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Old 03-30-2014   #11
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 728
As soon as they were old enough to car camp, we figured they were old enough for a ruby Horsethief trip. You can strap a car seat to the passenger deck to prevent it sliding off when you bump into something, and vigilance is ALWAYS necessary. Have another adult or capable teen to keep a hand on them. Teach them to swim in your local pool first, at least get the yunguns used to the water, but they will likely not be in the water. Don't take them at high water. Get PFD's that fit properly and don't take no for an answer. Remember cold water affects them way faster than it does you. Sand toys are a good idea.

Mantra: kids are always in training. By 6-8 yo they are ready for class 3 like Brown's, 8-10 we were in Lodore, taking 10 and 12 yo into Yampa and westwater this summer. It happens faster than you might think. Bottom line: Get them out!

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Old 03-30-2014   #12
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,121
Once you start doing overnighters, remember that kids get into more trouble in camp than they do on the raft. On the raft, they are contained & watched. Make sure you keep a close watch on them at camp. Good rain & splash wear, good PFD, warm layers, sunscreen, sun hat, and toys for boat & camp. Make it a fun adventure.

The kid in our group started Main Salmon trips at age 4. Now she's about to turn 14, and she still loves the river. She rows the cat with her mom, and runs the class II rapids. I'm sure she'll be asking for her own boat soon.

"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love....and then we return home."
Australian Aboriginal Proverb
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Old 03-30-2014   #13
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durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1964
Join Date: Sep 2008
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Old 03-30-2014   #14
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 103
I think it's all been covered...
Snacks (indulge), sand toys, car seat strapped to the deck, shade, and plenty of lotion (sand causes chafing).
Never ever leave them alone, even "for a sec". It helps to have more adults than kids on the trip. Start with a double-team, later you can go man-to-man, and then a zone.
They make little beach chairs. Get one. It's fun.
We've been taking our kids (now 14 and 16) on a river trips since they were months old. 2 years ago we ran the Grand.
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Old 03-31-2014   #15
elkhaven's Avatar
Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,661
Originally Posted by G-wood Todd View Post
I am curious as to what you all dress them in? River gear for little ones seem a little limited. I was thinking of a shorty 3 mm wet suit but it might be a little overkill on warm days.
Dry clothes, have lots of warm dry clothes. They get cold easy, even if it's hot outside. If they get wet and there is a breeze they'll be cold. It's really not likely you'll be able to "bail" if things don't go well (our floats are 2 hours minimum, even with hard down rowing) so be prepared. Lots of food, drinks, toys, clothes, blankets, hat's and shade. Bimini is key, umbrella's are ok but more temper-mental in the wind and cover a much smaller area. Have a place for them to take a nap. If they still nap in the car seat great, but if not we add some padding to your bench and cover them up. We actually used a little collapsible tent (Kelty brand) it kept them corralled long enough for them to realize they were tired and fall asleep. Spend lots of time with them and let them play and figure out the boat. If you're supper fearful that they are going to fall in, they will pick up on it and it won't be as much fun. Lastly, don't take them on sketchy water, you won't (or at least shouldn't) be able to relax, it's about you and them having fun. Keep it simple but get them outside. We didn't do elaborate dinners at the takeout, just a bag of PB&J's and a chocolate milk and they were asleep in the truck before we were loaded up. I will start thinking down the BBQ road though as they get older and harder to please.

Our kids have been floating they're whole life (oldest first float 10 days, youngest 24 days old) At that point they knew nothing of what was going on. Both were born in July so their first trips were hot. We just kept them shaded and fed. Their first trip was way more for the us than them. Getting them onto the water was probably selfishly so that we were able to maintain our lives and keep doing what we love. but we had decided before we had kids that we were going to involve the kids in our lives, not change who/what we were and cater to our kids. It has been utterly successful thus far, they love the river, have gone bird hunting, deer and antelope hunting, fishing, camping, skiing and exploring with us. They love every opportunity we give them to be outside. Last night we were looking for our Sunday night movie and came to the River Wild (which I recorded the other day) my oldest said yah! whitewater!!! (they knew nothing of the plot, thankfully) He kept asking when can we go there, have you done that river yet dad, I can't wait for summer, can we do more white water this summer... on and on. It was really exciting for me and I believe this enthusiasm stems from being raised on the river.

Obviously I can't say enough in praise for getting your little ones onto the river (or into whatever it is you really like), so IMHO get them out and have fun. You'll learn what works best by trial and error, just be safe and have fun!
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Old 03-31-2014   #16
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 582
more ideas

Start with short runs in the raft for the little ones and work your way up to longer runs as they adapt. Ending the run at a spot where they can play in the water/sandy beach is a nice touch and gives them something to look forward to at the end of the run. Having other kids of similar ages along on the same run/trip can make a HUGE difference in the enjoyment level for the kids. Take advantage of any opportunities to get the kids in the water - jumping off the raft, floating in a PFD, etc. By doing that they'll know what to do when they accidentally end up in the water and will be less likely to freak out and panic.

Gear suggestions: The warmer the kid is the more fun they'll have. The local river where I'm at is shallow and cold. Kid sized farmer john wetsuits are nice for knee protection and some warmth when wading and swimming in the water. Combine the farmer with a neoprene top or a rash guard/splash jacket. Neoprene booties can help keep the feet warm and offer some protection.
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Old 03-31-2014   #17
Carbondale, Colorado
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 317
Keep them warm and dry. Check out for really awesome kids rain suits and waders. We got our little guy the bootfoot neoprene waders for toddlers, paired it with warm top layers and a rain jacket, then a PFD over all. Feet stayed dry in the self bailer, and you can actually wade with them on the beaches and they get to experience being in the water with you and still stay dry, happy and warm, even in early spring or late into the fall. Shory wetsuits and river shoes are way too cold. Frequent beach/play breaks needed. The SALUS kids PFD are the best I've seen. We use our recretec table as the front seat/bench. Having a place for the kiddo's to strech out, or lay down for a bit it essential. We also run a NRS front thigh bar way down low just above the front tubes. When the little ones get a bit older, they can lean against the bar and brace themselves (using the PFD padding) while going through little wave trains. It gives them a lot more balance and bracing options in the front bay than just the tubes alone. When it gets rougher, they sit back on the table with an adult, hands on. Now that my boy is a little older, standing and bracing in the front and catching waves in the face is now the best part of any day on the river -when its warm. Being in Glenwood, you have so many options for half day floats from Carbondale down, and Grizzly through Silt, with takeouts all along the way.
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Old 03-31-2014   #18
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 1,373
One adult assigned to each kid when they are really little. Oarsman doesn't count. We do the San Juan annually with multiple families. The best family time possible, IMO. Summer is nice on that rio if you have a bimini. The water is warm. The kids love swimming in their PFDs. Be careful at camp. Make them wear their PFDs there if they are anywhere near the water. Washed out beaches that create 2' drops into the rio can be dangerous for them, especially if they are playing above the rafts. Saw good advice in another thread a while back. Be careful with little ones in the front of the raft even in moving flat water if it is shallow. I can imagine a pretty poor scenario with a little one being run over/pinned under a raft.
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Old 03-31-2014   #19
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Lewistown, middle of MT
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 222
My kids are 11 and 13 and have rafted their whole life. You've heard some of this- keep mileage to 15 or lower depending on flow. If the weather's going to be bad for a multi day - stay home. If they start with good experiences they will want to come back for more. Take other kids along so that they have entertainment. Best investment - those water guns. When the kids were really little we put a gear net in the bow so that I could tuck them into there and cover them up for naps. They called it the hole and they still do. Of course this doesn't work for big water, but we didn't do big water until they could swim. Make sure they have a whistle and know safety rules even if they are 3. Best multi day toy - take those glow sticks put it on a fishing rod at night and cast it into the river - soooo cool. Sunburns suck so slather on the sunscreen - they won't and they'll be miserable. I kind of go overboard on this and pretty much cover them with long sleeved rashguards and leggings. Big brimmed hats. My kids won't wear sunglasses, but they will wear their hats.
If you lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. Winnie the Pooh
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Old 03-31-2014   #20
Dipshit with the most.
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Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,497
I have two daughters who started at 2.5 years each. We do lots of multi day now but my one daughter gets super chafed on her legs. Sometimes on her chin where the bigger PFD she used to wear would rub. In and out of the water 50 times a day may have something to do with it. Lotion only makes it burn. The only thing that works is vaseline. Critical on a longer trip. Also in case they get sand chafe on sandals ( for adults too) moleskin can save the day.

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