Catfish Kids News/Columns Sept 2020

Catfish Kids September 2020

Place the youth in the forward position in the kayak to learn the ropes. An adult in the stern can provide the power and control.


Kayaking Kids Need Proper PDFs


Kids obviously need special attention when preparing to kayak. Parents and guardians should always think safety first and it all begins with the proper type, sizing, and fitting of the child’s PDF.

Tip: Babies and toddlers sometimes “hate” their PFD. This catches many parents by surprise. If possible, prepare youngsters ahead of time at home. Offer a reward for keeping it on or make a game of wearing it at home.

Safety First

Safety when kayaking, canoeing or standup paddle boarding on the water is always important, but especially when young children are along for the fun. A life jacket, also known as a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) must always be worn.

This article provides sizing and fitting tips to get the best life jacket for toddlers on up to older children, plus looks at the two common PFD types for kids.

Life Jacket Sizing for Kids

Fit is important in keeping a child’s head above water, so do not get a too-big PFD thinking he or she will grow into it.

Sizing for a youngster depends on his or her weight (and not chest size, as it does with adults):

  • Infant PFDs: 8 to 30 pounds
  • Child PFDs: 30 to 50 pounds
  • Youth PFDs: 50 to 90 pounds

For infants and small children, a PFD should have a:

  • Padded head support to help keep the child’s head above water.
  • Grab handle to assist retrieving the child out of the water.
  • Crotch strap to help keep the PFD from riding up.

Youth-sized PFDs look like, and have the same features as, adult PFDs. The more straps a PFD has, the more adjustments can be made for sizing.

Types of Life Jackets

There are 5 categories of PFDs, but most children and youths should use a Type III USCG-approved model. PFDs for infants are often a Type II design.

Type III: Flotation Aids. These are suitable for various sports activities and the most comfortable for continuous wear and freedom of movement. They are good for where there is a quick chance of rescue. They are designed so wearers can put themselves in a face-up position, but they may have to tilt their head back to avoid being face down in water.

Type II: Near-shore Vests. Calm inland waters, where there is a likely chance of a fast rescue, is the intent of these PFDs. They will turn some unconscious wearers to the face-up position but not all of them.

Fitting and Wearing a Life Jacket

As with an adult’s PFD, a child’s PFD must fit snugly. Check the fit once the child is secured in it. Pick the child up by the shoulders of the PFD. The child’s chin and ears should not slip through.

Familiarize your child with a PFD beforehand so he/she will be comfortable wearing it and hopefully less likely to panic during the activity.

Editor’s Note: Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) has been providing top-quality gear and apparel for outdoor enthusiasts since 1938. Their website has some great video tips for kayaking with kids. Their recommendations for sizing and fitting the proper PDFs for kids is offered below. Visit their website at for more information on kayaking with kids.

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