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4 Tips: Safe + Fun Rafting with Kids

Babysitter cancel at the last minute? Or maybe your little darlings are part fish and ready for their first rafting trip?

Tackling the river with children in tow isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds. With a bit of preparation, kids will love the whitewater (in safety).

Here are some things you need to know to keep them safe, and keep you sane!

Young Girl enjoying a rafting adventureCalm Fears
No one will enjoy going down the river with a screaming and terrified kid in tow. Make sure your child has a basic knowledge of water and understands what will happen on your trip. (It’s wet, cold, and sometimes it will splash you in your face!)

Prepare them for the whitewater rafting by having a non-threatening code phrase. “Here it comes” is good. “We’re all going to fall out” is not.

Teach the basics
Even the youngest children should be taught basic water safety before climbing in a raft. Be honest about the dangers, but try not to completely freak them out. Teach them to look downstream for rapids and what they should do in the rare case they fall into the water.

Older children can be taught to oar in calm stretches and float alongside the raft where the river permits. The sooner kids learn how to act and react on the river, the better your rafting trips will be.

Don’t be Outnumbered
You’ll need at least one adult per child on your river trip. Ideally, you’ll have more than that so you can trade-off when someone gets too hyper to handle, like at the Merced River. Make sure everyone knows the cardinal rule of rafting with kids: if they fall in the water, you have to pull them back in  regardless of how crazy they have made you that day.

Plan Ahead
In a perfect world, kids would love rafting as much as we do, never get bored on the river, and be more than willing to nap through the calm stretches so that mom and dad can relax. We don’t live in that perfect world, though, and kids are prone to massive meltdowns, hour-long crying jags, and water-induced insomnia.

Be sure to have plenty of distractions on hand, such as small toys, or treats they’re not allowed to put in their little mouths. It’s also a good idea to talk to your kids beforehand and give them things to look out for while on the raft. This will help give them a focus and a reason to keep watch and be aware of their surroundings. You can even make a game of it. When the kids find a reason to be engaged and show interest, everyone wins!

Rafting with kids can be rewarding for everyone, but don’t expect the first time to be all sunshine and laughter. There’s always the chance the kids will whine, cry, and complain, and or not be on their best behavior. But the river is waiting, so don’t let their potential dismay detour you — get out there and enjoy the rapids as a family!

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