If you want your kids to join you out on your water adventures, you have two options: either let them ride in your kayak or get them their own. If you’re unsure how to choose the best kayaks for kids, the reviews below can help you navigate your best options.
Kids need smaller, lighter kayaks that are easy for them to steer, and parents appreciate extra safety features for peace of mind. The following kids kayaks were designed with children in mind with different features for both kids and their caretakers to enjoy.
For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles:
Lake Kayaks | Sea Kayaks | Lightweight Kayaks
Touring Kayaks | Kayaks for Beginners | Sit In Kayaks
Canoes | Kayaks for Dogs | Sit-On-Top Kayaks | Kayaks Under $500
Kayaks for Women | Tandem Kayaks | River Kayaks
Quick Answer –The Best Kayaks for Kids
Lifetime Youth 6’ WaveView at AmazonIntex Challenger K1View at AmazonPelican Solo 6’ Sit-On-TopView at AmazonSun Dolphin Aruba 8’ Sit-InView at AmazonSevylor Quikpak K1View at AmazonLifetime LotusView at AmazonLifetime 10’ TandemView at AmazonPerception Prodigy XSView at Moosejaw
Comparison Table– Best Kayaks for Kids
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Lifetime Youth 6’ Wave
Intex Challenger K1
Pelican Solo 6’ Sit-On-Top
Sun Dolphin Aruba 8’ Sit-In
Sevylor Quikpak K1
Lifetime 10’ Tandem
Perception Prodigy XS
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.
Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.
Hard Plastic BodyComes With a Child-sized PaddleSwim-Up Step (to re-enter the boat from the water)Wide Stance (for better stability) Multiple Footrest Positions (to adjust as your child grows)
BEST FOR: RECREATIONAL KAYAKING AND CHILD-PLAY
This highly-rated kid’s kayak has a reputation as one of the most affordable, easy-to-use kayaks for kids. The wide, pontoon-like base makes the kayak difficult to capsize while the impact-resistant construction keeps it afloat, giving moms and dads everywhere a collective sigh of relief.
The lightweight design and molded finger handles allow older kids to carry and launch the kayak on their own. When the kids are in the water, be prepared for them to turn the boat into a diving board. The sloped back end and swim-up step make it easy to jump in the water and climb back on.
Comes With an Oar, Carry Bag, and Air PumpRemovable Skeg (for easier steering)Inflatable, Removable SeatCargo Netting (with a generous storage capacity)Grab Lines on Both Ends (to pull and move the kayak)
BEST FOR: KAYAKING WELL INTO ADULTHOOD
A little on the longer side, this inflatable kayak has a 220 lb weight limit which means your kids can keep using it after graduating–or you can borrow it from them on occasion. The heavy-duty boat only weighs 27 lbs inflated, so your kids should be able to carry it to the water by themselves. They should also have no trouble navigating slow-moving water with the streamlined shape and detachable skeg.
Even though some caretakers might be hesitant about sending kids out into open water on an inflatable kayak, safety is a top priority for the designers of this boat. The puncture-resistant kayak has two fill chambers, which means if one pops, the boat will stay afloat so your little ones can get safely to shore no matter what.
Comes With Child-Sized Paddle and Safety FlagMolded Carrying Handle (to pull in and out of the water)Swim-Up Rear Deck and Handle (to re-enter from the water)Molded Footrests (for leverage)Cup Holder
BEST FOR: CLOSE-TO-SHORE CRUISING FOR SMALL PADDLERS
If you want your little co-pilot to safely earn their independence out on the water, start them off with this Solo rider. With a 100 lb capacity, this self-bailing, sit-on top kayak is most suited for small paddlers on short trips. It even comes with a safety flag to help you keep tabs on where your babies are in the open water.
The open cockpit and hull shape lend the stability and maneuverability necessary for your little captain. The swim-up rear deck has a handle so your kids can pull themselves back on-board if they jump or fall off.
Adjustable Padded BackrestDry Storage CompartmentSpray collar (to limit the amount of splash-over)Recessed Paddle HolderDrink Holder
BEST FOR: WATER FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
All members of the family should be able to trade off using this boat. It’s lightweight and maneuverable enough for kids, but also has a 260 lb weight limit so adults can ride in it too. The Aruba is a great starter boat for adults and children at camp or on vacation.
If you’re going to be out for awhile, you can carry a change of clothes in the dry storage compartment and place a cooler under the bungee tie-down. The adjustable seat back and ample foot room make long rides a lot more comfortable.
Backpack That Doubles as a SeatRugged, Puncture-Resistant ConstructionComes With a Paddle and Air PumpBungee Storage Compartment and Cup Holder
BEST FOR: BOY/GIRL SCOUTS AND OLDER CHILDREN / TEENS
If you want to carry everything you need on your back during your next wilderness trek, and you want your teenager to do the same, this inflatable kayak meets your needs and then some. The kayak kit comes with everything you need to hit the water within minutes and packs up into an easy-carry backpack which doubles as the seat back.
Though not designed specifically for children, this sit-on kayak works great for you and your little Scout or your growing teen. Multiple air chambers mean the difference between staying afloat and sinking, providing you with a sense of assurance. Pack your rations in the bungee storage compartment and cup holder and you’re well on your way to earning your Floats and Boats badge.
Comes With a PaddleHard Adjustable Backrest and Multiple Footrest PositionsRear Bungee Storage CompartmentEasy Carry HandleDrainage Holes (to keep water from pooling)
BEST FOR: PRETEEN AND YOUNG ADULT JOY RIDES
The weight and weight limit of this boat are better suited for older children (and possibly the family dog). A strong teenager may be able to carry the boat to the water alone, but a smaller child might need a hand from an adult.
Even when your child is wearing a life vest, you still might worry about them getting stuck inside or submerged in a sit-in kayak that tips over. The open cockpit and self-drainage system of this ‘yak eliminate that fear. Plus the boat is very stable, so the chances of it flipping on its own are low. You can feel better about sending the youngsters out to play on this water toy.
Comes With 2 Removable Backrests (for double or single passengers)Includes 2 Double-Sided PaddlesMolded Front and Back Handles (to lift and launch the boat)Superior Stability and TrackingFront Bungee Cargo Storage
BEST FOR: CHAPERONED TRIPS AROUND THE LAKE
If your child is too small or hesitant to ride in their own kayak, you can still take them for a ride in this tandem boat. Your child can practice their paddling skills with supervision before launching out on their own. Once they graduate from chaperoned rides, you can bring a partner or pup or use the ‘yak by yourself by centering your seat. The passenger arrangements are endless.
The emphasis of this boat’s design is on stability, not speed. You’ll appreciate how stable the boat feels, even if your kid (or dog) bounces around or reaches over the sides. You can make use of the bungee storage compartment for snacks, cameras, and other kid necessities to avoid cutting your trip short.
Thick Padded, Adjustable Seat (for comfort on long rides)Adjustable Footrests (for leverage for growing legs)Front and Back Toggle Handle (for two-person carry)Padded Cockpit Ring (to avoid painful bumps and chafing)
BEST FOR: BEGINNERS WITH SERIOUS KAYAKING INTENTIONS
This kayak is a little more sophisticated and expensive than other kids’ kayaks on this list. If your child shows interest in kayaking long-term and you want to provide them with the best, then this more robust model is worth investing in. The comfort features, like the padded seat and adjustable footrests, grow with them and allow them to stay comfortable on the water longer.
The sit-in style cockpit and hull design create optimal stability for confidence- and skill-building. Extra flotation foam is built into the bow for additional buoyancy. Your kids can use this up until the point where they exceed the weight limit, and by then they’ll be prepared for the next step up.
View at Moosejaw
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A KID’S KAYAK
Kayaks come in a range of prices based on what features they come with and what they’re made out of. Many parents are more inclined to choose the low price end because children grow out of them so fast. They also want to make sure their kids are serious about kayaking longer-term before investing more. However, higher-priced models tend to offer more features, so parents who want to provide their kids the best experience possible may choose the pricier models.
Kids kayaks tend to weigh considerably less than adult kayaks, because they’re smaller, but also so little ones can carry their boats to the water by themselves or with a little help. Lighter weight models are also easier for children to steer than larger models. If you want your child to be able to carry their own ‘yak, then choose a model they can easily hoist.
The weight limits on these kayaks vary from holding very small children to adults. Consider the weight of your child and how long you think they’ll be able to use the boat before they outgrow it. You may also want to choose a higher weight limit if you want to be able to use the boat or allow other adults to use it too.
Kayaks come in inflatable and solid versions as well as sit-in and sit-on-top varieties. Each has its pros and cons. For example, sit-in versions tend to be easier to steer, but can fill with water if they tip. Also, parents tend to assume solid kayaks are safer than the blow-up kind, but today’s inflatable versions are built extra durable and take up very little storage space. You need to make your choice between buying an inflatable vs a hardshell kayak based on what’s most important to you and your children.
The hull shape and width impact a kayak’s stability. If you’re more worried about your child tipping over than going fast, look for a wide flat bottom or pontoon hull. More tipsy versions tend to move faster, which might not be suitable for a young beginner. And always make sure, no matter how stable the kayak, that you outfit your kids with all the safety equipment they need to stay out of harm’s way while they’re on the water.
The hull refers to the shape of the bottom of the boat.The shape determines how well the ‘yak tracks and how stable it is. The flatter the hull, the more stable and slower. A V-shaped hull, on the other hand, feels a bit more tipsy but allows for faster cruising. Learn more about hull shapes and how they impact your experience here.
The chine refers to an angled, V-shaped hull. A reverse chine has a V-shaped chine except where the bottom of the boat meets the sides. There, the hull meets the side of the boat straight across or at a slightly downward angle. This shape makes for tighter, safer turns and creates less splashing.
The cockpit is the area where the paddler sits. Kayaks come with either a sit-in or sit-on-top style cockpit. If a sit-in kayak tips over, your child has to get their legs out of the cockpit and then bring the kayak back to shore to drain the water. A sit-on-top kayak doesn’t trap a child inside or fill with water. However, sit-in kayaks tend to be easier to steer because they lower the center of gravity.
Also known as a tracking fin, the skeg is a little shark-fin like piece that attaches to the bottom of the boat. Common to inflatable vessels, the skeg helps keep the boat headed in the right direction when the wind blows or the current pulls.
A spray collar is a protective barrier that reduces the amount of splashback over the sides of the kayak. Most kids love getting wet, but the spray skirt helps prevent them from getting completely water-logged.
For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out these popular buyer’s guides: