Have You Paddled with your Kid Today?


     As an owner of a canoe outfitting business I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the statement, “We’re planning to bring our kids up to paddle when they get older.”  To this I usually respond, “Oh, how old are they?” The answer to the question varies as well as my response to it, but the fact of the matter is there is not an age requirement for going on a canoe trip with kids. 


     Kids of all ages can enjoy the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and there is no “magic” age for introducing your child to paddling. As long as safety is the number one priority and the length of the canoe trip is suitable to their age and attention span then it can be an awesome experience for everyone involved.  We’ve had guests bring up newborns and we’ve taken our children out paddling when they were just a few months old.  It’s amazing how attentive a baby is to the outside environment.  The sounds of nature and the sensation of floating have a way of mesmerizing babies to toddlers.  Children enjoy the sights and scents of the wilderness almost more than most adults.  They are keenly aware of their surroundings as they soak in the natural wilderness setting.


     Some people think the wilderness is too dangerous for toddlers or small children.  When you are out paddling the canoe becomes the playpen for the youngster.  Just make sure the child is wearing a life vest and tie some toys to the canoe so when they attempt to throw them overboard they are not lost forever.  When you are camping in the Boundary Waters there is very little to do and most adults find it much easier to keep track of their children at a campsite than in their own homes.  With a life vest on toddlers can explore at their will or be kept safe while playing in the safety of a zipped up tent.  There are wild animals and bugs in the woods but they are less likely to attack a small child than the common neighborhood dog.  Proper preparation or gear can keep your child almost bite free; just purchase some netting, dress them appropriately and spray them with a bug spray.  Young children are the perfect audience for taking along on a canoe camping trip.


     The older children get the less likely they are to want to try new things, especially with their parents.  The sooner you get your children into the great outdoors the more likely they will be to enjoy it.  Sometimes undesirable attitudes about bugs, going to the bathroom in the woods, or about siblings have a way of preventing parents from bringing their tweens into the woods.  This is the exact reason why it is so important to get them paddling as a youngster before these opinions are developed.  I’ve taken some young adults on canoe trips who say they don’t want to paddle or don’t want to portage.  I tell them, “That’s fine if you don’t want to portage the canoe, but you are going to try to anyway.”  The proud smile on their face at the end of the portage is well worth listening to the grumbling complaints.  Those same kids are the ones who are back at camp bragging to their friends about what an awesome time they had paddling. 


     The magical age to take kids on a canoe trip is whatever age you are willing to take them.  They will enjoy the fresh air, sounds of nature and relaxing quality of the woods and water no matter how old or young they are.  Paddling with kids is a great opportunity not only for the kids but also for the adults who are able to experience things through the eyes of a child and spend time getting to really know them.  Get out and paddle with your kid today.




Placing an infant in a car seat without strapping them into it is a great way for them to travel in the canoe as long as they have a life vest on and are not attached to the canoe.


A tall Rubbermaid container with a boat cushion in the bottom placed in front of the stern seat can be used to hold babies who are not old enough to pull themselves up or walk yet; again be sure the baby is wearing a life vest.


Older kids can sit with younger kids in between their legs in the canoe to keep them from moving around too much or to help entertain the child.


Singing songs, playing games and telling stories are a great way to pass time when paddling for a long period of time.


Snacks and toys that are easily accessible on a longer canoe trip will keep a young child from getting too bored.


Letting a child fish along the way is a perfect distraction of long distance paddling.  You can even let your child practice casting without a lure on the line.


Older children may enjoy reading about the flora, wildlife or birds in the area; they could also read aloud to everyone.


Giving your child a map to follow along with is a terrific way to teach navigational skills.


Remember, you know your child the best so plan your trip according to their temperament so you will not be disappointed.