Paddling with kids, how to have a great first family adventure

My daughter was recently asked when paddling a grade 4 stretch of river, so when did you start paddling, she carmly replied forever!

A keen paddler now looking for greater adventures she jumped out of the car lifting and strapping her boat on a car that I could only assume could have been an extra from the inbetweeners series, she jumped ship to head off into deepest Wales with a bunch of students paddlers from Bangor university out for a paddle. I guess my role as coach, instructor and river guide might be over as my daughter stood her own, paddling a grade 4 drop she did a capsize, the group looked to rescue but a quick flick of a hip she was up and off downstream, the group looked on for someone else to rescue.

So how do you start off with paddling with kids- we I guess that story is linked to why we set up a canoe club, faced with the option of taking a sabbatical from paddling with the birth of our firstborn we decided to start this rather mad an unorthodox way of getting a boat so we could start paddling as a family. The Olympic games had just been announced an we where looking optimistically at purchasing our first open canoes- the easiest way of affording this without asking for yet another loan from the parents was to build a new type of canoe club that was aimed at family paddling.

Paddling with kids on the River Stort

Paddling with a family did take a bit more preperation but we soon made it quite easy, having a few games to play as well as a bag of snacks and then insuring we had some short paddle trips which would allow for a variety of paddling, walking a tow path and having a lunchbox of snacks and drinks was the answer to most of our adventures. As the kids got a little bigger we would add a little more distance to each adventure.

Try and paddle on your kids terms.

we found that paddling on their adventure worked best , we would head off but with a small plan to paddle and we found we can always add a short distance or an additional lock on a trip , but its important to stop whilst they are still having fun.

We worked as a club to quickly get the right kit for begineers- we soon specialised in having boats with skegs so that young paddlers didnt end up constantly in the bushes or worse in a clump of stinging nettles. As paddlers develop skils we are able to retract the skeg so that paddlers can develop skills as they get the hand of paddling.

Paddling on the Rothay in lake district and visiting the islands off of Grassmere home to the author of Swallows and Amazon Arthur Ransome

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