Being out on the water is such a fun activity. And what better way to get your kids playing in the water than to let them have their own kayak? Not only will they be able to play close to the shore while you’re watching them, you can also go out on kayak trips with them.
And getting a kids kayak for your child allows them to have a sense of independence while staying comfortable in a kayak that fits them! These kayaking trips are sure to be filled with memories to look back on for years to come.
In a hurry? Check out our 5 favorite youth kayak choices.
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5 Best Kayaks for Kids
- Pelican Solo 6′ Sit on Top Youth Kayak – Best for younger children
- Perception Hi Five Kids Kayak – Best kayak for older children
- Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak – Best budget kayak
- Intex Challenger Kayak – Best inflatable kayak
- Goplus 6′ Youth Kayak – Best sit on top kayak
- Bonus: Perception Hi Five Kids Paddle – Best kid kayak paddle
Why Use a Kids Kayak?
It might seem like a waste to not just get an adult sized kayak that you can also use, or your child can grow into! But kayaks are different shapes and sizes, so it’s going to be easier for young paddlers to have a kayak that fits them.
If they’re constantly struggling to reach the water with their paddle, or keep getting off balanced in a kayak and falling out, they aren’t going to want to keep kayaking! And youth kayaks are made to be more stable, and narrower so they can easily paddle.
Choosing the Best Kayak for Kids: A Buying Guide
When looking for the best kayaks for kids, there are a few considerations to take into account! There are a some major differences between adult and child sized kayaks, and these differences are important to making kayaking fun for your kids!
Kids kayaks have some similarities to beginner kayaks, as they are made to balance in the water better, and are easier to get into than some adult kayaks.
You also want to make sure that, while picking a smaller kayak for your child, that it’s one they can use multiple seasons!
Let’s look closer into some of what to look for when purchasing a youth kayak!
Kayak Width & Other Stability Features
As with trying everything for the first time, there’s a lot of learning and bound to be some mistakes made. That’s why looking for a kayak that has a wider base alongside other stability features like a flat bottom will be easier for your kid to stay stable in.
These are going to be slower in the water, but it’s better to be slow on a kayak in the water as a beginner as opposed to being a slow kayaker because you’re having to constantly get back in the boat after you’ve fallen out!
Balance will come with time, but having a starter kayak for kids being extra stable is a good thing to look for.
Length: Shorter Is More Kid-Friendly
While kayaks are generally long, you do want a shorter one for your child. Especially having the hull of the kayak be shorter will be easier for a young paddler. If it’s too long, it’s going to be difficult to maneuver. If it’s too short, it’s also going to be more difficult to move through the water.
While you’re not looking for an extremely short kayak for your child, look for one that’s smaller than an adult sized. Having the kayak’s hull the right length for your child is going to make it a lot easier for them to turn and move through the water.
Weight (And Sometimes Height) Ratings
One of the features to pay the most attention to when choosing kids kayaks is the weight ratings. You really don’t want to buy a kayak and then find out that your child has grown out of it before even hitting the water.
There are sometimes height ratings associated with kayaks, especially if they don’t have adjustable leg rests or seats to look out for as well.
Make sure to pay attention to these weight capacity and height ratings before buying so that you can use the same kayak for a few seasons instead of your child outgrowing their kayak in the next month!
Looking at weight ratings can be helpful because it will narrow down your search for the best kids kayak quickly, since you don’t need to bother even looking at the kayaks that don’t fit your child’s weight range.
Another important thing to look at when choosing a youth kayak is if it’s one your child can grow into, while still fitting it well now. Kayaks aren’t really something you want to have too big, or else it won’t be fun to kayak, but you don’t want to be buying a new one each year.
That’s why it’s a good idea to look for kayaks with an adjustable backrest, and multiple footrest positions. This way your child can fit comfortably multiple years in a row in a kayak that changes size with them.
Some other helpful things to look for when choosing a kayak is what else it comes with! Or other features of the kayak that makes you know it’s the right kayak for your child. Most kayaks come with a paddle included, but that’s good to know when you’re buying the kayak.
Seeing what kind of carry handles the kayak has is a good thing to check, to make sure it’s easily portable or find out if it’s going to be something you carry awkwardly, or even need to get a kayak cart.
Not all kayaks come with storage space either! This is something you may want to look into, if you think your child should have some of their items on their boat.
Having a water bottle holder or somewhere to put a water bottle is another important feature to look for on kayaks.
If you’re looking at kayaks for kids, it’s important to talk about safety at the same time. There are some precautions to have to ensure your trip is fun and safe!
Personal flotation device (PFD)
A PFD, or a life jacket, is a must when kayaking, especially for kayaking with kids. Remember that these have to keep your child’s head above water for emergencies. That means making sure you get the right kind of PFD, as well as one that fits correctly.
For younger children, some have straps that go around the crotch, to make sure it stays in place and doesn’t ride up or slip over the head.
Tip: Look for PFDs that can be adjusted on the sides and shoulders to make sure it fits correctly and can be adjusted as your child grows.
Being out on the water, it can get hot. That’s why having easy access to a water bottle on the kayak for your child is a must. It’s important they stay hydrated, and have plenty of fluids available to them.
It takes a lot of work to paddle a kayak, and it’s just going to harder for your child to paddle if they’re thirsty.
Sun protection is another must for while you’re kayaking. This includes hats, sunscreen, sunglasses and maybe even long sleeve shirts that are UPF 50+. The glare coming off the water just makes it easier to burn, so you really need to keep your child protected from the glare of the sun.
You may also be interested in: What to wear kayaking
If you’re going on an adventure with your child while kayaking, having a tow rope is a great idea. This way, if they wear out, you can attach your boat to theirs and just tow them along.
Kids are likely to wear out fast on a day of kayaking, so it’s best to have an option for them to take a break from paddling and not just be stuck in the middle of the lake far away from a beach.
This is something else to look for while looking at kids kayaks, because not all of them will have a tow system.
Now that we’ve discussed what to look for when choosing a kayak and safety precautions, let’s look closer at the 5 best youth kayaks!
A Closer Look At The 5 Best Youth Kayaks
Pelican Solo 6′ Sit on Top Kayak – Best For Younger Children
- Age Rec: 5+
- Weight Limit: 100lbs
- Length: 6 ft
- Kayak Weight: 19lbs
This Pelican Solo 6′ Sit on Top Kayak is the best first kayak your child could have. It’s made for children ages 5 and up, and has kids in mind with the design of this kayak.
It’s easy to get in and out of with a swim up rear deck, and is easy to stay afloat with all of it’s features for stability. This also has foot rests to keep comfortable and stable while in the kayak.
To keep your kids safe on the water, this kayak is self bailing (has holes in it so water will just drain out), comes with a safety flag for easy visibility on the water, and has a water bottle holder.
Best of all, this kids kayak comes with a 2 year warranty, in case anything happens to go wrong with it.
- Made for stability and speed with a twin tunnel hull
- Has a cushioned backrest
- Sometimes paddle does not come with the kayak
- Might be too narrow
Perception Hi Five Sit On Top Kids Kayak – Best Kayak for Older Children
- Age Rec: 5-14 years
- Weight Limit: 120lbs
- Length: 6ft 6in
- Kayak Weight: 25lbs
The Perception Hi Five Sit on Top Kids Kayak is a great choice if you’re looking for a kayak for older kids. This will fit up to about 14 years old, (after that it’s best to look at adult kayaks), and is easy to paddle and get on to.
One of the coolest features of this kayak is that it can double as a paddle board, as your child can stand up and paddle on it. So you’re not just getting a kayak, you’re getting two water sports.
If you’re out far away in the water, this boat has a spot a mount can be placed, so you can tow them if they get tired or you just want to kayak together.
This comes with a paddle, and there are multiple footrests depending on what’s most comfortable for your child.
- Has rear swim-up deck for easy getting in and out of the boat
- Can double as a paddle board
- For calm waters only
- Color doesn’t always match the description
Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak – Best Budget Kayak
- Age Rec: 5+
- Weight Limit: 130lbs
- Length: 6ft
- Kayak Weight: 18lbs
This lifetime youth wave kayak is the best youth kayak if you’re looking for a cheaper option. This is a reasonably priced kayak that’s great for kids. It’s one of the most common kayaks for kids, as it’s so easily accessible from many different stores, and is just a great kayak all around.
It comes in many colors to choose from, and is a great choice for your kid to have their own boat! They can easily work on their paddling skills in this kayak that’s made to last them multiple years.
It has multiple footrests, a swim up step in the back, and is wide for stability. It’s hard to see why this isn’t one of the best kayaks for kids to use over and over again.
This has scupper holes for easy drainage as well, in case water gets into the kayak. And there’s a paddle included. Now all you have to get are life jackets!
- Made of UV resistant material
- Finger handles on either side for easy to carry
- Does not have a seat back or pad
Intex Challenger Kayak – Best Inflatable Kayak
- Age Rec: 10+
- Weight Limit: 220lbs
- Length: 9ft
- Kayak Weight: 25lbs
Definitely the longest kayak on this list, the Intex Challenger Kayak is another great option. While it is actually an adult kayak, it’s on the smaller side, making it work for kids too. This is an extremely portable option, since it’s inflatable.
This is more of a sit inside design than the others on this list. It has a removable skeg, so you can choose to have that help guide the kayak in the water or not. This is a good choice for older kids, as it’s a larger compared to the others.
It does have a paddle included, but again, this might be too big for younger kids. But for an easy option to bring with you that’s also relatively cheap, the Intex Challenger is a great choice.
- Good for older kids or even adults
- Sit inside kayak
- Harder to balance
Goplus 6′ Youth Kids Kayak – Best Sit On Top Kayak
- Age Rec: 5+
- Weight Limit: 100lbs (or around)
- Length: 6ft
- Kayak Weight: 22lbs
This Goplus Youth Kids Kayak is a great option for a kayak for kids. It’s got multiple footrest positions, so your child can grow into it and still sit comfortably, as well as it has a comfortable backrest.
Of all of the options on this list, this is the only one with storage space. It has a mesh covered area in the back, as well as a spot up front to hold a few items. It also has space to put a water bottle between the legs.
The shape of this boat was made for stability and safety, having a wide base so it won’t tip over easily. It also has 3 carry handles, to easily get it to and from the car.
Your child is sure to have a great kayaking experience in this comfortable boat on small lakes or other calm waters.
- Ample storage
- Kayak designed for stability
- No real swim up back deck
Perception Hi Five Kids Paddle – Best Kayak Paddle for Kids
If you want a different paddle than the one that comes with the kayak, whether it’s the wrong size or you’re not sure how comfortable it’ll be, the Perception Hi Five Kids Paddle is a great option.
It’s lightweight, easy to hold, and is narrower for smaller kids hands to go around. The angle of the paddles can also be adjusted.
What age is a youth kayak for?
While each kayak will have different recommendations, most of these are for 5 or 6 years and up. This is when it’s easiest for them to kayak on their own, and any younger than this the kayaks will be too big.
Once your child is a teenager, you might want to start looking at adult kayaks to fit better than a youth kayak.
What size kayak does a kid need?
Most children’s kayaks start at 6 feet long, and are between 6-8 feet long. These are the easiest to handle and are going to be the most stable for them.
You also want to look at either sit on top or shorter kayaks so that they can reach across the boat and actually touch the paddle into the water.
Can a 6 year old kayak?
Most of these kayaks are made for 6 years and up, so they can definitely kayak! If you’re concerned, try renting a kayak before making the decision to purchase one.
Or choose an inexpensive one to try out like the Lifetime Kayak.
Can you kayak with a 2 year old?
If you’re looking to kayak with a 2 year old, it’s better to look at tandem kayaks or kayaks that have special seats for children to kayak alongside you. None of the kayaks listed above are suggested for 2 year olds.
Just make sure that they do wear a life vest if you do take them out on the water.
Can an adult fit in a youth kayak?
While the price range of youth kayaks is appealing, especially compared to adult kayaks, they aren’t made to fit an adult.
You’re likely to be over the weight limit, or it’ll be very uncomfortable at least, with the foot rests and backrest in the wrong position, making you have to scrunch up. Try looking at these kayaks for under $200 instead.
Kids Kayaks Takeaways
The most important things to think about when choosing kids kayaks is to make sure it’ll fit your child! Make sure the weight capacity is right, and that your child can have fun in it.
Now it’s time to choose which is the best kids kayak for your children!