Canoe Camping with Kids

This is a guest post by Darren Zapsky at the Moshannon Falls Canoeing Resource. If you would like to guest post on CampingBlogger, please see the About page for my contact information.

Most canoeists would agree that canoe camping is an outdoor experience most kids will never forget, but many parents are uncertain of the appropriate age to begin their child in the activity. I’ve seen kids begin their first canoe camping experience as young as three years old, and these kids developed the confidence to paddle their own canoe or kayak by the time they were nine or ten years old.

If you want to begin your kids in canoe camping here are a few tips to help make the experience safer and more enjoyable for you and your children.

Canoeing with kids

Canoeing with the kids in Grand Teton National Park (OakleyOriginals on Flickr)

Understand the Dangers

The first thing as the parent is you have to know what you are getting your kid involved in because canoeing can take place on a multitude of levels. Is it an easy flatwater canoe trip or are there elements of risk involved? Of course you need to make common sense decisions because a five year old can safely ride a canoe through a gentle rapid and have fun doing it, but don’t overlook dangers such as higher water levels and cold water temperatures which can be a serious threat even for adults.

Invest in Quality Gear

Canoeing safety with kids

Personal Floatation Devices come in kid sizes, too (photo by fredthechicken on Flickr)

Remember that proper gear means comfort even during the most severe weather conditions. Must have camping gear are a good waterproof tent, sleeping bags and pads, rain gear, splash clothing during cooler weather, and plenty of dry clothes. And it goes without saying that we must not forget the importance of a personal floatation device (PFD). Buy one that fits your kid perfectly; don’t buy a larger one for your kid to grow into and don’t trust that old PFD that’s been lying in the neighbor’s garage for twenty years. With gear purchases don’t be afraid to pay a little more for extra quality because it will improve your comfort and overall experience.

Safety is the Priority

Canoe camping-safety

Keep your kids safe around the campsite (photo by Deacon Steve on Flickr)

Safety is always a priority when playing in the outdoors, but when camping in remote locations there needs to be the greatest emphasis on safety. Here are a few basic canoe camping safety tips:

  • Kids go crazy running through the woods with little concern for safety, so care should be taken to inspect the campsite for sharp objects, rocks, sticks, glass, anything that could cause injury. A close campsite inspection and strict boundary lines are very easy precautions adults can take to increase the kid’s safety.
  • At the campsite we cook with hot water, grease, open flame, hot stoves and sharp cooking utensils, and every year campers go to the emergency room with severe burns and cuts. But you can help keep your kids safe by establishing a boundary around the camp kitchen that kids are not permitted to enter until the camp cook rings the dinner bell.
  • A safe campfire requires much of the same attention as the camp kitchen. Establish rules such as no throwing glass, plastics or other foreign objects into the campfire. And carefully watch over the kids who are handling hot mountain pie makers and marshmallow sticks. I can’t tell you how many times I nearly lost an eye to a flaming marshmallow.

Prevent Canoe Boredom

Canoeing is a great activity but kids often have short attention spans so a little planning on your part can help prevent the boredom that might occur while sitting in a canoe for hours. Nerf footballs, squirt guns, water cannons, cameras, binoculars, and snacks will help keep kids entertained in the canoe. For obvious reasons I’d save the fishing rods for on the shore.

Prevent Campsite Boredom

Frisbee is an easy and fun camping game

Wiffle ball and Frisbee are easy games to pack (photo by ramk13 on Flickr)

Wiffle ball, Frisbee and bean bag toss are easy games to pack into your canoe and will keep kids busy for hours at the campsite. And when the games wear out try fishing, wildlife viewing, short hikes and even gathering firewood. And plan things like charades, storytelling, mountain pie making, S’mores and roasting marshmallows for evening activities around the campfire.

Soon after the mountain pie and marshmallow roasting ends your exhausted little canoe campers will be ready to hit their sleeping bags for a better start in the morning, and then you will have the chance to enjoy the canoe camping trip in your own style. But that’s a blog post for another time.

For more information on canoe camping please visit the Moshannon Falls Canoeing Resource.

See also…

13 thoughts on “Canoe Camping with Kids

    • Lora – those look really fun, I’d like to get a canoe, or an inflatable, for our camping trips because I think the kids would really enjoy it.

  1. Anyone have any thoughts/experiences with folding kayaks/canoes? Sounds kinda nice to be able to break one down and pack it away – or haul one into a remote lake on the back of an ATV.

  2. We are taking a camping trip this weekend to the okefenokee swamp in south GA. And taking the kids on some day canoe trips! What a great article! Thanks!!

  3. We are just getting ready to take our first kayaking trip of the season. Good tips here. Hope to see more pics and articles again!

  4. This sounds like so much fun! I’m was an ocean water kid and I can’t tell you how cool it was to learn to row at a young age. I love all the safety suggestions, too.

    • I’ve seriously got the bug to get a canoe, Michele. I think it would be a great addition to our camping experiences and the kids would have a great time.

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