Paddling with Kids

Over the last several weeks I have received several calls concerning paddling with younger kids. Here are a couple of ideas for you. What age you wish to start them at is totally up to you. Mine both started around two.

The first and most important thing we need to consider with kids is safety. For me this breaks down into two parts. Common sense and a good life jacket. Unfortunately for the human race you cannot buy common sense, but for around $30 you can purchase a quality childs P.F.D. When choosing a P.F.D. there are 3 things to consider. #1 it should be comfortable, #2 it should fit snugly, and #3 it should come equipped with legs straps to keep it from slipping off and a collar to keep your child floating with his/her face out of the water. When paddling with kids give some thought to your trip. Remember that the younger the child the shorter their attention span. Start with short excursions to see how things shake down. Pay attention to the weather and proper clothing. On hot days protect them from the sun. It is real simple to attach an umbrella to a canoe thwart. On colder days remember that they are (hopefully) sitting still in the canoe and won't be generating heat as you will be while paddling.

Now that you have your bundle of canned energy in the canoe what do you do. Basically nothing. Let them go and have fun. Hopefully you picked a nice warm sunny day so if they happed to get wet it is no big deal. Kids love to splash in the water so let them hang over the side and drag their hands in it. Better yet give them their own paddle to experiment with, or even a stick of wood. What happens if they fall overboard? So what, drag them back in, shake them off, and if they had fun let them jump in again. If this is too liberal an approach for you, try keeping them in front of the bow seat . This area forms a natural playpen and is much narrower allowing them to reach into the water without upsetting the boat as much as if they were in the center. Behind the stern seat works well too. In fact this is still my 7 year olds favorite spot. He sits up on the deck and steers the canoe for me along with getting a great view from being up so high. If you happen to have a relatively calm child try putting an inner tube in the center of the canoe for them to sit in. It can also be used to tow them behind the canoe if you desire.

kids in a canoe

To keep things interesting use your imagination and be a little goofy. We like to look at logs and rocks pretending they are alligators and dinosaurs. Paddle in circles or forward and reverse changing direction quickly making the canoe jump around. Set up your own slalom course around stumps and rocks remembering the consequences if there is a current and you screw up. A side benefit to all this erratic paddling is that you will learn to handle your canoe better. Don't forget it is not against the law to just sit and drift with the wind or current as long as you keep at least one eye on where you are going. When you stop at a nice sandy spot for lunch, drag you canoe up on the beach and use it as a playpen for those real young ones. It is almost impossible for them to crawl out of and they love to run around in it. It works just as well in your back yard while you mow the lawn. Just take a minute to check out under the seats and in the ends for anything sharp that might be a hazard. Until next time, HAPPY PADDLING.

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