Taking your family canoeing is a great outdoor activity, and a wonderful adventure you can enjoy together all year round. Canoeing is a world packed with new skills to learn and adventures to be had, making it an ideal activity to try with your children.
Getting children confident in the water at a young age is good for their lifelong development, and learning to master a canoe by themselves grows their self-confidence and independence. It’s also great fun of course!
So whether you're looking for a way to help your brood become more active, enthuse your youngsters about the great outdoors or even if you're on the lookout for a new family pastime, why not get your kids into canoeing?
Starter Sessions are ideal
Getting your family onto the water is easy, affordable and safe when you follow simple advice. We recommend the first time you go out you do so alongside an experienced expert. Even if you have some experience yourself it can be different when you have your children to think about. Just one day out on the water with an expert can make all the difference and give you confidence-inspiring foundations. Starter Sessions are a perfect way to get out on the water for your first time. They also give you a chance to see what your local club or centre has to offer.
Safety kit and clothing
The most essential piece of kit, which everybody in the family must wear at all times, is a buoyancy aid. These are available in child and junior sizes, but depending on their age and swimming ability, you could also consider a child’s lifejacket. A buoyancy aid keeps you on the surface while allowing you to swim, but a lifejacket keeps you floating on your back, even if unconscious.
Whatever type of buoyancy aid you choose, make sure it is well fitted and comfortable enough to wear all day. It has to be tight enough to allow you to lift the wearer clean out of the water without it being pulled over their head, so experiment on dry land to ensure you’ve achieved this fit. Clubs and centres run a number of starter sessions and courses and they will provide you with all the equipment you need.
Local canoeing retailers will be able to help you with any advice you need on this. If you are just starting out we’d recommend that you get some experience first.
Treat a family paddle as if it were a walk in the countryside. You shouldn’t venture out without extra layers, hats, sun cream or a phone. In the world of paddlesport, this is possibly even more crucial, particularly the extra layers, as getting wet from the splash of a paddle is quite likely. One key difference is to anticipate how much harder you’ll be working than if you were walking, so take plenty snacks to keep energy levels up. Before heading out please ensure you read our canoeing safety advice.
Which boat is best?
It’s important to choose a boat that allows youngsters to participate in the paddling but that you can also pilot on your own. If you want to keep an eye on young children, sharing a boat can be the perfect solution. A 16-foot Canadian canoe is big enough for two adults, two small kids, a dog and a picnic.
Tandem kayaks come with plenty of storage and in two varieties: closed cockpit and sit-on-top. For young kids, sit-on-tops are probably the better option as they are easy to clamber around and there’s no fear of becoming trapped.
Closed cockpit tandem kayaks, which require both paddlers to paddle, are better for older kids as you can cover more distance, widening the scope for adventure. When they're even older, there’s no reason why you can’t all have your own kayak.
Local canoeing retailers will be able to help you with any advice you need on this. If you are just starting out we recommend that you get some experience first. Clubs and centres run a number of starter sessions and courses and they will provide you with all the equipment you need.
Kids love variety and you can take your little ones canoeing almost anywhere, from rivers and lakes to canals and even the sea. With some careful planning you can choose a route that’s as long, short, difficult or easy as you like.
If you have some experience and are confident taking your family out we have a range of different Canoe Trails to inspire you. These vary in distance and level, some trails are there and back again, and others take the form of a loop or horseshoe shape. You could even make them linear, with a ‘shuttle’ vehicle at each end.
For your first try at a family paddle, a short round trip is ideal. It’s always best to assume that a route will take a little longer than you expect, especially if you’re less experienced. If your kids are still of an age where they’re liable to get tired and need a break from paddling, make sure you pace yourself and pick a distance that you’re confident you can comfortably paddle without any input from the little ones!
The more confident and experienced you become as a family, the more adventurous you can be. Always remember that it’s all about having fun, not covering distance. It’s important not to overstretch yourselves and always factor in plenty of time to stop and explore, enjoy a picnic or take in the views. Ensure that you read our basic safety advice and environmental good practice before heading out on your adventure.