It’s kayak season, and your child is ready to be the captain of their own adventure! You’ve been watching them have fun in tandem for years, and it’s finally time to buy them their very own watercraft.
As you begin researching, you find there are a lot of articles and it’s hard to know which ones to trust. This was the problem I ran into when looking for the best kids kayak for my 12-year-old, and why I decided to write this guide.
I found out the hard way, but the process of acquiring the best kayak for your child doesn’t have to be a headache! Heed our 4 recommendations and 8 takeaways to find the most compatible youth kayak for your kiddo.
The 4 Best Kayaks for Kids
Best Lifetime Kids Kayak: Youth Wave Kayak
The Lifetime Wave Youth Kayak is the best youth kayak of the whole Lifetime line of kid kayaks. This manufacturer has a reputation for making inexpensive, quality vessels and the Youth Wave is no different.
- Age limit: 5+
- Weight capacity: 130 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 18 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 24 x 9 x 72 inches
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Children ages 5 and up can enjoy cruising on their own watercraft as long as they weigh 130 pounds or less. In fact, they will be able to enjoy this kayak for years before they outgrow it, and chances are good they will outgrow the Wave Youth before you need to replace it!
Happy customers rave “this kayak is the PERFECT starter boat for a child” and they “anticipate this kayak to be used for the next several years”.
The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is made out of high-density polyethylene. Polyethylene is a fancy word for plastic, and there are multiple benefits to a watercraft made of this material:
- Easy to repair with putty
- Takes scrapes and collisions with rocks like a champ
- Handles the wear and tear that comes with belonging to a child
One really amazing feature of this kayak made specifically for youngens is the swim-up step. When they get off, the swim-up step paired with the sloped end makes it easy for them to get right back on again. This reduces the need for the upper body strength necessary for adults using kayaks.
The Youth Wave weighs 18 pounds, which is a bit heavy for younger children. They are going to need help transporting their kayak. So, an adult will be necessary to hoist the kayak onto a rack, into a truck bed, or on a trailer. However, you can help your smaller children feel more independent by purchasing them a cart to pull the kayak to and from the water themselves!
- Easy re-entry when a child falls off
- Paddle included
- Multiple footrest positions to accommodate a growing child
- Resistant to impact
- 5-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
- Weighs 18 pounds
- Must drill to attach a seat
- No plugs to let out water in the bottom
Best Intermediate Kids Kayak: Old Town Canoe and Kayaks Heron Junior Kids Kayak
Old Town Canoe and Kayak is a water sports manufacturer based out of Old Town, Maine. This rural business has been around since 1898, and has survived by staying at the forefront of kayak innovation. Their Heron Junior Kids Kayak carries on the tradition.
- Weight capacity: 115 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 26 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 25 x 16.2 x 89 inches
The reason we gave this watercraft the title of best intermediate kayak, is because it is the best intermediary vessel — the perfect size between a youth kayak and an adult kayak.
With a 115 pound max and a total length of 7 feet 5 inches, this transitional kayak is easy for the in-between age child to handle. This vessel weighs 26 pounds and has convenient carry handles made special to fit small hands. If the vessel is too heavy, use a cart as discussed earlier.
The Heron Junior is like a mini version of an adult kayak, and it performs as such! Therefore, we highly recommend this craft for children who do a lot of kayaking and enjoy the sport as a hobby.
But, just because your child is new to the sport doesn’t mean they won’t take to it.
In fact, a mother and her sons were extremely happy with their purchase. She says, “both never kayaked before but they are now huge fans”.
This Old Town kayak comes standard with multiple features that make it a winning combination for serious young paddlers:
- Tag along tow system reduces the fear of fatigue. Parents can easily tow their child back into shore.
- This kid kayak was molded to fit a child’s body, as is the included seat, for the utmost comfort sitting and paddling.
- The Heron Junior is stable and almost effortless to handle on the water due to the foam billet’s buoyancy.
- The polyethylene hull is special, in that it is only a single layer. This makes the watercraft lightweight and allows for easy maneuverability.
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
- Tracks well so your child will not spin in circles the entire outing
- Tow along system minimizes hard headwinds and fatigue
- Perfect for kids who enjoy kayak excursions as much as their parents!
- More expensive than other youth kayaks
- Paddle sold separately
Best Kid-Friendly Adult Kayak: Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
When it comes to kid-friendly adult kayaks, the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is the best on our list. The manufacturer is a high-quality producer of inflatables not limited to watercraft. Intex specializes in this one thing, and they do it well.
- Weight Capacity: 220 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 27.2 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 30 x 15 x 108 inches
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This 1-person adult kayak is the most inexpensive on our list, and perfect for an older youth paddler.
A Challenger fan says this vessel is “fantastic for teens” and offers “the fun and flexibility of a kayak without the typical hassles of storage or transportation”.
The floor is extra stable due to the inflatable I-beam, and there is a seat with a backrest so your kids can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride when they get tired.
An added bonus for parents is the bright color. You will be able to keep an eye on your child from shore! This eye-popping design is especially comforting while they are new to kayaking.
Speaking of materials, the Challenger is made of vinyl. This differs from polyethylene, and has its own benefits for a kids kayak:
- Resistant to punctures common for new paddlers
- Separate air chambers. If one does pop, your child will be able to make it back to shore with the air in the other.
- Sturdy base for those without sea legs
- Can be folded and stored anywhere, including your child’s room if they want to fall asleep looking at their new toy.
There is a handpump included, but younger children will find this too difficult to use. We recommend purchasing an electric pump like this one to give them complete independence, and the ability to get their kayak ready without help. This autonomy will give you, the parent, freedom to get your own watercraft ready without interruption.
- Least expensive watercraft on our list
- Really cool design complete with graphics and bright colors
- Aluminum paddle included
- Included handpump tires even adults out too quickly
- Heavy for younger children
- Hull gets hot, but this can be remedied by covering it with a light colored blanket or other soft material. Darker colors absorb the sunlight and will make the hull even warmer.
Best All-Ages Kid Kayak: Best Choice Products 6ft Kids Kayak
The Best Choice Products 6ft Kids Kayak is a moderately priced, well-built kids kayak with fun features children of all ages will enjoy.
- Weight capacity: 121 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 18 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 26 x 7 x 72 inches
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At 18 pounds, it’s easy for bigger children to carry their own vessel, while smaller kids will need assistance. You can purchase a cart, but it might not be necessary. There is a little wheel on one end, so kids can drag it along.
In terms of construction, this Best Choice watercraft is made of polyurethane with UV-resistant and color-saving materials. Not to mention there are multiple footwells molded into the hull, so your growing child can use this vessel for years to come.
For those little arms that can’t quite make it back to shore, Best Choice includes a front handle and skeg wheel for towing.
If it’s comfort you’re worried about, there is a foldable, removable, built-in backrest. Furthermore, your children will love feeling like an adult with the molded cup and bottle holder.
Additionally, there is cargo space in the back covered by netting for all your kid’s gear and snacks. This gives them total control of their day, and you of yours.
- Very adult-looking kayak makes children feel more grown up
- Durable construction to prevent scrapes and holes
- Towing capacity if your child gets tired before reaching shore
- The included paddle is short and flimsy, so a new one might be needed for easier maneuverability
- Heavy for a child to transport to and from the water
Kids Kayak Takeaways
Throughout our article, we have highlighted some central themes to help you to make a choice. Here are the most significant to consider when buying your youth kayak:
- The weight of the kayak, and whether or not your child can move it on their own.
- The weight capacity of the kayak.
- Whether or not the paddle is included, and whether the included paddle fits your child’s hands.
- Your budget
- Whether or not the kayak is inflatable or solid, including the space in your vehicle or home for transportation and storage.
- The comfort of the kayak.
- The stamina of your child, and whether or not they might need to be towed.
- Give your child a say in which kayak they want. Try narrowing the watercraft down to 2, and allowing them to make the final decision.
You can’t go wrong with any of the 4 kids kayaks on our list. However, it’s important to understand the importance of the takeaways before you make any purchases to make sure you buy your child the best kayak for their needs.
Last update on 2021-06-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API