The Best Youth Kayak | Ending Your Search For The Best Kayaks For Kids


Kayaking is a fantastic way to get out on the water and enjoy a relaxing day with friends and family. Thinking of bringing the kids along? Then you’ll need one of the best youth kayak options to keep your kids safe and having fun, while giving yourself some peace of mind.

Included in the discussion are children. After all, a good youth kayak offers a fun and safe way to teach children how to handle situations while out in a large body of water in a small watercraft. If you are looking to teach your children safety around water while bonding with them in a meaningful manner, then kayaking is a great option for you.

With that said, if kids go kayaking in a kayak that isn’t reliable and aren’t taught the proper way to kayak and the necessary safety precautions that adults take for granted, they may be in harm’s way while out in the water. This can lead to panic for both you and your child when a threatening situation, such as a fast boat creating major waves, comes along.

In this guide, we provide you with the information necessary to equip your child with the knowledge they need in order to stay safe while out in the water. We discuss what makes the perfect youth kayak and, most importantly, rank and review the top three best kayaks for kids in 2018.

So without further ado, let’s dive in.

Why Children Should Use a Youth Kayak

If you already own a kayak that isn’t currently being used, it can be tempting to save money and let your kid use the spare adult kayak. Especially if the kayak you already have is slightly smaller than the one you use, you may think your child has the ability to handle the larger kayak and will eventually grow into it.

However, it’s important to provide your child with a kayak that is more appropriate to his or her current size. Sure, this means you will have to purchase a new kayak (although youth kayaks are far cheaper than adult kayaks), but isn’t it worth it to keep your kid safe while out in the water with you?

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Without an age and size appropriate kayak for your kid, your child will be at an increased risk of capsizing when confronted with massive waves. If you plan to only kayak in still or slow moving water, you may think that this problem doesn’t concern you. However, capsizing can occur in still water, especially when a fast moving boat speeds past you creating waves that your daughter or son simply can’t maneuver.

So why are children at larger risk of capsizing in an adult-sized kayak? The obvious reason, of course, is that they are less experienced at handling troubling situations. However, some of it is completely out of their control. Not only does the weight distribution of the kayak help keep the kayak from capsizing, but the weight of the person in the kayak helps as well. Since children weigh less, they need to rely more on getting a good angle when confronted with a large wave of water.

Also, children tend to have less fun when in an adult kayak. Since they have to work harder, they tire more easily, aren’t able to get up and back in the kayak without help, etc. They don’t enjoy the experience as much as they would if they had their own properly sized kayak and felt more independent.

youth kayak

Teaching Your Child How to Kayak

The key to keeping your child safe and allowing them to have a fun time out on the water starts with teaching them how to properly kayak and handle difficult situations.

First and foremost, it’s important to teach your child proper safety measures and equip them with the necessary gear before leaving. While there are numerous items you can utilize in order to keep your child safe, the most essential items are personal flotation device, water shoes and sunblock. As long as he or she is well protected and wearing the essential safety items, you have little reason to worry if he or she were to fall out of the kayak.

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While it is certainly important to teach your child safety techniques and equip them with essential safety gear items, it is also important to teach them how to actually kayak on the land before heading out into the water.

The first skill you should teach your children is the front stroke, which will be the technique they will utilize most. As silly as it may seem, have them practice the front stroke technique while on grass or cement, possibly without a paddle. After they get the hang of the front stroke, teach your children how to properly turn quickly when needed, which in many cases involves backstroking with the paddle in order to slow the kayak. After they get the hang of it, it’s time to head to the water.

Once in the water it is crucial to let your child feel independent, meaning you keep a close eye on him or her without being overbearing. By your child feeling like he or she is doing it on their own without much guidance, he or she will be able to gain confidence and have a fun time out with the family.

If your kids feel as if you are constantly nagging them about doing things the right way, they are likely to not have a real good time. Therefore, be sure to stay patient and guide them when necessary, ensuring they are having a good time without getting frustrated or impatient.

What Children Should Wear When Kayakingbest youth kayak

For adults, wearing the proper attire when kayaking is extremely crucial to stay safe, stay warm and feel comfortable while out in the water. For children, the importance of wearing the proper attire when kayaking is even more crucial.

Without the proper attire, children are at an increased risk of not being prepared for unpredictable weather factors such as water temperature, wind gusts and the strength of water rapids. The most important thing to remember when helping your children pick their kayaking outfit is safety. In everyday life, we choose our outfit based on appearance and comfort. With kayaking however, the best way to stay comfortable is to stay safe.

First and foremost, it’s important to determine the weather conditions before choosing what to wear kayaking. If the temperature will be cold and it is going to be windy, then you should prepare accordingly.

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However, the air temperature and wind strength are not the only factors to consider. Perhaps more importantly, it is crucial to determine the temperature of the water and any potential precipitation that may be in the forecast. Simply because the air temperature will be warm doesn’t mean the temperature of the water will be warm as well. While the air temperature tends to change far more often, the water temperature stays similar to the average temperature in the area. Therefore, if you are kayaking in an area that is known for cold weather, you should wear cold weather clothes, even if it will be warm on that particular day.

Now, let’s get into the specifics about what to wear

For a top, wear a more weather-resistant material such as a wetsuit, dry suit or multiple layer outfit when the air and water temperature will be cold. If the weather is warm, then be sure to wear lighter clothes to avoid overheating. However, if the sun will be out in full force, you may want to have your child wear long sleeves to avoid sunburn. For pants, the same concept applies.

In cold weather, a dry suit or wetsuit is most appropriate, or at the least something that serves as a tight buffer between you and the water. Water resistant shorts are typically more appropriate in warm weather climates.

Lastly, the accessories are oftentimes what matter the most. Don’t forget to bring the sunscreen, life jacket and hat to make your experience much safer and a whole lot more comfortable. If the sun is bright, consider bringing a pair of polarized sunglasses as well.

What Makes a Youth Kayak Great?

When attempting to purchase the best youth kayak, the biggest mistake that is made is choosing the youth kayak based on aesthetic appeal or a particular color scheme a child likes and not on whether or not the kayak is designed for safety and durability.

In this review guide, you will learn exactly what to look for when choosing a youth kayak for your daughter or son. The most important factors to take into consideration are the design of the kayak(not just for aesthetic purposes but for practicality as well), the comfort of the youth kayak, any additional features the kayak may have, how easy the kayak is for children to use, the durability and of course, the price.

By taking these six most important factors into consideration, you should be able to make a well informed purchasing decision that your child is sure to love.

Be sure to consider your child’s particular needs and preferences as well. Simply because a particular kayak on this list is ranked higher, it doesn’t mean it will work as well in keeping your child safe and having a good time while out in the water. Be sure to communicate with your kids to determine the best possible option. With that said however, the list we provided includes three options that work well for any child, despite their personal preference.

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Most importantly, remember that keeping your kid safe is the ultimate goal. While it can be tempting to give into your kid and choose the one that they think looks the coolest, try your best to remind them that choosing one that is easy to use and works well in preventing a capsize is the most important thing.

However, by choosing one of the three options presented in this list, we feel confident that your child will find one that they love and works well to keep them safe while out in the water.

How to Take Care of Your Youth Kayak

By helping your daughter or son take proper care of their kayak, you can ensure you not only have the best kayak for kids, but you can also ensure that it lasts for just about the entirety of their childhood without needing to be replaced.

If the youth kayak is not taken care of properly, you may start to see the colors fade and minor broken parts turn into major concerns, forcing you to replace the kayak sooner than expected.

First and most importantly, be sure to keep the kayak clean to avoid harmful chemicals found in some bodies of water from damaging the color and outside structure of the youth kayak. While cleaning your kayak may seem slightly redundant considering you will be using it in the water, it is actually crucial to lengthening the life of your youth kayak. To avoid damage to the outer structure and to preserve the manufactured color of the youth kayak, try and clean your child’s youth kayak every other week or after each use.

Also, minor damages to parts of the youth kayak or even adult kayaks are bound to happen. While they may seem small at the time, it is very important to repair any damaged or broken parts to the youth kayak to ensure a small issue doesn’t progress into a more concerning matter. As long as you promptly repair damaged parts, such as a large dent in the front of the kayak from hitting a rock, you can keep your youth kayak in quality condition for years to come.

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With a youth kayak in particular, it is even more of a pressing issue to preserve the kayak and take the necessary precautions to ensure it stays in top quality condition. Otherwise, you run the risk of having the kayak break down and stop working efficiently while out in the water, a time your child really needs the kayak to work properly.

As long as you and your child take proper care of the youth kayak, however, it should stay in good condition and be easy to maneuver in the water for years.

Ranking and Reviewing the Best Kayak for Kids

Without further ado, let’s dive into the three best youth kayaks on the market in 2018.

For each option, we will discuss what makes each youth kayak one of the best kayaks for kids. We will look in depth at the six most important factors to consider when choosing the best youth kayak: the price, the design, the comfort level, any additional features the youth kayak may have, the ease of use, durability level and an overall combination of factors.

While we won’t specifically mention reviews as a talking point with each kayak, both the quality and quantity of reviews will play a significant role into our overall rating of each kayak.

Since there is no such thing as a perfect kayak, you will also be presented with the negatives and drawbacks associated with each youth kayak in this list.

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With that said, all three kayak options presented in this guide are three of the best youth kayaks on the market today, and your daughter or son is sure to love spending time with the family out in the water with any option presented.

Remember, keep your personal preference and specific needs in mind when choosing the right kayak. While the aesthetic value of each one for your child should play a factor, ultimately you should make your decision based on how safe each kayak is, which depends heavily on when and where you plan to kayak.

In other words, if your child likes a kayak that is ranked higher, but a lower ranked kayak is more practical for your particular situation, then strongly consider choosing the lower ranked option.

1. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak with Paddle

best kayak for kids

The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is six feet in length and available in six different color combinations: blue, green, lime green, orange, pink and yellow. Outside of the numerous options, this youth kayak is available at an unbeatable price, which is why it is rated the #1 best seller on Amazon. If you’re looking for a sturdy, dependable kayak that your child can use to learn how to properly kayak, then this is a fantastic option.


Available at an affordable price, there are few youth kayaks that challenge the combination of affordable price and quality of design of this Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak. Although it is the most expensive kayak on this list by a very small margin, it is the best deal when considering all that this kayak for kids offers.


Although it may seem like a basic, single color design, the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is one of the more sophisticatedly designed youth kayaks on the market in 2018, which is why it is regarded as one of the best kayaks for kids. Despite only weighing 18 lbs., this youth kayak is extremely sturdy and prevents capsizing while in the water.


The sitting surface of this youth kayak isn’t padded. With that said, it does offer a few specific features that make it comfortable, including multiple footrest positions.

Especially for children, when out on the water for an extended amount of time, it can be easy to become restless and feel unsettled when confronted with limited leg room. With this kayak however, children will have plenty of space to freely move around.


The most unique, intriguing feature of the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is the swim-up deck found on the rear of the kayak. As we have thoroughly discussed in this article, safety is crucial when children are kayaking. With the swim-up deck, children can easily get back in the kayak if they accidentally fall out or just simply decide to go for a swim in still water.

Ease of Use

Since it only weighs 18 pounds and comes with molded finger handles to make carrying the kayak easy, the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is very easy for children to use both in and out of the water. Its ultra-stable and great tracking features combined with its lightweight nature make this kayak easy for kids to control even in slightly challenging water conditions.


Made of high density polyethylene material, the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is extremely impact resistant. Like any youth kayak or adult kayak for that matter, taking proper care of the kayak is very important to ensuring longevity. However, this is one of the best youth kayaks due to the long term success it has had with users.


Lifetime is known for making fantastic, reliable youth kayaks. The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is arguably their best model. Backed with over 300 quality reviews and the #1 best seller tag on Amazon, there is little reason to doubt your kid will love this kayak and will quickly learn how to maneuver a kayak while in the water. This will pay dividends as he or she grows older.

2. Lifetime Youth 6 Feet Wave Kayak with Paddle

Although it isn’t quite as durable as the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak, this Lifetime Kayak model has almost all of the same features that the Lifetime Wave offers, but this option is actually less expensive. If you are looking to save a few bucks while still providing your child with a youth kayak they will love, then this might be the best option.


You can get all that you desire in the option listed above, except you can get it much cheaper. If you are only looking for a youth kayak to use for two to three years, you aren’t concerned with it lasting the entire length of your kid’s childhood and you don’t plan on using it as a hand-me-down, then this is arguably a better option than the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak listed above.


Much like the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak, this kayak for kids has a fairly basic design which typically isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a determining factor in the youth kayak purchasing decision. Like all Lifetime youth kayaks, this model is intelligently designed for safety and ease of use both in and out of the water.


Although it doesn’t have a padded seat or backrest, the Lifetime Youth 6 Feet Wave Kayak has a fairly comfortable sitting surface for children who typically aren’t concerned with padded seats. They don’t suffer from back pain in the same manner an adult might. It offers a comfortable footrest and ample space for children as old as 10 or 11 years old.


Much like the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak, the most intriguing feature found with this Lifetime Youth Kayak is the swim-up step, which allows kids to easily enter back into the kayak from inside the water. This model also comes with a very durable kayak paddle that makes it easy for kids to propel themselves forward and turn when necessary.

Ease of Use

With easy carry handles and a lightweight nature, the Lifetime Youth 6 Feet Wave Kayak is extremely easy to carry to and from the water. While in the water, children can easily learn how to maneuver the kayak and turn with ease. If they do happen to fall out while learning, they can easily and safely climb back into the kayak by using the swim-up step.


There is little reason to doubt the durability and stability of this Lifetime Kayak. With that said, it isn’t quite as durable as the above model, which is arguably the most durable kayak for kids on the market today. With that said, you can expect this model kayak to last several years before needing to be replaced.


Overall, the Lifetime Youth 6 Feet Wave Kayak is one of the best youth kayaks you can buy in 2018. What makes this model so appealing is how easy it is to use both inside and outside of the water. Children can easily carry this youth kayak to and from the water with ease and very efficiently navigate their way through water.

3. Lifetime 1 Man Wave Youth Kayaktop youth kayak

Although it is less proven than the above Lifetime models, the Lifetime 1 Man Wave Youth Kayak is still constructed by the most reliable business in the youth kayak market. As a result, you can trust that you are getting a quality, trustworthy youth kayak that looks and feels like a high quality kayak.


The Lifetime 1 Man Wave Youth Kayak is extremely affordable when compared with other youth kayak options of similar quality. While the above models may fair better when considering both price and quality, this model by Lifetime most certainly holds its own when compared with some of the other best kayaks for kids.


Much like the other options, the aesthetic appeal isn’t glamorous. However, the most important box to check which is safety and stability while in the water, the Lifetime 1 Man Wave Youth Kayak checks. Lifetime creatively and intelligently designed this kayak to avoid capsizing and make it easy for children to climb back in if they fall out.


As a whole, the Lifetime 1 Man Wave Youth Kayak provides a very comfortable sitting experience. Although it doesn’t have padded seats or backrest, you can easily provide your own and make this youth kayak extremely comfortable to be in while out in the water. With extra leg room for children, this is one of Lifetime’s most comfortable models.


As the case with the majority of Lifetime Youth Kayaks, the Lifetime 1 Man Wave Youth Kayak also has a swim-up step for kids to easily swim onto and lift themselves in the boat with little hassle. This youth kayak also has easy to carry handles and footrests that make it easy to kick back and relax while out on the water.

Ease of Use

There aren’t many, if any, youth kayaks on the market that are easier to use than the Lifetime 1 Man Wave Youth Kayak. If you are looking for a kayak for your daughter or son to learn the proper way to kayak with, then this is a fantastic option for doing just that. It is lightweight, easy to maneuver in the water and has a very low chance of flipping in the water.


The durability of this kayak is unquestionable. While it isn’t backed by tons of reviews, Lifetime has established a fantastic reputation within the kayak community, and you are certain to get a kayak that lasts for years without needing to be replaced, including the Lifetime 1 Man Wave Youth Kayak.


While it isn’t as proven as the Lifetime Youth Wave or the Lifetime Youth 6 Foot Kayak, which is why it is ranked behind those two, it is still an extremely reliable kayak that your child is sure to love. The bright green color makes it easy for large boats and other vessels to see while far away, making for a much safer kayaking experience.

3 Additional Tips to Remember

By now, you should be well-equipped with all of the knowledge you need in order to make a fantastic purchasing decision and to properly prepare your child, who most certainly and understandably will be nervous their first time out on the water in their very own kayak. Since the first time is rarely an easy experience, we will leave you with three additional tips to remember when taking your daughter or son out to the water for the first time.

  1. Keep Your Phone Safe and Accessible.

Most importantly, be sure to keep your phone on you and completely dry without any chance of it getting damaged while on the trip. While most of the time going out on the water means you will leave your phone at shore to avoid the unnecessary distractions, you need to remain prepared in the event an emergency, such as your child getting injured.

It is also highly encouraged that you take some sort of loud device such as a blow horn or high power whistle in case you don’t have any service out on the water. By preparing yourself beforehand, you won’t have to scramble and panic when immediate action needs to be taken.

Lastly, a good safety technique is to notify someone via text message when you and your kids head out onto the water, and then notify them once again when you get back. If they don’t receive the second notification after an extended amount of time, they will know to check on you and make sure you are okay.

  1. Know The Water Source You Are Kayaking.

It is also important to know the water source you will be kayaking, whether it is a lake, river or ocean. If it is a river, then you should know exactly where the current is fast, where the rapids are and how to navigate them. It is also important to know how deep the water is in certain areas and have an escape plan in place in case you or your child were to fall out of their kayak.

While rivers provide a lower chance of capsizing and subsequently getting injured, they still carry their own unique set of dangers.

While there won’t be a current in a lake, you are at a higher risk of coming across strong waves from boats, jet skis, etc. flying pass you at fast speeds. Be sure to teach your child how to handle intense waves during these circumstances and prevent capsizing.

Oceans can be the most dangerous as you will constantly face waves and of course, you have to watch out for sharks. With that said, don’t shy away from the opportunity as kayaking in the ocean can be the most rewarding experience for a child.

  1. Bring a Camera!

Last but not least, be sure to bring a camera along with you. Trust me, you will want to capture every moment of your kid’s first time out kayaking by himself, and both you and him or her will thank you later for doing so.

Taking pictures is just a more direct way of saying enjoy the experience. Bonding time with your children is hard to find, especially in today’s society. They will grow up in the blink of an eye, and you will be glad you have developed memories with them as they grow older.