Kayaking is a great activity to do with your kids. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it also provides plenty of exercise with fresh air as you tread through the water. It can be a bit challenging to find the best kayaks for kids, though. There are so many options on the market these days that it can be hard to decide which one is right for them. Let’s talk about what you should look for in a kid’s kayak, some safety guidelines, and then review some of the best kids kayks out there.
What to Look for in a Kids Kayak
There are several things you need to keep in mind, so you’ll want to go through this criteria list carefully.
The weight of the kayak is important for two reasons. First, you want to make sure that your child can actually lift and carry the kayak. Second, the lighter the kayak, the easier it will be to maneuver in the water. You’ll find inflatable options to be on the lighter end, followed by or similar to plastic kayaks.
You must also consider the size of the kayak. Your child should comfortably sit in the boat without their legs hanging over the edge, but also needs to be stable enough to support your child’s weight. And the kayak shouldn’t be too long or wide, or it’ll be too hard or uncomfortable to maneuver. The more narrow the kayak, the better.
Stability is key when it comes to kayaking with kids. The kayak needs to be stable enough that your child won’t tip over, even in rougher waters or wind. Some kayaks have wider bottoms which can be beneficial, while others have keels or flotation devices which also add to stability.
Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is that shorter, wider kayaks are going to be more stable than longer, narrower kayaks. Kayak width makes a fundamental difference in stability. Why would someone get a narrow kayak then? They are faster.
The paddle that comes with the kayak is another aspect to consider. The paddle should be long enough that your child can reach the water easily, but not so long that it’s difficult to control. You want to give them something that’s lightweight and easy to grip, which will make it more comfortable for them to paddle.
And, of course, there’s always the price to consider! Kids kayaks come in a wide range of prices. You can find some that are very inexpensive, while others can be quite expensive. As with most things, the more you spend, the higher quality you’re likely to get. If possible, try to find a kayak that will fit the kids even if they grow up in a couple of years. This way, you won’t have to keep buying new kayaks as often.
How to Keep Kids Safe While Kayaking
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to talk about safety. Here’s a list of must-dos and tips to keep kids safe on the water.
It’s absolutely essential that everyone wears a life jacket while kayaking. Make sure that the life jacket fits properly and is comfortable to wear. It shouldn’t restrict their movement but should still be snug enough that it won’t come off if they were to fall into the water. And they must be zipped up and fastened at all times–no exceptions.
Learning to paddle
Kids should be shown how to paddle properly before they even get on the water. Explain how to hold the paddle and where to place their hands. Have them practice in shallow water first so that they can get a feel for it. Once they seem comfortable, you can take them out further into the water. If you find that the paddle doesn’t suit them, you should find another before sending them out.
Always check the weather forecast before a kayaking trip, kids or no! If the weather is looking rough, it’s best to stay close to shore. High winds and waves can make for a very dangerous kayaking trip, especially for those inexperienced. And don’t hesitate to turn back if the weather gets too bad.
Not a big deal if you plan to be kayaking within eyesight of a beach on a smaller lake, but if you are going anywhere on a larger lake, or where islands, bays, or channels exist, be sure to bring an old-fashioned map (your phone could get wet so best not to rely on it). You would be shocked how quickly everything starts to look the same out on the water.
Keep a slow and steady pace
When a child is learning to kayak, try to keep a slow and steady pace. This will help kids stay in control and not tip over or panic. If beginners are going to fast, they are more likely to make sudden movements which can lead to instability. Let them know they should always take their time.
Kids need to stay close together with the group, especially when they’re just starting out. If they start to lag behind, encourage them to paddle faster so that they can catch up or slow down so that they can catch up without feeling rushed. If the kids are having trouble keeping up or get too tired, you can always tow them behind your kayak if it has a towing or tethering feature.
Obey the rules
There are certain rules that everyone must obey when kayaking. For example, everyone must stay within their own lane and must not cross over into someone else’s. No rocking the kayak or standing up, unless they’re riding a kayak and standup paddleboard mix. Explain to them why these rules are in place and why they must follow them.
Best Kids’ Kayaks
Many kayak makers don’t make specific youth kayaks. Even large makers like Eddyline have shorter kayaks (the Sky 10 is a good option for a capable young adult) but they don’t make a specific kids kayak. The Kayaks below are some of the better kids-specific versions we have found.
Lifetime Recruit 66 Youth Kayak
The Lifetime Recruit 66 Youth Kayak is one of the best kids kayaks on the market, pricing at $220. It’s incredibly stable and easy to control, which is something beginner riders will appreciate. It also has a weight capacity of 150 pounds, so it can accommodate older kids as well. It comes with a light paddle that’s specifically designed for kids — it’s easy to grip and won’t tire them out too quickly. The kayak weighs 21 pounds and is about 6 feet and 6 inches in length and 24 inches in width. This is an excellent size for kids, as they’ll be able to move around and paddle easily without feeling cramped or exhausted.
The Recruit 66 also comes with a few handy features. This includes a carry handle to make it easier to transport, as well as a swim-up deck so that kids can easily get back into the kayak if they fall out. The cockpit is also brilliantly designed, as there’s plenty of legroom and space for kids to move around and adjust their positioning. With several footrest positions available, they’ll be able to find a comfortable position that suits them. And with such great stability, the kids will love being out on the water.
The kayak is made from high-density and durable polyethylene that’ll last for years to come. The only main downside to this option is that there’s no backrest included, but you could always attach a portable one if needed.
Perception Hi Five Kayak
The Perception Hi Five is another excellent kayak for kids. This one’s very unique, as it’s a kayak and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) in one. This means that kids can paddle it like a normal kayak or they can stand up and paddle it like a SUP. It’s incredibly versatile and great for kids who are just starting out.
One of the kayak’s best features is that it’s designed for kids to grow over time — it can accommodate kids up to 120 pounds with superior comfort. The kayak tracks exceptionally well and is incredibly stable, even when used as a SUP.
In addition, there’s a swim-up deck in case kids fall out, as well as a few other handy features. These include a towing or tether option to tow onto another kayak, a convenient toggle handle for easy carry, and molded rear handles for locked storage. The Hi Five kayak is about 6 feet in length and 24 inches in width, and the boat itself weighs 21 pounds. You’re able to add deck pads, paddle leashes, and solo mount accessories to give the Perception kayak a nice upgrade — perfect for kids who want to take their kayaking to the next level. There’s no backrest, and as a premium option, the Hi Five is more expensive option at $299. However, with its built-to-grow design, you won’t need to change kayaks any time soon. For quality and functionality, you’re definitely getting the best bang for your buck.
Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak
If you’re looking for an inflatable kayak that’s suitable for more experienced and older kids, then the Intex Challenger K1 is a great option. It costs $170, and it’s a single-person kayak that’s made for bigger kids and adults, too. The boat can hold up to 220 pounds and weighs just over 27 pounds, but it has a good combination of features that make it an all-purpose kayak. Since it is inflatable, it’s much more portable than hard-shell kayaks. You can easily take it with you on camping trips or vacations, where you can pump the kayak in minutes with the included pump.
The Challenger K1 is about 9 feet long and 30 inches wide. It’s exceptionally sturdy and will take quite a lot to tip over, making it a safe option for kids and adults alike. The I-beam floor is nice for beginners, as it keeps the kayak nice and stable while also providing comfort. An inflatable seat with a backrest is included and it can be adjusted to different positions.
The rugged vinyl construction is built to last, and you’re even given an aluminum paddle. For the price, you’re getting excellent value for such a quality kayak.