Tips to Keep it Smooth Sailing with Kids

Paddling solo is great - but wrangle in the whole family and that’s when you things really start to get silly. One of the best parts about paddling is that folks of all ages and skill levels can come along. For this adventure, leave the game consoles, iPads, and other screens at home. Pack the water wings, sunscreen, cold drinks  and some epic snacks. Then, with these playful ideas, keep the laughs and smiles flowing on your next paddle outing with your young ones...

Abandon Ship

Encouraging your kids to test out their life jackets and find out what it's like to float in the open water away from the vessel is a great skill to get comfortable with as they spend more time on the water. At some point on each trip, shout, “Abandon ship!” Have the kids jump in the water and then encourage them to float a section on their back (in the swim safety position) in their PFDs. Pick a spot with a long stretch of flat water and be sure to help the kids back in the boat way in advance of any hazards. Pro tip - It’s even easier to get your kids and dog back in the boat when they are inflatable kayaks or paddleboards! 

Squirt Guns

Nothing says mischievous fun like a water gun fight! Stream Machine makes excellent single and double barrel pumps that shoot long distance, making a stealthy sneak attack possible. Water folks also can keep water guns on hand for cleaning off their vessels when sediment, sand, and mud are a plenty. Squirt gun wars are most fun when there is more than one craft on your paddle adventure. 

Musical Chairs

Every once-in-a-while call out, “Musical Chairs!” The goal in this game is to get into a seat you haven’t been in yet. This is particularly fun with more than one vessel. Your crew members will get to sit with someone new and have a chance to paddle from a different seat in the boat. This way everyone will learn about every position, steering, paddling, and other wise. 

Water Frisbee

If your family is large enough and you’re using more than one vessel, it can be fun to toss a frisbee back and forth. This game works well with anything handy that floats. If a ball goes rogue in the water, make it anyone's game, all hands on deck, everyman for themselves. Fumble or interception style! 


With so much rich visual stimulation to observe while paddling, how about a game of I-Spy? One person starts by secretly picking something from the landscape and the rest of the paddlers try to guess what it is. Whoever guesses correctly gets to pick the I-Spy item next. 


Row Row Row Your Boat is the most obvious song to sing while you are on the water - but there are many others. Look up some water themed kid music or easy to learn songs and teach a few to your family. Maybe start and end each paddle with a family song.

Hailing from Oregon, guest contributor KM Collins is a geologist gone writer. Discovering she was a freshwater mermaid late in life, she started paddling 10 years ago and has been upping the ante ever since. First as a paddleboarder, then kayaker and finally, recently, buying her first raft. Roller skating, snowboarding and cycling rank among her favorite land-based activities.

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