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Kayaking with a baby or toddler?

Hello!  We have a 7 month old baby, and enjoy sharing our love of the outdoors with her.  We've taken her on plenty of snowshoes and day hikes, and plan to do some car camping this summer too.  One of our favorite activities is kayaking...has anyone figured out a way to do this well with a baby?  We have a large tandem sea touring kayak with interior gear storage and two cockpits.  We bought her an infant life vest with the idea that maybe she can just sit in front of one of us.  But does that work?  Can you still paddle?  Is anyone successfully kayaking with a little one?

10 Replies


When our daughter was little we had her out on the water right around the same age as your little one. It can be a very fun and rewarding experience! I will say that we have a kayak with a fairly large cockpit and that allowed us to make her really comfortable in that spot. The width and depth of our boat meant that our kids could sit up and see what was going on around them but also lay down and sleep if they needed to. Our kayak is also super stable due to its width so we don't have to panic when one of our kids reaches over the side to touch the water. I don't know if your kayak will give you that much room to work with though.

One thing we did do that I suggest is to put the boat on the lawn and hang out with your kiddo in the cockpit for a while. It will help you see what they will be like in the boat (whether they'll want to be up and moving or happy to sit down and watch) and it will help get them used to being in that environment. Have a great time out there!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I put my 2 to 3 year old in the rear gear box hatch.  When his legs got longer he faced backwards to get more room in the hull.  When he was one I just sat him on my lap.   I had to make him a little paddle because he wanted to grab and help-always grabbing the paddle.  have fun!

We had our son in a kayak at 9 months and he did great.  The biggest struggle for us was the life jacket which kind of scared him since it was his first time wearing it.  If your child is used to the life jacket it should go okay.  We decided to rent a super stable kayak for our first trip rather than using our own to relieve some of our worry’s.  I brought paddles but my husband did the paddling at first while I got our son settled.  After about 15 minutes he feel asleep and I was able to paddle.  Good luck!  It’s definitely  doable!

It's definitely do-able. As others have mentioned, a stable boat is best. When our son was very little, he sat right on my lap, and I paddled over him. Not exactly the most efficient way to go, but did the job. Our Necky Tandem has an available "jump seat" that wedges between the two cockpits and gives him a place to sit now... but he's almost big enough now to take the front seat and push my wife into a single!


 It sounds like your family loves to Kayak but have you thought about canoeing? There is more space, you can change diapers easly, and they are super stable. It looks like you have some great suggestions on how you can make iKayaking work!

We have found that our most successful paddles with our child involves some time on shore so make a day of it and picnic! Happy paddling!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thanks for the suggestion!  We like canoeing too, but we own a really nice tandem touring kayak and don't have a canoe.  (And there's no more space in the garage for another boat!)  We'll certainly try canoeing when we're somewhere that they have them available to rent!


I will echo what everyone else said, we took our little daughter out kayaking before she was one and she did great, paddling was a bit difficult since we have a sit inside, would have been a LOT easier with a sit on top. When she was 2yo we also took her out on our SUP and she did amazigly well, didn't upset the balance or anything, just hang out and touched the water. 

We have two little girls now and they each have their own Stohlquist Toddler PFD.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions!  We tried it this past weekend, and it went OK.  We did just two short 1-hour paddles, but it gave our baby a feel for the boat and gave us an idea of how it can all work.  The baby sat in the rear cockpit with my husband since there's a bit more space back there.  He didn't get to paddle much, since he was mostly dealing with the baby.  A few challenges:

  • Lifejackets are just tough for babies, even if you buy the smallest ones available.  She tolerated it OK, but it's still pretty big and bulky on her, and so it seems a big tight around her face.
  • It was hard for the baby to see out, which limited her enjoyment.  She could see the sky, but not the water.  On day 2, we tried putting a little seat cushion in the cockpit so she could see better, which seemed to help a bit...but then it's more crowded in the cockpit.
  • Babies don't last that long between naps!  By the time we got her fed, changed, ready to go, and got the kayak to the water, she only had about an hour before being ready to nap again!  Luckily she eventually fell asleep while kayaking...and we even managed a successful "nap transfer" to the camper when we got back to land.  This pic probably sums up the whole experience!

Ruby Kayak Nap.JPG

HAHAHAHAHA! I LOVE that pic! I read this thread to get "canoeing with little baby + 3 big kid" tips + confidence. Looks like just do it and figure it out is the best. 

That pic MADE MY DAY. 



What do I use for pfd for a 2 month old... 😬