Any parent knows that just heading to the shops requires a little extra planning and a lot of extra time! Kids seem to require a lot of stuff, and then some spare stuff, and then some stuff for just in case … and then the tantrums, toilet breaks, food fights. The thought of taking them on a river trip seems pretty daunting, right? I certainly thought so. But I’m here to tell you it’s not that bad, and it’s exactly what they need. So read on for some quick and simple tips to helping you have a great day on the water with the family.
Starting with a full day river journey might not be the best way to go. If you’re like me, I’ve been getting my girls in boats from around one year old. Making sure they’re familiar with what’s going on gives you a better chance of a blissful journey in the future, rather than hours of tears. Start with paddling at a lake, a local pond, a small section of river. Anywhere you can just spend thirty minutes or so having a splash around, then you can start thinking of some A to B trips.
This is an easy one and will make your trip so much smoother. If possible, get the kids in swimsuits and whatever else (weather-dependent) before you leave the house. This saves a lot of faff and stress at the put in. This goes for sunscreen too, pre-apply so it actually works and then you don’t have greasy hands when you’re paddling!
Same goes for packing, make up a simple picnic-style lunch the night before, and pack just what you need. Hopefully, you aren’t paddling thirty miles, so you don’t need to over pack. Spare clothes, sunscreen, phone, food, water, plenty of diapers and poop bags! (You’ve gotta paddle out with that stuff!). Pre-pack it into dry bags and then it’s good to go on the day.
My girls are pretty young so, unfortunately, dealing with dirty diapers and toilets stops are a daily occurrence! This is one of the things I do take more than I need, as getting caught out a diaper short is not fun times. Most importantly though is to bring bags to seal in the stink but also ensure that stuff ends up in a bin. It goes without saying but set an example and keep our rivers clean!
Easy put-ins, breezy takeouts
Depending what craft you’re using and how big your family is, there’s generally a lot of heavy stuff to get to the river. And in my experience with our family of four, my wife is busy getting the kids ready and stopping them from chasing the local wildlife, whilst I have to try and get everything to the water’s edge. Pick put in and take outs that you can park close to and have easy access to the water. I use the river Wye a lot for family mini trips and most sections of this river have reasonably easy access.
Bring on the fun!
I love kayaking, and I want my kids to love it too. But don’t make it the only reason you’re on the river, because lets face it my three-year-old loves her kayak, but after thirty minutes (at most) she’s ready to do something else. If you’re planning to be on the river for around three hours (the average family trip I’ve done) start sparking their imagination and keep it fun! Point out all the nature, the swans, the ducks, the waves. Look for fish and pull over on a beach to skim some stones – because all that simple stuff we take for granted, they will love! If you’re desperate then pack some water-friendly backup toys.
Kids need adventure more than ever, so don’t be afraid to get them out enjoying their best life and growing a passion for the outdoors. Pack the essentials, wear your safety gear, go for good weather and pick sensible routes, but most importantly, enjoy the summer sunshine while it lasts!