Updated: January 2021
Kayaking is a great activity for adults and kids alike.
However, because of their smaller size and lower weight, most kids won’t be able to handle a regular-sized kayak. The good news is that there are lots of kid-sized kayaks available, which are designed to make kayaking much more child friendly.
Of course, there is nothing to stop you putting your child in a tandem or even on the front of your sit-up kayak, but most kids will eventually graduate to wanting a ‘yak of their own.
Like adults, paddling kids should always wear a personal floatation device and, for safety, should not go out without adult supervision. But, if you’d like to make kayaking a family affair, it’s time to think about getting the best kayak for kids.
Not sure where to start? Here are three of our favorite kid-friendly kayaks.
1. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak
This kid’s kayak is ideal for smaller, lighter paddlers up to 130 lbs. in weight. Made from tough high-density polyethylene, it will stand up to whatever youthful adventures your kid puts it through. Light, easy to handle, and all but unsinkable, this is an excellent sit-on kayak for kids.
- 6-feet long x 24-inches wide
- Weighs 18 lbs.
- Maximum user weight 130 lbs.
- Swim-up deck
- Self-bailing scupper holes
- Impact-resistant construction
- Tri-hull design for straighter tracking and increased stability
- Paddle included
- Multiple footrests
- Molded side carry handles and rope toggle handle on the nose
The standout feature of this kid’s kayak is the swim-up deck at the rear. Kids love to play in the water, and this design means they can quickly get back on board their kayak because the tail is lowered and level with the waterline. This should also inspire confidence as they’ll soon learn that getting back on their kayak after falling in is very easy.
- Light and maneuverable
- Good price point
- Easy to transport and use
- Rugged design – it’s built to last
- Ready to paddle
- Non-fade color
- Virtually unsinkable construction
- Only available in blue
This sturdy, stable sit-on kayak is ideal for adventurous kids looking to try paddling on their own. It’s light and compact, making it easy to handle, but still robust enough for serious use. It comes complete with a paddle, so all you need is a personal flotation device, and you are ready to hit the water.
2. Old Town Heron Junior Kids Kayak
This kayak for kids is a sit-in model with a large cockpit opening, which makes it easy to get in and out of. Shaped to fit a child’s body, it’s compact and stable, and very easy to handle. It is buoyant enough to support users weighing up to 115 pounds, so it’s suitable for a range of ages – from very young up to smaller teenagers. Its brightly colored design is very kid-friendly, and you’ll also be able to see it easily from a distance for supervision and safety.
- 7’ 5” length x 25” wide
- 26 lbs. weight
- Maximum user weight 115 lbs.
- Easy-access cockpit
- Molded seat with padded backrest
- Molded carry handles forward and aft
- Spray deck compatible
- Built-in towline
This sit-in kid-friendly boat looks and feels just like a real kayak. Made from lightweight single-layer polyethylene, it’s easy to handle, and is quick and agile enough to keep even experienced child paddlers amused. It is also compact enough for easy transport. The towing feature is useful should you need to bring your tired child back to shore after a long day playing on the water.
- Strong and stable design
- Looks and handles like a full-sized sit-in kayak
- Large cockpit to help build confidence
- Plenty of space to accommodate a growing child
- Quite expensive
- Paddle not supplied
Compared to sit-on kayaks, sit-in kayaks can be a little intimidating, especially to new paddlers. The large open cockpit on this kayak means it’s easy to get in and out of, and the user won’t feel restricted or claustrophobic. This makes it the ideal first kayak for a child who may be interested in taking their paddling a little more seriously in the future.
3. The Best Kids Kayak – Intex Challenger K1
Kayaks designed for kids are shorter and lighter than most adult kayaks but, even so, they can be a challenge to transport. At six feet or more in length, a kid’s kayak won’t fit in your trunk, so you’ll need a roof rack or a trailer to get it from home to the water. That is unless you buy an inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks deflate and pack down to the size of a small backpack, making them super-easy to transport. The Intex Challenger K1 inflatable kayak is the perfect size for kids of all ages as well as small adults.
- Semi-open cockpit for easy access
- Supplied with an 84-inch aluminum oar, repair patch, carry bag and a manual hand pump
- Rugged vinyl construction with welded seams
- 9’ long x 30” wide
- Weighs 27.2 lbs.
- 220 lbs. weight capacity
- Large forward storage area with cargo net
- Dual air chambers for buoyancy and I-beam for increased rigidity
- Removable fin for straighter tracking
- Removable, adjustable seat
- Side grab lines/handles
Ready for the water in less than 10 minutes, this inflatable kayak is ideal for anyone who wants to stay close to shore and doesn’t want to have to transport or store a rigid kayak. For the price, it’s quite stable and should provide kids of all ages with a fun day out on calm water during good weather.
- Very portable
- Easy to set up
- Durable and stable
- Easy too paddle
- Quite maneuverable
- Excellent price point
- Ideal for kids
- The paddle is quite light and flimsy
- Could puncture on sharp rocks or with careless handling
- Not suitable for use in bad weather or on rough water
A lot of paddling purists are very quick to dismiss inflatable kayaks as nothing more than toys. And while this kayak is definitely only suitable for recreational use, it’s still a “real” kayak. Light, portable, easy to use, it’s also cheap enough that if you have more than one kid, it won’t break the bank to buy them one each! All in all, this inflatable kayak is not just a bargain, it also provides a very convenient way to get your kids out on the water.
Conclusion: Picking A Kids Kayak in 2021
Most kids enjoy playing in and on the water. That makes kayaking an ideal activity for your children. However, kayaks designed for adults are usually too big, too heavy, and too expensive for most kids. After all, you don’t want your child paddling over rocks in your expensive carbon-fiber touring ‘yak, do you?! The best kayaks for kids are designed to be rugged enough to stand up to the abuse that comes with being used by a child. They’re also smaller, lighter, and easier to handle.
Whether you choose a sit on, sit in, or inflatable kayak, you can be sure that your kids will love being out on the water. However, because of the risk of capsizing and drowning, make sure your child always paddles within sight of an adult and wears a personal floatation device. Kayaking IS a very safe pastime, but it pays to be prepared and expect the unexpected. With that warning out of the way, you and your child are free to enjoy a great day of paddling.