December 06, 2021 8 min read

Paddle Boarding With Kids

Couple paddle boarding with kids on GILI Manta orange

Stand up paddle boarding is a fantastic way to spend quality time with your kids and get them outdoors enjoying the sun and nature. However, there are a few things you need to consider before taking your little ones out on the water. 

We’re going to cover the equipment you’ll need, extra safety precautions, and tips on adjusting to paddling with a passenger. 

Benefits of Paddle Boarding With Your Kids

There are many benefits to stand up paddle boarding (SUP) for both you and your little ones. First, it’s an excellent bonding activity for the whole family that gets your kids out of the house and connecting with nature. 

Children are spending more and more time indoors, so having an enjoyable hobby could be the push they need to get them outside and appreciate the world around them. 

SUP is also a great form of full-body exercise that increases strength, endurance, and aids in balance. It’s no secret that exercise and fresh air reduce stress levels, which in turn benefit our overall mental health.

Stand up paddling can also help with your child's confidence. Standing on their own or learning how to paddle by themselves is a tremendous achievement and can leave them feeling incredibly proud. 

If you’re wondering how to paddle board with kids, what equipment you’ll need, or how to keep your kids’ safe while stand up paddle boarding, then keep on reading!

Make Sure Your Child Can Swim

Kids paddle boarding on the lake with GILI SUPs

First things first, before even getting on a paddle board, it’s imperative to make sure that your child can swim.

Stand up paddling takes place on the water, and there is a high possibility that your child could fall in during your trip.

It may only be a short swim back to the board, and you may only paddle in waist deep water, but this could prevent any emergencies from taking place. 

Help Your Kids Be Comfortable With the Water

Your kids may be able to swim, but that doesn’t always mean they’re comfortable in the water. Swimming pools differ incredibly from murky lakes or rivers, and you don’t want your children to panic if they fall in.

Playing games in the shallow waters or taking them for a swim beforehand can boost their confidence and prepare them for being out on the board. 

Wear a PFD

PFDs (personal flotation devices or life jackets) are a must when paddle boarding or doing any water sports for both you and your kids. You need to make sure they are Coast-Guard approved and the appropriate size for the user. 

A personal flotation device gives your child extra safety when out on the water and can save your life in case of an emergency. 

What You Need to Paddle Board With Kids

Two kids on a life jacket riding a paddle board

The items you will need to paddle board with kids depend on whether your child is riding on your board, or on their own board. 

If you have a young child or a child new to SUP, having them ride with you is a perfect way to introduce them to the sport. 

Before taking on a passenger, you will need to note your board's size and weight limit. Wider boards are easier to balance on, especially if you have a little one perched on the front, and they also have a higher weight capacity. 

Paddle board leashes are extremely helpful and will keep your board close to you at all times. Make sure you choose the right SUP board leash for your board before setting out. Check out this blog post on how to choose the correct SUP leash and length if you’re unsure. 

The supplies you will need to take your child on board with you are minimal; they will simply need a well-fitting PFD. Taking a waterproof bag may also be a good idea, so you can carry other gear and essentials such as water, sunscreen, and a cell phone in case of an emergency. 

If your kids are old enough and comfortable enough to take their own board, you will need to purchase a board that is a suitable size for them. Inflatable paddle boards are a great option for kids, as they aren’t as hard as traditional paddle boards, and are less likely to injure your child if they happen to fall.

Buying a smaller board can help with balance and make it easier for them to get back on if they have fallen into the water. Adjustable paddles are also an amazing option for kids, as you can make them bigger as your child grows. 

If riding on their own, they will also need a PFD and a paddle board leash.

A Guide to Teaching Your Kids How to Paddle Board

Man paddle boarding at the lake

Lets take a look at the steps you should take to ensure adequate safety when paddle boarding with kids. 

Step One: Get Comfortable on Your Board

If you’re planning on taking your child on your SUP board, you’ll want to be sure that you feel completely safe and comfortable solo paddling. Practice balancing, falling, and getting back on, as when you add younger children into the mix, you will have to do all of this and assist them with getting back on too. 

Step Two: Practice on Land First

Whether you’re having your child ride tandem with you, or if they have their own paddle board, it’s best to set the board down on a flat area of grass and have them practice standing on it. 

If riding independently, you can use this time to show them how to properly hold their paddle and demonstrate the motions they will need to steer in different directions. 

Step Three: Start Off in Calm Shallow Water

Once your kids have practiced balancing on land, it’s time to take it to the water. It’s best to have your child stand on the board first in calm, shallow water. Assist them by standing beside them and supporting the board by holding onto it. 

Locations with calm waters and little to no wind, like lakes, or protected bays, are great options when first starting out. 

Even if your child is sharing a board with you, balancing with the extra body weight and movement will be more challenging, and you will appreciate spending a few minutes getting used to it in shallow waters. 

Step Four: Teach Them Paddling and Safety Tips

If they have their own paddle board like our Cuda inflatable paddle board for kids, they will need to practice paddling before heading out. You can either show them on your own board or in the water while standing next to them. 

All children, no matter where they’re riding, will also need to learn SUP safety. 

Before you start off on your paddle board adventure, you need to teach them safe ways to fall and get back onto the board. 

Falling off the board is inevitable, and having them practice falling to the side will prevent them from injury. Getting back on the board will take practice, and the more they do it, the more comfortable they will be. 

Step Five: Seat Your Child on the Board First

Kids riding on a GILI manta board

As mentioned before, learning how to paddle with extra weight can be a challenge. Sit your child just in front of where you normally place your feet and position yourself behind them.

Step Six: Start Off Kneeling

If your child is paddle boarding solo, they should start off kneeling to build confidence out on the water. Once they feel comfortable, they can practice getting up to a standing position. There may be a few falls, so it’s best to encourage them and make practicing fun. 

Similarly, if you’re starting out with your child on the front of your board, begin paddling in a kneeling position. Your child can also practice getting into this position once they’re confident enough.

After you have determined the best way to balance with the extra weight on the board, you can stand up paddle, and have your child stand up with you. 

Step Seven: Have Fun!

You’ve got the basics down, and now it’s time to enjoy your new family sport. Even though paddle boarding with kids can be tough when you first start out, after the kids feel comfortable and confident, it will turn into a very rewarding activity that both kids and adults can enjoy. 

Important Safety Tips When Paddle Boarding With Kids

  • Always wear a life jacket (PFD)
  • Be confident on the board yourself before heading out with your kids
  • Make sure your SUP board can handle the weight of all passengers
  • Double-check the weather forecast and be aware that storms and wind can occur with little warning
  • Dress your child in suitable clothing
  • Wear sunscreen even on overcast days
  • Run through possible emergency scenarios with your children before paddling

How to Entertain Your Kids While Paddling

Woman with her child sitting on a GILI paddle board

The novelty of SUP may wear off quickly for younger children. If your kids don’t seem to enjoy it, you can implement some games to make it more fun. Here are some ideas to keep the kids entertained and occupied whilst paddle boarding. 

  • Talk about their interests and things they like
  • See who can spot the most fish in the water
  • Take little swimming breaks
  • Bring small toys for them to play with
  • Play I spy 
  • Teach them facts about their surroundings 
  • Stage a few funny fall-ins 

FAQ’S

🏆 How do you paddle board with a child?

Before paddle boarding with children, you need to first be comfortable paddle boarding solo. 

Start by having your child sit slightly in front of where you would normally stand. Then, get onto your board and start paddling in a kneeling position. 

Once you have found your center of balance, you can slowly stand up and SUP like normal. If your kid is confident enough, they can also try standing up with you. 


👍 Can you paddle board with kids?

Yes! Paddle boarding with kids is a great outdoor activity that the entire family can enjoy. Whether your kid has their own paddle board or sharing it with you, teaching children is easy and rewarding for all parties involved. 


🏝️ At what age can kids start paddle boarding?

This ultimately depends on your particular little one. It’s recommended that children under the age of five sit on the front of your board as opposed to having one of their own. 

Children over the age of five, who are confident enough to paddle independently, can take their own boards out and enjoy SUP. 

No matter what age, if your children aren’t comfortable in or around water, it’s best to hold off and gain that confidence before SUP. 


❓ Is paddle boarding fun for kids?

SUP is a fun and relaxing outdoor activity for all ages.

For younger kids who get bored easily, you may need to find ways to entertain them whilst out on the water. This can be achieved by games or conversations about topics they like, such as I spy or who can spot the most fish.  

For older kids who can SUP independently, encouraging them with kind words and expressing how well they’re doing will boost their confidence and make their time more enjoyable. 


📦 Do they make paddle boards for kids?

Yes! Paddle boards made for kids range between 6 and 10 feet in length and 30 inches in width.

Inflatable boards are recommended for little ones, as they’re softer, lighter, and less likely to injure if a fall occurs. 

You can also purchase an adult board on the smaller end of the size range, making it usable for an adult or a child.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

Based in Bali, her favorite SUP spot is the GILI Islands themselves. Travel is another passion of hers - she dreams to see the entire world one day.


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