How to introduce 5 year old to rivers... Ideas please! - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 06-12-2018   #1
 
Oakland, California
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How to introduce 5 year old to rivers... Ideas please!

Hello all!
I used to live in Colorado and know a bit about the rivers there, but years have gone by. I am now in California and have a little kiddo who would love to do some floats and ultimately, explore some milder whitewater.
I would love to hear how you got your kids into rivers. What set up did you use? I am hesitant to buy a raft & frame due to $ and uncertainty that we will do it enough to make it cost effective. I'm thinking an IK to start? I still have an older Necky Jive, but she is too little for that. I'm thinking something we can both go out in together.
If anyone can point me in the direction of resources in California, I would be thankful! (What would be a fun class II section nearer the East Bay?) (Good shops?) There seems to be a lot of ocean/bay interest, which is not at all a bad thing, but I would love to know more about the rivers.
Thanks!
Simone

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Old 06-12-2018   #2
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Bellevue, Idaho
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I started my daughters at two and two and a half years old on flatwater in a raft. Just a float to get used to how it works. I have taken five year olds in a paddle boat but we had a dedicated adult to just deal with making sure the kid stayed in the raft.

The other four or five of us knew that person was an optional paddler. Paddles in the raft are kind of dangerous to be honest. Oars can be too, but you need to do everything you can to build a 100% positive float experience.

The tippiness of just getting in and out of an IK could be disconcerting to some kids, much as canoes still are to me. My youngest was pretty small around three or so when we took her down some easy class 3. She threw a fit, but it took a while to figure out why. The other rapids we had run were in relatively open areas, this one was in a gorge and it echoed a bit and was much louder and it freaked her out. And she had run harder rapids than that.

PFDs can be very uncomfortable and intimidating to kids as well. So you need to start easy and gently however you go about it. If they are an outdoor kid in other areas that will be helpful. I would recommend renting some gear the first time or two to find your comfort level.

I personally would not start in the IK though. Small raft with oars or two or three other paddlers besides yourself that can run things if you are otherwise occupied.

Good luck. My kids still love it.

Bella at 3.5 years old. Slept thru a major rapid like this.



And swimming her first "rapid" at 6.5 yrs old.

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Old 06-12-2018   #3
 
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Indian Hills, Colorado
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We've had nothing but great times taking our 2 and 4 year olds (now 3 and 5) down mellow Class II (occasional III-) rivers. I come from a kayaking background, so the river/rig/safety mechanics are intuitive - rowing has taking some getting used to. Frankly, learning to row is fun for a kayaker who is looking to step back the risk factor and keep up challenge.

What's worked well with kids: Keep it simple and fun, lots of snacks and stops every 45 minutes or so. Shade for desert trips. Point out wildlife and get to know bird names (our kids have gone bird-crazy).

With about 25 family river days under our belt, the kids now complain about "not enough rapids," so we must be doing something right.

We are rowing a 15.5 ft Aire 156R, which is great because we can comfortably take about 4 adults, 4 - 5 kids and a dog on day trips or pack everything and the kitchen sink for overnight trips. Like you, we were concerned about initial investment if we "didn't like it," but just kept our eyes on the classifieds for a used boat that we could resell if rafting didn't take. Including all the incidentals (extra cams, extra oars, kids PFD's, etc.) we probably got rolling for about $3,500. As it turned out, rafting took, and now we are just adding to our rig.

A great way to "test the waters" is to rent gear and do a short flat-water trip. In Colorado, a classic "tester" trip is 2-nights on Ruby-Horsetheif on the Colorado River with gear rented from Rimrock Adventures. Several of our friends have done this and have been immediately sold on family rafting.

In closing - family rafting has been one of the greatest gifts for our family. The only thing better than being on the river is being on the river with your family - a wonderful distraction-free bonding experience.
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Old 06-12-2018   #4
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanOrion View Post
I come from a kayaking background, so the river/rig/safety mechanics are intuitive - rowing has taking some getting used to. Frankly, learning to row is fun for a kayaker who is looking to step back the risk factor and keep up challenge.

In closing - family rafting has been one of the greatest gifts for our family. The only thing better than being on the river is being on the river with your family - a wonderful distraction-free bonding experience.

^^^^
I've been kayaking for 22 years, and have been a father for 17 years...so I took up rafting 16 years ago.


I'd rather kayak than raft, but I would far rather raft with my family than kayak and leave them home.


My oldest daughter is almost 17, and she started at about age 2 on the NF Flathead. I was new to family camping, and my parents were new to rafting and wanted to prepare elaborate river meals. They cooked a beautiful 3-course breakfast and put us about 2 hours late putting on the river. We ended up an hour from the takeout and 2 hours past my daughter's naptime. It was horrible. She couldn't get comfortable, couldn't sit on my wife's lap (wifey was 7 months pregnant and had no nap) and she cried for 1.5 hours straight. We learned a lot, and fortunately didn't sour her on rafting. Subsequent trips were shorter and timed between naps. We really didn't dive headlong into multidays and have done a LOT of car camping with day runs. She loves the Lochsa up to about 14k, and will take her first multiday with me on the Main Salmon later this month.

Younger daughter (almost 15) is more of a motorboater and would rather tube behind the ski boat than run the rivers, so I split my summer water time between floating WW with the older kid and tubing with the younger.

They both spent a LOT of time in swimming pools from age 2-6, moving from PFD's to floatie swimsuits to swimming across the deep end by age 6-7 and diving to the bottom to pick up coins and rings shortly after that.

We started kayaking when they were 7 and 9, but I pushed things too fast, and they recoiled.

IMHO, get them comfortable on the water and keep things FUN. Don't ever push them. Let them seek more challenges, and even then hold a few things just out of their reach. Water can be scary, and you want them to really seek the challenge rather than forcing it on them.
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Old 06-13-2018   #5
 
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The only thing I can add, is to just do it!!! Rent a boat and get out on the water! You'll come home and start shopping I'll wager.

It's the best thing in the world IMO. We started as infants, so they grew up rafting without knowing it. They are about to be 8 and 10 and adore it! And I adore it! We were lucky, they napped well and really never fussed about anything. As others said, just keep it fun - lots of stopping, lots of interaction, lots of snacks and drinks. Build it up slowly, no need to rush into long trips or bigger water, when they're ready they'll tell you. Once they could talk, they were pointing out every wave and saying "go there daddy" and it's just grown since and they don't need to ask me to "go there" anymore.


3 and 5 - that smile says it all!!!!


Youngest rowing at 5


5 and 7
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Old 06-13-2018   #6
 
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BTW, I love these threads! They bring back great memories!
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Old 06-13-2018   #7
 
Walterville, Oregon
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Plan a trip with other kids. A group of kids never get bored.
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Old 06-13-2018   #8
 
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I was 9 when I started and I dident even know my dad ever kayaked I just saw a video online and showed my dad then he showed me some pictures of him and I asked him to teach me now it’s been 6 years of me boating
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Old 06-14-2018   #9
 
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I took my then 5 yo on the river for the first time in a double ducky- she loved it. We hit pumphouse at low water on a warm September day with dad as a safety kayaker.

She loved it. If you have kayaking experience I think an IK is a good way to go. It's easy. We rented one the first time- shortly thereafter I bought one. At that age they like being involved directly and they can paddle or not paddle as they want or ride the side of the IK like a horse, bounce on it like a trampoline etc. Pay attention to clothing- being warm and comfortable will make the difference between a good trip and bad. My daughter looks like she is going on a full expedition in a full wetsuit, drytop, helmet and lifejacket with booties.

Warning though- two and a half years later and I just bought a full oar rig
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Old 06-14-2018   #10
 
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Find some expert kids a little older that really know the ins and outs of floating it'll encourage quick learning.

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