When to Teach Kids to Kayak & Paddleboard

teach kids to kayak
(photo courtesy of Ian D.)

When we get kids into paddling—kayaking, SUP, canoeing or packrafting—they can have a lifetime of fun and adventure on the water. But how young can they start?

Our friends at Paddle TV have a series of videos about getting kids into kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding. Here are a few of their videos with some great suggestions for different ages:

When Can Kids Start Kayaking?

Here are some of this video’s take-aways:

  • If you have a tandem kayak, even very young children can start kayaking in the front seat with an adult paddling in the stern.
  • Kids as young as 4 years old can handle a paddle in the bow position of a tandem kayak. With a paddle their size, this is a great way to introduce them to paddling without them having to control the kayak.
  • A child as young as 5 or 6 can start paddling their own kayak, depending on the child and the kayak. The key? They should ask for it!
  • Before they take to the water in their own kayak, a child should be a confident swimmer and able (and willing) to take direction well.

When Can Kids Start Canoeing?



Take-aways from the video include:

  • Choose a calm body of water, free from wind and waves.
    Stay close enough to shore that you can swim to it, along with your child, if necessary.
  • Average canoes can handle 2-3 small children plus two adults, with the kids sitting on the floor in the middle. Kids 7 and under are usually best in this scenario.
  • Bring something to cushion the floor for them to sit on, and don’t forget the snacks!
  • Kids 8 years old and up are ready to assume the bow position and learn basic paddling strokes and skills.
  • Give your kids a paddle that’s their size. It’ll make paddling much easier until they grow into an adult-size paddle.

When Can Kids Start Paddleboarding?

Here are tips from this video:

  • On calm water, away from wind and waves, kids can start to experience paddleboarding at almost any age.
  • Young kids who don’t yet have the coordination to paddle themselves and control a SUP board, or those who aren’t confident swimmers, should start as a passenger on your board. Choose a larger, very stable board for this.
  • Some children may be ready for their own board as young as 5 or 6. Others may not be ready until they’re a few years older.
  • The most important thing is to wait until the child asks to paddle on their own.
  • As with kayaking, a child who starts with his or her own board needs to be a confident swimmer and good at following directions.

Of course it’s a given that everyone in or on your boat will wear a Coast Guard-approved, well-fitting life jacket. On a paddleboard, use the leash to keep your board with you in case you or your child ends up in the water.

teach kids to paddle

Happy paddling!

What paddle questions can we help answer? Contact our Wisconsin-based Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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