Can You Kayak With A Toddler? [Safety Tips]

Too often these days we see our youngest generation sucked into the black hole of electronics, staring at a screen as the world passes by. We want to get them out so they can explore the world and see all of the beautiful things that nature has to offer. You may have wondered “can you kayak with a toddler” and if so, what do I need to know to keep them safe?

Can You Kayak With A Toddler?

There is no legal age limit on taking your child kayaking, however, 0 -12 months of age isn’t advisable. With toddlers, much depends on the level of safety you can provide, your knowledge and experience kayaking, and your toddler’s capabilities.

Aside from that, kayaking is extremely fun, a wonderful learning experience, and it gets them out of the house and as far away from an LCD or LED screen as humanly possible. With so much the great outdoors has to offer, why not get your kids started with kayaking? 

Before planning your next kayaking trip, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about kayaking with a toddler.

What Are The Potential Dangers Of Kayaking With A Toddler?

The greatest potential danger you’ll have to consider is flipping the kayak. While kayaks aren’t designed to flip, what with the added weight of a toddler, in addition to their unpredictable movements, it’s always possible. 

Of course, there are several other dangers to consider as well. Including your child going for an unplanned swim and that’s why you’ll need to bring along an appropriately fitted PFD of Personal Flotation Device.

Personal Flotation Device doesn’t mean arm floaties either. It means a life vest that fits your child snug, without cutting off circulation or being extremely uncomfortable. It also means teaching them how to wear one and giving them time to experience it in the water.

A PFD is not going to sink with your kid in it, however, toddlers who have no previous experience in the water and are unused to wearing a PFD, may flail, kick, and panic in such a way that they could easily end up face down and sucking water into their lungs.

Before you plan a kayaking trip, they’ll need the time, training, and experience necessary to handle themselves in one. There are several things you should go over and also consider before taking that first trip on a kayak.

  • Test the life vest out with your child in it
  • Never use the same vest for different kids
  • Different styles of vests fit children differently
  • How buoyant is the vest in conjunction with the toddler
  • Does it fit snuggly without being overly restrictive
  • It needs to fit in such a way that your child has a full range of arm and leg motions
  • Is your child comfortable in it while swimming

It’s crazy thinking of all of those different factors just to go kayaking, however, it’s important to remember that things go wrong, and being adequately prepared can both help to avoid dangerous situations and come out better on the other side when something goes wrong.

What Else Should You Consider?

Every child is different and some are more hyperactive than others. Is your child able to sit still for long periods? How often do they generally need to use the bathroom? How much do they weigh? Do they have an abnormal fear of water? Can they swim?

If you have an extremely active child who loves to move around and has a lot of energy, you should consider putting kayaking on hold for a while longer. Sure, you can keep their arms moving, teaching them to paddle, but active kids have trouble sitting in one spot for long.

You’ll definitely have to consider potty breaks. Some kids can hold it remarkably well and others just can’t. You’d hate to be out in the middle of a river or a large lake when potty time hits. 

The US Coast Guard strongly advises that a toddler be at least 18lbs before taking them out on something like a kayak. You can also find a lot more PFD, toddler, children, and baby safety information in that link. 

Some kids also have a strange dislike of water, it’s seemingly built-in. It’s not advisable to try and ease them over that line by starting them off in a kayak. Like the turtle and the rabbit, slow and steady wins the race.

Lastly, can your toddler swim? Sure, most parents don’t consider teaching their children to swim at such a young age, however, you’d be surprised at how well and how effortlessly many children take to it.

Teach them to swim early. Swimming is an excellent exercise activity and it will wear them out for that much-needed “nap time” later in the day. It will also help get them outdoors when you’ve had just about enough of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. 

Also, not only will they have the benefit of a PFD when you take them on that first kayak trip, but they’ll also be intimately familiar with the water and capable of at least some degree of swimming. 

What To Do While Out On The Kayak

There are so many fundamentals of life and responsibility that children can learn out on a kayak. Safety, responsibility, self-control, awareness, and quality time are just a few. Being out on a kayak brings together a lot of fundamentals for a toddler to take in.

Toddlers—otherwise defined as children between the ages of 1 and 4—mostly take in everything by association and the senses. Try to remember much of anything you did as a toddler and you’ll probably come up pretty empty-handed.

That doesn’t mean that the experience won’t stick in other ways, however. At that age, children are constantly learning and you don’t necessarily have to teach responsibility as much as ingraining it through repetition and fun associations.

Paddling is a great exercise and a toddler can learn a lot about motion, inertia, and gravity just through the act of paddling. These are also the years where the development of motor skills is rampant, so introducing balance, exercise, and actions versus reactions is an absolute plus.

This is also a great opportunity to teach responsibility. They may not understand the ins and outs of properly maintaining and taking care of a kayak, but they’ll make generalized associations.

Lastly, there’s nothing better than to find ways to spend time with your children, especially doing activities that are fun, exciting, and involve some levels of exercise that do much to aid in a child’s physical development.

Other Things To Prepare For

It’s not always about the life vest. The sun can be brutal on the very young and sunburns are bad news at that age. Kids also burn through water and food faster, so bring plenty of both. Also, appropriate clothing for a day out on the water is important as well.

The best kind of clothing, especially for kayaking—not including just a bathing suit—is the water-resistant kind. Anything that is polyurethane or laminated fabric is a plus. Bring plenty f sunscreen as well, especially anything that is over 50spf.

Food is important, especially if you’re planning on taking a break from the kayak for a good picnic, but water is more important. The heat of the day can be deceptive when you have a good breeze on the river, lake, or beach and you’re spending a lot of time in the water.

Don’t underestimate the effects of heatstroke in children even if you’re out in a breeze.

Last but not least, plan for the unexpected. When you’re dealing with the very young, nothing is a certainty and even the best-laid plans can turn to dust in an instant. Prepare for all eventualities but also prepare for a bit of improvisation and adaptability. 

Expect the Unexpected

Be prepared for unexpected weather changes, especially, during the summer. Always monitor the weather on your apps and local news channel. If they’re calling for late-day thunderstorms, make sure you’re off the water.

Getting caught in the middle of the water in a lightning storm is a frightening experience for adults, it will be more terrifying for a youngster.

Keep your eyes peeled for strong currents, especially if there’s been recent rainfall. If you see one heading in the wrong direction (the opposite way from where you want to go), stay near shore until it passes or turn around and head back home as soon as possible.

Be aware of your surroundings and what the water looks like ahead of you. It’s always best to be safe while kayaking, especially, when you have a little one riding with you.

Final Word

Kayaking with a toddler can be an amazing experience that will not only help you get the most out of your time on the water but also teach them important skills and lessons.

When considering kayaking with your child, prepare for all eventualities by packing plenty of food and water to keep hydrated in the heat. You might want to bring some sunscreen too or risk getting sunburnt!

The best kind of clothing is polyurethane-coated fabric so children don’t burn easily while paddling about.

It’s always important to plan ahead when taking toddlers outdoors because they are more susceptible than adults due to their developing immune systems; however, it doesn’t have to be stressful if you’re prepared beforehand! We hope this article was helpful and easy to follow!

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Salisbury, P. (N/A). Kayaking With A Toddler – Guide For Parents Retrieved from:

James R. (N/A). Kayaking With A Baby Or A Small Child: A Parent’s Guide Retrieved from: