Kids Kayaking Solo
Kids as young as 4 years old can kayak solo!
Kayaking is an excellent outdoor activity that can be enjoyed as an adventure sport as well as a recreationally by people of all ages. This has caused a tremendous increase in the popularity of kayaking. If adults have taken to kayaking in a big way, there is no reason their kids should be left behind. In fact, the popularity of kids kayaking has resulted in specialized kayaks and equipment affordability available for them.
A lot of parents these days introduce their kids to kayaking at a very early age either in their lap or in the front cockpit of a tandem. In fact, parents are often accompanied by toddlers who share their kayaks while on the water. As kids grow up, they'll start requesting their own kayak, and this is the perfect time to start them solo. As such, you may find it challenging to choose the right kayak for your little ones. Please remember that there are specialized kayaks designed for kids so that it is easier and more fun for them to paddle on their own.
I would recommend a sit-on-top kayak to be the best type of kayak for kids getting started and then they can move up into sit-ins as they gain more experience. Mainly because a sit-on-top kayak is more stable and therefore offers greater security. Since there is no cockpit, the sit-on-top kayak is easier to get into and get out of. Also, a sit-on-top kayak is easier to maneuver as compared to some of the sit-in kayaks as your kids sit a bit higher and can get a better angle with the paddle in the water. Most notably, in case of an emergency should they fall out or their kayak capsizes, kids can quickly get back onto a sit-on-top kayak rather than a sit-in kayak.
They only need to tilt the kayak to climb back on to it. For a sit-in kayak, kids must learn specific maneuvers to get back into the cockpit and then there is the issue of water in the cockpit that needs to be removed.
Features of Kids Kayaks
Kids as young as 4 years old can kayak solo on calm waters. Before buying them their own kayak, look for kayaks that would suit their body structure best, especially for kids in the 8-12yr range. Don't buy a kayak that is too big or too small for them because they might have a hard time maneuvering in the water resulting in a frustrating adventure.
Make sure to get them a kid-size paddle and a paddle leash as I guarantee they will drop the paddle overboard at least one time!
Every recreational vessel must have at least one personal flotation device (PFD) that is U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved and of the proper size for each person on board - including kayaks. Kids under six years old must wear a USCG approved life jacket at all times. For kids between 30-50 pounds, Stearns Puddle Jumper Life Jackets are the way to go and are USCG approved. When looking for kids older than 6, look for a life jacket that is not bulky and doesn't get int he way of paddling.
Strong bow and stern grab handles, in case you need to tow them, are a must. Look for kayaks that have a Pontoon/Tunnel Hull. A pontoon hull offers the most primary stability, which is so critical for kids' kayaks. Pontoon types of hulls combine the primary stability of a flat hull with the secondary stability of a rounded, resulting in the best stability available.
<-- An example of way too big!
First Solo Trip
When scouting for a location for the maiden voyage, look for calm waters on a day with little to no wind. If you live inland, look for lakes and ponds. If your child is a little nervous, you can also start them out in a full sized swimming pool. If you live near coastal waters, look for bayous and bays. On the east coast here in Florida, we have an abundance of Mangrove Bays that are perfect for the first time paddler. The more they practice in calm water, the more confident they'll get and be able to keep calm in a sticky situation. While in calm shallow waters, have them perform a wet exit and entry. This will also boost their confidence to know what it will be like if they do fall out and then how to get back in.