Tips for Paddling with Your Kids

By Andrew S. / Great Miami Outfitters

I like to get our kids active and outdoors to enjoy the same things I enjoy. Even from an early ages (3 and 5) my wife and I took the kids on a wilderness canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. This was a family trip, and was planned accordingly. We learned a lot from this trip that would apply to multi-day trips as well as a short day outing, so I thought I would share a few tips:

1. Expectations & Planning
 Don’t expect to travel as far or as long if it was just you. Think like a kid and plan accordingly. Keep in mind you want this to be fun for everyone, not a tedious task.

2. Safety
 Know the waters that you are getting into with the worst case scenario in mind. For example, if you swamp your canoe make sure you have the ability to get to safety or re-enter your canoe holding on to your children. Most cases it would be you doing it one handed. Make sure EVERYONE (that includes you) have a properly fitted life jacket on at ALL times. Life jackets can be purchased for infants and children – they are based on the child’s weight. So remember: Calm waters close to shore. Lifejackets on and ready!

3. Play Time
 More play time and less paddling time is key. Kids don’t have a long span of attention and need to be engaged. So not only having some ‘water’ toys in the canoe for the kids to play with but being able to take breaks and let them get out and explore. Use those on-land stops to have some fun… play in the mud or sand or build a stick house. Collect some leaves, find bugs, etc. You get the picture… make it FUN! Toys and a mat of some sorts for them to be able to relax, be comfortable, play or whatever in the canoe.

4. Let the kids paddle
 Of course your kids want to do what you are doing. To start, get a 2 or 3 foot dowel rod from the hardware store. Let them us it to “paddle.” They’ll think they are helping and in reality it won’t hinder you from your paddle strokes. Plus if they lose the dowel rod you are only out a few bucks. Once they get older, get a child size paddle. They will love it!

5. Snacks & Naps
 I feel like these are two of the ‘grumpy’ times, so planning your adventure with a fresh well-rested kid and maybe in between naps makes it a lot of fun. And having the snacks ready to go in individual servings makes it a lot easier for you and them. So this probably means that your time out is less but it just increases more and more the older they get!

Have fun and enjoy your family time!


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