Best Kayaks for Kids
Even if you already own a fantastic and well-designed kayak, it may be best to start your child off with one of their own. In addition to the fact that you may want to go kayaking with your child (or children), buying them their own kayak can be beneficial for them, as well.
Kayaks for kids are going to be a little different than adult versions. Generally speaking, they are going to be smaller, sport less cargo space, and also be better optimized for stability. That is not to say that kids can’t use adult kayaks but it may be best to start them off with something simpler.
And, that is where this guide comes into play. With the information that will be provided to you today, you will know exactly how to buy the kayak of your child’s dreams.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 8.5 hrs of research
Features a tank well for extra storage
Molded from high-density polyethylene
The hull design provides great stability
Our Top Picks for the Best Kayaks for Kids
1. Emotion Sparky
Features a tank well for extra storage
Molded from high-density polyethylene
The hull design provides great stability
It does not come with a paddle
While this top kayak does not come with a paddle, it is one of the single best models available to this day. The Sparky is everything you look for in a youth kayak, to be perfectly honest.Read more
Without comprising the stability that is provided by the design of the hull, it was also designed with a semi-flat shallow profile. This allows the Sparky to remain extremely agile on the water, as well.
Though this may not be comfortable for hours on end, it is far from uncomfortable. What helps is the sit-on-top design as your child will not feel as cramped inside of it.
In addition to the fact that this only weighs 22 pounds, it has also been designed with molded-in side handles for additional portability. Also, this sports a front toggle handle.
Because this was engineered from high-density polyethylene, you can rest easy knowing it is not going to break very easily. This is about as good as it will get for plastic kayaks.
Unfortunately, you will need to account for a paddle yourself. The good news, though, is that your little one can tag along with all sorts of items with the storage space that is provided from the tank well.
From kids five and up, the Sparky is going to work incredibly well. It is only six feet long, however, so it is not going to be the absolute best for older kids or teenagers.
2. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two
Optimized for two riders
Has a load capacity of 425 pounds
Features an open cockpit
There are no storage compartments
Now, this is actually a tandem kayak but it can still work with kids. Whether you wanted to kayak with your child or allow two children to paddle with the Malibu Two, it is very versatile.Read more
Thanks to the tri-hull design of the Malibu Two, it is optimized for stability. In short, this basically just means that the hull is made of triple-layer polyethylene.
The combination of the open cockpit design and the four-way adjustable seats make this a fairly comfortable kayak overall. The footwells are also overlapping which to allow for different sized users.
When the time comes to transport this vessel, it will be made easier with the molded-in handles. Still, this is a tandem kayak so it will be somewhat more cumbersome to transport around.
Overall, this sports a load capacity of 425 pounds and it has been engineered from high-quality polyethylene plastic. It is constructed very well, let’s just say that.
This is one area where the Malibu Two could have been better. Past the fact that it does not come with a needed paddle, it also does not feature any storage compartments whatsoever.
Performance and durability are the two areas in which this excels the most. It is an excellent choice if you want your child to start off kayaking with a little bit of assistance first.
3. Sun Dolphin Aruba
A few different colors are available
Features a classic and durable construction
Incredibly light for a kayak
It does not track the best
No foot pegs are inside
Sun Dolphin has stamped their name on the kayaking industry so it is no surprise to see them secure a spot on this list. Their Aruba model, which is eight feet in length, is just about perfect for the little ones.Read more
Compared to some of the other best kayaks for kids, admittedly, this does not track incredibly well. With that being said, it is very stable on the water which is important for kids and beginners.
As you can see from the photos, this is a sit-in kayak. The included backrest is quite helpful. However, there are no footrests present so just take note of that.
One of the reasons Aruba is so beloved is because of its weight. For a kayak, it is very manageable to transport and carry around.
The classic construction of Aruba gives you peace of mind when your little one goes out with it. Unless they are utterly careless with it, not too much trouble should occur.
There is a dry storage compartment that can be utilized as well as a paddle holder and a recessed drink holder. Just a note, though, that the storage compartment is pretty darn small.
If your child would rather sit in a kayak as opposed to sitting on top of one, this is an excellent choice. It has also been designed by a reputable kayaking company so that always helps.
4. Emotion Spitfire
Equipped with front, rear and side carrying handles
Comes with cargo net lacing
The hull is backed by a five-year warranty
It takes some work to go straight
What makes the Spitfire Kayak so nice is it is designed with a ton of features that you will find on adult kayaks. This includes cargo net lacing and also self-bailing scupper holes.Read more
For its size, the ST Performance Hull of the Spitfire does a fantastic job of delivering both stability and speed. It is somewhat hard to keep straight but is still good overall.
Simple but effective features (such as the molded-in footwells and the padded backseat) allow the Spitfire to be a pretty comfortable ride.
With the sheer amount of carrying handles that have been implemented (on the front, rear and side of this kayak), this is not going to be too cumbersome or tricky to carry around.
As with so many of the best kayaks for kids, this has been engineered from high-density polyethylene. This same plastic has also been UV-protected to withstand the abuse of the sun.
Truthfully, this is where the Spitfire truly shines. It is equipped with a rear tank well that sports cargo netting for storage and also self-bailing scupper holes (which allow for proper drainage).
A good way to spoil your child is to buy them the Spitfire Kayak. If they really have an interest in different types of water activities then it may be worth giving this a shot.
5. Lifetime Youth Wave
Engineered of high-density polyethylene
Multiple footrest positions are available
Is pretty stable on the water
Does not do the best on wavy waters
Not the most comfortable design out there
This is one of the most popular kid kayaks on the market bar none. It may not track the best in wavy waters but it is incredibly durable and stable.Read more
As noted, this is not the best in rougher waters. With that said, its twin-fin design and reverse chine do provide fantastic stability and tracking in calmer waters.
Though the back could be a little higher for kids, the cockpit is ergonomically designed. Additionally, there are multiple footrest positions available to account for different riders.
On top of the lightweight 18-pound design, this vessel is also designed with molded finger handles on each side for easier carrying.
This is built to last, let’s just say that. The main core has been engineered from high-density polyethylene. Also, this kayak is UV-protected and will not fade or crack in the sun.
To allow the cockpit to drain, this is designed with scupper holes. Also, a double-sided paddle does come with your purchase.
For younger children, it is easy to see why this youth kayak has become a go-to choice. It is one of the most compelling options on the market that is for sure.
6. Sevylor QuickPak Kayak
It can hold up to 400 pounds
Comes with a paddle and a pump
Equipped with dual tracking fins
The backpack system is a little confusing
Unique would be the best word to describe this next model. It is inflatable, comes equipped with dual tracking fins and also implements a backpack system for storage.Read more
Indeed, this is another inflatable kayak. In addition to being reasonably stable while on the water, it also sports dual tracking fins. These will allow for easier movements on the water.
The simple nature of this kayak (it is an inflatable, sit-on-top design) makes it comfortable for the right users. The seat and backrest are also competent, so that helps.
In just around five minutes or so, this bad boy will be up and running. Again, it is inflatable, and this makes transporting it a lot easier.
As is noted in the product description, this has been designed with an Airtight system. It just minimizes the risk of abrasion or any leak being caused.
The included paddle is nothing special, but it is nice that one is at least included. For the record, you also get a pump and a backpack. The backpack is a bit difficult to work with, however.
It seemed appropriate to include a couple of inflatable models on this list as they are always ideal for kids. This is another such example, and it is an incredibly solid design overall.
7. Intex Challenger K1
Comes with a hand pump and repair patch
Designed with Boston valves
Sports inflatable I-beam floors
The seat is not the best
A few users noted the skeg is easy to lose
The Challenger K1 is one of those kayaks that are actually great for both kids and adults. It is inflatable, just to note, which makes it a lot easier to transport from location to location.Read more
As this is an inflatable model, it is going to feel a bit different. However, the inflatable I-beam floor helps to enhance the overall stability of the Challenger K1.
Even though the cockpit is designed for comfort and space, the included seat could have been better. But, for kids, it should be less of a worry as they are not as large as adults.
If you know anything about inflatable kayaks, then you know that they are incredibly portable. The Challenger K1 is no different and is equipped with Boston valves for inflation and deflation.
The rugged vinyl makeup of this kayak allows it to outlast some of the competition. All the material has been welded with quality in mind, also, enhancing the durability overall.
This comes with all types of goodies. As for the actual kayak, it comes with cargo netting and grab lines on both sides. Additionally, you receive a repair patch, hand pump, and aluminum oar.
The good news with the Challenger K1 is that your kids will not be as uncomfortable as you would be (even though the seat is still not awful). As for everything else, it really speaks for itself.
8. Sun Dolphin Bali
It can be used by kids of many different ages
Includes a dry storage compartment
Designed with an open cockpit
Somewhat on the heavy side
Does not track the best
While the Bali is on the expensive side, it is one of the best-built kayaks for kids on this list. The molded-in footwells also make it ideal for kids of various sizes.Read more
Stability-wise, this is fine, so there are no worries there. You should know, however, that this takes some energy to track. The reason this is important is you may or may not feel as if your child is ready for something like this.
This is a sit-on-top kayak but is almost a hybrid of sorts as it sits lower to the water. Either way, there is a padded backrest included, and there are also graduated footwells implemented.
At 30 pounds in total weight, this is not exactly a light kayak. However, there are grab handles on both ends so two people could easily carry it around.
One thing is for sure; not too many users are going to question the build quality of this vessel. This is because it has been molded from high-density polyethylene plastic.
For the record, there is a dry storage compartment that can be accessed. Also, equipped on the deck are a few bungee cords for securing some cargo.
The neat aspect of Bali is nearly all members of the family will be able to enjoy it. However, it is not quite optimized for younger children out there so be aware of that.
9. Best Choice Products Kids Kayak
Made of UV-resistant plastic
Built with a cup and bottle holder
It tracks very well
The paddle is abysmal
Speaking for the actual kayak that comes with your purchase, it is well-designed and very easy to track. However, the included paddle has been heavily criticized by a number of reviewers.Read more
In addition to the fact that this provides riders with reliable stability, it also tracks quite well. Your child or children should not have too much trouble operating this sucker.
The padded backrest is a nice touch as in addition to providing support, it can also be folded down when need be. Also, there are molded-in footwells to account for different riders.
To make transporting this easier, it has been equipped with a front toggle handle. It also helps that this is relatively light in weight (as far as kid kayaks are concerned).
Over time, this is going to hold up quite well thanks to the UV-resistant and tough plastic construction. Yes, the words tough and plastic can be used in the same sentence.
The good news is this is built with a cup and bottle holder and also a rear cargo area. However, the bad news is the included two-fin paddle is pretty much useless. Just count on buying a separate kids kayak paddle.
Granted you are not limiting your search to kayaks for kids that come with well-designed paddles, you should be highly compelled to go with this option.
10. Ocean Kayak Banzai
Sports molded-in side handles
Features a kid-friendly contoured seat
There are no drain holes
The footrests are not close enough
There are some features implemented into the Banzai that make it extremely compelling. It is also quite easy for kids to control and that is always a plus.Read more
The Banzai mainly secured a spot on this list due to its overall performance. For kids, it is going to be incredibly easy to turn and remain stable (which is a big plus).
For whatever reason, the molded footrests are too far for kids. It is odd as the seat is a low-profile and kid-friendly design that is ergonomically optimized just for kids.
As this is a relatively light kids kayak, it will not be too much of a nuisance to haul back and forth. It also features molded-in side handles and toggle handles too.
This is a high-quality design that is not going to crumble after a few accidental bumps and bruises.
One of the unique aspects of this kayak is it can be towed when your child is too tired to paddle. On the flipside, one of the most significant omissions was drainage holes.
The good does far outweigh the bad here, which is why this model made a list. However, admittedly, some of the “design flaws” are simply head-scratchers.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Arguably the most important aspect of a kids kayak is its stability.
One of the many reasons why so many people love kayaking is because kayaks themselves offer excellent stability. They will not tip over very easily, generally speaking. However, in spite of this, certain models will still sport superior durability, and this may be in your best interest when looking for kid’s models.
For kid kayaks, overall performance and speed are not going to be that important. Instead, it should be all about stability. And, this is one of the reasons why kayaks for kids are much shorter. Most will range between six to eight feet, and these lengths will be manageable for most kids.
But, some other features can make certain models stand out. In specific, some designs will feature chines, fins, skegs, etc. Mainly, these will be attached to the kayak, and they will enhance the stability and tracking of the vessel as a whole.
Oh, and as for the whole sit-on-top versus sit-inside kayak debate, both can work just fine. However, sit-on-top models are sometimes preferred for kids due to their simplicity (as getting on and off them is a breeze).
The last thing your child will want to do is kayak in an uncomfortable vessel, right?
Leaving off where the previous section ended, do you think your child will prefer to sit in a sit-on-top or sit-inside kayak? The ball is actually in your court on this one as you will best know your child. They may prefer being enclosed in the kayak (which is where sit-inside models come into play) or they may not want to feel cramped inside.
But, no matter which style you choose, there are some additional design features you need to take into consideration. For starters, assess the seat and/or seats (if you want a tandem kayak). Some kayaks will be optimized explicitly with seats that are ergonomically designed for kids. Others will sport seats that can work for both children and adults.
Also, not all models will come with backrests, and these can help to provide support for your child’s back. Oh, and you should also not overlook the footwells. Some kayaks will be designed with indentations (footwells), and these can be used as footrests. To allow for different sized children, look for multiple footwells to be implemented.
Whenever you buy something like a kayak, you will always need to keep portability in mind.
Alright, so this is where you come into play. Your child will not be able to transport their kayak by themselves so you need to know what you can handle. The benefit of kid kayaks is they will generally weigh less than others.
Most will range anywhere from 18 to 35 pounds and will not be too much of a hassle for you. Of course, your child may want to be able to handle the weight too (in case they do tip it over and need to flip it back).
This is also where inflatable kayaks come into play. Many kayaks of this nature will be safe for kids to use and the benefit of them is undoubtedly their portability. As they can be inflated and deflated, you will not need a roof rack to transport them back and forth (which could be a huge plus for you).
Of course, if you go with a hardshell model then you will want to keep an eye out for carrying handles. For easier carrying, look for models with multiple handles (on the sides, front, rear, etc.) so more than one person can help with it.
Kids can be hard on equipment so it is important to not overlook this section.
Whether you are shopping for adult or kid kayaks, it should always be a priority to look for models that are actually going to last. But, this is somewhat amplified for kids as they naturally will be a bit more careless and reckless out on the water.
This is why so many kayaks for kids will be engineered from high-density polyethylene. At least, this is speaking for hardshell models as inflatable models will typically be made with PVC and other such materials. But, back to polyethylene and yes, it is indeed plastic.
The thing about polyethylene, however, is it is far from cheap and useless plastic and is actually a thermoplastic polymer. And, there are different densities that exist. But, for kayaks, high-density is preferred over medium-density and low-density.
High-density polyethylene is more demanding and expensive to mould but its strength and toughness are worth it. And, because this plastic is molded at higher temperatures, it is less affected by them in general.
Also, this type of plastic has excellent quality control when it comes to the sun. The UV rays that the sun emits can be extremely damaging to outdoor equipment and gear. So, it is nice that high-density polyethylene kayaks can combat this to a degree.
This section is just going to cover a few extra features that you can keep an eye out for.
Now, it is time to dive into some “extra” stuff that can often make some of the most significant differences. For starters, some models will be equipped with self-draining scupper holes. In short, these will be built into kayaks to prevent them from filling up with water. No draining will be necessary with them as they will do all the performing.
Next up, your child may want a room to account for some of their toys or snacks. Now, cargo space and storage compartments are not quite as prevalent on kid models. But, as you saw on the above list, there are options with rear cargo space, dry storage compartments, etc. so you have a few options.
Lastly, some sellers will include some kayak accessories with your purchase. If you do not want to shop separately for a kids kayak paddle, for example, you can find kayaks with one included. Other items (such as kayak covers or pumps for inflatables) will sometimes also be included.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Most parents out there are going to be looking for ultra-stable kayaks for their kids. And, while kayaks, in general, do offer a superb amount of stability, models specifically designed for kids will offer even more so. As you will see in this section, there are certain features and details that will make some models more stable than others while on the water.
Do you want your child complaining about how uncomfortable their kayak is? While even the most comfortable kayaks can get a little tiresome to sit in after too long, it still may be wise to seek them out. The nice aspect about models that are optimized for kids is they will often be more comfortable for them to sit in. There are plenty of other factors to keep in mind, though.
While kayaking is an enjoyable water activity, if you own your own kayaks, you will need to account for them on your travels. That is where this section becomes so important. Even if the kayak you buy is for your child, you will be the one hauling it around. Kids models will still typically clock in anywhere between 18 to 35 pounds so they will still be somewhat heavy to carry around.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What age do children need to be to kayak?
This is one of those questions that you are going to need to figure out yourself. There is no set age where children are just deemed ready to kayak. Everyone is going to be different, but there are some things to keep in mind.
Firstly, if your child is young (say five or six), ensure they know the core basics of swimming and such. Also, place a life jacket on them while they are kayaking (more on that later). For your young children, you can also start with a tandem kayak so you can be with them directly.
q: How should you kayak with your kids?
Again, this is all up to you but there are some pointers that can be noted for when your child is just starting out. As was just alluded to, you and your child may be more comfortable on a tandem kayak. This can even allow for the workload to be split in half.
Additionally, start them out on quiet and shallower bodies of water. In other words, avoid raging currents and deeper, scarier bodies of water. The best advice is to start slow, to be honest.
q: Will kayaks tip over easily?
If you have never gone kayaking before, then it is hard to explain just how secure you feel while you are in your kayak. Those who have kayaking experience can relate as kayaks are not prone to tipping. Unless the currents are too strong, most of the time you would have to try to tip over to succeed.
And, once again, kid’s models are even more stable and less likely to tip. This should not be a concern for you or your child.
q: Can two-year-olds go kayaking?
This is pushing it, to be honest. If you were to take a two-year-old child kayaking, you would probably want to keep them in your own kayak. You would never want to allow a child of this age to control a kayak on their own. That would simply be foolish and a recipe for disaster.
q: How do you ensure your child is safe?
Kayaking is a safe water activity so let’s get that out of the way. For any parent skeptical about whether or not to allow their child to kayak, it is safe. But, there are ways to make it safer.
First and foremost, your child needs to be wearing a life jacket. Secondly, you should take them out on calmer bodies of water. Thirdly, and this is going in a different direction, ensure they have sunscreen on and perhaps even a hat to block the sun.
q: Will life jackets be required?
When buying kayaks for kids, you will also want to ensure that you have life jackets on hand. While the rules and regulations regarding the use of life jackets vary by state, any child on a kayak needs to be wearing a life jacket. That is more a matter of common sense than anything.
It is also important to ensure that the life jackets you have will fit them. If not, you will need to buy new ones that are sized to fit your little ones properly. After all, what is the purpose of a life jacket that fails to keep you afloat?