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The Best Kayaks for Kids

Posted by on May 12, 2013

Finding the right kayak for your child can be a challenging endeavor. One option is to stick them in an adult-sized kayak. This may be ill-advised for smaller children as often times an adult-sized kayak is just too much boat to handle. Smaller children will find themselves “swimming” inside the overly-voluminous cockpit leading to an awkward and inefficient paddling stroke. It won’t be long before they will tire out and start begging to be towed back to shore!

Another option is to investigate the myriad of “toy” kayaks on the market that provide the proper fit for a season or two before that inevitable growth spurt kicks into high gear. Aside from being quickly outgrown, these small kayaks offer little in the way of performance and features for your child’s paddling skills to grow on. Their short relative length inhibits tracking and the standard outfitting packages of these kayaks often leave out key features like thigh braces thus preventing the development of a solid lean and bracing skills.

Don’t be discouraged because there are some worth-while, kids-sized kayaks on the market. Here are some of the best old and new models:


Wilderness Systems Piccolo (Discontinued)

Wilderness Systems Piccolo

Material: Roto-molded Polyethylene

Length: 13’6”

Width: 20.5”

Weight: 45lbs

Cockpit Size: 31 x 15 inches

Capacity: 175lbs

MSRP: $300-$500 Used

When I dip into my mental rolodex of “boats of yore” one particular model jumps to the front of the class: the Wilderness Systems Piccolo. At 13ft 6in long and 20.5in wide this kid’s sea kayak sits firmly in the light touring class and boasts all of the key features of a standard sea kayak including: integrated thigh braces, fore and aft bungees, and a small “day hatch”. The real beauty of the Piccolo is in its appropriately down-sized volume which provides the perfect fit for a pre-teen while maintaining desired performance. The Piccolo tracks as well as most light touring class boats and offers great primary and secondary stability. The great features and handling characteristics of the Piccolo will provide the opportunity for your child to grow as a paddler.

Unfortunately, Wilderness Systems discontinued production of the Piccolo some time ago (Why must all great things come to an end??) but they do come up used for sale quite often. If you’re in the market for a kid’s sea kayak then you’d be smart to gobble up a used Piccolo if one becomes available in your area. A reasonable price would be somewhere in the $300-$500 range.

Full Review: Wilderness Systems Piccolo

Alternative: Wilderness Systems Tsunami SP


Perception Prodigy XS

Perception Prodigy XS

Material: Roto-molded Polyethylene

Length: 10’

Width: 23”

Weight: 27 lbs

Cockpit Size: 28 x 18 inches

Capacity: 150 lbs

MSRP: $399.00

Perception recently introduced the kids-specific Prodigy XS into its line-up. This kids kayak is substantially equivalent to the now discontinued Perception Acadia Scout but with a few outfitting upgrades. Like the Acadia Scout, the Prodigy XS sports compact hull dimensions and a lowered deck to allow for a comfortable paddling stroke. I’ve managed to squeeze myself into the cockpit and found that this kayak performs like a sports car with quick acceleration and decent tracking. Major upgrades can be seen in the cockpit outfitting with the addition of Zone seat pad, back band, and thigh pads. At $400, the Prodigy XS is definitely something to check out or maybe consider looking for a used Acadia Scout to save some coin!

Alternative: Perception Acadia Scout (Discontinued)


Old Town Heron Jr

Old Town Heron Jr

Material: Single Layer Polyethylene

Length: 7’5”

Width: 25”

Weight: 29 lbs

Cockpit Size: 35 x 16.25 inches

Capacity: 100-115 lbs

MSRP: $299

The Heron Jr got some attention at the 2012 Outdoor Retailer show for good reason. This miniature version of the Old Town Heron was designed from bow to stern with the youngest kayakers in mind! Its short length (7’5”), reasonable width (25”), and light weight (29lbs) should prove manageable. One feature that really jumps out is the “Tag Along” tow system which will come in handy to rescue tired arms! This system consists of a towline that stowes neatly into a dedicated compartment on the front deck. Otherwise the Heron Jr is pretty bare bones with a simple, padded seat and a pair of carry handles. Finally, the ultra-low $300 MSRP should put a smile on a parent’s face especially considering that the Heron Jr will be eventually be outgrown!

-Kayak Dave

Note: This post was originally written by Kayak Dave for



4 Responses to The Best Kayaks for Kids

  1. Bryan Sarauer

    My daughter (now nearly 11) paddles the WS Tsunami 120 SP, kayak she’s into her 3rd season in. I’ve also used this kayak with great success on numerous other kids ranging in age from about 7 through 12. It’s just like a real adult kayak, just scaled down to fit, which is fantastic. It is very stable for the smaller folks at 21″ wide, which is wide for their size but not so wide as most other options. It also has fore and aft bulkheads and hatches so it’s suitable for the kids to start being responsible for their own gear while not flooding.

    Before the Tsunami 120 SP, my daughter paddled a DIY Yost Sea Flea ( and that’s the kayak my younger daughter now paddles (8 year old). However, she’s outgrowing that one so I’d like to build a Sea Pup in the same style.

    I’ve also had kids paddling a Swift Kiwassa LV (low volume) quite a bit, and that has worked very well despite that it’s too wide. That kayak (along with some of the other Swifts such as the Saranac 14) works well for the larger kids and the teenagers.

    Though I have never seen one in person, I would seriously consider the Current Designs Raven. However, the WS Tsunami SP gets my top choice as the best kid’s kayak because it’s a “real” touring kayak and it retails for a pretty reasonable price.


  2. Meg

    Hi Dave are you in Australia? I’m
    Interested in the prodigy XS I’d need it to be sent to sydney

    • arrudad

      Hi Meg! Our home base is in Massachusetts, USA so we may not be the most cost effective source for your new Prodigy XS. Maybe we can expand to Australia someday! I toured the Gold Coast in 2003 from Bundaberg to Sydney and absolutely fell in love with your country! Can’t wait to make a return trip :) -Dave

  3. Vanessa Hillis

    My daughter paddles a Jackson Riveria. This is her 2nd year paddling the boat and she loves it. It handles well; she is also able to help load and unload this boat. She is 11 and I hope she is still paddling this boat for years to come. All her friends have easily adapted to this boat as well. It is a great boat that they can grow with.

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