Top 10 Ways To Teach Kids To Love Kayaking

Teaching Kids To Kayak.

Kayaking is scary. There is no doubt about it. And, like most epic sports, it’s a sport that is much easier for kids to break into than adults because kids feel invincible. I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I have uttered the words, “I wish I started when I was 8.” Which is why it’s so great to teach kids to love kayaking … they are simply naturals!

Kayaking is for Everyone

While the learning curve to eliminate fear on even the easiest rivers is different for every single person, the maturity that comes with it is remarkable .  Some of our kids had absolutely zero fear, others, like me, sat in eddy’s terrified to surf a feature, or felt sick at the put-in of a Class II/III river run. But all of us conquered that debilitating fear one day, one river, one feature at a time and it taught us much about controlling our minds and understanding our fears. And while we love all types of kayaking, the ebb and flow of personal preferences are ever changing.

For example, Emmy (10) isn’t fond of playboating, at all, but she loves running easy Class IV’s like the Numbers and Slaughterhouse. Our older boys have recently moved beyond competitions and much prefer pushing their limits on bigger, tougher, more consequential runs. I love the feeling of accomplishment after runs like the Numbers, but I’m not, probably ever, going to have fun running anything bigger or harder. I also love the mellow chill of playboating. Our youngest two, love everything right now and have a blast on everything from our local Class III run, Shoshone, to the Main on the Payette River and and can’t wait for competitions.

The Importance of Teaching Kids To Love Kayaking

Kayaking really is for everyone. It’s a go at your own pace, do what you love, heart pumping adventure sport that is perfect for the old and young and everyone in between. Which is why kayaking is such a big deal for us … we get to have a blast WITH our kids. And it’s a super easy sport to get kids to love, provided you do it right. If you do it wrong, you run the risk of ruining kayaking for them forever.  A lot of pressure, but it’s easy to teach kids to love kayaking if you just back off and let kids do what they do best … have fun.

You see, all kids, everywhere, love water. One of their favorite places is the pool because they equate that with jumping and swimming and playing. Most of us don’t ever have to drag our kids to the pool. Right? That is because most parents leave their kids to playing at the pool. Now, imagine if every time you went to the pool it was to work on strokes, or speed, or drills? Do you think your kids would love the pool? I know mine would not. A kids business is fun.

Kayaking is Fun

So, when you take your kids to the river, bring their kayak, but also bring the toys, the boogie boards, the fins, the goggles, the duckie, the whatever they think is fun. Let them play, it’s how they learn about whitewater. You see, the biggest mistake parents make with their kids in regards to kayaking is making it work.  Always working on rolls, always doing attainments (why on earth), always forcing the kayak.  It is supposed to be fun. The river is fun. Kayaking is fun.  Don’t do adult things and ruin it for your kids.

The attached video shows the Top 10 ways to teach your kids to love kayaking and help grow your kids’ love of the river.  To make it safe and enjoyable be sure to get all the best gear (ATGATT), from helmets and pfd’s to drytops, boats and paddles!

The biggest takeaway … Every bit of it has to be fun and every bit of it is educational in regards to their future as a member of your paddling crew! Raising whitewater kids should not be difficult, it’s a natural progression of fun!

See Ya On The River.

What is the best age for kids to start kayaking?

The obvious answer is that it depends on the kid, but most can start playing around in their own boats between the ages of 4-7 in calm water. At the age of 7, most kids have developed the attention span, the physical ability, the fine motor skills and the desire to learn more of the techniques needed to kayak whitewater.

What gear do kids need to start kayaking?

Kids, more than their adult counterparts, need to stay warm and comfortable when learning to kayak. Being cold or uncomfortable will make the experience not so great. So, kayaking kids should have a base layer, a drytop, a JK Fun 1, a sprayskirt, a paddle, a PFD (lifejacket), and a helmet! Being safe ensures a fun time for all! For more information, check out our gear list.

What is the best kayak for kids?

Hands down, the best whitewater kayak for kids is the Jackson Kayak Fun 1. This boat was designed by Olympian, Eric Jackson for his son, World Champion Dane Jackson and has been the top choice for parents teaching their children to kayak.

How old should a child be to kayak?

How old should a child be to learn to kayak? While any age child can participate in a tandem boat , like the Jackson Duo, kids from 4-7  are at an ideal age to play around in calmer waters. Kids 7 & up can begin to learn technique, as they have a longer attention spans, the physical ability, fine motor skills and generally are much more eager to learn.

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