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Paddling with Kids – What do I do now?

Words by GoKayakingAdmin

on 09/03/2021 16:53:49

Having kids is an exciting and joyous time! But in the nicest possible way… they can get in the way!

Bear with me!

When I say ‘in the way’ I mean all the freedom to just pack up and leave the house for a weekend of paddling with friends has kind of vanished. But having kids doesn’t have to mean we can’t go paddling until they are at least 8 - when you hope and pray they will fall in love with it as much as you. No, it just means we have to think a bit more carefully about logistics, the type of paddling we can do.

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Whether you take it in turns (if you’re both paddlers) or if your partner/childcare support/other parent covers on the days you want to head to the river, suddenly it can seem like this big military operation…and you can start to question whether it’s worth it.

When I came back to paddling a few years ago I had to consider my then 2 year old. I’m parenting solo 24/7 so this was a massive thing for me to take into consideration.

I’m in the fortunate position that my mum is a very hands on grandma and is happy to help out with babysitting duties (as long as I don’t take the mick!) and that lets me get to paddling now and again. But whilst paddling on our own is epic, wouldn’t it be fun to get the kids involved too?

Whilst I wouldn’t suggest someone new to paddling gets on the river with a 2 year old on their first time out, if you’re a confident paddler there’s no reason not to introduce your children to paddling at a young age. Having supportive friends around on the water with you who don’t mind being an extra pair of eyes is a great help. Knowing that they’ve got your child’s back as much as they’ve got yours is extremely important.

I’m lucky enough to be part of a club that has quite a few paddling families and we’ve had some epic trips both locally and further afield in the Lake District. Having seen how much fun others had paddling with their children, I knew I absolutely wanted to take Ambrose along for the ride. I took Ambrose out in a canoe on the Ouse in York with my club and everyone was really supportive. It’s a decision I definitely do not regret – and on a selfish note, it also meant got to get out paddling more too!

I needn’t have worried…as he spent most of his time trailing his hand in the water or sleeping on the yoke with his head hanging over the side! His first trip was in a canoe at the age of 2 and at the age of 4 he got his very own kayak for his birthday (a very padded out Pyranha Rebel). Ambrose quickly discovered the relaxing benefits of the water and although he stays awake more now - he still enjoys perching in precarious places on a canoe or sitting and letting mummy tow him along in his kayak!

I’ve also seen how amazing Maya (Ray Goodwin and Lina Patel’s daughter) has done by being introduced to paddling from the start. I think she was something like 10 days old on her first ever trip! 

Emma_Kitchen and Ambrose Llangollen Canal_04

You might find there is an age limit in many paddling clubs (usually 8 years old) preventing younger children from getting to experience the joys of paddling. Not paddling for 8 years was not an option for me and I know it will be the same for many others - so I recommend paddling with friends when you have children as the easiest and most fun way to get them into paddling.

As with all parent problems, finding the balance is key. Accepting that you won’t be out every weekend on some big volume rivers is hugely important - to expect otherwise will just do your mental health no good. You can soon start to see the joys of flat water adventures, and when you see the massive smile on your child’s face you know it’s paying off.

Children are young for such a short space of time that it’s incredibly important to make the most of that time with them. They are only little once and you don’t need to put your life on hold, it’s just about adjusting. I’d definitely recommend making a plan; talking to your partner/childcare support/other parent and have those conversations about who will go paddling when, or when you’ll all go paddling together.

Here are my top tips for paddling with kids;

· Lifejackets not PFDs – check out the Peak UK Kidz Zip Kids Life Jacket

· Always take snacks!

· Play games along the way – things as simple as throwing a ball into the water and chasing it, spotting birds, playing eye spy etc.

· Be relaxed yourself, this will enable your child to feel more confident on the water

· Start with small journeys – you don’t want to be setting out on a Great Glen trip for your first trip with them!

· Paddle with other children – they will know they’re not alone and see it as the norm

· Layers, layers and more layers – remember your child might not be actively paddling so will get colder much quicker – take a look at the Peak UK Kidz Thermal Rashy

· Now you’ve packed the snacks, pack twice as many more

As I sit here now, writing this during the third lockdown, the biggest and most frequently asked question from Ambrose is ‘When the nasty bug has gone can we go paddling again and have a party?’ (He’s referring to paddler parties he’s previously attended!) This question equally tugs at my heartstrings and fills me with such joy.

Emma & Ambrose Kitchen

Happy Paddling – you CAN paddle with kids!


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About the Authors

Emma Kitchen – I started paddling when I was 16. I love it because it challenges you as little or as much as you want it to. It allows you to explore places you wouldn’t usually see from paths or roads and it gives you a chance to recharge. I love it for the people I've met and the friendships that have been formed. My favourite piece of kit is currently my Pyranha Ripper, it keeps me on my toes and fits me perfectly. The photo below is my first every surf on the Kent aided by friends, highlighting what kayaking is all about.

Ambrose Kitchen (Aged 5) – I started paddling when I was 2. I love doing the paddling with my mummy and I like it when we bring snacks and jelly babies. My favourite place to paddle is Wales, in the canoes over that big bridge thingy (Ponycysyllte Aqueduct). I currently paddle my Pyranha Rebel. I want to go one some white waters but not big waterfalls. My favourite photo is this one with mummy when we picked up my very own kayak on my birthday”

Emma_Kitchen and Ambrose Llangollen Canal_01

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