Father and son preparing kayak for launch from lakeside

A Guide to the Best Kayak for Kids: 10 Top Picks [Reviewed]

Love kayaking with your family? You might be wondering how best to include your little ones.

Kayaking is a rewarding outdoor experience. It’s fun and full of adventure, but your kids should be safe and stable while out on the waters. For a worry-free kayaking experience, it might be best to get your child their kayak.

Let’s head right in. Today, we’ll discuss a list of best choice products – the best kayaks for kids!

The Top 10 Best Kayaks for Kids For Unforgivable Moments

1. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak with Paddle – Best Overall

Key Features

  • All-Soft contours with no protruding hardware
  • Lightweight
  • Ergonomic cockpit design
  • Paddle included
  • Includes a swim-up step

Specifications

  • Length: 6 feet
  • Width: 24 inches
  • Maximum Weight Capacity Rating: 130 pounds

In Review

This Youth Kayak has an ergonomic design that’s perfect for kids aged five years old and above. 

This kayak comes with a paddle holder, molded finger handles, and multiple footrest positions for your kids’ convenience.

A reverse chine enhances its stability. Motor skills and balance are likely to be better improved with this kayak!

Pros

  • Stable and sturdy
  • Perfect size

Cons

  • No backrest

Old Town Heron Junior Kayak – Best Value Kayak for Kids

Key Features

  • Tag-Along Tow System
  • Lightweight
  • Paddle included
  • Contoured padded seat
  • Bow and stern carry handles

Specifications

  • Length: 7.5 feet
  • Width: 25 inches
  • Maximum Weight Capacity Rating: 115 pounds

In Review

The Old Town Heron Junior Sit-In Kayak is efficient and innovative.

On the water, it glides and tracks well. Once the kids have had their fun, their small arms can get tired.

Thankfully, the Tag-Along Towing System makes it easier for kids to bring their kayak to shore. This kayak has a paddle included!

This kayak is lightweight and stable, and they even designed the contoured seat for kids!

Pros:

  • Comfortable seat
  • Comes with a towing system
  • Lightweight, nimble

Cons:

  • Not much storage
  • Maybe too long for some kids

Perception Hi-5 6.5 Kids Sit-on-Top Kayak – Best Budget

Key Features

  • Includes a kid-size paddle
  • Has a swim-up rear deck
  • Sturdy base for the standing area
  • Hitch and tether system
  • Paddle holder, rear handles, and carry handles

Specifications

  • Length: 6 feet 6 inches
  • Width: 24 inches
  • Maximum Weight Capacity Rating: 120 pounds

In Review

This Perception Hi-5 kayak is easy to use and is meant for your kids to grow up with for several years!

If you’re a more concerned parent with a kid that’s only starting to kayak, the hitch-and-tether system is for you. Attach your kids’ kayaks to your watercraft with that design.

This child kayak is one that’s best for flatwater paddling. It tracks and glides nicely on lakes, ponds, and coastal waters.

Pros:

  • This kids kayak is designed to adapt to size and skill over time
  • Sturdy and durable

Cons:

  • Not much storage
  • Comfort is not a guarantee with its design

Emotion Kayaks Sparky Kayak – Kids’ Kayak for Long-Term Use

Key Features

  • A durable polyethylene hull for the longevity of use
  • Designed to limit rocking
  • Equipped with a cup holder
  • Includes small stern tank well
  • Contains rear storage compartments

Specifications

  • Length: 6 feet
  • Width: 24 inches
  • Maximum Weight Capacity Rating: 140 pounds

In Review

This sit-on-top kayak is perfect for kids of all sizes.

It has multiple footrest positions and handles equipped with molded finger handles. The latter makes the kayak easy to use and easy to transport.

Did your kids find treasures in the ocean? This kayak’s storage compartment makes it easier to bring them to shore.

Pros:

  • Lightweight for kids
  • Easy to control

Cons:

  • Can get less stable
  • No backrest
  • Can get uncomfortable

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 – Kids’ Kayak for Lake Adventures

Key Features

  • Durable Fortiflex┬« polyethylene material
  • Large, open cockpit
  • Padded seat, with adjustability
  • Shock cord deck rigging
  • it also comes with a dry storage compartment

Specifications

  • Length: 9.5 feet
  • Width: 29 inches
  • Maximum Weight Capacity Rating: 250 pounds

In Review

The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 recreational kayak is ideal for your lake and river adventures. It also comes with protective thigh pads.

The Sun Dolphin Aruba’s storage compartment and water bottle holder also makes it convenient for your kid to bring along his gear. With this sit-in kayak, comfort and durability reign supreme!

Pros:

  • Multiple storage areas
  • Adjustability features are there for comfort

Cons:

  • The rear hatch is not water-tight
  • Available paddle leash, but no paddles included

Malibu Pedal Drive Sit-On-Top Kayak – Kids’ Kayak Choice for Maximum Stability

Key Features

  • Roto-mold hull
  • Lightweight
  • Ergonomic seating system
  • Docking station
  • Spacious, with added kids’ jump seat

Specifications

  • Length: 12 feet
  • Width: 34.5 inches
  • Maximum Weight Capacity Rating: 450 lbs

In Review

This is for older children who may be beginners – and can be used by the adults as well! Let younger toddlers tag along on the jump seat. This kayak even has enough space for the family dog.

Your kid will have a safe, fun time on the water with this sit-on-top kayak. It tracks and paddles with ease and stability.

The ergonomic design also allows for easy entry and a comfortable experience. Carrying handles make it easier to transport.

Pros:

  • Lots of space
  • Ergonomic design
  • Comfortable, performs well

Cons:

  • Can’t be bought for the younger kids

Pelican Solo Youth Kayak – Best Kids’ Kayak for Agility

Key Features

  • Open cockpit design
  • Comes with a paddle
  • Comes with a cup holder, paddle holders, and molded footrests
  • Lightweight
  • Swim-up rear deck

Specifications

  • Length: 6 feet
  • Width: 24 inches
  • Maximum Weight Capacity Rating: 140 pounds

In Review

The Pelican Solo Youth Kayak employs a twin tunnel hull for superior stability. These two parallel hulls also make it easier for kids to master the kayak!

It also has a self-bailing design. This design removes water from the cockpit.

It makes use of safety features such as a Safety Flag.

Pros:

  • Perfect for beginners
  • Safety features included

Cons:

  • Little storage available

Dragonfly Wave Pro Junior Sit-On-Top Kayak – Kids’

Key Features

  • Stable hull design
  • Sloped rear swim platform
  • Lightweight with built-in side handles
  • Molded seat and side handles
  • Durable material

Specifications

  • Length: 6 feet
  • Width: 26 inches
  • Maximum Capacity Rating: Not Available. Actual kids’ kayak weighs only 17 pounds

In Review

This kayak has a center crown cockpit and molded-in footrest.

Its composition is there to make sure it will last for years. It’s still lightweight, and you can easily carry it to various water adventures.

Pros:

  • Center crown cockpit encourages balance
  • Includes seat and shin pads, both self-adhesive to increase traction

Cons:

  • The paddle must be bought separately
  • Does not have any design for guaranteed good tracking

Malibu Kayaks Mini-X – Best Versatile Kayak for Kids

Key Features

  • Standing platform for recreational paddling or shallow-water fishing
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Large and open cockpit
  • Bungee side handles for paddle holders

Specifications

  • Length: 9 feet 3 inches
  • Width: 33.5 inches
  • Maximum Capacity Rating: 325 pounds

In Review

This kayak is versatile for family fun, great adventures, and fishing! While it isn’t one of the many great fishing kayaks, its standing platform makes that recreation possible.

It’s lightweight, stable, and can handle more than the usual weight.

Pros:

  • Versatility and easy transportation
  • Comfort is a guarantee

Cons:

  • Size may not be for every kid- this is a kids’ kayak mini model!
  • Only has enough storage for small items

Pelican Summit 100x Kayak

Key Features

  • Stable V-chine hull
  • Molded-in cockpit table
  • Adjustable, padded backrest
  • Adjustable footrests
  • Bottle holder included

Specifications

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width: 28 inches
  • Maximum Capacity Rating: 275 pounds

In Review

This kayak is stable enough for first-time users and sleek enough for more advanced kids. Comfort and performance are the top features of this recreational kayak!

Pros:

  • Adjustability exists in many features
  • Has an elastic bungee cord
  • Designed for stability

Cons:

  • Longer than ideal for kids
  • Not as lightweight
  • No handles for transportation

Top Picks

2nd Runner-Up – Perception Hi-5 6.5 Sit-On-Top Kids’ Kayak

We love this kayak for its beginner-friendly features. It’s great for parents, too, as it’s the best kayak for safety assurance.

With the number of handles and paddlers’ rests, it’s perfect for the convenience of your child. Its tracking can give your child a rewarding kayaking experience.

The hitch and tether system can be more than a safety measure. It takes into account that kids are likely to become tired while engaging in this outdoorsy sport.

So, if you ever need to tow, you can do so with their system!

1st Runner-Up – Old Town Heron Junior Kids Kayak

We love this kayak for its budget value. As one of the best kayaks for kids, it can withstand rougher waters.

While this one has a quality design for calmer waters, it promises a lot of durability and stability.

Best of all, we love how it tracks and glides nicely on water. You’re sure to have a fun time with your child with one of the best kayaks on this list.

Our Winner – Best Overall Kayak for Kids – Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak

Yes, the Youth Wave is the winner! Not only is it meant to last for several years, but it’s there for your child’s first kayaking adventures.

It’s designed for your child to master quickly, which we couldn’t find in any other product.

It enhances its ergonomic design with a reverse chine for the best stability.

It teaches your child the basics of kayaking and the motor skills needed as well! For kayak-loving families or newbies seeking out the best kayak for kids, this is the ideal option.

What Should You Consider When Shopping for Your Kids’ Kayaks?

Let’s get a good idea of what to consider with the best kayaks for your little one.

Looking for the Best Kayak for Kids: In General

Stability

Unless your kids have supernaturally mastered kayaking since infancy, this is the most vital factor in choosing a kayak for kids.

Good stability should show when at rest on still water and when leaning after rougher waters.

Kids especially need this until they learn how to balance themselves well on a kayak. We don’t want any accidents!

The Length and Width

The length and width of a kayak can affect stability.

Get your kids a shorter kayak length! Longer kayaks are harder to maneuver. A kayak that’s six to eight feet long is ideal for your kids.

However, the length can also depend on what kind of trip you’re going to make. A longer kayak may be best – you be the judge. Just make sure your kid is ready and prepared!

If you noticed, our list features mostly six feet long kayaks. The longest ones are nine to twelve feet long, and we recommend that for older kids as well.

The width, meanwhile, can make a kayak experience more stable. The wider it is, the easier it is to maneuver.

Weight

If you get the wrong weight for a kayak, it can sink or become unstable.

Keep your kids safe by looking into the kayak’s maximum capacity rating.

A tip: 30-35% of the maximum capacity rating should be able to hold your kid’s weight along with things they’ll take!

Make sure to include the gear you’re bound to take when deciding. A kayak should be usable for children with additional weight.

Price

Be reasonable with your budget. Of course, if your child continues kayaking in the future, this purchase should be an investment.

Keep reasonable prices in mind without forgoing quality.

Looking for the Best Kayaks for Kids: In Specifics

Cockpit

The cockpit is where you get in to command the kayak. A comfortable, well-designed cockpit should be easy to get into and offer a lot of contact through knee and thigh braces.

Open cockpits make kids’ kayaks easier to get inside. The Malibu Kayak, Pelican Solo, and Sun Dolphin brands on our list have this feature.

Towing

A kayak with a towing system in place is also best for our children.

After all, we may never know what happens out on the water. Towing systems come in handy when your child is tired, has lost their paddle, or are injured.

A rough patch of water may require towing for children to get through.

Of course, you can perform towing even without kids’ kayaks that employ towing systems. However, it’s a bonus feature if the kayak does!

There are a couple of kids’ kayaks that have towing systems on our list, and they’re both runner-ups!

The Hull

Hulls come in different designs and shapes.

There’s a purpose to each hull design, however simple it may look. You can choose to look at the hulls of the kayaks you have in mind to see if it aligns with what you need.

A rounded hull, for example, gives the kayak an increased speed. The V-shaped hull “cuts” through water and makes it easier for tracking.

Meanwhile, the flat hull provides stability and maneuverability.

Finally, the pontoon or tunnel hull provides good speed and the best stability.

Sit-on-Top Kayak Option VS the Sit-in Option

We’ve previously mentioned the kids’ kayaks on our list to either be sit-in or sit-on-top. To narrow down your choices for the best kids’ kayaks, we’ll differentiate the two.

Sit-on-top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are recreational and best for warm weather.

Pros: 

  • Easy to get on
  • Self-draining
  • Stash your stuff on the desk or the cargo space in hollow hulls
  • Great for easy-flowing rivers, warm coastal water, and lakes

Cons:

  • Not suitable for cold weather or rougher waters
  • Heavier
Sit-in Kayaks

Pros:

  • Fast
  • Good for paddlers
  • Good for cool weather and water
  • Better control
  • Suitable for rough waters

Cons: 

  • Not as much freedom to move around
  • There will be hard recovery if the kayak capsizes – water will fill up the enclosed space

One other option is an inflatable kayak. An inflatable kayak would come with a hand pump and has its own benefits and advantages. A spray skirt may be necessary for waterproofing.

Consider these factors when you get the chance to choose the best kayak for kids.

Kayaking With Kids: Other Things to Consider

Where to Kayak

It’s best to go to calm water. Lakes and slow rivers will best build up your kids’ kayaking skills.

If you have the appropriate experience, gear, and boats, then you may look into something more adventurous.

Choose places with minimal current and have bathroom accommodations nearby, especially for younger kids.

Duration of Kayaking

Short trips and loops are ideal for children. Remember, your child can’t keep up with adult counterparts, even if everyone’s a beginner!

You should also plan the length of your trip around your child’s abilities. Their swimming ability, physical strength, age, and of course, the experience will factor into the duration of your kayaking trip.

Who Should Kayak With You

Make it a one-to-one situation. For every child, there should be an adult present with the appropriate experience.

If you have enough experienced paddlers, then the child can invite some friends. Ensure everyone’s safety first.

What to Prepare for the Kids’ Kayak Experience

The Skills

Show up to your kayak adventure as experienced paddlers and swimmers. Take lessons if you can! 

Decide If Your Child Should Duff or Paddle

Duffing means that your child sits on the center compartment while the adult can paddle for them!

If your child is too young, doesn’t have enough experience, or nervous out on the water, this is a good option. They can paddle if they like once they build enough confidence.

It all depends on the comfort level and the skills of your children.

Invest in Personal Flotation Devices

Personal flotation devices, or PFDs, can save lives while out in the water.

Whatever PFD you choose, be sure that they’re appropriate for the activity, the right size, and is approved by the U.S Coast Guard.

For example, off-shore life jackets are great for an ocean kayak trip and open, rougher waters.

If where you’re going isn’t akin to an ocean kayak trip, then maybe near-shore buoyant vests, flotation aids, and flotation devices are more appropriate.

Explain the importance of safety and what precautions to take to your children as well.

Food, Clothing, and Hydration

Simply be prepared with adequate food, appropriate clothing, and enough water – or more – for your trip.

Check the weather where and when you’re going so you can prepare for yourself and your children. It never hurts to plan these things early!

Conclusion

Treat our top ten list as if it’s a menu in a restaurant. In this menu, the best kayak for your kids should satisfy what you both want and need – and ideally, for a long time, too!

This article was an enjoyable review of some of the best choice products. We hope we’ve helped you in choosing the best kayak for kids. Let’s meet again in our next review!

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