kayaking with a toddler

Kayaking is fun.  And when a Dad can share the outdoors with their child, laughter will quickly follow. The weather is warm and more conducive to getting kids out onto the water.  So here is some brief information on how and why to get your kids outside.

My son is almost three years old and he has been in a kayak several times.  Before I introduced the kayak to him we enrolled him in swim lessons on his nine month birthday.

For my own piece of mind I introduced my son to the kayak after two summers of swim lessons.  Swim lessons help to develop an understanding of water.  Even though, he will always be wearing a PFD when he enters a kayak.  I want him to be comfortable swimming if he should fall out of the kayak because of his curiosity towards something in or near the water.

The first time I introduced the kayak, paddle, and PFD (Personal flotation device / personal buoyancy aid) to him the boat was on land.

The land exercise was in our backyard under the shade of a tree.  This gave him the chance to explore the kayaking stuff.  I helped him to put on his PFD and then he helped us put on ours.  With the PFDs on I let him play in the kayak.  Then the three of us sat and played in the tandem kayak.  Two of his favorite outdoor toys are a small yellow shovel and a little blue bucket.  I also put a small lunch box in the kayak with some of his favorite snacks and drinks. (he was nineteen months old on his first 45 minute kayak trip)

Mother’s Day was next time he was in a kayak.

A few weeks later was Fathers Day and we took him paddling again.

Then in august of last year I introduced him to a paddleboard.

"you only live once"

Every time I have had him near, in, and on the water I have discovered new things.  He keeps amazing me with his discoveries of things that I have taken for granted.  For me it is a magical blessing to share the outdoors with my son.  Summer came early for us in Florida and he has been out several times in the early weekend mornings.

The basic things that I have learned for him to enjoy the day are…

  • PFD – he needed to be comfortable with wearing it
  • Sun Protection…the Florida UV index is usually high even during a cloudy day
    • Blue Lizard Baby
    • Hat
    • Rash-guard
  • Hydration
    • Juice, Juice, Juice – in several sippy cups
    • Water
  • Snacks – crackers, grapes, and slices of watermellon
  • Toys – his favorite toys are a small shovel and bucket (I have then tied to the kayak because sometimes they fall in the water and start to float away)
  • A waterproof disposable camera.  So far none of his artistic pictures are worth bloging about, but he does enjoy having his own camera.
  • Time, 20 to 45 minutes is plenty of time for him
  • Diapers – the little swimmers combined with a rubber diaper and swimming shorts works best to keep things contained
  • Shoes?  Yes I have him wear water shoes.
  • Shadow boxes, scrap booking is fun but putting some of the small things that he collects on his outings in a box is a great way of keeping the memories alive.  It is also a romantic gift to give my wife and the grandparents
kayaking with grandparents

I hope this list helps.  And I will keep updating it as we try new things.  – Jeff


July 31, 2011 TAMPA — “A 1-year-old boy died Sunday after drowning in a 5-gallon bucket of water, authorities said.  He slipped out of his parents’ sight for 10 minutes.  His body was found upside down in 5 inches of water in a bucket in the garage.”

July 31, 2011 ST. PETERSBURG — “A 19-year-old Haitian man apparently drowned Saturday afternoon during a beach trip with church friends at Fort De Soto Park.  Around 2:30 p.m., he decided to go in the water. Others in the group began looking for him and spotted him floating, Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies said.  He was pulled to shore and given CPR.  Emergency crews rushed him to All Children’s Hospital, where he died.”

Summer weather is far from over here in the Tampa Bay area.  The headlines the last weekend in July were a grim reminder of the importance of practicing water safety in and around the home, as well as in backyard pools and at the beach.  These two tragedies demonstrate how important it is to supervise kids; for, kids’ last concern is the dangers associated with water.

Backyard Swimming Pool Safety Tips:

  • Actively supervise your children around water at all times
  • Install four-sided fencing and a self-closing, self-latching gate Hot tubs should be covered and locked when not in use.
  • Install a door alarm, a window alarm or both to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area unsupervised.
  • From the start, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present.
  • Enroll your child in swimming lessons after age 4 – typically the earliest age when they are likely to practice and retain information. Teach children how to tread water, float and stay by the shore.
  • Learn CPR and know how to respond in water emergencies

Home Drowning Prevention Tips:

  • Never leave your child alone or in the care of older children during bath time.
  • Once bath time is over, immediately drain the tub.
  • Empty all buckets, containers and wading pools immediately after use. Store them upside-down and out of children’s reach.
  • Keep toilet lids closed and use toilet seat locks.
  • Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed.
  • Children in baby bath seats and rings must be watched every second.

Open Water Safety Tips:

  • Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention. Appoint a designated “water watcher”, taking turns with other adults.
  • Enroll your child in swimming lessons after age 4 – typically the earliest age when they are likely to practice and retain information.  Teach children how to tread water, float, and stay by the shore.
  • Make sure kids swim only in areas designated for swimming.
  • Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
  • Do not let kids operate personal watercraft such as jet skis.  These are intended for adults and require special training.
  • Teach children not to dive into oceans, lakes, or rivers because you never know how deep the water is and what might be hidden under the surface of the water.

Provided by the City of Seminole Fire Rescue – Safety Bulletin, August, 2011

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