Everything you need to know to get your kid started in kayaking
Can a ten-year-old kayak?
Kayaking is the perfect sport for ten year olds. Kids age ten can paddle a child-sized kayak for half a mile up to a mile on calm water. They are big enough and strong enough to paddle their own child-sized kayak casually around calm water, or they can paddle a tandem kayak further distances with an experienced paddler.
What size of kayak should I get for a ten-year-old?
Ten-year-olds need a kayak that is between 6 and 10 feet in length, with 6.5 to 9.5 feet being most appropriate.
What is the best kayak for a ten-year-old?
The 3 best kayaks for ten-year-olds:
When my oldest was ten he and his friends would kayak up and down our pond looking for turtles, dragonflies, lily pads and anything else they could find. They also raced, had picnics, and took pictures. It was pure joy.
I was amazed at how easily all three of my boys, and also all the little friends that would come and try kayaking in our backyard all picked up paddling within just a few minutes on the water. Even the ones that were scared had no problem once the paddle was in their hands.
The key was that it was a no-pressure situation. The water was calm, the kayak was kid-sized, and because it was sit-on-top and not a sit-inside their was no intimidation factor or fear of taking on water if they flipped.
When kids are brand to new kayaking it's easiest to start with a sit-on-top child-sized kayak.
Best and most popular child-sized sit-on-top kayak for ten-year-olds who are brand new to paddling
The Lifetime Dash is essentially the same kayak as the ever popular Lifetime Wave but is 6 inches longer. That extra 6 inches is really nice for kids age ten and up.
This is the first kayak my kids started with (Dash). Actually, we have two of them. The price is really affordable, the kayak is worth every penny.
The weight limit is 150 lbs. This kayak is easy to carry and loads of fun for young kids. It is very tough material, light enough for my 9-year-old to drag across the yard himself (it has a nice little built-in carrying handle). My kids love the bright colors they come in. You can get one in hot pink, lime green, bright orange, yellow or blue. Each kid gets their own color, and they think that is awesome.
I have not met one parent who has regretted this purchase. Many of our neighbors and friends have bought the Lifetime Wave or Dash kid kayak for their child after kayaking in our backyard with our family. They are cheap, durable, fun and easy to use.
The dash has a little swim deck on the back that make it easy to climb on and off the kayak to play in the water. There is room on the back to tow a younger sibling.
Best sit-on-top kayak for larger stature 10-year-olds who will be sharing with older siblings
Perception Tribe in 9 1/2 feet
(this is a small kayak but it is not child-sized)
Perception Tribe in a small 9.5 foot length is the best entry-level sit-on-top kayak for kids starting about age 10. It is lightweight and perfect for teens but works for kids from age 10 and up.
This is the biggest sit-on-top kayak I would get for 10-year-olds and it would be my top choice for families whose YOUNGEST child is 10.
If your oldest child is ten and you have other little kids I would suggest you instead start with the Lifetime Dash if they will all be sharing kayaks. This kayak is great for kids age 10 and up to young adults to share.
The perception tribe in 9.5 length are versatile kayaks. They are generally the next size up from a 6 or 6.5 ft kids kayak.
They are easy to navigate, but also fits larger paddlers as well (up to 300 lbs).
It has an adjustable seat back and cushy padded seat. While smaller kayaks come with kids paddles, at this size you will need to order your own paddle.
For this width of kayak (31 1/4"), choose a 230 cm paddle for kids under 6 feet tall and 240 cm paddle for 6 feet and taller. Read my Paddle Guide and Reviews for more information about a paddle to go with this or any other kids kayak.
Best sit-inside kayak for ten-year-olds
Perception Prodigy XS 10 feet
The Perception Prodigy 10 feet long, 23" wide with a weight limit of 150 lbs.
These are FAST boats because they weigh only 26 lbs.
Quick and easily maneuverable, they are also very stable. At 26 lbs they are light enough 10-year-olds to move around and to help load.
They are narrow enough that the kids can use appropriately kid-sized paddles without banging their fingers on the sides.
They have real, adjustable foot pegs, which is a huge plus.
Petite women also enjoy using this kayak. It comes in a few different colors.
For this size of kayak (23" wide) consider a paddle between 190 and 210 cm. (see our paddle guide for kids paddle sizing.)
What paddle does a ten-year-old need?
Ten-year-olds need a paddle with sized-down blades and a narrow shaft for easy paddling in lengths between 182 cm up to 210 cm.
What life jacket does a ten-year-old need?
Ten-year-olds paddling on calm water need a Type 3 neoprene or nylon life jacket.
For more information on what paddle size is right for 10-year-olds see my Kids Kayaking Paddle Guide.
For more information on what life jacket is best for your 10-year-old see my Kayaking Kids Life Jacket Guide.
Kayaking exposes kids to the wonders of the outdoors and new sensations.
Yes! Your 10 year old can paddle a kayak!
Seven-year-olds are ready to paddle and have many options for entering the world of kayaking. By seven years of age most kids can do all of the following:
Seven years old is a great age to begin kayaking - they are strong enough to have success and a lot of fun!
Option 1 : Paddling a Child-Sized Kayak
Kids 5 to 12 can paddle a child-sized kayak. For families completely new to kayaking this is usually a 6 or 6.5 foot sit-on-top kayak such as the popular and inexpensive Lifetime Wave, or for those looking for sit-inside kayaks something similar to the light and nimble Perception Prodigy XS. See our kid kayak reviews and paddle reviews for more suggestions.
Almost all 6-year-old children are able and ready to paddle a child-sized kayak on calm bodies of water. Six-year-old children can also enjoy kayaking in the following ways:
Six years old is a great age to begin paddling a small kayak
Here is what my experience having many kids try out kayaking on our river the past few years has taught me about starting kids on the little kid kayaks:
Can a 5-year-old paddle a kayak?
Most 5-year-old kids are ready to practice paddling their own child-sized kayak. In addition, five-year-old children can enjoy kayaking in the following variety of ways:
Last year our youngest son was four (we have three boys), and he tried paddling a kayak for the first time! Though his first excursions were short, he absolutely loved it! This year he is turning five and eagerly awaiting spring so he can practice paddling the kayak up and down the banks of the calm river that runs through the back of our property.
Can a 4-year-old go kayaking?
our-year-old children can enjoy kayaking in a few different ways :
Right size of gear for a 4-year-old
The right size of kayak for a four-year-old wanting to paddle alone is a 6' or 6.5' child-sized kayak, and generally this is going to be a sit-on-top kayak at this age. The child will use either a 152 or 182 cm kayak paddle. Kayaks such as the popular 6' Wave Kayak come with a 182 cm paddle and this is what our four-year-old used last summer.
The child-sized kayaks do suggest on the box a recommend age of 5-year-old and up, so realize that any use a 4-year-old gets practicing on it is really a bonus.
Our experience with four-year-olds and kayaks
Our four-year-old son Hudson has been riding on the back of his brother's child-sized sit-on-top kayak since he was three. Together they have been on many adventures to collect lily pads and find turtles and frogs along the bank of the millpond. Riding with his brother feels like an adventure and helped to get him used to the idea of being out in a big body of water floating on a kayak.
How old do kids need to be to learn to kayak?
Kids age 5 and up can start paddling a child-sized kayak. From age 5 to 11 kids easily paddle a kayak short distances on their own with an appropriately sized kayak, paddle, and the right water conditions for their age.
How far can young kids paddle a kayak?
Kids younger than 5 practice paddling a child-sized kayak in a swimming pool or non-moving water for a few minutes at a time.
Kids age 5 to 7 practice paddling a child-sized kayak in short intervals and for short distances of less than a quarter a mile.
Kids age 7 to 9 paddle a child-sized kayak up to half a mile at a time.
Kids age 9 to 11 learning to kayak can paddle half a mile or more on a child-sized kayak, and by age 12 can paddle a mile or more and transition to larger kayaks.
Learning to kayak is easy and fun. It is an accessible and affordable sport for families with young children.
Most people don't realize that young children can kayak and that not all kayaking is done in rapids or on the ocean.
Most families paddle on calm lakes, ponds and in marshes where the water is slow moving, and the setting is peaceful.
The experience is richly rewarding.
Paddling comes naturally to kids and gives them a new way to explore nature.
There are many types of water and types of kayaking. Many people think only of ocean and whitewater kayaking when they think of kayaking and may only think of sit-inside kayaks.
What type of kayak is easiest for kids to learn on?
Kids should start on calm water, and sit-on-top kayaks are generally easier to learn on than sit-inside kayaks.
Kids can begin paddling very young on calm water with the right type of kayak, and the right size of kayak for their age.
Whether they are riding with you on a tandem kayak, or paddling their own sit-on-top or sit-inside vessel, read on for suggestions of when kids are ready to try different paddling experiences.
If you are very new to paddling sports and are not sure what a sit-inside or sit-on-top kayak is, you may also want to read Kayak Options For Kids, Sit-inside, Sit-on-top, or Inflatable.
Age Guidelines and Kayaking Options:
These guidelines are for kayaking on calm inland water.
For whitewater and ocean kayaking, read my suggestions below thoroughly.
Continue reading for more in-depth age-by-age tips, as there are so many types of kayaks and kayaking experiences.
It seems the most prevalent questions about kayaking for parents looking into the sport revolve around what age kid can do specific things with a kayak.
Let's get into it and cover all the ages, variable and questions regarding kids and kayaking.
Child-sized kayaks: little kids can easily kayak on special kayaks made for tiny kids!
5-11 years old is the best age to teach kids to kayak on calm water on child-sized kayaks
Scroll down to read specific tips for the age you are looking for:
Here is what's coming below:
Babies in kayaks
2 and 3-year old guidelines
4 to 7-year-old guidelines
9 to 12-year olds
12 to 16-year-olds
age 14 and up
Let's begin with the most controversial age topic: Babies and Toddlers in Kayaks.
4 to 7-year-old Kayaking Options
9 to 12-year-old
12 to 16-year-old
14-years-old and up
Tips for Beginners
Duffer is a non-paddling guest sitting somewhere in the boat, usually the middle.
The bow paddler is the person in the front seat of a tandem kayak or canoe, while the stern paddler is the one sitting in the back.
There needs to always to be someone who is capable of paddling in the stern (back) if you have a child as the bow paddler (someone needs to be able to paddle, right?).
Kids and beginners need to always be in the front of the kayak so the more experienced paddler in the back can give directions and steer the boat.
Kids who grow up in the water with parents who kayak and who brought them on their kayaks from a young age are not going to match these guidelines. The above guidelines are for beginners on flat water (lake, pond, marsh, etc.).
These suggestions are not for whitewater kayaking. For river kayaking or whitewater, remember, too much too soon can scare very young kids and turn them away forever, and if you are not at all experienced as the parent, you need a guide or teacher to work with your group before you can take yourself or your kids down a river safely.
You CAN, however, take your kids and yourself with NO experience to a calm lake with life jackets and recreational kayaks and play around while you get the hang of it.
This is especially easy with sit-on-top kayaks, as there is no risk of capsizing or taking on water. Start slow and have fun and be safe. Soon you will be ready for more but take it one step at a time, especially when kids are involved and if you are new to all paddling and water sports.
The above are only general guidelines meant as a starting place. There are MANY FACTORS, such as the development of the child, SKILL and EXPERIENCE of parents, TYPE OF WATER KAYAKING ON, CHILD'S INDIVIDUAL NATURE, TYPE of kayak, and WEATHER.
These are the most common questions about age and kayaks I hear and a quick answer:
What age should I buy my kid a kayak?
Can a 10-year-old kayak in whitewater?
Can you take babies and toddlers kayaking?
How old does my baby need to be to take with me in my solo kayak (for those who ignored the above question and answer)?
Can I tandem kayak with a baby or toddler?
How old do you have to be to paddle a kayak?
*Safety Legal Disclaimer: Everything on this site is a matter of opinion, gathered from experience and many hundreds of other's opinions, and should not be taken as professional advice. Please use the suggestions as a starting place to conduct your own research and make decisions based on what is safe for you and your family. Above all, I urge you to make smart choices and keep your kids and yourself safe. Kayaking is loads of fun, but you need to use your common sense and always err on the side of safety when there is any question of skill level, weather, etc.
Almost six years ago we moved into a little New England house with a river in the backyard and quickly discovered the joy of kayaking kids.
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Legal Information: This site is meant as a log of our family's opinions and experiences, but is in no way a comprehensive safety guide for kayaking. Kayak at your own risk and research well anything pertaining to your family's safety. This site shares our experiences and products we have tried and researched. There are affiliate links used to reference the products being reviewed.