Canoeing with Kids
If you’re ready to explore nature with your kids, canoeing is a great way to get started. With everyone happily floating in the canoe, you don’t have to worry about tired feet or weary little legs. With just a few tips, you and your family can be out on the water in no time.
What to Pack
Bring along sunscreen, drinking water, snacks, a towel or two, jackets, hats with brims, and sunglasses. If you’re renting your canoe, you’ll be provided with paddles and life jackets. Ask if you can take out a few extra life jackets to use as seat cushions.
How to Start
Pick a canoeing spot with flat water or very slow-moving river water. If the day is too windy, skip it—it won’t be a pleasant experience for anyone. Before you start, put your child in their life jacket (or PDF). Be sure you have one that’s designed for a child of his/her weight (check the tag on the inside collar). A child’s PDF should have a floatation collar that will support the head and a crotch strap. Be sure to size the jacket correctly; if it’s too tight or too loose, it’ll bother your child during the whole trip.
Decide how long to make your trip. Small kids do best with outings that are an hour or less. If you really want to take a longer trip, see if there’s a stopping place halfway where everyone can get out and run around.
If your child is very small (under three), seat them at the bow, with an adult right behind them. That way someone can see the child at all times and help keep them involved in what’s going on. Older kids can sit in the middle of the canoe. If your kids are older, ask the canoe rental facility if they have any kid-sized paddles. Even if your little one winds up paddling backwards, they’ll have a good time feeling like they’re helping.
As you get in, keep your body low and step directly onto the centerline of the canoe. Use your hands to steady yourself along the gunwales (at the sides). Get one adult settled before you let the kids enter, one at a time. The last person in is the final adult. The person in the rear will be responsible for steering and powering the canoe, so this is where you should place the strongest paddler.
On the Water
Do your best to keep things interesting. Paddle close to shore, where there’s more to look at. Point out birds and wildlife. Notice the way drops trickle off the paddle and leave a pattern in the water. Under supervision, let your child trail his/her hand in the water. Notice the clouds, the sound of bird song, and sticks or other things in the water. The more often you go canoeing, the longer your trips can be. This is a great way for a family to travel!