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10 Best Kayaks for Kids in 2020 – How to Get Your Children Started

Kayaking is a fun way to spend quality time with your kids while enjoying nature. You can explore the outdoors as a family and make some awesome memories together.

However, to do that, you need a kayak that is safe and stable, so your child can enjoy kayaking as much as you do. It should also be affordable, since your kid will eventually grow out of it and want an adult kayak of his own.

The good news is, there are many different kids kayaks out there, from kids fishing kayaks, sit-in kayaks, sit on top kayaks, and even whitewater kayaks for older kids and teenagers. Here’s a handy review and buying guide to help you find the best kayak for kids based on your child’s size, age, and kayaking experience.

Our Favorite Kid’s Kayaks

While a 4-year-old should be in mom and dad’s kayak, your older kids may want to have their own watercraft. Here, we’ll talk about some of the best child kayaks for 6-year-olds to teenagers, so you can find the perfect kayak that your children will enjoy.

Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak

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One of the best children’s kayaks is the Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak, which is an easy-to-transport inflatable kayak that only weighs 18 pounds and conveniently packs into a tiny backpack so you can easily take the kayak anywhere, making it great for frequent travelers and weekend adventurers.

It’s made with 21-gauge PVC and is reinforced with tarpaulin, meaning it can withstand pretty much anything. This kayak features a flat hull that’s designed with multiple air chambers to provide superior rigidity while also ensuring that the kayak stays afloat in the unlikely event that it gets punctured.

What really sells this kayak, however, is that it’s super stable thanks to the extra-wide body that pretty much eliminates any chance of capsizing. It also performs really well, and is packed with accessories (including a hand pump and an aluminum paddle) that make your entire trip so much easier.

  • Inflatable kayak with comfortable backrest
  • Convertible design that transforms from kayak seat to backpack
  • Puncture and abrasion-resistant tarpaulin bottom
  • Leakproof construction with multiple air chambers
  • Includes backpack, pump, and paddle
  • Easy 5 minutes set up

Check out our best inflatable kayaks here.

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

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Coming at a close second is the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, another inflatable kayak that opens up lots of possibilities for your kids to enjoy kayaking without you having to worry about spending too much on a watercraft, or finding a suitable storage space for when the kayak is not being used. This kayak is small, compact, convenient, and cheap.

That’s not to say that it’s cheaply made; in fact, this kayak is durable, stable, and tracks really well for its price point. It’s ideal for rivers, calm lakes, and byways. It even has a removable skeg that lets your child use the kayak on longer family trips.

This kayak measures 9 feet long when it’s fully inflated, and is suitable for older 10-year-old kids, teenagers, and even adult kayakers who are just learning how to kayak. It handles really well, comes with a blow-up chair, and a cargo net that offers plenty of cargo space.

  • Stable and durable inflatable kayak
  • Inflatable seat with a supportive backrest
  • Added stability with the strong I-beam floor
  • Aluminum paddle, hand pump, and repair patch included
  • Measures 9 ft long, 220lb weight capacity
  • NMMA certified for calm waters

Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak

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If you have smaller kids who are just about ready to explore on their own (with adult supervision, of course), one of the best junior kayaks that we can recommend is the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak, which is rated for kids 5 years old and above.

It’s a really stable kids’ sit on top kayak that lets younger kids have fun on the water as they learn and experience the joys of kayaking. It’s also lightweight and compact at just 18 pounds, so you can easily transport it at the back of your SUV or pickup.

Plus, it features molded-in finger handles for easy carrying, and it comes with a swim-up step at the rear so your kid can jump on the water, swim around, and climb back up. There are even self-draining scupper holes that keep the kayak from filling up with water.

  • Lightweight (18lb) and compact design for easy transport
  • Twin fin hull for better stability and steering
  • Easy boarding from the water with the swim-up step
  • Available in pink, blue, orange, and green
  • Comes with a paddle
  • 130lb weight capacity

Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot Sit-in Kayak

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Taking the fourth spot is the Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot Sit-in Kayak, an intermediate kayak that features a sit-inside deck with a traditional covering, unlike the Sun Dolphin Bali, which is a kids’ sit on top kayak.

This kayak measures eight feet long and can easily accommodate up to 260 pounds, meaning, your youngster can feel safe and secure with a stable kayak that won’t tip or capsize. Its sit-in design is great for kids who don’t want to get drenched with all the water splashes.

You can even add a spray skirt for added protection. The best part? The Sun Dolphin Aruba is actually suitable for relatively mild rivers, so your kids can get a better sense of adventure as they are growing up and preparing themselves for more challenging whitewater.

  • Sit-inside design with an optional spray skirt
  • Dry and wet storage compartments
  • 28-inch wide beam for great stability
  • Built-in carry handles, paddle, and drink holders
  • Suitable for kids 4’6” to 5’5” tall

Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak

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You have seen what the Sevylor Quikpak K1 can do above, so now, let’s talk about the Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak, which features a unique inflatable design that has a fully-enclosed cockpit offering splash protection and easy portability.

This is a highly versatile kayak that you can use in cold weather, is super easy to set up in less than five minutes, and is made with puncture-resistant 24-gauge PVC that offers excellent structural strength and stability. It also features several air chambers in the hull for added security and to ensure that your kid can get back to shore no matter what.

More than that, this kayak also comes with a paddle, pump, and carrying a backpack. The backpack is our favorite, since it not only lets you transport the kayak conveniently, it also converts into a spray skirt that can be zippered on top of the cockpit opening to keep water splashes at bay.

  • Stable, versatile, and buoyant inflatable kayak
  • Tough PVC construction reinforced with tarpaulin
  • Several air chambers for added safety
  • Carrying a backpack that doubles as a spray skirt
  • Side D-rings for securing gear

Perception Hi Five Sit on Top Kids Kayak

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Here’s a unique option for a child kayak: the Perception Hi Five Sit on Top Kids Kayak takes on a nice hybrid approach to the traditional sit-in and sit-on-top kayak designs so your kid can not only kayak but also try paddleboarding. Imagine a conventional sit on top kayak, but with the option of using it as a paddleboard.

What this means is, your kid can enjoy so much more out of his kayak, so he can really make the most out of his time on the water. This kayak even comes with lots of features, such as an integrated towing system that lets your kid relax and not get too exhausted paddling.

Furthermore, it also offers plenty of storage area that you can use for extra cargo, or even for bringing along the family dog. There’s also a cup holder and many other wonderful additions that make kayaking for kids as fun, easy, and comfortable as possible.

  • Single-piece molded design
  • Versatile kayak that doubles as paddleboard
  • With a tag-along towing system
  • Comes with a paddle
  • Lightweight 21lb construction

MaxKare Kids Kayak Four Seasons

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You might also want to try the MaxKare Kids Kayak Four Seasons, a more simple version of a kids kayak that is safe and reliable out on the water. It features a short and wide design to ensure superior stability and boasts of a spacious, wide-open deck that makes for the best in terms of comfort while kayaking.

This kayak also features a fairly flat hull with a conservative beamwidth of fewer than 25 inches. And, it’s made with strong polyethylene, so it’s highly resistant to damage caused by hitting rocks and other sharp objects.

To top it all off, this kayak also comes with a molded seat that’s equipped with a comfy backrest, along with footwells in three different leg positions. All things considered, it’s a well-performing kayak for kids less than 5’3” tall and 121 pounds.

  • Lightweight profile for easy transportation
  • Comfortable molded-in seat with adjustable backrest
  • Rear-wheel to allow for safely dragging the kayak
  • Designed with cup and bottle holders
  • Suitable for kids age 5+

Advanced Elements Lagoon 1 Kayak

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If you are looking for a child kayak that can be paddled on ocean bays, lakes, and mild rivers, you should take a look at the Advanced Elements Lagoon 1 Kayak, which is an inflatable kayak that’s ideal for older kids.

It boasts of a PVC construction with polyester coating for superior durability that is on par with a hardshell kayak. It’s portable, lightweight, and easy to carry even for kids, so they don’t have to ask for mom or dad’s help all the time (kids love being independent, after all). It also has quick-inflating Spring and Twistlok valves that make for fast and easy setups.

Not to mention, it’s a well-performing kayak that works on various bodies of water. It’s also equipped with one tracking fin to make for easier paddling technique and better tracking. Plus, the hull and deck are painted with bright colors for better visibility on the water.

  • Improved tracking and rigidity with a bow and stern panels
  • Twist lock and Spring valves for easy and quick setup
  • Convenient carrying with molded-in rubber handles
  • Front mesh pocket for stashing smaller items
  • Heightened visibility with bright and vibrant colors

Lifetime 90100 Yellow 6′ Youth Wave Kayak

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Here’s a slightly different version of the first Lifetime Youth kayak we talked about earlier. The Lifetime 90100 Yellow 6′ Youth Wave Kayak is a highly rated kayak that is simple, effective, and affordable, not to mention easy to maneuver and steer. Basically, it’s everything you could possibly want from a kid’s kayak.

It features a short length and is equipped with a reverse chine, which eliminates the issue of difficult tracking and paddling (a common problem with shorter kayaks), so your child can enjoy lateral stability while paddling.

To add to that, this kayak features a molded plastic construction with an aggressive design for the pontoon-style hull, making the kayak more stable on the water, which is important for fidgety, energetic kids, so they don’t tip or capsize.

  • Safe and stable hull design
  • Makes for an easier learning curve
  • Durable molded plastic construction
  • Lightweight 18lb profile

Old Town Heron Junior Recreational Kayak

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Last but not least is the Old Town Heron Junior Recreational Kayak, a sit-inside child kayak that is lively, spry, and perfect for beginners and young paddlers that never seem to run out of steam and energy.

This junior kayak is the perfect vessel for children who want to splash around the water. It’s easy to maneuver even when it comes to getting out of creek bends, wrong turns, and other sticky situations. It’s also easy to paddle for inexperienced kids, thanks to the fast and efficient hull. And, it’s adequately sized at 2.5 feet in length and 26 pounds in weight.

In other words, this kayak is incredibly stable due to its wide profile, making it great for making waves, splashing, and playful horsing around that kids are prone to do. It’s also tough and won’t capsize, and even features internal foam billets that act as a safety net if your child does manage to sink the watercraft.

  • Durable and lightweight construction
  • Makes for fast and easy paddling and maneuvering
  • With tag along with towing system
  • Front and rear built-in carry handles
  • Comfortable kid-sized seat

Kid’s Kayak Buying Guide

Not quite sure what to look for in a kids kayak? Here’s a quick buying guide to help you out:

Sit on Top Kayak: Yes or No?

Yes! Sit on top kayaks are actually so much better for kids than the traditional sit-in kayak, since this type of kayak is a lot simpler and more durable, as well as easier to get into since your kid doesn’t have to wiggle his way inside the cockpit while the kayak is on the water.

Sit on top kayaks are typically made from single-piece molded plastic with the kayak seat resting on top of the kayak’s deck. These kayaks are stable and reliable, and really difficult to tip over, flip, or capsize.

Moreover, a kids’ sit on top kayak will also normally feature self-draining scupper holes to get rid of water as soon as they enter the kayak. You can even attach spray skirts to prevent your child from getting splashed with water.

That said, there are also sit inside kayaks built for kids, although they are a lot less common.

Weight Rating

One of the most important factors when it comes to buying a kids’ kayak is the weight rating since this is the primary way of determining whether the kayak is suitable for your child. It’s less about your kid’s age and height, really.

You’ll see that junior kayaks come with minimum and maximum recommended weight ratings to help you determine if your child will properly fit in the kayak. You should allow for plenty of room to grow so your kid can use the kayak for many years.

That said, it might be difficult to find appropriate kayaks for older kids and teenagers, so you might have to start looking at adult kayaks instead.

Kayak Length

One common feature of kids’ kayaks is that they are generally shorter in length as compared to adult kayaks. That’s primarily because these kayaks are only intended for milder and calmer waters such as slow rivers and lakes.

There are many benefits to short and lightweight kayaks, too. They turn better,they’re easier to carry or transport, and they usually feature wider hulls, which make the kayak more stable.

mom and child kayaking

Kayak Width

A child kayak is also measured in terms of width. One thing you have to understand is, regardless of the type of kayak you are buying or who it’s for, a wider kayak always means better stability and reduced risk of flipping.

This is why wider kayaks are ideal for kids, especially those who are unsure of their skills in entering and exiting the kayak or even keeping it afloat on the water. A wider kayak may not be as efficient, but that’s not really a priority for a kid who just wants to have fun (and stay safe).

Along with this, the kayak should also have a rounded double or pontoon-style hull, which also makes for increased stability. Fortunately, this is a common design trend on sit on top kayaks.

Stability

Remember, stability is one of the most important things for a kids’ kayak, so you should always be on the lookout for various features that further enhance the stability of the kayak. These include reverse chines or fins which jut out to improve lateral stability while also making for better tracking.

You might also find removable skegs on the kayak. Even better, a kayak that combines a pontoon hull design with a reverse chine and a removable skeg will offer the best in terms of stability, tracking, and overall performance.

Paddle Holder

It’s also smart to check for other convenient features, such as paddle holders, which are basically just depressions in the kayak and feature a shock cord lashing that is meant to go over your paddle when it’s not in use.

This seemingly simple design is really valuable since it offers a safe and secure spot to store the paddle so it doesn’t roll off into the water.

Tow Rope

Another excellent feature of kids’ kayaks is tow ropes or other similar towing systems which allow you to attach your child’s kayak to your own, thereby letting you “pull” or tow him along once he gets tired of paddling.

This is important in long kayaking trips, getting out of difficult situations, or just making sure that your child safely gets back to shore especially when he’s throwing a fit and is refusing to paddle. It’s also beneficial for pulling the kayak out of brushes, off of river banks, and so on.

Overview

As you have seen above, there are tons of amazing options when it comes to the best kayak for kids. You just need to know what things you need to look for and prioritize so you can find a kayak that works for your child’s age, height, weight, kayaking skills, and other specific needs.

Keep in mind that toddlers need to stay in the adults’ boat. Meanwhile, smaller kids, say, 5 or 7 year olds, need a kayak that is super stable and is absolutely simple and easy to use, and older kids, along with teenagers, would want something that comes with extra features and allows for a more thrilling (but safe) adventure.