So you wanna take your kids on a canoe trip? I’m talking about a real trip
here, not just a day paddle. Day paddles are pretty straight forward. You can take whatever you want, including your time. But what if you’ve packed for a multi-day trip and can’t afford the space to bring juniors collection of beach toys? As a general rule, Luke and Zach are only permitted to bring a couple of toys on trip at all, but even these stay packed tightly away while in the boat. The last thing you want is to lose any favourites overboard. This will result in whining and tears for the duration of your trip. Not fun. If there is one special something that MUST come and it absolutely isn’t up for debate (I’m referring to Lambie here), you can tie said object of affection to the thwart. My suggestion would be to use those multi-coloured plastic baby chain links. Something about having a cord that little ones can get tangled up in, in the unlikely event of a dump makes me nervous. It makes me think of why manufacturers
stopped putting drawcords in kids hoods. They are a choking hazard. If you insist on using cord, at least make it short.
You are going to want to set out some in-boat rules, and they must be laid out days in advance of your departure. They will need to be firmly deposited in your little ones memory bank. Examples? There will be no toys in the boat. There will be no electronic devices including but not limited to cell phones, iPods, portable DVD players and handheld game devices. Sunhats and sunscreen are a must. For safety, children must respond to all instruction immediately and without fail. I realize this sounds strict and like a bummer of a trip, but it makes the time more relaxing in the end. If you’ve laid down the law well in advance, it heads off most arguments. I get it. You’re thinking to yourself, “This chick’s crazy. What kids will agree to, let alone follow, these rules?”. Or maybe you think your little one is, well, too little. This harkens back to an earlier post about how toddlers are tricky. You can reinforce how one of their jobs is to stay in the middle of the boat. It’s their job to help keep the family safe. If they veer over to the edge, they can feel the boat listing to that side. This tippy feeling can in and of itself spook them into staying put. Cause and effect. “Oops. Help Mommy keep us safe by staying in the middle”. I honestly never had a problem with my boys in the boat. Never a complaint, never a restless moment, never a fight. And my boys are normally quite crazy. For older kids that can’t be finessed into compliance, it’s simple. Don’t make me turn this boat around. No cooperation, no trip.
Let’s talk kids and paddles. You can buy amazing quality paddles in kids sizes, and they
make for such cute photo ops, but also make for pain in the butt boat companions. I thought that these would make my kid’s early trips more special and they would feel like they were contributing. In reality, they were too small to reach over the edge and touch the water, so they leaned out further and further to make contact. Ahhhh! This was a disaster waiting to happen and it made steering awful. I put the kibosh on kids paddles until they were big enough to actually help out. In fact Zach still doesn’t paddle during the actual trip, just during day outings. Even then, with four of us in one boat, there is never enough room, or dexterity, to coordinate paddling in unison. I have found myself sitting in the bow with teeth clenched tightly, trying not to freak out at the unsteady rhythm and the constant jostling. That is something that I’m not going to miss.
So what do you do to entertain the kids if they don’t have paddles or toys? My answer is simple. Nothing. How did you entertain YOURSELF before you ventured into the realm of family tripping? You listen to the sweet sounds of paddles dipping and loons calling. You keep a keen eye on shore in hopes of spotting a moose or maybe even a bear. You laugh and talk
and dream. Don’t rob your kids of a true wilderness experience by bringing home along with you. With our over-scheduled lives filled with classes and lessons and late-night meetings, canoe tripping is an opportunity to connect
with your kids. Slow it down a bit and enjoy the time with each other.