If you’re a family that loves being out on the water, it may be time to consider getting your child their own kayak. Not only are they a ton of fun, but they’ll help your child build confidence and gross motor skills. Plus, they’ll get you all outdoors and away from screens for a little while!
There are plenty of options on the market, but I’ve gathered the 7 best kayaks for kids who want to start paddling on their own.
Why it’s great: This is the perfect beginner kayak for kids at an affordable price. Lifetime uses high-density polyethylene to construct this kayak, which is lightweight, as well as sturdy, and durable. This kayak only weighs 18 pounds, making it easier for kids to pull and carry as needed. The hull design is flip-resistant and it has a reverse chine for added stability, making this a safer choice for younger kids. It also has a twin fin design that makes tracking easier, assisting beginners in maneuvering the boat. It has an ergonomic design and multiple molded footrests for positioning. Plus, it has a rear swim-up deck, a paddle cradle, and molded finger handles on the side.
Keep in mind: This one doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles, such as a seatback, drink holder, etc.
Good for: Kids who need a durable, beginner kayak.
Why it’s great: This youth kayak is perfectly sized for kids ages 5-12 years old and comes with an aluminum, kid-sized paddle. It has molded footrests for different-sized paddlers and an ergonomic padded backrest for added comfort. It has self-bailing holes and a drain plug to prevent flooding. There’s storage space at the front and a rear swim-up for easy on and off. It also features a bottle holder, molded side handles, and a paddle park to hold the paddle when not in use. It has a twin tunnel hull which provides better stability and allows kids to easily maneuver and steer the boat.
Keep in mind: This comes in three different colors, which are all different prices, so make sure you figure out what’s more important to you before you make your purchase.
Good for: Kids who want a comfortable, sit-on-top kayak.
Why it’s great: This kayak is perfectly sized for kids ages 5-12 and has multiple molded footrests for better positioning. It has a detachable, collapsible seat back, so your child will have lumbar support when needed and extra space when they don’t. It also has a rear mesh storage bag, a storage bin with a bungee cord at the front, and a built-in water bottle holder. It has front and side handles for easy transport and even has wheels at the back to make it easier for kids to roll. It’s made of odor-free and non-toxic HDPE material that’s durable and corrosion resistant, so it’ll last as long as your child needs it to.
Keep in mind: This one is pricey, but it’s great quality and has a couple of extra features the others don’t.
Good for: Kids who want a high-quality kayak of their own.
Why it’s great: This kayak is perfect for kids who love both kayaking and paddleboarding. It’s sturdy and stable enough for your child to do either, with a large front deck for standing. It also has an elevated seat that makes paddling easy while seated. The rear has a swim-up deck that makes climbing on board easy and it’s large enough that it could also be used for storage. This kayak can hold up to 120 pounds and comes in two vibrant color options. It weighs only 21 pounds and has a hitch at the front, so you can tether it to your own boat for towing if necessary. It’s suitable for kids ages 5-14, depending on their size, and comes with a perfectly sized paddle for small hands.
Keep in mind: While this says it’s suitable up to age 14, taller kids won’t have quite enough legroom, so it’s best for kids 5-10 years old.
Good for: Younger kids who want to be able to paddle sitting or standing.
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Why it’s great: This is another high-quality option from Lifetime. The Lotus is an adult-sized sit-on-top kayak with multiple footrest positions for different-sized paddlers. It has an adjustable, quick-release seat back for added comfort and storage space in the back with a bungee cord to secure it. It also has a handle on the front and back to carry it to and from the water. It’s made of polyethylene, which is sturdy and durable. It’s also fairly lightweight for its size, at 38 pounds, and can hold up to 250 pounds.
Keep in mind: This is an adult kayak, so it’s best for kids ages 12 and up.
Good for: Older kids who are ready for their own, high-quality kayak.
Why it’s great: This inflatable kayak is extremely affordable and comes with a manual air pump and an aluminum oar. It has a comfortable seat with a backrest and a spacious cockpit for your child’s legs. It has a cargo net for storage and a grab line on the front and back for carrying. It’s made of durable welded material and I-beam floors for added stability. It also has a removable skeg, which provides exceptional directional movement, making it easy for kids to steer.
Keep in mind: This is an adult kayak and is best for kids ages 12 and up.
Good for: Older kids who are ready for a bigger kayak.
Why it’s great: If you’re not ready to let your child go out on their own, this tandem kayak is a great choice. You and your child can ride together and you can start to teach your child how to paddle. With your child in front of you, you can keep a watchful eye on them and make sure they understand the basics. You’ll be able to enjoy being out on the water with them. This kayak is inflatable and has two comfortable seats with backrests. Its bright yellow color is easy to spot in case of emergency, and it has a handle at the front and back for easier carrying. It’s lightweight and spacious enough for two with a weight limit of 400 pounds.
Keep in mind: This kayak was designed for smaller bodies of water such as lakes or mild rivers.
Good for: Parents who aren’t ready to let their kids kayak on their own.
The recommended age is at least five years old. At this age, they can start learning to paddle and go short distances on a child-sized kayak.
2. What distances are safe for kids to kayak?
This varies based on the age and skill of your child. Kids 5-7 years old should only paddle short distances, up to a quarter of a mile. At 7-9 years old that distance increases to a half of a mile and at 9-11 years old up to a mile. Once your child reaches 12, they can start to transition to adult-sized kayaks and paddle as long as they feel comfortable.
3. Are sit-on-top or sit-in kayaks better for kids?
Sit on top kayaks are the better choice for kids. They won’t fill up with water if they capsize and they’re easier for kids to get in and out. Plus, they’re usually easier for younger kids to maneuver.
4. Is a single or tandem kayak better for kids?
Tandem kayaks are a great choice for kids and parents to use together. Kids should always sit in the front seat. This allows parents to steer and keep an eye on their children. However, single kayaks are fine for kids as long as they’re child-sized and age-appropriate.
5. Is kayaking safe for kids?
Kids under 12 years old should only kayak on calm waters, such as a lake or ocean, not rapids. Also, teach your child safety precautions, like how to get in and out of the kayak if it capsizes. Make sure your child is wearing a life vest and keep an eye on them while they’re out on their own.
There’s nothing better than being out on the water. Whether you’re tandem kayaking or letting your child paddle their own boat, finding the right kayak doesn’t have to be a challenge. Youth-sized kayaks are designed for kids’ safety and to allow them to easily steer and paddle all by themselves.
With a range of prices and styles, you’re sure to find something on this list that’ll suit your child’s needs.