Kayaking isn’t just for adults. After researching over 25 different kayaks, 10 of which were made specifically for children, we’ve identified the best kayak for kids, which is the Lifetime Youth Wave.
With a reverse chine for greater stability and a child-focused design, the Lifetime Youth Wave is the perfect introduction into the world of kayaking for the younger members of your family.
We also listed this vessel on our list of the best kayaks for 2019, and decided to call it out again because it’s that good.
While kids can certainly use some of the normal, adult-sized kayaks, they’re not ideal for beginners and they can be harder to control overall.
Finding the right kids kayak for your family can be difficult, especially when the market is saturated with adult options. But to help you find the best boats for everyone in your family, we’ve done additional research and compiled a list of the best ch0ices on the market. We take boating and water sports seriously.
The Top Kayaks for Kids 2019
#1 Lifetime Youth Wave
Award: Best Kayak for Kids
- Designed for greater stability
- Paddle included
- No sealed storage compartments
- Backrest isn’t included
- Tracking isn’t the best
The Lifetime Youth Wave is designed specifically for kids. From a reverse chine for more stability to a lightweight design, this boat makes for a great addition to the paddling family.
Even though the Lifetime Youth Wave doesn’t include a seat back, your kids of any size will still find it comfortable to sit in while they paddle. The vessel features a lightweight design that makes it easy to carry and store. Weighing in at only 18 pounds and featuring molded finger handles, your kids can even carry it themselves, saving you the hassle.
The reverse chine gives the kayak more stability, but your kids may find it difficult to control in anything other than the calmest waters because of it. Overall, this kayak for kids is a great introduction into the world of paddling for all children. If it’s a weekend kayaking trip, check out the best sleeping bags.
#2 Old Town Heron Junior
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Award: Best Sit-In Kayak for Kids
- Comfortable seating
- Tag-along towing system
- Integrated flotation prevents submersion
- No footrests
- Seat isn’t adjustable
- Doesn’t include a paddle
The Old Town Heron Junior is a sit in kayak that kids can enjoy alongside their parents. It features a comfortable, molded seat with padding to make longer paddling sessions more enjoyable. However, the molded seat isn’t adjustable, so your taller kids may experience some discomfort.
This kayak for kids also features an incredibly handle tag-along towing system that allows you to connect it to your boat in case your child gets tired. This boat also has a built-in flotation device in the hull that will prevent it from sinking in case it gets tipped over. You may also want to read about the best tents.
#3 Sun Dolphin Bali 6 Foot
Award: Best Sit On Top Kayak for Kids
- Easy entry swim deck
- Stable tracking
- Durable design
- No seat included
- Included paddle isn’t very sturdy
- Self-bailing feature doesn’t work well
This kayak for kids is the smallest version of the popular Sun Dolphin Bali series. Its short length makes it ideal for younger paddlers.
The Sun Dolphin Bali 6 foot, features extra-stable tracking and a sturdy design. The hull is made from UV-stabilized Fortiflex polyurethane, which makes it perfect for children since they’re more likely to hit rocks and other hard objects while kayaking. Its hull also features an easy-entry swim deck so kids of any size can jump off and get back on easily.
While this boat doesn’t include a seat, it’s still comfortable for most kayakers. Unfortunately, the included paddle isn’t very sturdy and the self-bailing feature doesn’t drain water as well as it should. However, the Sun Dolphin Bali 6 foot is a great choice for kids starting out. Read more about outdoor gear for your trip.
#4 Lifetime Manta – Best Tandem Kayak for Kids
- Hull design made for stability
- Padded seat backs included
- Can be used solo or tandem
- No paddles included
- Sometimes hard to maneuver
The Lifetime Manta is a tandem kayak that gets you in the same boat as your kids to help them learn how to paddle and get more comfortable on the water.
Featuring padded seat backs and a hull made for extra stability, this kayak is a good choice for those just starting out in the world of kayaking. It can also be used in a solo configuration once your child gets more comfortable with the sport.
Unfortunately, the Lifetime Manta doesn’t include any paddles, and it can sometimes be hard to maneuver, especially in rougher waters. Check out the best kayak for beginners.
#5 Intex Challenger K1
Award: Best Inflatable Kayak for Kids
- Super lightweight
- Good tracking and stability
- Lots of netting gear storage
- Accessories included
- Seat back isn’t sturdy
- Included paddle is flimsy
The Intex Challenger K1 is an inflatable kayak for kids that provides extra portability and overall ease of use. Kids will find it easier to control and the cost will be easier on your wallet.
With lots of gear storage and a variety of included accessories, like paddles and an air pump, this kayak is versatile and dependable. Even though it’s inflatable, it’s still super durable, meaning you can rest assured knowing your kids won’t easily puncture it.
Overall, the Intex Challenger K1 is a solid choice in the world of children’s kayaks, even in spite of the flimsy seat backs and paddles included in the package. The best smartwatch for kids is another great accessory that will come in handy during your kayaking trip.
#6 Ocean Kayak Banzai
Award: Best Kayak for Older Kids
- Tag-along tow system
- Low profile made for shorter arms
- Varied footrests
- Lack of onboard storage
- No self-bailing holes
- Accessories aren’t included
The Ocean Kayak Banzai is a good choice if you’re looking for a kayak to buy for your older children. This kayak features a design more suited to children who are more familiar with paddling and have previous experience on the water.
This vessel features a unique, tag-along towing system that allows you to tow it in case your child gets tired on the water. Its hull is low profile, sitting closer to the water to allow your children’s shorter arms to paddle easier. It also features footrests in a variety of positions to fit children of different heights.
If you’re looking to buy something your older children can enjoy and use in a more advanced setting, consider getting the Ocean Kayak Banzai. You might also consider the best tandem kayak.
Kayak for Kids Buying Guide
In our best kayaks of 2019 list, we discuss the core features you should consider when purchasing a kayak. You should still keep some of these features in mind when purchasing a boat for your children.
This buying guide focuses on the features you should consider when buying for less experienced kids who are smaller than adults and require more attention.
Before we dive in, be aware that most kids kayaks will sacrifice tracking capability in favor of stability. These vessels aren’t meant to cut and glide through the water like a pro. Instead, their main purpose is to teach your children how to enjoy paddling and getting out on the water.
Features to Consider When Buying a Kayak for Small or Large Children
Kayaks that offer these features are the best choices for kids. With that in mind, take these points into consideration as you start researching and shopping. Learn about the best place to buy a kayak.
- √ Stability – If you’re child is new to the world of paddling, you’ll want to find the most stable boat you can. If your child’s first experience on the water is full of tipping over and falling in the water, it’s highly likely that they won’t want to get back into the boat after a while.
- As previously mentioned, most kayaks for children already favor stability over anything else. When you start researching, look at how wide the boat is. The wider, the more stability. Some kayaks also feature specific design features that increase overall stability.
- √ Portability – Kayaks can be large and difficult to transport, especially for children. Most boats made for children are smaller than their adult counterparts and weigh much less as a result. However, try to find an option that goes the extra mile in helping your kids carry the boat to and from the water.
- The best kayaks for kids feature easy-to-hold handles and are 20-30 pounds. Inflatable kayaks are the best in this field. They can be deflated and stored in a handy carrying bag, which makes it extremely easy for you and your kids. However, some inflatable kayaks can be too heavy, so be sure to check the weight of the boat before you buy.
- √ Safety – when they’re out on the water for the first time, you’ll want to make sure your kids are safe. Kayaks for kids should include safety features that will help you and your child feel more comfortable during their paddling sessions.
- This safety usually comes in the form of added stability, but some boats include unique safety features. These may include a hull with a built-in flotation device to prevent sinking or self-bailing holes that prevent the kayak from filling with water. Consider the added safety features of any boat you consider and determine what will be best for your kids.
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