Canoeing is an exciting outdoor activity that you can enjoy solo, in tandem, or with a group. It is a great way to enjoy nature while bonding with friends and family. If you have a baby, planning a canoe trip may seem a daunting prospect. But canoeing with a baby can be a lot of fun, too, as long as you keep things safe. I’m going to explore the topic here, so keep reading if you want to find out more!
Canoeing with a baby is different from canoeing with an older child. For obvious reasons, a baby isn’t going to have the swimming skills that an older child might have.
Let’s learn about canoeing with your baby and how you can do it safely.
Why You Can Canoe With Your Kids
Some may think it’s a hassle to bring a child, especially a baby or toddler, on a canoe trip.
It definitely does require more planning (and patience) than canoeing with other adults. Getting one thing wrong can lead to an unsafe situation, or at the very least a big tantrum!
As long as you take all the necessary safety precautions, you can definitely canoe with a baby. Let’s explore why it’s so fun to canoe with the family.
It’s Great for Sharing Your Love of the Great Outdoors
If exploring nature is something that you love to do, canoeing is an ideal way to pass it on to your kids. Canoeing offers a way to see the world from the water.
Your child will be able to experience and appreciate the beauty of nature and wildlife at any early age.
It Teaches Your Child to be Confident in the Water
Bringing your baby on a canoeing trip helps build their confidence and love for the water.
Yes, it’s too early to teach your little ones how to paddle. But being part of the adventure itself will help boost their interest.
It’s More Affordable than Some Other Activities
You probably already have the gear you need for a canoeing trip if this is something you’ve been doing for a while.
However, if it is a new activity that you want to try with your family, renting a canoe is a more economical alternative to buying one.
You can find canoes for rent at local outfitters or state parks by the hour or by the day.
Safety Tips for Canoeing with a Baby
You’ve got to make the canoeing experience safe and positive for your baby. Planning ahead is key.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before setting out on the water with your infant.
Take Canoe Lessons
This is a must. Don’t take any chances with your baby’s safety.
Canoeing with a baby is riskier than canoeing with an older child. You should take a course with a qualified instructor to make sure you’re skilled.
You should also consider joining a club, to get tips from more seasoned canoers. Do this before you consider taking an infant for a canoe trip.
Haven’t canoed for a while? Take a refresher course so you don’t forget any of the essential skills.
Make Trips Short
As much as you want to spend a significant amount of time enjoying nature’s views from the water, be conservative when deciding how long you should be out paddling.
For babies and toddlers, a few minutes may seem like an eternity. They’ll quickly start getting fussy.
Before you take your baby out with you, spend a few moments sitting in the canoe’s cockpit while docked or resting on the shore.
Then you can gradually lengthen the time in the canoe. Around half an hour to one hour will do. you can make the trips longer – around half an hour to one hour will do.
Wait until your baby seems more accustomed to being in the canoe.
You will want to include a lunch break on the shore if you’re going on a day trip.
This will give you a break from paddling and your baby a break from being in the boat. You’ll also get to stretch your legs.
Resting on the shore is also great for bonding with your loved ones, making lasting memories. You can play a few games or maybe just relax and enjoy the scenery before heading back home.
Choose a Location Wisely
Make sure you choose a paddling location you already know well for your first canoe trip with your baby. You may still need to scout the area before you paddle, but at least it will take less time to do so since you are familiar with the area and you know what to expect along the way.
If you have little paddling experience, it’s paramount that you choose a place with calm waters. This might be a protected lake or bay, or a tranquil river.
You may also want to choose an area where there is a spot for swimming or having a picnic. Seek recommendations from your local paddling associations or clubs, asking for kid-friendly destinations.
Remember to check on weather updates or boat traffic. These factors can affect the water conditions, and they can catch you off-guard.
Arrange the Right Seating Plan
One of the first questions that come to mind when bringing a baby on a canoeing trip is where everyone should sit in the canoe. Before launching the canoe, decide which adult sits in the stern.
This person will be in charge of navigating the canoe and will have less leeway in helping manage the baby.
Generally, babies and toddlers should be positioned in the front with the bow paddler. Babies may rest on a soft carrier, so the adult sitting in the bow can help steer and paddle the canoe.
Toddlers will enjoy sitting in between their parent’s legs, feeling like they are in the driver’s seat while enjoying the view. Older kids can sit on the crossbars at the center of the canoe.
Wear the Appropriate Clothing
Most importantly, your baby (and you) must wear personal floatation devices (PFDs), commonly referred to as life jackets.
Ensure your baby’s PFD fits them appropriately. Children grow quickly, so you’ll have to re-check the fit on a frequent basis.
The PFD must have sufficient buoyancy and be securely strapped.
The Life Jacket I Use and Recommend
In most states, wearing a life jacket or PFD is the law when you’re out on the water.
If you’re like me, you want a safe, effective PFD that doesn’t limit your range of movement when paddling. That’s why I highly recommend this one from Onyx.
It offers great range of motion, can keep me afloat in the water (I’m 6’2″), and it is very comfortable.
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Also, dress your baby in comfortable clothing for the trip, with additional accessories such as:
- Mid-calf or knee-high boots
- A wide-brimmed hat
As much as possible, you would want to cover every inch of your baby’s body to prevent sunburn or bug bites. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are ideal, but if they get too hot or uncomfortable, you can change them into something cooler.
Apply baby-safe sunscreen and bug repellent to your child. Get a recommendation from your doctor first.
You can also bring an umbrella to give them more protection from the sun.
Packing for the Trip
Having a baby with you on a canoe trip means that you have to pack more stuff than usual. Here’s a checklist of baby essentials that you need to bring.
- Change of clothes
- Raincoat, rain pants, and umbrella
- Sunglasses, preferably with a strap
- Waterproof toys
- Disposable diapers and baby wipes
- Quick-dry towel
- Baby blanket
- Water bottles
- Baby’s favorite snacks and formula if the baby is not breastfed
- A waterproof backpack or dry bag for storing all the gear and supplies
Additional Safety Tips
- If you are a beginner paddler, it is always a good idea to have an experienced paddler with you on your first trip.
- Choose a large canoe since you will be bringing plenty of supplies.
- Bring a throwable flotation device. In many states, it is required by law.
- Never tie or tether your baby to the canoe. Doing this can be more dangerous, especially if the boat capsizes or flips over.
Canoeing with kids or a baby for the first time is exciting, but in case things don’t go as smoothly as you planned, it is essential to remain calm and keep your spirits up. Just like any sport or hobby, it will take a lot of practice for everyone to learn the ropes.
Remember, the goal is not only to have a single perfect day outdoors. It is also about introducing a new activity to your little ones, which will pave the way for many more adventures in the future.
Here are the most important tips I can offer for canoeing with your baby.
- Safety comes first!
- Your baby must have a PFD (personal floatation device) on at all times
- Stick to tranquil waters
- Check the weather report several times before embarking on your trip
- Make sure you’re already an experienced canoer before bringing your baby along on a trip
Of all watersports, canoeing tends to be the most peaceful and easiest to tackle. And it can be a fantastic family activity for making memories.