When you bring your children along on a kayaking trip, you’ll need some foresight, planning and organization to create a safe and satisfying experience. A paddling venture with kids can bring either a lot of fun or loads of unexpected surprises depending on how prepared you are for the trip. Here are are five things you’ll need to keep in mind to enjoy a safe and memorable kayak excursion.
1. Where should you go kayaking with kids?
When going out with children, particularly those who’ve never been on a paddling trip or who are very young or novice level beginners, make sure to kayak on calm, windless water with minimal currents. The place you choose — whether a small lake, river or bay — should have several shorelines that are quick to reach, free of obstacles, extremely shallow, offer lots of variety, and are expected to stay calm throughout your excursion. Kayaking on calm, windless water is not only safe for you and your kids, but also will build your child’s confidence, skills level on water and reduce stress levels. Before going out, study the tides, boat traffic and currents at the destination and talk to experienced paddlers and paddling experts to determine whether the place would suit your kids.
2. Practice safety before departure
If you want everyone to remain safe throughout the trip, you’ll need to instill good habits in your children beforehand. Start by talking to your kids about water safety, safety devices and safety rules. For example, make sure that all kids understand they have to wear their personal flotation devices regardless of age or swimming ability and to practice wearing the PFD at home before the day of the trip. Some of the safety rules your kids must know include: no jumping out of or into a kayak, know where and how to hold a paddle, use paddles only to paddle, no leaning or standing when in a kayak, and keep the life vests on until the paddling adventure ends. Also practice wearing protective clothing such as sunglasses, long pants, hats and long-sleeved shirts when out of the water. Likewise, practice using floats and lines such as a tow line, throw-bag and paddle float in rescue situations.
3. Personalize the trip to your kids’ interests
To make the trip more delightful for the kids, tailor it to them as much as you can. For instance, you can involve them in deciding what you’ll do on the water trail, packing items and even bringing their friends. You can emphasize tradition where possible, such as telling them stories of your past adventure or showing them photos and maps of their past trips. Consider carrying healthy, easy-to-bring food, such as smoked salmon, mangoes, apples, hard-boiled eggs, fresh red peppers, cheese, nutrition bars and cookies, dried veggies like tomatoes and carrots and dried nuts and fruits. Also bring enough bottles of water and encourage drinking enough during the day. In terms of clothing, ensure the kids wear water-resistant, breathable fibers like merino wool, rashguards, polyester or weather-resistant shell, not cotton.
4. What to do with the kids while on water
When kayaking with children, make sure to go slow — preferably at one-third of your normal pace — and keep within voice range of the kids. The rougher the water, the closer together the boats should be, but take care not to crowd them especially when there are high waves and currents. Talk and guide the young paddlers on the right actions to take, including techniques like bracing against the waves, navigating currents and drawing into eddies. Make the rules simple and clear, insisting that there is no standing or leaning, etc. and ensuring they are able to enumerate the rules and understand the consequences of breaching any protocols. When paddling a double with an inexperienced or young kid, be more methodical and allow the child to take breaks and in turn feel useful and gain practice throughout the trip. Don’t criticize a child’s performance unless safety is at stake; just praise good paddling. Allow lots of breaks for kids to enjoy the scenery. Also provide tips, practice and demonstration, but save serious instruction for when you get back to the shore.
5. How long should the trip be?
When paddling with kids 30 minutes to one hour is sufficient regardless of the age of the children. If you are going out with babies or toddlers, you may have them for just a few moments in the cockpit by the water’s edge. As a rule, keep the trip length to about one-third of the usual distance you would cover when traveling with adults. The older the kids, the more time you can spend with them on water. Also you should not go for too long or complete the entire trip in one go. Instead, take a quick 15-30 minute trip followed by a break on the shore where you can explore the scenery and wildlife, before taking another 15-30 minute trip and so on. By continuously breaking up the journey, the kids will remain interested throughout.
Kayaking with kids can be a really fun and memorable experience, but it can be hectic and stressful if you don’t plan well for it. So follow these tips to ensure your journey is properly planned and that everyone coming with you knows what’s expected from them. Don’t forget to reward them with whatever you promised before they go on the journey, such as taking them out for dinner, visiting a museum or allowing them an extra hour with friends on the phone to talk about their experience. If you prioritize your kids’ needs and preferences, they will fall in love with paddling and will look forward to every kayaking journey. And with meticulous planning and preparation for every paddling venture, you’ll fully enjoy your kayaking adventure and achieve your goals. For more information, visit the “Captain Mike’s Kayak Academy” site.