About a year ago, we hired a Canadian-style open canoe and went on a short paddling adventure. At the time my daughter was 3 and my son was under 1. We immediately knew we had found a great family activity to enjoy together and ended up buying our own second-hand canoe on Gumtree.
Open canoes are great for families
Over the past year, we have been on loads of canoeing adventures. I would highly recommend it as a great activity to do as a family and a way to explore the great outdoors. Canadian-style canoes are great as the whole family can fit inside and you can also bring plenty of stuff in the canoe too.
Ready to go
Here are a few guidelines on how to get started and some tips for novices interested in having a go, based on our experience over the last year.
(1) Try hiring to see if you like it.
You can often find open canoes for hire from canoe retail shops or from watersports hire venues near good canoeing spots. You can buy or hire strap on roof pads for your car if, like us, you don't have a roof rack.
Strap on roof pads are great if you don't want to buy a roof rack
(2) Wear life jackets
Ensure everyone in the canoe is wearing a comfortable life jacket. You can hire or buy kids life jackets small enough for infants and toddlers.
Mini life jackets to fit the youngest paddlers
(3) Bring a picnic
If your kids are too young to paddle, they will get bored quite quickly. Try bringing a picnic with a few special treats for them to eat as you paddle - my kids love canoeing when they get a pack of Tiny Teddies to eat along the way!
Don't set off without plenty of snacks
(4) Bring 'paddles' for everyone
If your kids are too young to paddle, try bringing a long handled plastic toy spade (from a beach bucket and spade set). This lets them 'help' paddle.
(5) Bring cameras/binoculars
If the kids are too young to paddle, try bringing a cheapie toy camera and toy set of binoculars. (Or, have fun making your own). They can play taking pictures and bird spotting from the canoe. Older kids might enjoy making a photo diary using a real camera.
Toy camera and binoculars cost 1 dollar each from Kmart
(6) Prepare some games
In advance, prepare together a scavenger hunt spotting list of things you might see along the trip. Examples might be a pelican, someone fishing, a fish jumping, a boat, some floating rubbish etc. On the canoe trip, see how many of the items you can spot.
Pelicans - check!
(7) Don't be too ambitious!
Start off with some short paddling trips whilst you work out how much your kids can manage. And quit whilst you are all still having fun!
(8) Be ready to have only one adult paddling
If you're going with young kids, chances are one adult will need to be doing something for the kids. Until my son was 18 months, I needed to hold him throughout the trip. So, be prepared to have only one adult paddling at any time. If both adults can paddle, it's a bonus!
Have you been canoeing as a family? Share your experience in the comments forum.