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5 Tips for Kayaking with Kids

Try something new this summer by learning to kayak with your kids — we’ve got tips & inspiration for how to get started!  This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Banana Boat® . All details & opinions are mine only.

Every summer, we like to get out and try something new with our kids. 

In my own little world, I have this list of “things I want to experience with my kids before they grow up and won’t be around any more” 🙂 

So each year, I revisit the list and pick something that I think would be fun to try.

Because one of the best parts about family is experiencing something new together!

To inspire you, we’re starting a short summer series on the blog — Outdoor Family Adventures!

My goal is to introduce you to fun and adventurous activities that families will enjoy — hiking, horseback riding, snorkeling and …

today’s feature activity — kayaking!


Tips for Kayaking with Kids


We decided to try kayaking as a family a few years ago and let me tell you, it was an AWESOME hit with the kids!

This is not part of our current $0 Summer series since it does cost a little money but we feel it’s well worth it and have continued to enjoy our boat outings on the weekends and during vacations.

Here’s a few things we learned about kayaking with kids including what to bring, where to rent kayaks and how to get started!  We’re also including affiliate links for items we love to have when we’re on the water too.


Kayaking is slightly different than canoeing.  Kayaks are built for one or two people (so you could easily kayak with a child in the same boat), sit lower in the water and use a double paddle instead of the traditional single-sided paddle that you would use when you canoe.

I’m sure many of you are asking “Where can I find a kayak?”

We’ve rented them at our local county parks (check the marina for boat rentals), at state parks and also from outfitters near rivers and lakes.  The cost is usually between $8 – $12 per half hour if you just want to take a short ride.  Longer rentals are less expensive overall — from $20 for 4 hours to $35 for the day.

My advice would be to find a local park that rents by the hour for your first experience.  Someone at the marina will help you in & out of the kayak, show you how to use the paddle and answer any other questions you might have during your outing.

Some of our tips include:


kayaking with the family

1.  Choose a Small Lake or Cove

This is a biggie folks!

A smaller lake will most likely have a ‘no motorboat’ policy so you can feel comfortable that there won’t be larger boats buzzing past your kayak.

Remember, motor boats cause wakes when they pass so if your kids (or you!) are just learning to kayak, it’s so much easier in calm water.

If you are on a large lake, be sure to practice in a quiet cove area where you can avoid some of the water traffic.

You can see how we ‘pull up’ next to each other — pairing the kayaks front to back — so it’s easy to troubleshoot, pass over a snack or just chat.  This way, no one is turning around in their boat.

And whatever you do, DO NOT head to a river for your first kayak experience — river currents run one way as opposed to a lake where you can easily paddle around and stay with your family.  It’s also harder to pull your kayak over to a river bank and get out (you’ll definitely get your feet wet there).  At most lakes, there will be someone to help you in and out of the kayak at the marina where you are renting.


what to bring when kayaking with kids

2.  Pack Needed Items (and only those!)

Here’s another don’t — DO NOT plan to take your purse in the kayak!


Yea, I’m hoping there will be no tipping (actually, we have yet to tip one of these but I have seen it happen) but every time we go, there’s always water in the bottom of our kayak.

Instead, pack a small (and if possible) waterproof bag with a few things you’ll need: 

  • water bottles — so important to stay hydrated in the sun.
  • sunscreen — I love the mini Banana Boat® products (which are also under 3 oz. so perfect for plane travel too!)
  • a snack — seriously, you’ll be hungry!

We like to bring a piece of fruit and cereal or protein bars so when we take a break from paddling, we can recharge.

And you may want to suggest that everyone leave their phones in the car — nothing sinks faster than a cell phone 😉  If you must bring your phone, be sure you have a waterproof phone case that floats!


using sunscreen when kayaking

3.  Be Sun Smart!

Don’t forget the sunscreen! 

Funny faces are optional 🙂

I really can’t say this enough — you are on the water (which means more reflective rays) and there is rarely any shade when you’re out on the lake. 

As you can see in our other photos, we are getting a LOT of sun!

Before leaving the house, we always apply sunscreen so we are ready when we get to the marina (this is a great idea because the kids are always itching to get in the boat so they are never patient enough to wait and apply sunscreen once we’re there).

And yes, I do use the Banana Boat® Kids sunscreen for all of our faces — it’s tear free and has a high SPF so it’s perfect for the whole family.  Plus it has a nice scent so the kids don’t mind applying it.

Don’t forget to reapply if you’re going to be outside for more than 2 hours and anytime you get wet.


be sure to put sunscreen on your feet!

I’ve also learned to ask — “Do you have sunscreen on your feet?”

We wear flip flops when we kayak or canoe and the tops of your feet can quickly get sunburned (from experience, I can tell you it really stinks when this happens!)

So be sure to apply to the tops of your feet too! 

We like to use the Banana Boat® Sport spray since it goes on easy and is waterproof — our feet always get wet during the trip.

I would also suggest bringing a hat if you are sensitive to the sun — another good layer of protection.  Neither of our kids has ever liked to wear sunglasses so the hat helps to keep the sun out of their eyes too.


kayaking tips for kids

4.  Safety First for Everyone

Everyone should have a life jacket no matter how well you know the lake or river — and no matter what your age!

If you rent a kayak, life jackets are provided for each person along with paddles. If you have your own kayaks, be sure to also have life jackets for kids with you!

Kids should ALWAYS wear their life jackets even if they are great swimmers.  You never know when the current will be too strong and no one should underestimate Mother Nature.

My husband and I usually have our life jackets secured around our waist if we’re on the lake.  When we’re on a river, we wear them since the currents are moving much faster.

I always feel a ton better knowing that if the boat does happen to tip, at least the kids will float!


kayaking with kids

5.  Give Kids Some Room

One of the things my kids enjoy the most about kayaking is being able to do it on their own. 

As my son has told me — “It’s like family time only we don’t all have to be near each other all the time!”

I get that — especially with tweens and teens who need their own space.

If your kids are old enough, let them take our their own kayak.  It’s easy to stick together even if you’re not in the same boat and it’s great exercise!


kayaking with teens

And sometimes they may just want to sit and chill once you reach your destination.

That’s what it’s all about — enjoying your time together!


What outdoor adventures does your family enjoy during summer?


More Outdoor Adventures:

7 Tips for Great Family Hikes

National Park Adventures for Kids

30 Games to Play at the Park