Getting young kids into kayaks

It’s a big challenge to get kids engaged into sports, but it’s an even bigger challenge to get them into kayaks and keep them thrilled, excited and basically have fun.

Usually, at the age of 5 or 6, kids are starting to develop enough motor skill to start out with some sports. Mainly football (soccer), athletics (running), gymnastics, swimming and other ball games are popular for beginning sports.
Once the child grows more muscles and general fitness, they have generally tried different sports and around the age of 10 to 12, kids are mostly engaged in 1 or 2 sports and a member of a club or federation.

Unfortunately, age 10 – 12 is usually the starting age of kayaking for kids.
First of all, it doesn’t hurt to be able to swim (around age 6).
Secondly, kids need to control their kayak to be able to enjoy it. This is usually around age 10.
Last, for a kid to really enjoy kayaking, it needs to be featured in a game or fun activity. Being able to sufficiently handle your kayak to also “play” with it only happens at around age 10 – 12.

The combination (kids being locked in to another sport at age 10 and starting age of 10) means that few kids pick kayak as their main sport.

Solutions

There are several ways to engage more kids.
Reduce the starting age of kids by featuring adapted gear. When a child is able to swim (age 6) and gets to paddle a lightweight small kayak it might be able to start kayaking at age 8 or even 7.
Get shorter, light paddles. Small PFDs, smaller polo balls, little helmets.

Get schools involved.
In the local area of the club, offer schools a free 1 day event at your club for kids aged 8 – 12. If you organize a 4 hour event for 20-100 kids at the age where they pick their main sport, you could retain as much as 10%. Follow up with special youth events (paddling sessions, games on the water) and you are looking at a lifetime loyal member.

Kids bring kids.
Don’t mix your kids training with adult training. Even if they are of the same level (beginning adults even need more time to learn the right strokes than beginning kids) try to keep the 2 groups separated or at least supply each with its own trainer.
A group of kids become friends, friends bring more friends (make sure your club allows a kid to bring another for a try-out) and a group of 10 can easily grow and maintain itself. Whereas 3-4 kids mixed with adults will probably annoy both the kids and the adults.

If you have more ideas or want to discuss some of the points mentioned here, don’t hesitate to join us in the discussion forums: Getting young kids into kayaks topic

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