How to Kayak with a Baby: Tips for a Safe & Fun Adventure

by | Last updated Jul 6, 2024

how to kayak with a baby

Kayaking with your baby sounds awesome, right?

Sharing a paddling adventure in nature builds a special bond! But it’s normal to worry about safety. Is your little one old enough?

What if they get scared? Relax!

With the right tips and gear, even the tiniest adventurers can have a safe and fun time on the water.

Kayaking with Your Baby: Safety & Fun!
  • Age: Start around six months when babies can sit up and control their head/neck.
  • Gear Up: Get a snug life jacket, sun protection, and a dry bag for essentials.
  • Pick Your Ride: Tandem kayaks offer space and stability. Sit-on-top kayaks are easy to enter/exit.
  • Safety First: Choose calm waters, wear life jackets (adults & babies!), and keep an eye on your little one.
  • Start Short & Sweet: Begin with short outings (30 minutes) and gradually increase duration.
  • Make it Fun! Point out nature, sing songs, and take breaks to explore the shoreline.
  • Relax & Bond: Enjoy the experience, create memories, and build a love for the outdoors together!

Is Your Baby Ready for Kayaking?

Before you start dreaming of paddling adventures with your little one, there are a few things to consider:

kayaking with a baby
  • Age & Development: Most experts say babies should be able to sit up on their own and have good head and neck control. This usually happens around six months old, but every baby is different.
  • Swimming Skills: While it’s great if your baby loves the water, strong swimming skills aren’t necessary. What matters most is a proper life jacket (we’ll talk about that later!).
  • Personality: Does your baby enjoy new experiences, or does change stress them out? If your little one loves exploring, kayaking might be a blast! If they get fussy easily, start with shorter trips.

Important Note: Even if your baby seems ready, always check with your pediatrician before taking them kayaking, especially if they have any health concerns.

Essential Gear for Kayaking with a Baby

Having the right gear makes all the difference for a safe and happy kayaking trip.

Here’s what you need:

kayaking with a baby
  • The Perfect Life Jacket (PFD): This is the MOST important thing! Choose a Coast Guard-approved infant PFD designed for your baby’s weight. It needs to fit snugly and have a strap that goes between their legs so they can’t slip out. Look for one with a headrest to support a baby who might fall asleep!
  • Sun Protection: Babies have delicate skin! Get a wide-brimmed sun hat, sunglasses (if they’ll keep them on), and baby-safe sunscreen. A kayak canopy can provide extra shade.
  • Comfort is Key: Pack a dry bag with:
    • Snacks and drinks
    • Diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes
    • A waterproof blanket for naps or sitting on
    • A favorite toy for distraction

Optional, But Awesome:

Choosing the Right Kayak

The type of kayak you choose makes a big difference when you’re bringing a baby along.

kayaking with a baby

Here’s what to consider:

  • Tandem Kayaks: These offer loads of space for you, your baby, and all your gear. They’re also the most stable option, which is important with a little one onboard.
  • Sit-on-top Kayaks: Many parents like these because they’re easy to get in and out of. This is helpful for managing a baby and your gear.
  • Sit-inside Kayaks: While offering less wiggle room, sit in kayak can provide extra protection from the elements if needed.
  • Canoes: While not technically a kayak, a canoe provides plenty of space. The tradeoff is they may be slightly less stable than some kayaks.

Additional Tips:

Safety On the Water

Kayaking with your baby is fantastic, but safety always comes first! Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

kayaking with a baby


Stick to calm waters like lakes or protected bays to start. Avoid rivers with strong currents, unpredictable waves, or heavy boat traffic.

Weather Check

Choose sunny days with minimal wind. Even in warm weather, sudden changes can happen. Be prepared!

Life Jacket Rule

Babies AND adults must wear properly fitted life jackets on the water at ALL times – no exceptions.

Close Supervision

Never take your eyes off your baby while kayaking, even if they have some swimming skills.

kayaking with a baby

Additional Safety Tips:

  • Practice first: Get comfortable paddling solo before adding your baby to the mix. If possible, go with experienced paddlers the first few times.
  • Tell someone your plan: Let a friend or family member know where you’ll be kayaking and when you expect to be back.

Bring a phone: Keep a waterproof phone case handy in case of emergencies.

  • Stay hydrated: Pack plenty of water for both you and your baby.

Tips for a Smooth Kayaking Trip

Now that you’ve got the gear and the safety stuff down let’s make this trip awesome for both you and your baby!

kayaking with a baby
  • Start Short and Sweet: For your first few trips, keep it short—maybe just half an hour or so on the water. You can always go longer as your baby gets used to kayaking.
  • Be Flexible: Babies sometimes have their schedules! Don’t stress if you need to cut a trip short due to feeding, a nap, or a change of mood. The goal is a good experience.
  • Pack for Comfort: Bring snacks, water, or milk, and a way to position your baby for nursing or bottle-feeding if needed comfortably.
  • Naptime on the Water: If your baby falls asleep, secure them comfortably and try to position your kayak for a bit of shade.

Bonus Tip: Time your trips around your baby’s usual naptime or happiest times of the day. A content baby makes for a happy kayaking adventure!

kayaking with a baby

Make it Fun!

The whole point of kayaking with your baby is to create awesome memories together.

Here’s how to make it an experience they’ll want to repeat:

Engage their senses

Point out ducks, turtles, and cool plants along the way. Sing songs or try making gentle splashing sounds with your kayak paddles.

Let them feel the cool water on their toes if it’s safe.

kayaking with a baby

Take Play Breaks

Go ashore on a calm beach to stretch little legs, explore, or build a mini sandcastle. This is especially great if kayaking in a sit-on-top kayak.

Photo Ops

Capture those cute moments together in your double kayak!

A waterproof phone case or camera is super handy.

These photos may inspire them to try their own kayak or a youth kayak when they’re older.

Relax and Enjoy

Focus on having a good time on your kayaking adventure.

If you’re relaxed, your baby will be too. Bond with your little one, build a lifelong love for the outdoors, and maybe even make new friends in a kayaking group.


kayaking with a baby

With a little planning and the right safety rules, kayaking with your baby can be an incredible experience!

Please remember to start with short trips on slow rivers or calm water. Always prioritize a comfortable, properly fitted personal flotation device.

Keep a close eye on your little one, even if they have some swimming skills.

Most importantly, focus on having fun in your double kayak, sit-on-top kayak, or maybe even a child-sized kayak if they get hooked on paddling adventures!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the minimum age for kayaking with a baby?

Most experts recommend waiting until babies can sit independently and have strong head/neck control (around 6 months). Always check with your pediatrician, especially if your baby has any health concerns.

What’s the best type of fishing kayak to use with a baby?

Tandem kayaks offer the most space and stability. Sitting in kayaks is easy to get in and out of, which is helpful when managing a baby. Kids kayak has to be very strong.

How long should my first kayaking trip with a baby be?

Start with short trips, around a half an hour. Increase the duration as you and your baby get more comfortable.

Do I need to be an experienced paddler to take my baby kayaking?

It’s helpful to have some basic paddling skills. If you’re new, practice on your own first, or go with an experienced paddler the first few outings.

Where is a safe place to go kayaking with my baby?

Choose calm waters like lakes or protected bays. Avoid rivers with strong currents, busy boat traffic, or unpredictable weather conditions.