Kayaking With Kids: A Guide To Finding the Best Kayak for Your Child and Teaching Them To Paddle and Fish
Do you remember that moment when you first fell in love with nature? Wouldn’t it be nice to be there when your child has that moment?
You love kayaking and you love fishing. If so you probably combine the two for a truly great time. Either way, why not pass your passions down to your children? There are endless reasons to teach your child the joys of paddling and the joys of fishing. Not only can it help build stronger children, but it can help build stronger families and relationships.
Let’s learn when and how we should teach kids to kayak and take a look as what kayaks are best for children.
Why should kids paddle?
Why should kids learn any sport or hobby? The advantages are countless. But let’s try to count them anyways.
- Get The Kids Out Of The House! Who doesn’t want to see their child get off the tablet, away from the phone, put down the remote control and get outside. You grew up outside, but kids these days are increasingly looking at the outdoors like some kind of alien planet that cannot be trusted. “No, mom! No, don’t make me go out there! There’s some kind of giant glowing orb in the sky…it hurts to look at it!”
- Get Moving! When you were growing up, you rode your bike around, climbed trees, wrestled with the neighborhood bully. Well nowadays, kids can’t ride their bikes past the end of the block, trees just lead to hospital visits and police reports and bullies are all online. So how is a child supposed to get some physical activity? Organized sports, whether they be individual or team sports, are a great choice. And whether you just want to organize some paddling trips for your family or your child picks up the sport and begins taking on challenges, there’s no doubt that a good kayaking trip, is good exercise.
- For the Love of Nature. That moment (the one we spoke about earlier). The first time that you truly appreciated the smell of fresh grass, the way the sun beams through the trees onto a lush ground full of ferns and small animals. The birds whistling, water flowing over the rocks. This is something that every child should get to appreciate.
- Put the controller down. There is nothing wrong with some video games, but when a kid eats, sleeps and breathes video games then it might be a bit of a problem. They should have a balanced set of hobbies, so they can really develop as a well rounded person.
- Confidence builder. That feeling when you finish something can be more addicting than any drug. A perfect example is finishing a kayaking challenge. Maybe it’s to get a good time across the lake, or maybe they develop great whitewater kayaking skills. It doesn’t matter as long as they are setting goals and accomplishing them.
- Creating Traditions. Teaching your child to kayak can lead to planning kayaking trips which then become annual traditions. Traditions that they can then pass along to their children. Wouldn’t it be great to overhear your child telling another, “My family goes on a kayak trip the first week of summer, every single year!”.
There are way more than six reason, but you are getting the idea. The idea that getting your kids out on the water is great.
What goes better with Kayaking, than Fishing?
It’s like peanut butter and jam; it just goes together! You love to kayak and yu love to fish. You are probably already combining the two, so why not do the same with your children?
Teaching a child to fish can instill lifelong abilities and great character traits.
– Get the whole family involved. Everyone loves an excuse to get the whole family outside doing something active. Take a drive into the mountains and walk down to the river. You’ll get some great photos and make some wonderful memories in the process.
– What do you think of when you’re out fishing one on one with a family member or a friend? The conversation. This can’t be stressed enough when it comes to parents trying to find ways to connect with their kids.
If you develop a habit of fishing together from an early age, then you are also developing the habit of talking to each other one on one with no outside distractions.
This can be a huge relationship builder as your child turns into a teenager. Keep up the weekend warrior trips and surely they will be more comfortable opening up and talking to you about things.
– When a kid does become a teenager, it is important that they have hobbies. Nothing to do leads do doing nothing that’s good. A bored teenager is one that is more likely to get into trouble.
If they are interested in fishing, then maybe they will be a part of a local club or at least be involved with a group of kids that spend the weekend at the lake rather than partying.
It’s All About Education
More importantly than the habit and characteristics that a child can gain from fishing is the real tangible education they can receive from fishing or kayaking.
Education doesn’t have to stop at the classroom. Some of the most important things you learn in life are from “real life”, so be a part of showing your child some of the real life academics.
– Conservation and wildlife management – This cannot be stressed enough. Did you know that is most areas, fisherman, hunters and outdoorsmen are the number one source of wildlife management.
Through the licensing fees they pay and the general respect they tend to have for nature, they directly combat adverse effects that our modern world has on the environment.
Parks grow and species are saved thanks to kids that are interested in hobbies like fishing who grow up and help fund such programs.
– Survival Skills – Let’s be honest, does anyone really know what direction this world is headed. Either is will be a modern utopia or a bleak Mad Max film.
It might be a good idea if everyone has some basic survival skills. Fishing is a great way to start teaching how to get your own food in the wild.
And even if the world doesn’t go spiraling down, who knows when someone might be lost in the woods or stuck in a situation waiting on help to arrive. In this case, someone who knows how to fish can be invaluable.
– Patience – The virtue that can’t really be taught in school. Patience is almost more a spiritual lesson. To learn how to stop for a moment, take a deep breath and wait for the fish to take a bit.
You can’t get discouraged if the fish aren’t biting now, because we all know that in an hour they might be going wild. And when they do start biting, then the real fine tuned patience comes in.
To be able to wait until just the right moment. You can’t pull too early or you’ll miss before they’ve really latched onto the hook.
These are the lessons that every child should have the opportunity to learn outside of school. Luckily, you can be the one to teach them.
Finding the Right Kayak
Okay, no more lecture on why you should teach your child to kayak and fish. Let’s get to what you really wanted to know. What Kayak should I get for my child?
There are a few prerequisite questions to as yourself first.
How old is the child?
The age of your child great affects greatly whether you should be able to expect them to paddle their own kayak or if you should ride tandem with them.
Here is a good rule of thumb:
Under 10 years old – Sit and possibly paddle in the bow (front) of a double kayak
10-13 years old – Small kayak if they have some basic paddling experience
14 and up – Medium and large kayaks as long as they have some basic paddling experience
What is their skill level?
As mentioned above, the experience that a child has is an important factor in choosing a boat for your child. To determine skill level you should ask yourself some more questions such as:
Is he/she a strong swimmer?
This is important because if they are in a sit -in kayak and it rolls and take on water then they may have to swim to shore or even possibly swim their boat to shore to bail out the water.
If this is something that concerns you then you might lean towards a sit on top kayak which will act more as a raft if it turns over.
Swimming lessons and tests at local public pools are never a bad idea. Everyone can learn some good techniques that might save your life.
Do they have experience rolling over / bailing out?
If not, they need to practice this. It can be a scary thing to experience the first time on open water so have them practice in a pool. If they are not comfortable with rolling back over or bailing out then they do not need to be inside of a sit in kayak yet. Better opt for a sit on top.
Do they have strong paddling arms?
This is not the same as asking if the child is strong. Paddling can use muscles that you don’t normally use in your daily activities. Different shaped boats can use more or less effort to keep going in the right direction.
Top current and wind can send your boat left and right making you constantly have to paddle to maintain direction on open water. In general, sit in kayaks that rest lower in the water are less susceptible to top currents and wind.
Bigger, heavier boat equals more strength to maneuver. This one is really quite simple. While it seems easy to turn a kayak in water, when there is wind or current involved, it can really make things harder. And if your child is already in a kayak that is too large and heavy then it won’t be enjoyable trying to steer.
What are the paddling conditions?
The location and weather of your typical planned kayak trips is a huge factor in what type of kayak your should consider for your child.
Lazy river or rushing rapids? Hopefully you aren’t dragging your child out into some class 5 rapids because I’m pretty sure that might be considered child endangerment. But some class 2 and maybe even light class 3 rapids occasionally on a river should be find for most older kids and teens and might even provide them with the excitement they need to keep up with the hobby. For this type of water, a small sit on or sit in is recommended for better handling.
If your main goal is to just get out and enjoy the lake or get to some of the best fishing spots, then a wide body sit on top kayak might be the best for simply enjoying the water.
Weather – Sit in kayaks are better for cold weather conditions and sit on top kayaks are better for warmer weather where you might even take a dip.
Top Kayaks for Kids
Best Sit on Top Kayak
Sun Dolphin Bali Sit-On-Top Kayak
This is a beginner sit on top kayak. It is good for testing the water to see if your child enjoys the sport. The 10 foot model should be a good fit for most kids and young teens.
– Maneuvers well
– Good storage for fishing or all day trips
– Not made from the highest quality parts. The rivets and connectors holding the seat and other parts in wear out fairly quickly. These things are easily replaced with higher quality aftermarket substitutes.
Best Sit In Kayak
Perception Kayak Prodigy XS Heyday
Sporting great maneuverability and a lowered deck for small people, this kayak is great for kids.
– Great size and maneuverability
– Small children shouldn’t outgrow it too quickly
-Poor placement of carrying handles make it a bit hard for children to carry.
Best Budget Kayak
Pelican 6′ Solo Kids’ Kayak
This is a bare bones kayak to truly test the waters. It has no frills but will float and give your kid a sense of paddling.
Very small so even young kids can maneuver it.
No storage and will likely be outgrown fairly quickly.
There are a few other models out there so please do your research before investing into a boat for your child. But remember as long as they are safe and having fun, then they will learn great things and make a million lifelong memories kayaking and fishing.