Everything you need to know to get your kid started in kayaking
Age Guidelines for kids learning to kayak on calm water:
4+ practice paddling own child-sized kayak
4-7 ride as non-paddling passenger on a tandem kayak
4-7 practice paddling as bow passenger on short trips
5-11 paddle own child-sized kayak up to one mile
8+ bow paddler of a tandem kayak
9-12 may be able to use an 8-foot kayak depending on stature
12+ may be able to use 8 or 10 ft kayak
14+ can manage medium sized kayak solo
So let's talk about this question more in-depth, as there are so many variables.
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.
How old do kids need to be to learn to kayak?
To see what kayaks are recommended for each age, (from four-year-olds all the way up to teenagers) take a look at our kayak suggestions and reviews.
Let's begin with the most controversial age topic: Babies and Toddlers in Kayaks.
Babies and Young Toddlers
4 to 7-year-old
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?
*Disclaimer: Everything on this site is a matter of opinion, gathered from 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.