Let’s face it: the attention span of a typical prepubescent child is normally akin to a firework on Guy Fawkes Night… A burst of energy with a huge amount of fizz, but fleeting and short lived. If you’re thinking about kayaking with kids & you’re an enthusiastic family-focused parent who loves nothing better than a float about on the briny, how do you convince your kids to get involved with your favourite sport sit on kayaking?
Inland waterways V Coast
With the British Isles having abundant access to water, siton kayaking is the perfect watersport to get the whole family into. It’s easy to learn, with a degree of effort, and relatively safe for kids if you use a suitable sit on kayak and a bit of common sense. You could undertake serene paddling sojourns along canals and rivers, or for the more adventurous trips to the coast with the option of taking on the might of sea born swells (although not too fierce – you don’t want to scare the living daylights out of your child!). Whichever water based environment you choose, a sit on kayak is the perfect craft for taking those tentative first steps. With no way of being trapped inside the cockpit if your kayak should tip over, the humble sit on is a great confidence inspiring bit of kit. Flat water locations are spot on for learning and this is where the UK’s many canals and rivers come into their own. Make sure you check access/launching laws though before ‘dropping in’ as some areas may require permits or a launch fee may be enforced.
Coaching for all levels is a good thing and ‘every day’s a school day’. With plenty of new skills to glean, having the unbroken attention of a BCU qualified kayak instructor is one of the quickest ways to absorb new information and then apply it to your paddling, improving as you do so. It may therefore be worth paying for some entry level kayak tuition for your children. BCU (British Canoe Union) recognised teaching establishments are reputable and adhere to strict teaching guide lines which should instill confidence when searching for a suitable venue with coaching on offer. The BCU website has a good list of recognised centres. You’ll find many watersports schools offer kids-focused lessons through the summer where they’ll be able to interact with other like minded wee ones. This keeps the scenario pressure free with no interference from adults. Without Mum and Dad getting in the way, offspring are more likely to take to the sport in its early stages – which is good news for you later down the line. Kayak coaches are trained to handle all parts of a child’s kayaking journey with a deft hand – the onus is then removed from you as a parent/teacher, allowing for a quieter life with less inter-family arguments! Some schools offer residential camps through summer holidays – this could be a great option for getting your little one into kayaking and other watersports.
Keep it Fun!
If you succeed in getting your child out for a paddle then try and keep the whole session light hearted and fun. Forget trying to beast them into enjoying your demented marathon paddling antics; instead focus on shorter kayaking times, possibly with some games thrown in at various intervals. Stop off regularly for top ups of refreshments and energy bar boosters. Make sure you keep an eye on temperatures, watching out for your kids getting too cold. Children cool down a lot quicker than adults so it’s worth keeping tabs on how they’re feeling.
Pick your times
Your kids won’t thank you for dragging them out paddling during bouts of awful weather. Just because you happen to enjoy paddling in the pouring rain doesn’t mean everyone else will. Keep an eye on your local weather forecast and when a sunny, warm day pops onto the radar then it’s time to get your children involved. Make sure you also give yourself enough time. Plan your route but don’t be afraid to change your plans if the going is slow. Children are never going to be as powerful paddlers as adults and therefore your journey times could end up being longer than you anticipate.
Location, location, location
When choosing where to head for you family kayaking exploits, be sure to pick your spot carefully. Don’t choose any type of location that’s going to scare your kids half to death – the last thing you want to do is put them off paddling for life. As much as you enjoy charging your local big wave surf spot, this is probably not the right place to take your children. Kayaking should be a fun experience and not something that involves the RNLI rescue services being called out. For more inspiration of where to head for your paddling exploits then there are some funky little guides on our Places to Kayak section.
School’s out for Summer
You may have to face up to the fact that it’s only going to be during the summer months (and in particular the warmest of days) that you manage to entice you kids onto the water. This isn’t a problem though and parents need to be patient. Encouraging your kids at every turn while drip feeding them experience, knowledge and enthusiasm (in a non-overbearing way!) is how you’ll get them to stick with kayaking for the long haul. It might not be until they’re in their teens that they decide to take up the sport full time. That’s when you as a parent should watch as they’ll be kicking you into touch on a daily basis! For the early stages of you childrens’ kayak development, enjoy those long (hopefully) hot sunny days at the beach or next to the river. Your sit on kayak should be treated as an added toy to take with you during trips – one that may or may not be used. With a gentle approach and lots of encouragement, who knows? Perhaps you’ll end up with the next Olympic kayaking champion on your hands…