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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Kayaks for Kids (Fun & Safe)

Choose from affordable options to keep your kids stable and safe while kayaking.

by PITeam

Buyers Guide & Information

Best Kayaks for Kids (Fun & Safe)

Choose from affordable options to keep your kids stable and safe while kayaking.

by PITeam

by PITeam

Spending time out on the water as a family has its perks, especially if kayaking is your family activity of choice. Not only is it a great way to explore the great outdoors together, but teaching your kids to kayak from a young age teaches vital water safety skills. And let’s not forget that kayaking is a fun activity for the whole family.

Some family kayakers choose to invest in full-size tandem kayaks so that the kiddos can ride along in the same boat. The best way to do it, though, is to invest in a separate kayak altogether for your little ones. As long as they are the proper age to understand the importance of water safety, a child should have no trouble kayaking on their own kid-friendly watercraft.

Because safety, stability, and durability are just a few concerns, choosing the right kid-friendly kayak can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’re looking for something specific. We’re here to help by providing you with the best kid kayak reviews as well as the primary considerations of choosing a top-rated kayak for kids. 

Best Kayak Type for Kids

There are a few different kayak types on the market right now that are specifically meant for young kayakers. The main consideration for a parent when choosing a type of kid kayak is whether to invest in a sit-in or sit-on-top design. A sit-in kayak allows the child to sit inside the cockpit, which some kayakers consider to be the safest choice.

However, sit-in kayaks do not offer the same stability as sit-on-tops. Sit-ins are more suited for older children (between the ages of 8 - 12+), and sit-on-tops are a better choice for any young kayakers below the age of 8. Many sit-inside kayaks are perfectly safe and stable, so it's up to you as a parent to decide which type is best. 

Aside from deciding between sit-in or sit-on, you’ll need to choose between an inflatable or hardshell kayak. Many avid adult kayakers are opting for inflatable watercrafts these days because kayak storage and transport are much more convenient. However, kayaks meant for children are much smaller in size and weight (typically about 20 lbs), so there is no need for inflation/deflation for easy storage and transport.


Teaching Kids to Kayak

Kids in today’s world are behaving much differently than the kids of the past, and not in a good way. More and more parents are handing their children a screen of some sort to keep them entertained. Whatever happened to staying entertained by playing outside and enjoying the great outdoors?

Kayaking is a great way to bring that healthy behavior back and promote outdoor exercise for your kids. Aside from that major benefit, there are a few more perks of teaching your kids to kayak. 

  • Kayaking creates awareness of the outside world and teaches the importance of protecting it.
  • Kids learning to kayak on their own gain a sense of independence.
  • Learning how to kayak teaches children problem-solving under pressure.
  • Kayaking as a family is the perfect bonding opportunity
  • Fresh air is good for kids and parents!

Choosing a Top Quality Kids Kayaks

Usage/Purpose

When considering kayak usage, the first thing to think about is the age of the child that will be using the kayak. Almost all kids kayaks on the market will come with an age recommendation, such as 4-8 years old, 8-12 years old, or 12 years or older. It is highly recommended that you stick to the age requirement set by the manufacturer.

Then, consider the purpose, like whether you’re planning fishing or camping outings or if the main goal is to get in some much-needed family cardio. In addition to kayaking purposes, consider the weather and water trends of your intended location, as if the water is expected to be glasslike or if light waves will be present.

Kayak Style

We’ve already discussed the difference between sit-in and sit-on-top. The main difference between the two is that a sit-in kayak is more maneuverable, but it also provides less stability. For this reason, many parents opt for a sit-on-top kayak design for their children.

Once you’ve decided on that, it’s time to look into tandem vs. single. Most kids kayaks will feature a single-seat design where only one child will be allowed in the boat at a time. But if you have two young kayakers, the tandem design might be a fun choice.

Durability, Design & Comfort

Even though your child will eventually grow out of the kayak, you still want to choose a model that will last. Invest in a kids kayak that is constructed from durable materials, such as polypropylene or polyethylene. The top kayak manufacturers take extra measures to ensure durability, like treating kayaks with a UV-resistant coating.

A kayak’s hull shape has a lot to do with the watercraft’s stability and maneuverability. A skinnier hull like one that is typical in a sit-in kayak has fantastic maneuverability and tracking, plus the child is more protected from water and weather with a kids kayak seat located in the cockpit. The only drawback is that it has a higher risk of tipping. If stability is your main concern, a wide hull design is a better choice.

Size/Dimension, Speed & Weight Capacity

A kids kayak may be small compared to a full-size kayak for adults, but size and dimensions are still important considerations. A larger kayak will not only be heavier and more difficult to maneuver while in the water, but also more difficult to transport and store. The weight and size of a kayak also affect how fast it moves through the water.

Considering a kayak’s weight capacity is especially important when investing in a kids kayak. It’s important to remember that children grow at an alarming weight. If your child is already near the kayak’s weight limit, it’s a good idea to move on to another option that has a higher weight capacity. Choose a kids kayak that gives your child room to grow.

Stability & Safety Features

There are two types of stability when it comes to kayaking: primary and secondary. Primary stability has to do with how stable a kayak is on calm waters. Secondary stability refers to how stable the boat is on moving/choppy waters. Ideally, you’ll want to find a kids kayak that ranks high in both primary and secondary stability. The shape of the hull greatly affects both types of stability. Many people find that a rounded hull is the best choice for young kayakers.

Because this watercraft is meant for a beginner-level kayaker, it’s important to consider additional safety features.  The best kayaks for kids will come with molded-in handgrips near the cockpit and a seat that sits low in the boat for optimal security. Kids kayak manufacturers do what they can to make these boast simple, with no unnecessary parts and pieces that are unnecessary for kids.

Storage & Portability

Because a kids kayak is smaller in size, there won’t be as much onboard storage space - but there should still be some. Fishing is one of the main activities for family kayakers, so a kids fishing kayak should have available space for the necessary fishing gear and equipment. Look for protected storage compartments as well as open storage space in the bow and stern.

Portability is another critical factor, especially if you choose a hardshell kayak design. With a hardshell kayak, you won’t be able to inflate, deflate, and pack up the kayak in a carrying case. It will remain in its hardshell form, so it needs to be lightweight and easy to transport. Carrying handles located at the kayak’s bow and stern can help with this. For optimal portability, the better choice is an inflatable kayak.

Extra Accessories & Features

Kids kayaks don’t often come loaded with tons of special features and accessories. However, there are a few features that you should look for to make the kayaking experience more fun and enjoyable. These include things like tow ropes and paddle holders. Also, keep in mind that some kids kayaks don’t come with a paddle included, so you might need to purchase one separately.

Ease of Setup/Inflation

If you do opt for the inflatable design, you'll love the convenience that comes along with it. That is, as long as you choose an inflatable boat that features easy setup and break down process. Inflating a kids kayak should not take more than ten minutes, and deflating can be done in an even shorter amount of time. Be sure to check that an inflation pump comes with the purchase, or else you’ll need to buy one separately.

Price & Warranty

Since a child-size kayak uses less material and the design is not overly intricate, a kids kayak costs less than a full-size one. Finding a top-rated kids kayak for less than $100 is more than possible. There is no need to spend an arm and a leg on a kayak that your child will one day grow out of, possibly sooner than you expect.

Kayak warranties vary depending on the specific manufacturer. Top kayak brands like Lifetime stand by their products and have faith in what they’re delivering. This is why a reputable brand is likely to offer a warranty starting from the date of purchase. These warranties typically range from 1 year to 5 years. Many kayak companies require warranty registration from customers. This means if you fail to register within a certain amount of time after purchasing (typically 30 days), the warranty becomes invalid.


7 Best Kayaks for Kids Reviewed

1. Lifetime Youth Wave with Paddle

Our Top Pick

Max Load Capacity

130 lbs.

Paddle Included

Yes

Kayak Type

Sit on Top

Dimensions

72” L, 24” W

Recommended Ages

5+

Warranty

5 Years

The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak consistently ranks as the best kayak for kids. It’s our top pick for a few reasons, and not just because it comes in a vibrant lime green color. The Wave kids kayak is the perfect choice for beginning kayakers; it is specifically designed for children five years and older. As long as your child is over 5 and under the 130-pound weight limit, the Wave kayak is a great choice.

Reviewers have a lot of positive feedback about this kids kayak, especially when it comes to the kid-friendly design. No matter your child’s height, this kayak offers optimal comfort with its multiple footrest positions. Even in light waves, a young kayaker will remain safe with the handgrips that are molded into the durable polyethylene material.

At the back of the kayak, there is a swim-up step that makes entering the boat more natural than ever, even from the water. This kayak comes with a paddle included, so you won’t have to purchase one separately.

All Lifetime kayaks are designed to be impact resistant. The unique shape of the hull makes this boat ultra stable, but that doesn't mean it lacks in maneuverability or tracking performance. If water enters the kayak, the cockpit scupper holes will help to drain the water quickly. All in all, this is the perfect kids kayak for young children and beginners.

Pros

  • Lightweight 18-lb design
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Easy to maneuver with great tracking
  • Multiple hand and footrest positions
  • Double-sided paddle included

Cons

  • None

2. Old Town Heron Junior Kids

Runner Up

Max Load Capacity

115 lbs.

Paddle Included

No

Kayak Type

Sit-In

Dimensions

89” L, 25” W

Recommended Ages

8-12

Warranty

Limited Lifetime Warranty

The runner up best kayak for kids is the Old Town Heron Junior. This kayak is designed for kids weighing no more than 115 pounds, and it is perfectly shaped to fit a child’s body. The ultra-lightweight design makes this boat easy to maneuver, even for beginner-level kayakers. On top of being exceptionally maneuverable, it is also extremely stable.

Unlike the top pick model, our runner up features a sit-in cockpit design. Some parents prefer this to the sit-on-top style since it offers more protection from the water. For this reason, the Old Town Heron Junior is a better choice for cold-water environments. Every child will find the contoured seat extra comfy, especially if you plan on spending hours on the water.

As parents, we can't always expect our children to keep up in the water, which is why the innovative Tag Along Tow System is a fantastic feature of the Old Town Heron. This allows an adult to attach and tow the small kayak to shore if needed. Many Old Town Heron customers love the tow-along feature.

The only drawback the comes along with this kid’s kayak is the lofty price. However, many reviewers agree that the higher-than-average cost is well worth it, especially with the tow-along feature. The same reviewer from above also comments on the high price tag by saying that “the price is worth it but with a 115 lb limit we will get many years of use before we hit that limit.”

Pros

  • Innovative tow-along feature
  • Optimal protection with sit-in design
  • Highly maneuverable, yet stable
  • Large cockpit for storage

Cons

  • Pricy
  • Paddle sold separately

3. Best Choice Products

Our Safest Model

Max Load Capacity

121 lbs.

Paddle Included

Yes

Kayak Type

Sit on Top

Dimensions

72” L, 26” W

Recommended Ages

4+

Warranty

None

The high-quality design of the Best Choice Products 6 Kids Kayak is what people love most about this model. It is crafted with a wide, open cockpit, several footrest positions, and a built-in rear cargo storage compartment. The kayak is constructed from only the most durable material that is resistant to impact as well as harsh UV rays.

Adults love the added convenience features like the front toggle handle for easy transport and the cockpit handgrips for added safety. Kids appreciate the comfy seat that comes with an adjustable backrest. The straight tracking of this kayak means that young kayakers have no trouble with maneuvering this boat. 

Unlike some kids kayaks, this one does not come with draining scupper holes in the cockpit. This isn’t a problem since there is a water draining plug at the kayak's stern. According to one reviewer, the only thing that could be improved is the durability of the paddle.

Pros

  • Built-in front and rear storage compartments
  • Durable UV-resistant material
  • Easy transport with wheel and handle
  • Adjustable padded backrest

Cons

  • Paddle needs improvement

4. Emotion 90245 Spitfire

Great Sit on Top Kayak

Max Load Capacity

240 lbs.

Paddle Included

No

Kayak Type

Sit on Top

Dimensions

96” L, 32” W

Recommended Ages

4+

Warranty

5 Years

If you’re looking for the best sit on top kayak for kids, a top contender is the Emotion 90245 Spitfire. Most kids sit on top kayak designs feature a high weight capacity, but this one goes above and beyond with its 240-lb limit. This means that even as your child approaches his or her teenage years, there’s a good chance this kayak can still be used.

The wide hull is to thank for the high weight capacity, as is the durable high-density polyethylene construction. This kayak was made for high performance with exceptional stability and tracking. There are front, rear, and side carry handles and plenty of onboard storage space for your little one’s fishing gear and other kayaking equipment.

The sit-on-top design makes this one of the safest and most stable kids kayaks to date. Throughout the cockpit, there are self-bailing scupper plug holes; even if water enters the boat, it will quickly exit through these holes. This not only keeps your child safe but also dry and comfortable. The molded-in footwells for secure foot bracing allow children of nearly any size or height to fit in this kayak comfortably.

Pros

  • Self-bailing scupper holes
  • Convenient carrying handles
  • Wide hull for maximum stability
  • High weight capacity for a kids kayak

Cons

  • Needs a long paddle

5. Sevylor Quikpak K1

Best Inflatable Kids Kayak

Max Load Capacity

400 lbs.

Paddle Included

Yes

Kayak Type

Sit on Top

Dimensions

103” L, 36” W

Recommended Ages

12+

Warranty

1 Year

Some kayaking families are all about the inflatable kayaks. This is not surprising at all since a kid's inflatable kayak offers a convenient method for storage and transport. If an inflatable design is what you’re searching for, consider the Sevylor Quikpack K1 kids kayak. Set up takes only 5 minutes, meaning the entire family can be out in the water faster than you can say the word "paddle."

The main worry that comes with purchasing an inflatable kids kayak is the fear of kayaking leaking or puncture. You have nothing to worry about with the Sevylor. The company's patented Airtight System is guaranteed not to leak, and the rugged PVC construction is just as durable as hardshell material. Multiple air chambers allow several chambers to remain inflated, keeping the kayak afloat even in the unlikely event of a puncture.

This kayak is so sturdy and durable that even some full-grown adults have used it with success. Even though we’re reviewing this for children’s use, the fact that full-grown adults can use this safely and comfortably says a lot.

Pros

  • Highest weight capacity
  • 5-minute setup
  • Inflation pump and carry bag included
  • Multiple air chambers and anti-leak design

Cons

  • Too large for smaller children

6. Sun Dolphin Bali

Best Value for Money

Max Load Capacity

140 lbs.

Paddle Included

Yes

Kayak Type

Sit on Top

Dimensions

72” L, 25” W

Recommended Ages

4+

Warranty

Limited Lifetime Warranty

On the hunt for a used kids kayak for sale? There’s no need to buy a used watercraft when you can purchase a brand new Sun Dolphin Kids Kayak at an affordable price. The Bali 6-foot kids kayak is very basic, but it ranks high in terms of durability, stability, comfort, and safety. On top of that, it’s easy for any child with the least bit of coordination to use.

This kayak is lightweight and easy to carry thanks to front, and rear T-shaped handles. There is a large comfortable seating area that can accommodate up to 140 pounds with plenty of space for kids to stretch their legs. The open cockpit makes it easy to enter and exit the kayak, even from the water. When the paddle is not being used, it can be placed in the convenient paddle holder that stretches across the cockpit.

The Bali 6-ft kayak is meant for kids, but even small adults find it easy and comfortable to use. Just keep in mind that the weight capacity is 140, so if you come close this weight it is time to invest in a Sun Dolphin kayak meant for full-grown adults. Even if you can’t use it as an adult, you can rest easy knowing that your child is safe while kayaking in the Sun Dolphin Bali 6’.

Pros

  • Great kayak for young adults
  • Comes in 3 bright color options
  • Tracks and paddles with ease
  • Self-bailing cockpit design
  • Lightweight and easy to carry

Cons

  • Only suitable for calm waters
  • Not ideal for individuals taller than 5’2

7. Sun Dolphin Journey

Good for Fishing

Max Load Capacity

250 lbs.

Paddle Included

No

Kayak Type

Sit on Top

Dimensions

120” L, 30” W

Recommended Ages

12+

Warranty

Limited Lifetime Warranty

Any families who enjoy bonding over fishing should consider the Sun Dolphin Journey 10' Fishing Kayak. Although it is perfectly suitable for beginner-level kayakers, this isn't meant for young children. Its maximum load capacity is 250 lbs, which is perfect if your child or teenager wants to kayak with fishing equipment on board.

This sit-on-top fishing kayak isn’t the cheapest option on the list, but it comes with the most extra features. Your child will be able to fish in style with access to 3 rod holders, a large rear storage compartment, adjustable foot braces, shock cord deck rigging, and a comfortable padded seatback that’s perfect for longer fishing excursions. It even comes with a water bottle holder in the cockpit.

Although this is one of the pricier models on the list, reviewers say it’s the best deal available for kayak fishing families.

Pros

  • Equipped with cool fishing features
  • Perfect for teenagers
  • Lots of storage space for fishing gear
  • Large cockpit with a comfy seat

Cons

  • Tracking could be better
  • Not suitable for young children

Best Places to Teach Kids to Kayak

The best kayaking destinations in the world might not be the best places to teach kids to kayak. For an optimal teaching environment, calm waters are a must. It’s also a good idea to choose a familiar place, like a family vacation spot that your child is familiar with. Whatever you do, never try to teach in fast-moving water or rough weather.


Teaching Kids to Paddle

There’s no sense in purchasing a kayak for your child if you don’t plan on teaching the proper paddle skills. When preparing your child to use a kids kayak paddle, consider these tips for first-time paddlers. Not only should you teach your child how to paddle properly, but also everything else involved in effective kayaking. This includes how to enter and exit the boat safely and how to set it up so that it is water ready.


Kid Kayaking Safety Tips

Even though kayaking is meant to be a fun activity, it is vital to go over the ins and outs of water safety beforehand. Knowing how to swim is a good start, but even with the proper swimming skills, wearing a life jacket is necessary. On top of basic water safety rules like how to deal with currents and waves, give your child a lesson on the safety features of a kayak. This includes safety equipment like tow ropes, PFDs, a flashlight, and first aid kit.


Taking Care of Your Kayak

Having your own kayak is a big responsibility, and it's something that your child or teen can feel proud of. For that pride to be present, every kayaker needs to understand the necessary kayak maintenance steps for taking care of a kayak.

Teach your child how to properly spray down and clean the kayak after each on-water excursion. Keep them involved in the entire kayak maintenance process, including storage and transport.


Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of paddle should I get for a kids kayak?

Most kids kayaks will come with a paddle included. If not, look for a kid-friendly paddle that is durable, but also lightweight.

What’s the best way to transport a youth’s kayak?

Since a kids kayak is much smaller in size than one meant for a full-grown adult, it's more than likely that you'll be able to fit the kayak in the trunk of your car. If not, you might have to invest in a kayak rack or trailer.

What are the best kids kayak brands?

The most well-known brand for kids kayaks is Lifetime. This company offers several top-rated models that are specifically designed for young kayakers in mind. Other popular kids kayak brands include Sun Dolphin and Best Choice Products.

Where is the best place to buy kayaks for kids?

There is no online shopping source that compares to Amazon. You can find all of the best kids kayaks mentioned on this list on Amazon - plus, you won’t find better prices anywhere else.

What age can a child kayak paddle solo?

This is really up to each parent, but some children learn to kayak solo as young as 4 years old. Of course, any young child should also have a life jacket on, and a parent or other adult must stay closeby.

Is it safe to kayak with a toddler?

Absolutely. Once again, wearing life jackets is a must, and keeping a close eye on the little one is just as important. Follow this expert advice on kayaking with kids to stay safe on the water with a toddler.


Conclusion

Convinced that kayaking with your kids is a good idea?

Then it’s time to purchase a kid-friendly watercraft, and you can’t go wrong with the Youth Wave Lifetime kids kayak. Although it’s small, this kayak packs a powerful punch. It’s safe, durable, easy to maneuver, and of course, the little ones will have a blast using it.

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