Kayak Buying Guides

The Best Kayak For Kids: A Guide For Parents To Choose The Perfect Gift

Written by Ryan Moore

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast like me, taking the kids on a weekend trip is a must! Not only is it expensive to hire someone to watch the kids, it’s also a great learning experience for them to come along. Today we’re going to introduce you to some of the best kids kayaks on the market. What makes them so great and how to choose one for your kids!

Adversity, such as the challenges faced in learning the skills to paddle the waters of nature, is an important tool for development. Whether it’s children, teens, or adults there’s much to be learned and discovered in the trials of exploring the world around us. If you’ve never gone kayaking with kids you might be surprised at how quickly they pick up the sport and learn to enjoy themselves.

Here are the best kayaks for kids:

Old Town Kayak

old town canoe


  • Kayak that can last for a long time
  • Progression comes easy on the Old Town Kayak
  • Reasonably priced

Ocean Kayaks Malibu 2

best kid kayak


  • Perfect for kids
  • Safe sit-on design
  • Good to develop kayaking skills from zero

Intex K1

intex k1


  • Very portable
  • Inflates quickly
  • Oars + pump included

Best Kayaks for Kids: 3 Ideal Kayaks For Kids

Here’s a selection of kayaks I would recommend for kids:

1. Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Heron Junior Kids Kayak Review

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Old Town makes a great kayak for recreational users. I’ve seen these boats stand up to years of use and abuse so there’s no doubt you can keep this kayak in the family for generations. True to a simplistic design, the traditional hull of this cockpit only sports a few add ons.

There is a front and rear handle for carrying. However, the boat only weighs 26 pounds so most adults will be able to easily carry this boat with one hand. With a max load of 100-115 pounds you’ll want to make sure you upgrade the kids to a full-size kayak by the time they reach this threshold.

I wish Old Town could bring the price down a bit, but it’s really not that bad. When you consider that this boat could easily last your child 10 years, the price tag seems quite reasonable. Plus, it’s a nice enough kayak that your child may not progress beyond it in terms of skill.

One thing I would have liked to see is an included paddle at this price point. It’s not all bad though because this way you can buy a high-quality paddle that’s actually the correct size for your young kayaker! Besides, the padded foam seat makes up for it with a nice addition to the comfort factor.

2. Lifetime Youth 6 Feet Wave Kayak with Paddle

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Lifetime makes a solid kayak and their youth model is no different. This is a boat I would recommend to anyone looking for a bomb proof child’s kayak at a great price.

I love that they make the process simple by offering a durable and simplistic boat that gets the job done. It’s got an included paddle so you don’t even need to worry about picking one up. Since kids grow so fast you may end up replacing the paddle for one of the correct size as they age but it’s a minor factor.

With a total weight capacity of 130 pounds the kids will be able to use this for years. To make things even simpler, it’s a sealed hull sit on top design which means its self-bailing. In case the kayak tips, the water will easily drain out without much effort at all. Plus, there’s a sloped deck at the back of the boat that’s made specifically so that it’s easier for kids to get back in the boat if it does tip.

Because it’s such a short boat and children tend to be novice paddlers, Lifetime designed this boat a bit different. With deep lengthwise fins running the length of the boat, it’s made to track straight in the water. Without these fins, paddling such a short boat would be difficult to steer for novice kayakers. This is a great addition that most won’t even notice but will add much to the effectiveness of the boat!

3. Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

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This is a bit different from the kayaks we introduced you to above. Why? Well, it’s inflatable.

No, it’s not a pool toy. It’s a real kayak that’s meant to paddle just like any other. Let’s take a look at how they accomplish this!

The kayak is based around a welded aluminum frame which is compact and lightweight. When deflated it fits easily in the trunk or back of an SUV. Using durable inflatable materials, the kayak can be inflated with the included foot pump and is ready to go in almost no time flat. Don’t worry though, there’s an included foot pump so you won’t run out of breath trying to puff it up like the Big Bad Wolf.

At just 27 pounds the kayak can handle a load of 220 which is a pretty impressive ratio. However, it is a full-size kayak which mean you’ll want to graduate the kids into this kayak once they hit their teen years. Some users complain that the back rest isn’t as supportive as it could be, but this can be fixed with a simple folding seat sports chair addition if needed. It does come with a paddle, but don’t be fooled – it’s 84” long and way too big for small children.

What Makes a Good Kids Kayak

Children’s kayaks are a bit different from adults. Not only are they shorter, there are a few other features you should be on the lookout for when you choose a kayak for your kids.

First, keep it simple. Particularly for your first kayak you’ll want something simple, cheap, and durable. Once you know if your children actually enjoy the sport and want to continue with it, you can upgrade. Save the money at first.

Sit on top model kayaks tend to be great choices for a child’s first kayak. They’re easy to use, easy to get back on if they tip, and nearly indestructible. I would start there and then upgrade as your child gets older and more skilled.

As a note, you may want to add a long rope to the kayak for safety. Mostly this is a useful aid in towing a stubborn or tired child along on a trip. Nothing is more annoying than getting halfway through a trip and having your kids give up on paddling! How will you get them home?

What Type of Paddle Should Kids Use?

For children’s kayaks, you’ll usually find that they’re sold bundled with a kid’s paddle. It’s critical to use a dedicated child’s paddle. They have smaller diameter shafts that allow small hands to hold them easily. They also need to be sized properly and light enough for kids to use for hours.

Never make the mistake of giving kids an adult paddle. Paddle length will be based on height, so you’ll need to change paddles every couple of years as your kids grow.

Additional Features On Kids Kayaks

Do you need fancy features on your kid’s kayak? No. I would urge you away from complicated kayaks.

Why? Because they’re more expensive, easier to break, and unnecessary. Simple is better when it comes to kids kayaks. At most consider a kayak with some simple storage and perhaps an adjustable seat once your child becomes a more advanced and avid paddler.

To begin with, small children just starting can happily paddle a sit on top kayak with a simple molded plastic seat.

Personal Floatation Devices

Once called life vests or life jackets, PFDs are a MUST HAVE for children. All paddlers should be carrying or wearing some form of PFD on the water. Children in particular require specialized PFDs.

When fitting a PFD for a child you’ll want to make sure it’s the correct weight rating for their size. Small children even have specialized PFDs that help support the head and neck to keep their head above water.

Remember to make sure the PFD is properly fitted to your child before paddling. I can’t tell you how often I see both adults and children with improperly fitted PFDs. They won’t do you any good at all if they come off as soon as you fall in the water!


Children’s kayaks are a bit different from adults. While they share many of the same features, kids deal with some paddling issues that adults don’t have to worry about. Remember that when starting out simple is better. As kids hit their teen years, you may have to move them up into an adult full-size kayak.

Enjoying the fun on the water is easy when you can take the whole family along! Don’t leave the kids behind on your next trip. You’ll be surprised how much they learn by paddling with you!

About the author

Ryan Moore

I like to write about Kayaks.