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Our 6 tips for keeping young children entertained when canoeing

Our son once managed a full 8 seconds of staying still. Yup, it was a day like any other and he was being a very busy little man, just like any other pre-schooler, so we had a game of seeing how long he could stay still for… 8 seconds. Sooo, to expect him to stay still-ish and not get too bored when in the canoe is unrealistic and can result in shattered expectations of a day out on the water. True story, that.

This is what we’ve found has worked for us and our son to be happy in the canoe; sometimes they work, other times it’s not so straightforward but give them a go or if you have any other tips that keep your little ones happy in canoes, please feel free to share them with us and others below!

Tip 1We give our son a plastic tub with a handle before we leave the house and let him fill it with any toys he wants to take with him, (as long as they don’t use batteries and won’t sink!). That way he’s already excited to be sharing his adventure with his toys before we leave the house and looking forward to the day out.

Toys play a big part in keeping his mind focused
Toys play a big part in keeping his mind focused


Tip 2If possible, grab a bunch of sticks and rocks on the shore before you get in the canoe and play the good old float or sink game.

Tip 3Our son has those crayons that you can use in the bath and wipe off and can get easily from the supermarket. We gave them to him and the inside of our canoe is now covered in beautiful colourful pictures of sharks and turtles. We haven’t tried rubbing them off, as each one tells us a story.

Tip 4When we bought our canoe we also bought a little paddle for our son so he could join in, well at least put the paddle in the water and splash about. Just remember to tie a little piece of string to it from the boat so you’re not spending the day paddling in circles trying to get it again! We’ve also recently made him his own little seat now that he’s more confident and doesn’t want to be nestled next to us the whole time.


A box full of toys chosen that morning by your kid *might* make for a happier experience
A box full of toys chosen that morning by your kid *might* make for a happier experience


Tip 5 – I know it sounds obvious but make sure the toilet run has been done before you get in the canoe and give little one some food and drink beforehand to keep their energy up. Don’t forget sunhats or winter hats depending on the time of year and gloves in case their hands get cold from playing in the water. Make sure they’re comfortable with the essentials, including their life jacket, and it should be a success.

Tip 6If all else fails, look at different stopping off places along the route and plan a different activity at each stop; rock-skimming, picnic breaks, sand castle building if there’s a beach, den building if there’s plenty of fallen branches, exploring any islands, spotting wildlife etc. It might not be an entire day on the water but little and often and it could be just as fun.


Our son is a big fan of getting out canoeing, it feeds all his senses at once. It’s movement on the water, he can join in and put in a paddle stroke and see the canoe move, he can bring more toys with him than when we head for the mountains, or if he ever fancies those 8 seconds of stillness again, he can just chill out and watch the world go by. 

Don’t forget to share your tips below or on our facebook page; An Outdoors Family


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