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Old 11-30-2014   #11
Boston Mountains, Arkansas
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 92
My 2 cents' worth: Keep them warm, don't push, keep 'em fed, short trips. My daughter likes to be on the raft, my son has always wanted to paddle his own boat. Scared is past fun and can take a long time to get over, even if they have the skill set to handle the water. My idea of "fun" is not his, that's the reality.

Good for you in getting those kids out of the house and into the big outdoors. It may take a while but they will thank you, not that we do what we do for thank you's.

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Old 12-01-2014   #12
elkhaven's Avatar
Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,659
Lots of good advice here... We've had both our kids on the water since their lives were measured in days... the oldest at 12 days, the youngest at 40, both having completed their first multiday trip (each a 5 day Smith run) before their first birthdays. They each have hundreds of miles on the boat, a half dozen overnighters and they both adore it. My oldest is 6 and the youngest is 4.

We never "pushed" them, We just always took them to do what ever it was we did...We float, fish, hunt, hike, ski, etc... So if it's archery season we all go bow hunting; one of us stays at camp and we trade, one day I hunt, one day she does... That's pretty much how we do everything. That might sound like pushing, but in reality they do their thing, whether it be at home or on the road (river). Yes we tone down the intensity and are very mindful of safety but we figured if we want to keep floating, camping, fishing and hunting they need to get used to it from the get go. Fun is our primary concern, we want them to love it so we keep it fun, so lots of stops and lots of stuff to do. We were blessed in that both boy would rather play with the box than the $100 toy mentioned above, so sticks, rocks, whatever's lying around has always kept them happy.

At this point when on the river we still stop a lot and they still love to play on the bank but fishing is their passion. We always had fishing gear for them and it was always part of their rotation but the last few years the oldest has become obsessed and the youngest isn't far behind. They will fish dawn to dusk now, it's crazy. My suggestion is to buy a cheap kids rod, tape on some foam (believe it or not they're not made to float!) and let them go at it. We started with little colored fly bubbles (torpedo shaped things with some mass meant to allow spin fishermen to cast flies) but quickly moved on to floating crank baits with the hooks removed (they dive and feel like a fish, but don't sink and most importantly won't hook you, the dog or their brother...) We ran this setup to about 2 or 3 then upgraded to really short adult rods with spin cast reels. Now they've both upgraded to true spinning reels and my oldest casts a little 7' flyrod with surprising skill. They can both untangle most messes and catch an occasional fish totally on their own. It's awesome for me, I even get to fish now and then .

Our trips are almost always about floating, not whitewater. The boys do always request that I hit every wave, but up till last summer we only ran stuff we knew, all of it way down the "class" hierarchy. Last summer we did a 5 day NF flathead trip, including a few class III's (all of which I'd say III is pushing it, at 11k anyways). I was super nervous at first, not knowing the water but found each easy to read and run (visible from the boat) and basically I skirted them all, catching just enough splash to keep the boys happy. That hooked them on whitewater for sure, they talked about it all winter and this summer they were fiends for waves. We did several trips this year, each with bigger rapids indluding a dozen or so bigger class II, smaller class III's - I made them walk one and wished I hadn't afterword's) and they are totally hooked. The young one doesn't want to get wet while the older one would run rodeo if I let him. As it is he leans out over the bow and holds on to a strap so he can get face shots .

For us, I think we were lucky, we have super adventurous kids and made some luckily good decisions early on that helped promote a love of adventure. Now they are in to anything we ask. But if I had to guess why we're so lucky it would be that we got them out early, got them out often and made damn sure it was fun. Ultimately the root of all fun, especially for kids, is being comfortable (warm or cool) hydrated and feed. The rest is up to them.

Yesterday's gone on down the river and you can't get it back. - Agustus McCrae
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Old 12-01-2014   #13
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
My advice; keep em fed, warm, and engaged.
This one didn't care how or why or where we went as long as cooking was part of the deal. Ideally over a camp fire, but even "not camping camping" (anything involving more than a tent) worked as long as the food was plentiful.
But, beware. They might take it to a place you never expected, and may not be comfortable with..........
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Old 12-01-2014   #14
Olympia, Washington
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 29
so much great adivce. Keeping it under their skill level until they are 12 or so really helps to build confidence.
Our kids are teenagers now, and they have lots of input while we are planning our trips. Where, how big of water they want to experience...
It is so gratifying to see our kids really grow, mentally, spiritually, phisically on the river.
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Old 12-01-2014   #15
Las Vegas, Nevada
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 97
This is a really great discussion, because everyone's personal experiences are so very different, along with everyone's outdoor goals.

I just recently finished building a whitewater dory that the kids are clamoring to get on for a trip, their first river trip. We will likely keep this very tame and have someone pull us up to the base of Hoover Dam or Glen Canyon dam and do an easy overnighter, flat water type trip to see what they think.

We have 3 girls, 7, 5 & 3, and I have no intention of taking them down anything serious until I know they can self-rescue. We also have the ability to run Diamond Down as much as we want, but those first 15 miles are are a bit much given the girls current age and my opinion that they cannot yet self rescue. Watching one of my daughters swim Killer Fang is not a pretty mental image...

This will likely result in one or two of the kids getting to go while one or two stay home, as was the case this past weekend. We backpacked with the two older kids down to Phantom Ranch for a few nights and they loved it. The youngest was not very happy though, since she stayed behind.

Any suggestions out there for some fun runs good for the younger kids, a few nights is no problem, just something fun for them and their parents?
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Old 12-01-2014   #16
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
Not on topic, but the absolute scariest, mind numbing, gut churning, paralyzing experience is watching your princess drive herself away, alone, the first time.

Think about it............. for the first time you have zero control over her safety. And she has under her control a ton or more of lethal iron and a huge TARGET painted on the top, sides, and back of the family SUV.

Really, no matter how much you have prepared yourself and her, no matter how much you trust, it hits you as she backs out of the driveway;

"That's my princess in there...........and I'm still standing here............"
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Old 12-01-2014   #17
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 582
My oldest doesn't drive yet so I can't compare apples to apples though the "absolute scariest, mind numbing, gut churning, paralyzing experience" to date on the river for me was watching him (then 13) get maytag'd in a big hole mid river on a medium flow Deso run while I was 100+ feet down river and there was no possible way to get to him so all I could do was watch and wait until he flushed (after the 5th cycle). As frightening as that experience was, I still do all I can to get him and my other kids out on the river every chance we get.
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Old 12-01-2014   #18
wildh2onriver's Avatar
irvine, California
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,197
kids and white water

Originally Posted by FatmanZ View Post
My oldest doesn't drive yet so I can't compare apples to apples though the "absolute scariest, mind numbing, gut churning, paralyzing experience" to date on the river for me was watching him (then 13) get maytag'd in a big hole mid river on a medium flow Deso run while I was 100+ feet down river and there was no possible way to get to him so all I could do was watch and wait until he flushed (after the 5th cycle). As frightening as that experience was, I still do all I can to get him and my other kids out on the river every chance we get.

Your post reminds me of my biggest dumbass mistake as a parent on a river trip. No drugs or alcohol involved in any way shape or form.

My son and I got caught on a our first Selway trip (he was 16) as the water came up extremely quickly. By the time we got to Ham it was pushing 7'and rising (as per Connie at the Moose creek air strip the next day). We scouted the rapid on the left -- not sure why -- it was not an easy back to the boat and ran the class IV (closer to V at that level IMO). As we got to the bridge and my son pulled the onto shore, I noticed that his Pfd was not on. His drysuit and pfd were the same brand and colors, so it wasn't very noticeable, especially when we were both a bit stressed scouting this rapid on our first trip at very high water. He accidentally left it at the scout.

That was a true dumbass moment/lesson on my part that I'll never forget.

Not at all implying that your experience was a caused by boatman stupidity, just that mine was.

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Old 12-02-2014   #19
Grangeville, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 10
I am not the most experienced boatman (probably under 450 miles), but I do have extensive experience taking young kids out in the outdoors (whitewater included). For me the two most successful strategies have been frequent, regular exposure to the outdoors and working to help my kids become accepting of the idea of it being okay to be uncomfortable in the outdoors while working to keep them out of panic mode. We grow when we are uncomfortable, but freeze or even regress at panic. I don't have long term data with this technique (my oldest is only 11), but to date I have seven kids who are always begging to be outside. There are few things in this life more rewarding than spending time with your kids in the backcountry.

Griffis Family Outdoors
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Old 12-02-2014   #20
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,373
I love kids and families on the water. Its as good as it gets. I'm lucky enough to be paddling with 2 grand kids these days. They both rafted the San Juan as infants. My kids were kayaking at 9 and 12 and one of them progressed at an amazing pace. The other had similar potential but not the same passion for it and that was fine with me. Not to be too picky but I don't like to hear the word push associated with children and the rio. It is usually counter productive and IMHO runs counter to the deeper lessons to be learned from the rio. Namely, listening to your gut and learning to love the rio as a spiritual path. YMMV...

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