Can Toddlers Go Canoeing? How Old Your Toddler Must Be?

Photo Credit: Anne Nygard/Unsplash

Almost from the beginning of civilization, there have been canoes. And from that time up to the present, there has always been some kid that wanted to paddle with their dad or mom. This is often bitter-sweet as it can cramp your paddling a bit but it also encourages us that one day we’ll have a competent paddling buddy in our offspring. Here are some guidelines to help you bring your toddlers along while canoeing and to begin to train them into little paddlers.

The Prerequisites of Canoeing with Your Child

A consideration for many paddlers is the point when you should consider taking your child canoeing with you. In making this decision safety needs to be the main concern. There are three prerequisites I put forth in order to safely take your young child or toddler canoeing. First, they must be able to swim. Second, your child must be wearing a PFD. Third, you should only canoe in protected bodies of water with your young child or toddler.

The question I get sometimes is why they need to be able to swim if they are wearing a PFD. I guess this is a matter of what you are comfortable with, but I wouldn’t compromise this point. Chances are that a child who cannot swim will also not be able to float upright or deal with the instability of a PFD without aid in the water. Remember, you’re protecting against a worst-case scenario. If you capsize your canoe and in the process, you get knocked out or separated from your child, you need to be absolutely certain that they will be able to float face up and maneuver themselves back to the canoe or the shore.

How to Canoe with a Toddler

I would take any child that satisfies the 3 conditions above without hesitation. This means children as young as age 3 will probably be fine to canoe with. It is my belief that we should get our youth interested and involved in paddling as young as possible so that it becomes a part of them and they are comfortable in, on, and around water. Of course, we don’t want to force our passion for canoeing on our children so it is imperative we are sensitive to the signs they give us when paddling.

Put the PFD on your Toddler while still on shore. If there is someone who can help you, get in the canoe and situated first. Then place the little guy or gal in the front of the canoe. If you’re alone with your child, then you’ll probably place them in the boat first and get in afterward. Explain to your child not to lean over to the edge.

Be sure to give them a canoe paddle to use. I know this might sound crazy at first. But remember you want them to feel comfortable and a part of it. So show them how to hold the canoe paddle and let them put the paddle in the water. Of course, they will be fighting against you as you’re trying to paddle, but this time is for them and not you. The truth is their attention for “helping” will only last so long and then they’ll let you chauffer them around. I would even recommend buying your toddler a small paddle that is lighter, smaller, and thinner. These are usually inexpensive and don’t even have to be canoe paddles per se.

Have Fun!

While at times it can be frustrating with all that’s involved in taking your kid canoeing. Remember why you’re doing it. Enjoy your time with your youngster. It won’t be long before they’re all grown up and you’ll hope for these times once again. So have fun when canoeing with your toddler!