If you are looking for the best kayak for kids, you have come to the right place! Kayaking with kids is a fantastic family activity because it is great exercise and provides perfect bonding time. It is challenging and helps kids develop problem solving skills. Helping kids learn about nature and how to enjoy and protect it at a young age builds a base for a lifetime of this type of appreciation which is a wonderful gift to give your children.
Here is a quick break down of our top 7 children’s kayaks. Keep reading to learn more about what to look for when reviewing kids kayaks, as well as a closer look at each of the kayaks that made our list.
What to Look for in a Youth Kayak
There are very specific features that are important for young children. If you have a beginner 5 year old child that needs a “yak” you are going to want features that help them to be successful on the water. The last thing a parent needs is a young child that has gotten discouraged because their kayak is overwhelming and too difficult to maneuver.
One of the most important features for a young child is to have a way for them to independently get on and off the kayak from the water. A step or platform on the back of the kayak makes it easy for them to slide on and adjust their way into the seat.
A very important detail to think about for a child of any age is for the adults accompanying them to be able to tow their kayak. Some kayaks come with a built in system, while others can be adapted and tied to the adult’s kayak. A kayak that is easy to tow makes for a better experience for the whole family. Be sure to bring a rope to tie the kayaks together if necessary.
Keep in mind that if you are buying a kayak for a very young child you may want to choose one of the ones that is made specifically for children. Shorter kayaks are easier to steer and a 6 year old is going to need a different size kayak than a 14 year old.
Here are my picks for the best kayaks for kids.
7 Best Kayaks for Kids
#1 Lifetime Youth Wave
|5 and up||18 lbs.||130 lbs.||Blue / Green / Orange / Pink / Yellow|
This is truly the best beginner kayak for kids. It has a paddle cradle notch for when kids arms get tired and molded finger handles for easy transport. Another great feature is a reverse chine. This is the shape of the bottom of the kayak (hull), and this specific design allows for enhanced stability and is also flip resistant. There are also multiple foot rest positions which is great because your child can continue to use the same kayak as they grow.
The Lifetime Youth Wave is also designed with a step area so that kids can easily get on the kayak from the water. The only thing this kayak is lacking is a cushioned seat, so if may get uncomfortable if you plan on taking your children for very long trips.
This kayak is recommended for ages 5 and up and is an excellent first kayak for children up to 130 pounds. It comes in a variety of colors, including pink, which is a color not often seen in a kayak. The paddle is also included, depending on which color you choose. The kayak is made of high-density polyethylene and is very easy to tow if the child gets tired. This is a perfect beginner kayak for a young child that they can use until they grow to 130 pounds, so it is well worth the money!
Lifetime Youth Wave
- Flip resistant
- Flat step for easy entry
- No padded seat
#2 Best Choice Products Sports 6’ kids kayak
|5 and up||18 lbs.||121 lbs.||Blue|
This kayak comes at a great price and has plenty of features that are perfect for kids! This is no doubt the best sit on top kayak for kids. It is also a great kayak for beginners of all sizes. It has an easy roll skeg wheel on one end and a toggle on the other so that it can easily be pulled and transported by a child. But it also has side handles for adults that want to carry the kayak. This is a very stable kayak with multiple foot wells for children of all sizes. There is plenty of storage, including a net area in the back and a bungee area in the front that could hold a dry bag. There is a padded backrest that can be adjusted or folded down when not in use.
The only complaint about Best Choice Products Sports 6’ kids kayak is that the paddle that is included may be a bit flimsy, so you may want to think about investing in a better paddle.
Best Choice Products Sports 6’ kids kayak
- Skeg wheel makes transport easy for children
- Lots of storage
- Padded backrest
- Flimsy Paddle
#3 Sun Dolphin Bali SS 8ft
|Best for older children||30 lbs.||197 lbs.||Ocean / Tangerine / Red|
This is the perfect kayak for kids that are a bit older, due to it being a bit larger than some of the other models on our list. One of the main features are tapered foot wells so that it is easy for kids to have the perfect foot grip. It is extremely durable and made with UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene.There is also a dry storage compartment that could be used for lunches, cell phones, or other things your child wants to keep from getting splashed on. Another favorite feature is the adjustable padded seat that adds comfort for longer trips.
Sun Dolphin Bali SS 8ft
- Multiple foot rest positions
- Dry storage compartment
- Padded back rest
- Paddle not included
#4 Intex Challenger K1- blow up kayak
|Best for older children||27.2 lbs.||220 lbs.||Green-blue|
This is absolutely the best blow up kayak for kids. Only takes about 10 minutes to assemble. There is a large net to store extra gear. It is easy to store and can fit in your trunk. This is a great kayak for a pre-teen to teen. It is very comfortable and you can even lay down if you are feeling like relaxing for a bit! For an inflatable youth kayak, you can’t beat the quality or the price!
The seat back is not very strong. Because this is a blow up kayak there is always a risk for puncture with something very sharp. But the material is very strong and normal lake and river use going over a few rocks is fine. There is more than one chamber to inflate so if punctured in one chamber you would likely only lose half of the air.
Intex Challenger K1- blow up kayak
- Very Comfortable
- Easy to transport
- Inflatable means risk of punctures
#5 Old Town Heron Junior
|5 and up||26 lbs.||115 lbs.||Sunrise|
This kayak is exceptionally lightweight at only 26 pounds. However because of the light weight the maximum capacity that this kayak can hold is 100-115 lbs and is best for a child no more than about 5ft tall. This is a sit in kayak which provides shelter and is great feature for cold water and wind as it protects the child’s legs and keeps them dry. It has a comfortable child sized seat and a towing system. It is very easy to paddle and turn. Made of durable polyethylene and foam in both ends to help with flotation. This is also an extremely stable kayak.
The biggest downside of this sit-inside kayak is that if the child flips the kayak, it can take in some water and can be a little more difficult to get back on track. It also does not include a paddle, which adds some cost to this boat which is already on the more expensive side. However, it is extremely well made, and well worth the money if you are looking for a high quality kayak for your kids.
Old Town Heron Junior
- Easy to maneuver
- Very stable
- Paddle not included
- More difficult to re-enter if flipped
#6 Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Tandem Sit-on Kayak with Padded Backrests
|5 and up||60 lbs.||500 lbs.||Camouflage / Olive Green|
This is the best tandem kayak for kids and is perfect if you want a kayak that can fit both you and your child, or multiple of your children. While this boat would be too difficult for one child maneuver on their own, two or three children would not have an issue. The boat is on the heavier side however so kids will likely need help with transporting the kayak to and from the water. If you do plan on using this kayak yourself with your child on board, the video below has some useful tips.
The Lifetime 10 foot kayak has multiple foot wells so that a child or adult of any size can sit comfortably. It also has backrests that are adjustable to accommodate riders of any size.
This is a very stable kayak, but if you are looking for speed, this is not the right kayak for you. The width of the boat that makes it so stable also makes it harder to push through the water. The paddles are not always included so be sure to check this when purchasing.
Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Tandem
- Can seat up to 3 kids
- Very stable
- Paddles not included
#7 Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
|Best for older children||30.6 lbs.||400 lbs.||Yellow|
For a blow up tandem kayak for kids, the Intex Explorer K2 can’t be beat! It is an excellent price, fits easily inside of the trunk of your car and is really easy to blow up only taking less than 10 minutes. The seats are removable so if you are not taking a child and want to go alone and use the extra space for fishing gear or just want to bring your dog, it can accommodate. There are grab handles on both ends so it is easy to pull it from the bank into the water, as long as you use caution and avoid any sharp rocks or rough terrain.
The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is great if you want to use it for you and a child, but if you are looking for a kayak for children to use on their own, I only recommend this model for older children. The inflatable design of this kayak sits the passengers further away from the water, and may make it difficult for smaller children to paddle.
This kayak is made for smaller bodies of water such as lakes and mild rivers. Although the material is very strong, this would not be the best kayak for rocky areas.
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
- Most affordable
- Easy to transport
- Inflatable means risk of punctures
- Younger children will need help with set-up
Picking the best kayak for kids can be difficult, especially if they are your own. You want your children to have fun, but also want to make sure they are as safe as possible. If it were my kids, I would go with the Lifetime Youth Wave. The flip resistant design and entry deck would give me peace of mind that my child is safe.
However if you have children that are a bit older, then the Old Town Heron Junior seems like the way to go. The quality of this model is hard to beat, and the sit inside design makes it much easier to maneuver than the other sit-on-top models.
No matter what model you choose, always take precautions when your child is kayaking. They should always wear a life jacket, and make sure that they always remain within eyesight, at least until they are older and more experienced kayakers. Don’t forget that even experienced kayakers need life jackets as well, and if you need help buying one check out our guide to the Best PFD’s for Kayaking.