Pick Up a Paddle

Paddling is a great way to get out on the water and explore with your family!  There are many ways to pick up a paddle, including canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and rafting.

From learning about buoyancy and water safety at home to getting out onto the water for some family fun, these tips will help you prepare for your next paddling adventure!

What You Will Need:

  • Canoe, kayak, raft or stand-up paddle board
  • Life jackets with whistles
  • Paddles
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Appropriate clothing for both sun and water temperature
  • Water shoes
  • Water and snacks
  • Towel

Check out Paddle Canada’s checklist for a more detailed equipment list.

Share Your Experience to Earn a Paddling Badge!

All you need to do is log into or sign up for your own WILD Family Nature Club account! Snap a picture while you’re paddling with your family and upload it to the Gallery or share your personal paddling tips with others on the Discussions page to earn a digital Paddling Badge.

Paddling Crafts & Games

Getting into paddling can be easy and fun! By teaching about different aspects of paddling at home, such as buoyancy and water safety, you can introduce your kids to some basic concepts, increase their comfort level, and help prepare them for your family’s next trip out on the water.


  • Putting a life jacket on for the first time can be a new experience for kids but is a necessary safety precaution when you are out on the water. Help them get comfortable wearing one by having them try it on for the first time at home. Crafting a pretend life vest out of a paper bag is also a fun way to introduce the idea of water safety to young children.
  • Pretend play gives preschoolers a chance to practice water safety skills without the danger of real water. Make a pretend boat using a cardboard box or tape the outline of a boat on the floor. Kids can practice putting on their life jackets (real or paper) before entering the boat.
  • Practice paddling basics! Have kids try passing a ball back and forth using their paddle blade. This is a great way to help kids understand the forward to backward sweep strokes you use when paddling. You can use a real paddle or re-purpose household items like a wooden spoon and have kids use their imagination!
  • You don’t need to own a canoe or kayak to learn how these boats and devices stay afloat! Raft-building is a fun activity for all ages and is a great way to teach kids about buoyancy and balance! Have kids build their own raft, then visit your bathtub, pool, or nearby water body to see how well it floats. If you’re having problems keeping it afloat, brainstorm how you can make it more buoyant using other materials or designs!

Pool Time!

Take the next step in your paddle experience by heading to your local pool! Spending time at the pool is great way to help your family feel more comfortable around water in a safe and controlled environment and boost your swimming skills. Some pools and recreation centres also offer paddling lessons!  

Even if you are an experienced paddling family, this can be a great way for the family to stay interested in water sports and keep your swimming skills strong!


  • Research local pools for swim lessons. Classes are often available for all ages and skill levels.
  • Try out a real life jacket! Most pools will have a range of sizes available.
  • Play on floating pool toys. This can be a great reminder about buoyancy and balance.
  • Ask about paddle lessons. Some pools have introductory classes to paddling like kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. Paddle Canada also offers several certification programs.

Get Paddling!

Are you ready to get out paddling? Getting out on the water opens up new opportunities for family adventures. No matter which mode of paddling you choose – canoeing, kayaking, rafting or stand-up paddle boarding – you’re bound to feel a stronger connection to nature!

Whether you are the one doing the paddling while your kids ride along, or the whole family is ready to pick up a paddle, there are a few things you need to consider before hitting the water.


  • Don’t know where to start in choosing your paddle gear? You can rent gear at various outdoor or paddle equipment stores or look for paddle operators who offer lakeside rentals, equipment drop off and pick up, or paddle lessons outdoors.
  • If you are new to paddling, be sure to ask rental companies and operators these basic questions:
    • What equipment is offered? Do they have throw-bags and bailing devices?
    • Is there training or instruction given, or a trained individual that can join you?
    • What are the paddle conditions normally like? Are there big waves or a strong current?
  • You don’t have to go it alone! Join a local paddle club in your area or look into day camps and drop-in programs. This way you can paddle with experienced individuals, create a sense of community, and get some paddle tips.
  • Be prepared for a day on the water. Make sure you have all the mandatory safety equipment required by law, as well as things to make your day more comfortable like sunscreen and towels. Check out Transport Canada for a detailed list of minimum safety requirements by boat type and length.
  • Always wear the correctly sized personal floatation device (PFD) when out on the water. You can learn more about life jackets and PFDs here
  • Be aware that paddle craft can transport aquatic invasive species, so make sure you clean your craft if you are moving it between water bodies. Check out Fisheries and Oceans Canada to learn more about preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

    Continue to Become a Club Leader »

    Submissions (2)