape and glue the seams from the inside where the runs don’t show.

I have put on the last coat of varnish, installed my deck cords and straps and I am 99.9% completed.

Project complete

I have cleaned out my garage and my car is home again. New Murrelet is happy on its rack and finally we made it to the water. I am really pleased initially how it handles. It has met all my expectations. This has been a great project. The only area which I am unhappy about is the adjustable thigh braces. They do not function well, which could be partially my problem on the fabrication of the slides. In any event, they are going to be located and epoxied into place (when I figure where they should be). Would I do it again? YES! This has been a great experience and the manufacturer has been very helpful. I would recommend their kits gladly.

New Murrelet is happy on its rack and finally we made it to the water.

I used my new kayak on our club’s weekly paddle for the first time Sunday. Almost 7 miles on the canal and I am very pleased. For a boat with no rudder or skeg, it tracked beautifully. Initial stability is good and secondary stability is great. Still having problems with the adjustable thigh braces but that can be fixed. Best of all, the only water in the boat was from our boots. I am very pleased.

I used my new kayak on our club’s weekly paddle for the first time Sunday.