Kayaking: a wonderful outdoor activity that has been practiced for many years. Being a popular sport, many parents prefer their children to know how to kayak. In the past, kayaks were only really made for adults. Now, manufacturers make kayaks that are specially designed for children. Children can experience a multitude of benefits from kayaking, including becoming healthier, stronger, learning new things, and having fun.
Nowadays, you’ll find a plethora of options when you start to research which kayak to purchase for your children. They can be as deep and broad as adult kayaks. It can become a time-consuming and extremely challenging task, especially with the sheer number of options available.
In this guide, we’ll first start with the five best kayaks for kids in the current market, followed by a guide on how you can see which kayak is better than others. By the end of this, you’ll have a firm grasp on what the best products are and how you can pick them from the crowd.
QUICK ANSWERS: The Best Kids Kayaks
5 Best Kids Kayaks – Comparisons
Best Kayak For Kids Product Reviews
1. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak with Paddle
Lifetime’s youth lines offer great features that are specially designed for children. The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak with Paddle is great for children of or above 5 years of age.
Their patented Swim Up deck design makes it easier for children to re-enter after their time in the water. The cockpit is to design, ergonomically to enhance the motor skills and balance of your child.
It includes multiple footrests that offer flexibility for different sized children.
The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak with Paddle includes a few self-bailing scupper holes that allow the water to drain out from the cockpit area – ensuring your child remains relatively dry. Finding kayaks for children that have this can be quite difficult, which is what makes Lifetime’s kayak so special. It’s constructed with UV protected durable polyethylene material, which protects it from cracks and fading. It designed to be as lightweight as possible, without affecting the other features that it offers.
For added surfing facility and accurate tracking, the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak with Paddle features a twin-fin design. The rear swim-up or climb-up deck makes the kayak accessible, even if your child happens to fall down. The kayak, like a few others on this list, comes complete with a paddle. This paddle is quite sturdy and light enough for a child to hold and move easily.
2. Sun Dolphin Bali 6-Foot Sit-On-Top Kayak
It is constructed with high-density rugged polyethylene, which provides the durability to the kayak. The material is UV stabilized, which guarantees that prolonged sunlight exposure will not damage the kayak.
The Sun Dolphin’s Bali 6-Foot Sit On Top Kayak is very lightweight and includes carrying handles in the design which help to make it easy to transport and carry as easy as can be. It even has an open cockpit, which makes it easier for your children to re-enter the kayak after swimming in the water. The cockpit design also ensures that there is enough space and comfort for the paddler.
One of the biggest downsides is the absence of a self-bailing feature, which is quite typical for sit on top kayaks. Regardless of that, the Sun Dolphin’s Bali 6-Foot Sit On Top Kayak is still very stable in the water, while keeping the paddling easy. Your child is sure to find the maneuvering and tracking to perform quite well. The kayak also comes in three vivid color choices, which are Ocean (blue), Red, and Tangerine – all of which are very bright and visible colors.
3. Ocean Kayak Banzai Kids Kayak
Similar to most of the items on this list, this kayak is made specifically for children.
The sit on top kayak is made to allow children to be safe and have fun out on the water with their parents. With the high-quality polyethylene construction, the kayak becomes very durable. It even has an add-on skid plate that gives additional durability.
The dimensions and size ensure that the Ocean Kayak Banzai Kids Kayak can be easily maneuvered by a child. It even features a Tag Along Tow System, which comes in handy when your child starts to get tired out on the water or is just starting to learn kayaking. Though this kayak is designed to be sturdy, it does not sacrifice its weight to do so. It only weighs 36 lbs., which means that it can be transported very easily. To make it even easier for you, it comes with a side, stern, and bow carrying handles for easy carrying.
The lower profile deck of the Ocean Kayak Banzai Kids Kayak means that your child will have an easy time paddling, regardless of the length of their arms. Though, because of this, your child is likely to get wet as it is lower in the water. Sadly, it also does not have drain holes in the seating area. Regardless, the seat is contoured well to provide the utmost comfort for your child.
4. Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak
You receive a paddle, a pump, a leak repair kit, and, of course, the kayak. This is considered an inexpensive kayak, so you won’t be able to take it on whitewater rapids.
However, since this is the only kayak on this list that is both for adults and children, it means that it can be used by the whole family.
The hand pump that it comes with gets the Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak inflated in roughly ten minutes. The deflation time is also only a couple of minutes. The kayak is constructed with durable plastic, which is very hard wearing and stable on the water. Similar to other inflatable kayaks, this is very lightweight and easy to store, making it great for occasional kayakers. It even has a fair bit of storage space fitted onto the kayak.
The Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak set also comes with a black carry bag, that’s shaped like a large briefcase and is made out of high strength materials. It gives the kayak additional protection, while also making it easier to store and carry around. This kayak also has the second highest weight capacity of this list at 220 lbs.
This kayak has also featured on our best inflatable kayaks review, check it out here.
5. Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Heron Junior Kids Kayak
The Heron series in specific include different models, with most of them being family friendly. The Heron Junior Kids Kayak is designed with the needs of a child kayaker in mind.
It is easy to maneuver, which means that even beginner kayakers can have an easy time. It is lightweight (mid-range according to our top five lists), but does not sacrifice stability.
One of the best features of the Heron Junior Kids Kayak is its Tag Along Tow System. This system allows parents and/or guardians to tow their child in case they get too tired out on the water or are beginner kayakers. When that system is not in use, it can easily be stowed away. It comes in two color options, a sunrise model with red and orange colors, and a cloud model with several shades of blue.
If you’re an experienced kayaker and wish for your children to learn on a traditional kayak, then the Heron Junior Kids Kayak is the perfect choice for you. This model is an adaptation of the quite popular adult model. The interior seats feature ample padding that allows your child to remain comfortable for longer – delaying their inevitable fidgeting.
Kids Kayak Buyer’s Guide
Like many other parents, you probably wish to invest in a quality product that will last your child for a while (until they, of course, grow too big for it). Nowadays, there are tons of products that are specially designed for children. You can have solo kayaks or tandem kayaks depends on the number of kids that you have. So, regardless of which kayak you choose to purchase, you should know a few important factors regarding kayaks for kids.
Things To Look For
There are several features, which help to distinguish mediocre products to great products. We’ll be outlining all of those below.
Generally, children can be quite rough with their gear – especially the younger ones. So, to extend the life of the kayak, you have to get one that is able to withstand the normal wear and tear and abuse from children. Inflatable and polyethylene materials are a great choice as it provides a solid and durable kayak for your children.
When your children are first starting to learn how to kayak, they need something that is stable enough to not tip them over. Being stable allows them to build their confidence in kayaking and helps to develop their paddling skills without worrying about tipping over.
There are several things that help to keep the boat stable, those include skegs, chines, and/or fins. When those are added, it helps the kayak to have better tracking and more stability. Kayaks for children have reverse chines, which help to keep the boat stable laterally and keeps it tracking straight.
Most kayaks are sized according to the average child’s weight. With the kayak, the manufacturers provide a weight range that lists the acceptable users for that specific kayak. If your child is either above or below the weight range, then they might want to look at other options. On our list above, we have a fair range of kayaks that will suit most children.
Unlike kayaks for adults, children kayaks tend to be shorter in length. They are generally only supposed to be used on flat open waters, and on slow and gentle rivers. Shorter kayaks tend to be easier for children to maneuver. They are also easier to carry around and move due to their lightweight. Some kayaks also come with a height rating, which makes it easier to size the kayak with your child.
There are several factors that affect the stability of a kayak, including the width. The wider the kayak, the less prone it is to flipping, therefore making it more stable. Though the width makes them less efficient for adults, it also makes them the ideal choice for children.
Add-On Tow Rope
A fair few kids kayaks come complete with this (or something similar) already attached. It’s a great feature for families that love to kayak together. Children are prone to throwing fits or just getting tired quickly. So, having this tow rope allows you to pull them along when they don’t feel like paddling anymore.
You should permanently tie a 20 ft. long rope to the front of their kayak so that you can tow them along, pull them off the riverbank, or pull them out of the brush.
Adjustable Foot Braces
Children grow fast. So, you need to choose a kayak that has adjustable foot braces, which will allow you to use that kayak for longer. The kayaks with foot braces molded into the frame will also be good for children.
Though this completely depends on the material that is used for the construction of the kayak, it’s important to keep an eye out for any sharp corners. So, you should scope out the kayak for any rough edges or spikes that could cause harm to your child. If present, they will be prominent in the corners, rails, and seams. If you want to avoid this altogether, then inflatable kayaks might be the best option for you.
Q. How Should I Kayak With My Kids?
A. Kayaking with children can become quite stressful in the beginning as it causes a lot of uncertainty. The best way to start kayaking with kids is on tandem kayaks in which you and your child go together. This way, they get a better feel of kayaking before they can go out and start paddling by themselves. In addition, you can also use Tow Along systems to get them out on the water but have them feel like they are actually putting in the effort.
You should also try to start them on quieter bodies of water to ensure that they have a firm grasp on the how-to. You should also try to pack extra gear, including lots of water, extra food, and dry clothes.
Q. How Do I Ensure Their Safety While Kayaking?
A. Though kayaking is a rewarding and fun experience, it’s important to take some safety precautions.
First and foremost, you should ensure that everyone is wearing a life vest. Though you might be a pro kayaker and feel like you don’t need it, remember that your kids will look towards you. So, if you’re not wearing one, they might not feel like they need to wear on either.
Second, if your child is still in the learning phases, you should try to stay on calmer bodies of water. This will allow them to gain more confidence while not be too challenged. You should also start to slowly teach the proper paddling techniques in order to keep them safe. In addition to all that, ensure that they have plenty of sunscreen on, access to water, and a hat to protect them from the sun.
Q. Should I Get A Sit On Top Or Traditional Kayak For My Child?
A. Generally, you’re recommended to get a sit on top kayak for children as sit in kayaks are more prone to flipping and filling up with water. On our list, we have three sit on top models, one sit in model, and one inflatable model. All of them have their benefits, but sit on top models just end us being more stable for children.
However, when looking at these types of kayaks, you should ensure that they have scupper holes to drain the water out. This design of kayak also is great for easy entry and exit for children.
Q. Where Is The Best Place To Get A Kayak From?
A. Personally, we would say Amazon, as it offers you a variety of choices without becoming overwhelming. It’s also easier to order online and have it shipped to you than having to buy it in-store and then not being able to fit it in your car.
In our list, we strived to make it so that everyone would find something they liked. There are three types of kayaks on our list, all of which have different sets of features and aesthetics. So, you’re sure to find something for your child. When looking to purchase, you should aim to look for models that you know your child will like, find enjoyable, and can use.
If you have younger children, you might want to just try and stick to the simpler models as they’ll most likely just be learning. For older, or more experienced children, you should look for something that is more advanced or has a lot of features.
Whatever you’re looking for, our top five along with our buying guide and FAQs is sure to find a kayak that is perfect for your child to learn on and have fun on the water. Just remember, your child is growing fast, so try to find something that will grow with them, instead of becoming too small too fast.