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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I took my boy on his first two rafting trips this summer, he loved it by the end of his first trip. His first trip was at 13 months, grizzly creek to Glenwood, he was scared at first but by the end he helped me r1 his mom and grandma. Same run second time had an amazing time, and helped paddle raft. Next summer is an overnight ruby/horsethief trip. My question is how should I push him to enjoy rivers (any boat he chooses). I know how to push him when he snow rides, but still new enough at rafting that I want more input. Camping and rafting are his introductory to outdoor life.
Thanks for all your input good or bad
 

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Mostly you want to keep him safe and comfortable. A good PFD & good rain/splash gear. Warm layers, and also a good sun hat & sunscreen. His own sleeping bag & pad for the tent. Stuff to play with in camp....buckets to play in the sand work great. Let him pitch in with camp chores. Our river kid loved to help wash dishes when she was little. Give him a small item or two to carry from boat to camp, and praise him for helping. Just make it fun and he'll love it. Our river kid started at age 3, and now is 14 & helping her mom row a 14 ft. cataraft. Even as a teenager, she still loves the river & now invites her friends on trips.
 

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Flipping will be a totally disorienting and frightening experience for child and parent. So if you want to ensure a long and beautiful relationship with the river and the outdoors, keep it low key, just like you're doing until he has a love for it and is old enough to want some more adventure. Somewhere in the 10-12 year old range he'll be eating it up and begging you to 'hit the holes'.
 

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The Old Troll
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Practice swimming riffles. Some day we all swim. Get him ready for the inevitable.
 

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Jared
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My kids are 4 and 6, the older one started some easy class II and 3 years old and the younger one started at 2 years old. They have both run some pretty safe class III, and now they like to help paddle where it's safe to let them. I took my older one on the Deschutes (in Oregon) and it is more tall waves and bigger water, he elected to walk the biggest rapid with Momma. I was okay with his decision, but I'm sure he would have been fine. We scouted for his benefit and watched an IK flip in the big hole, that made up his mind.
We ran across a group doing the raft slip n slide on that trip, and he ended up sliding off the raft into the water 3 times. He jumped off the side of the raft with me and feels comfortable relying on his life jacket without me or the raft to hang on to. There is a rapid called elevator that people swim down, it's just a wave train. He witnessed most of the adults on our trip and several others safely swim down, so I think that will prepare him to do the same one day.
My son knows what a throw bag is, knows how to throw it about 20', he assists me practicing with my pin kit, and I teach him about what I see on the rivers. (Plants, birds, fish, currents, etc) Just like what has been mentioned, safety and comfort are big things with any kid and a sport like this. We also have some good friends who have kids almost the same age, and we like to go with them. They are a great couple, and our kids get along great. I think that relationship will be blossom as we get to run more rivers in the future.
 

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We have taken our friends kids several times now, one is hooked. Funny enough the other isn't as he claims the river is just "pee and fish", which I find hilarious as he is processing our habit of "the solution is dilution".

The sister is older and is in love with it. I think it helps to have a friend or adult who isn't their parent that they get along with real well. We only take them once a year but she is begging for the trip each time. We started them out on the Moab Daily and they just went on Deso with us this summer. She is paddling for the first times now in an IK (mostly doing circles).

We spent a lot of time on the Daily playing in the water. She swam her first "rapid" in Deso this summer and I think it helped a ton. We eddy float with them all of the time which is giving her confidence. Its pretty cool to see a young kid start to understand river dynamics a bit.

Hoping our future child takes to it like she has.

Phillip
 

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My Dad had me on the River at 3 years old... I don't know what he did to help me Love it, but it became an integral part of who I am and my biggest passion, as well as my life's career! I first took my daughter down River at 13 months as well, as a 6 year old now she has over 700 River miles and the same insatiable Love! She R2's with me, rows a little and paddles a Fun1.
I think the biggest things have already been said, warm, safe, happy, friends. Lots of extra cloths & gummy bears. Also, just sharing your passion for it!
As a professional with over 20,000 River miles that is sometimes overly conservative on the water (especially with my daughter, or any kid for that matter!) I sometime wonder at my dad who was just getting into boating & dragging us kids down class IV at 6 & 8... & back when there weren't whitewater helmets, or good kid gear. But in reality, we not only survived, but thrived!
And also, like someone said, it might just be dependent on the kid too. My brother didn't get into it the way that I did, and my best friend has one kid who is super into it & one that thinks it's alright.
Also, for her parents identifying as "boaters who ski" my daughter would likely identify herself as "a skier who boats." I think really, no matter what we do, our kids will be who they are, and all we can do in any situation is keep them warm and safe, share our passions with them and encourage them to follow their own!
Some handy resources for you might include these two Facebook groups "River Kids" and "Kayak Kids of Colorado." Also, I blog about my experiences of parenting on the River, "Journeys of a River Mamma."
Welcome to the clan! I Love seeing how many awesome kids are being brought up on the River (& in the outdoors in general) these days, it really is a beautiful thing! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the replies, I am introducing joey to nature the way my dad did, except he didn't boat. He does have luxury when camping, which is why I want to start him river camping. I agree with what everyone has to say and hope we can start swimming lessons soon, get him on the roaring fork and a couple of overnight ruby trips next summer.the short bus should doo us good r2ing with joey
 

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I've had my kids (girls 6&9) IK-ing for a couple years. We just bought a 14er this season and did a couple 3 day trips down the Rogue. All kinds of good things already said. To keep them liking it, just remember to keep it fun for them. Their idea of fun is completely different than ours. Like the $100.00 xmas gift you got them but they threw the gift to the side and played in the box it came in for hours. Sometimes its the simple things.

When my kids flip over in the rapids (in the IK's) they come out of the water laughing. I'm worried more than they are. When we started them in it, we would flip the rafts over on purpose in nice water. Sometime flip other peoples rafts over to. Made it like a big fun game. So now when they end up in the water it's no big deal to them.

Also remember when you set out on some of these trips there's no turning back. Kids body temperatures don't regulate like ours so keep an eye on them. Meaning the don't drink water until there already sick from dehydration/heat stress. They don't put on a jacket until their near hypothermia. Those kind of things.

I always bring 2 cheap telescoping fishing poles (and I mean the cheaper the better). They'll spend hours trying to catch a fish. A couple little plastic gold pans (which double as dog dishes when the kids aren't mining) and ladder ball is a great game for everyone. Light, packs up small and every age can play.

Just talking about makes me exacted to get the kids back on the water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Brad b awesome river ideas, next summer ant the few after are getting used to the river , I would never push him till he could self rescue. Browns is the first real rapid, after he can self rescue. But yes keeping them dry , safe and warm; well fed, and in a good comfortable zone, all will be good.
 

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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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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 :p.

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.
 

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Old Guy in a PFD
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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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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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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 Guy in a PFD
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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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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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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 scout...got 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.



Sent from my iPhone using Mountain Buzz
 

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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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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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