Rafting With Kids

Nothing beats sharing the joy of the river with the next generation. Rafting can be enjoyed from toddlerhood until the end of your days. There are things you learn and memories to be made that only the river can provide. When well prepared, you will be successful into turning your kiddos into little boaters. Before you take your children rafting you must be proficient at rafting yourself and have the skills necessary to keep them safe. If you are inexperienced be certain your private or commercial guide is qualified. 

Preparation is definitely the keyword to success here. Plenty of boaters can have a type B fun day and come back wanting more, but a bad experience can turn a child off from wanting to get on the water again. Prepare for your trip with several things in mind. Experience level, age, length of trip, weather, equipment and layers, snacks, snacks, and more snacks. A little bit of discomfort, risk, and challenge is great for most children and will help them grow into self-sufficient and confident adventurers. Just remember that those challenges should start in small doses and try to keep it fun. With support, you will be amazed at what you kids can do!

Choose a river section that is appropriate for your child. A flatwater river or even a lake is a good way to start. Work your way up in challenge slowly. Be confident in your skills and be sure you are paddling below your ability level with youth. When starting out choose stretches that are shorter in length. It’s better to leave the kids wanting more than to be stuck on the river with a kiddo wanting it to be over. 

Comfortable and safe gear is extremely important. Your child’s personal flotation device (PFD) must fit securely and be Coast Guard approved or meet the requirements of your area. There really is no room to skimp here. Educate your child why it must be worn at all times when on the water. Depending on the type of water you are paddling you may also need to put kids in helmets. Quality and fit is important here. We recommend shopping at your local outfitter to get the best fit on all your gear. 

Pack layers and even extra layers. In the summer kids can wear bathing suits, but be prepared with extra synthetic layers and splash jackets in case of a storm, wind, or sudden drop in temperature. Having a change of dry clothes is a good idea too. Having a cold kiddo makes for a very tough day. 

Remember to protect your kids’ skin with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, layers, and even sun canopies if necessary. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen often and always after swimming. 

Food and water come in just as important as anything else. Pack enough water for all of the adults and youth, and then some. You do NOT want to run out of water. Dehydration and hunger will make kids grumpier than anything. Pack snacks in dry bags or watertight coolers. Our favorite kid snacks include trail mix, oranges and apples, hard-boiled eggs, and pretzels. But really, the best choice is what you know your kids will eat. A river trip is not the best place to experiment with a picky-eater. If you are preparing for an overnight, consider favorite kids meal options as well. 

Remember to keep it fun and safe. The waves you think are amazing could be terrifying to a child the first time. Prepare them for what the trip will be like. Talk to them beforehand about rafting, and show them pictures and videos of what to expect. If they aren’t swimmers or haven’t worn a PFD before, take them to a pool or lake to get used to it first. This is a prime time to start to demonstrating proper swim technique and keeping feet up on the river at all times. Raft in small doses to get a sense of where your kids are at with it. Overdoing it can deter them from wanting to go more. If they just aren’t feeling rafting yet, give them a little more time. Remember they have their whole lives ahead of them and it’s worth taking it slow. Enjoy teaching them to read whitewater, laugh, and remember to take lots of photos. As you continue to adventure your kids will get more and more comfortable with the water and willing to take on more challenges. Patience, understanding, clear communication, and a sense of adventure on your end will take them far.