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Canoeing With Kids

Updated on June 13, 2013
meal time
meal time
hunting for leeches
hunting for leeches

A multi-day canoe trip with children is very different than a multi-day canoe trip with adults. Children create a whole new set of challenges and plenty of extra work but the end result is often worth it.

Tips For A Positive Camping Trip With Kids:

The key to making a canoe trip a positive experience for your children is to keep it fun. Here are some ideas to help you out:

  1. In bed by dark, up by dawn. If you are like most paddlers you are typically in bed by dark and up at dawn. Keep to this routine but realize your kids will need some encouragement since this is a very different schedule than they would normally follow. It helps if you explain your reasoning behind the bedtime schedule. Mosquitoes are usually the reason we are in bed before dark.
  2. Hearty breakfast. Cook a breakfast. Pancakes, oatmeal, fish... just have a hot breakfast if possible. Let your kids help make it as well. Breakfast will go a long way to keeping everyone content for the morning paddle.
  3. Help out. No one likes to pack up camp. Your kids are no exception. Don't expect them to pack up all their gear every morning and not complain. Make them responsible for their clothes, sleeping bags and personal stuff but help them with the tent and stuffing their gear into the traveling packs. If they do pack everything themselves then make sure and praise their efforts.
  4. Keep your paddles short. Expect to get most of your paddling in during the morning. Fresh from a good night sleep and after a hearty breakfast everyone will be full of energy and eager to go. This last for about 2 hours. After the initial push you will have to stop either on land for a bathroom break or just to float and have a snack and a rest. Plan to stop for the day around 2-3 in the afternoon. Give everyone a chance to set up camp, fish, swim and relax before having a good supper and going to bed.
  5. Plan an extra day. When planning your trip allow an extra day or two. These are emergency days. If the weather is poor or the wind is up, then you have the option of staying put for a day. Alternatively, if you have good weather and you find a good camp site you have the option of staying an extra day and relaxing.
  6. Encourage exploration. Once you get camp set up you may be ready to relax but chances are your kids will be full of energy. Encourage them to explore the water's edge and settle yourself where you can supervise. Chances are they will find a multitude of aquatic life that they normally wouldn't see like crayfish, leeches, frogs, fish, etc. You could take them into the bush around your camp and identify the different plants.
  7. Plan you meals. Make sure you have plenty of food that your children will eat - both for snacks and for the meals. Nothing makes a child cranky faster than food they don't like. I have another article: Super Easy Campfire Meals that talks more about this.
  8. Quality time. Your time around the fire or in the canoe is quality time. Use it to talk to your children without the distractions that are at home.
  9. Take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. Most children love to have their pictures taken. With digital cameras you can take hundreds of high quality photos - so take them. Let you children use the camera as well and you will see your trip through their eyes. When you get home develop the pictures, make a photo journal or scrapbook and share them with your family.
  10. Don't push to hard. Remember your kids are kids. They don't have the stamina or strength that adults have and they will get tired of paddling or hiking. Let them rest while you paddle. It may take a little longer to get there but you will get there. If you really do need them to work hard then praise their efforts and take frequent breaks.

When you take a child into the wilds for a multi-day canoe trip you are doing several things. You are sharing your love of nature, you are getting them physically active, you are teaching them outdoor survival skills and most importantly you are giving them quality family time.

It is true that canoeing with children is a lot of work but the end result is worth it.


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