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Two Toddlers In A Canoe

Author: David Mellor


Getting out and adventuring with kids can be daunting especially when it comes to water sports but as with any adventure it can be done with a little planning and preparation.

This week we bring you our newest ambassador, David Mellor an adventure dad of two sharing his experience on getting his family out canoeing and how it’s possible with 2 toddlers. Here’s David…

We all know toddlers, right?  Yes, those small, highly energetic bundles of mayhem who have minimal concentration levels.   Toddlers, who you should never, under any circumstances, find yourself trapped within a confined space for any period of time unless you want utter havoc to prevail.

This seems to be the general consensus of a lot of people. So, if I were to suggest packing not one, but two toddlers into a canoe for a family adventure, some people may baulk at the very idea. But why? With a little bit a foresight and preparation, family canoeing, even with two toddlers, can be an amazing experience.  Here’s how we got on...

Now, long before our first family canoeing adventure on open water, we’d steadily been preparing for it. Up until recently, most of our family adventures had been on land, usually in the mountains where we feel completely at home. This determination to broaden our range of adventurous family activities was going to take some thinking about. The first thing that struck me was that I have Mountain Leader qualifications – I know what I’m doing in the mountains.

I have, however, no water related qualifications and it’s been a good while since I’d been in a canoe or kayak. What would we do in an emergency, for instance? The second thing that worried me was that in the mountains our two toddlers still have freedom to move about. Family canoeing was going to severely restrict their propensity to wriggle, skip and dance.


The first thing that we did to prep our two toddlers started long before we even thought about family canoeing. You see, they started swimming lessons at a very young age. Our eldest, who is now 3, was signed up to his first swim class aged just 12 weeks.

Consequently, both of them are confident around water. Even our youngest (who will be two in September) can confidently go beneath the surface and hold on to the side. These skills would serve them very well in the event of a capsize.

Being a man who likes to leave nothing to chance, I then joined my local kayaking and canoeing club.

They meet every Wednesday evening during the summer months on our local river. You get two hours of river time, under the guidance and instruction of qualified coaches, for just £4 a week. As well as improving my technical ability, these sessions also developed my understanding of open water environments. As such, I felt far more aware of potential dangers and what to do in the event of them.

In addition to the weekly river sessions they also hold regular social meets on rivers, lakes and seas across our local area, which really adds to the sense of fun and adventure. After all, my sole reason for wanting to give family canoeing a go was to extend the fun and adventure we have as a family unit.


All of this preparation didn’t mean I wasn’t still a little bit nervous on the morning of our family canoeing adventure. We all know kids are unpredictable and I had no idea how they’d react in the boat.  Being relatively new to the activity we don’t own our own boat. We wanted to see how the kids would take to it before investing a significant sum of money.

Consequently, we hired a canoe for the day from a reputable local outdoor company. A top tip is to ring ahead to check whether they have buoyancy devices small enough for your children. If your children are as young as ours it’s no guarantee they will, so a quick phone call could save you an aborted adventure.

Just as we do when  we take the kids into the mountains, we’d kept a careful eye on the weather forecast. The last thing we wanted was their lasting memory to be of sideways rain and gale force winds. Consequently, on arrival at the lake, we were greeted by sunshine and light winds. Perfect.

We packed everything into our drybag and were ready to hit the lake. We also asked the hire centre for two extra paddles for the children.  We had no intention of rocking back and letting our 1 and 3 year olds become watery workhorses, of course. We just wanted them to feel as involved as they could. It was a great idea. The small paddles that the Centre gave us were light enough to be held by little arms, and the kids enjoyed dipping them into the lake from time-to-time.


On our first family canoeing adventure we had no specific plan other than to paddle on the lake. I’m so glad we took this laidback approach. This not only gave us time to paddle, it also gave us time to relax and picnic out on the lake without thinking that we’d miss our checkpoint or destination.

It, therefore, didn’t matter when we stopped paddling to let the kids have a go. So, we drifted a little and went round in circles. The main thing was our kids, who usually relish freedom and space, were engaged and loving it. Our youngest even decided that she wanted to move from the middle to the front for a better view.

All in all, our family canoeing adventure was a huge hit. By taking kids who are already confident in and around water, and by doing just a basic bit of personal preparation and checking, we were able to take them out on what I’m sure will be the first of many watery adventures.  The big aim now is to plan and prepare for a family canoe camping adventure. We’ll keep you posted on that one.

YouTube video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrfXHTuzWaE&t=5s

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