If you’ve ever listened to the fortieth episode of Peppa Pig on a long car journey, you’ll know headphones for children are the way forward. They allow your little one to enjoy their film or audiobook without interruption, while also sparing everyone else from having to listen to it at the same time. This year they’ve also proved invaluable during home schooling while older children couldn’t be without them for gaming.
Children’s headphones no longer need to be made of cheap blue or pink plastic either – unless you want them to be. They now often have all the extra frills you might expect from headphones designed for adults including Bluetooth connectivity, good battery life and noise cancelling capabilities. It may also be worth investing in a pair with a microphone if your child plans to use it for gaming. Bear in mind the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends all children’s headphones should be limited to 85db to protect hearing.
We roped in junior testers to put a range of headphones through their paces to test battery life, sound quality, comfort and – naturally - whether they were happy being seen in public wearing them.
JLab JBuddies Studio Wireless Headphones
If you’ve ever tried squeezing bulky children’s headphones into a bulging hand luggage bag before a flight, you’ll know folding headphones are a game-changer. This smart grey and blue pair are designed for age 6+ and have ear cups that rotate 80 degrees to make them much easier to carry around. They also have padding on both the headband and faux-leather earpads and are super-light making them very comfortable to wear even for our hard-to-please mini tester.
They’re fantastic all-rounders otherwise too. They come with an AUX cord in case you forget to charge them but also offer up to 13 hours of wireless play time via Bluetooth. They charge with the included USB cable and kids can use the Shareport to listen to music or watch a film with a friend on the same device. With impressive sound quality and timeless style, you wont go far wrong with these.
Groove-e Kidz Wireless DJ Style Bluetooth headphones for kids
Any wannabe DJ in the family will love these cool blue headphones which feel grown up compared to cartoon character-themed pairs, but are still very much designed with kids in mind. They’re so packed with features, we were keen to use them ourselves, and were particularly impressed with the fact they could be used with or without a wire. A real bonus if you forget to charge them before a long car journey…
There’s also an audio sharing port for listening to music with friends, a built-in mic for hands free calling and buttons to control play, volume and skip. The sound quality was excellent too and they charge fully in around three hours for 15 hours of wireless playback via Bluetooth. There’s no padding on the headband which might put off younger children but the ear pads themselves are soft and very comfortable. Also available in pink, they’re a great all-round buy for an excellent price.
Edifier G2ii Gaming Headset USB Headphones with Mic
Gaming headphones don’t need to be dull. This cute pink and grey pair is also available in black but we were smitten by the detachable cat ears that come with the pink version.
Despite that, these are definitely not novelty headphones. They offer full 360-degree surround sound effects for a completely immersive gaming experience that our teen tester was impressed by. Details like footsteps and breathing on video games sounded crystal clear. They come with a USB connector compatible with PC, PS4, Mac, laptops and desktop (but not Xbox) and have a detachable microphone and 50mm driver for a balanced soundscape.
They’re designed to feel comfy even during long gaming sessions too, with a lightweight headband and soft leather earmuffs that have light effects to enhance the action. Just remember they’re designed for older children so there’s no sound limit on them.
Harry Potter Moulded Youth Headphones
Cool grown-up headphones are ideal for older children starting to get image-conscious, but a favourite film or TV character can help convince younger tots to use the headphones in the first place so everyone else doesn’t need to hear their favourite audiobook on repeat.
Only you know the character that will seal the deal with your own child and Bargain Max offer Spiderman, Disney Princess, Star Wars Mandalorian, Frozen 2, Paw Patrol and Cocomelon themed headphones for targeted bribery. We loved the moulded Harry Potter version though, with golden snitches on the head band and a cartoon version of Harry himself on the earmuffs. They have a handy parental control limiter which is especially useful on younger children and the headband is adjustable so you can find the perfect fit. We had no complaints from our tester about the squishy headband and earmuffs either.
Skullcandy Dime True Wireless Earbuds
When you catch your pre-teen eyeing up your expensive wireless earbuds, these are a fantastic reasonably-priced alternative you might actually let them leave the house with.
Available in black, grey, dark green and light blue with a subtle skull logo, they look good enough to get the elusive thumb’s up from our tester straight away. The charging case is teeny and can even be clipped to a chain with the attached lanyard. There’s 3.5 hours of listening time in the earbud and two full charges in the case with around 12 hours of power in total. We especially liked the fact each bud has its own microphone so can be used separately to take calls or listen to music while one ear stays alert to surroundings.
Sound quality is surprisingly good for the price and the noise-isolating fit felt secure and didn’t fall out during a run as cheaper earbuds often do. In fact, our tester thought they were the most comfortable in-ears she had ever used.
Smiggle Wireless Earbuds
If your child is already under the Smiggle spell (if you know, you know), these headphones will make their day. Available in Smiggle’s usual black, blue, purple and pink, they come in a dinky branded case and manage 3.5 hours of listening time in one charge. Further charging takes less than two hours.
They were very easy to set up and work up to 10 metres away from the device in use, great if your child wants to dance around with headphones in. They’re also water and sweat resistant and include an in-built microphone to make and take calls.
Like with all earbuds, the tapping controls could be a little erratic at times, pausing a track instead of skipping it, but this was a small quibble your child will barely notice.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+
These aren’t designed for children but if you’re buying for a teenager, brightly coloured headphones or gimmicks of any kind just won’t cut it. These sleek earbuds are for serious listeners looking for top-notch sound quality even the fussiest teen won’t moan about. We chose this particular pair to include here as they come with a selection of silicone and memory foam ear tips for better comfort and fit, useful for smaller ears and less uncomfortable than hard, moulded earbuds.
Teens will also love the hi-tech app that tailors the sound to suit any musical taste and, best of all, pinpoints the last place the earbuds connected in case they get lost. They’re Siri and Google Assistant compatible and have a stonking 45 hours of battery in total, with nine hours continuous earbud playback. Sound quality is unbeatable too so expect even less conversation from your teen than before.
Disney Princess Headphones in Pink with Parental Volume Control
We know these aren’t for everyone but honestly, what princess-adoring tot wouldn’t love their very own crown to make headphone-wearing a little less boring?
These have everything you need for your very own Disney diva including an adjustable headband and padded ear muffs plus a useful built-in volume limiter and parental control to protect hearing. They won’t last forever but our three year old tester’s eyes lit up when she spotted these so we’re certain they’d make a great present.
For slightly older children looking to give in-ears a go instead, we also loved OnBuy’s colourful, budget-friendly Koss RUK20 In-Ear Iso Headphones with three sizes of silicone ear cushions to secure a good fit.
BuddyPhones School+ Headphones
Headphones were a lifesaver for anyone attempting to homeschool in lockdown, particularly if more than one child was working in the same space. Those days may (hopefully) be over but these headphones are still a great choice for any other at-home lessons or when using educational apps for homework.
They have an adjustable head band, are very light and restrict sound to the recommended 85dB to protect hearing. There’s also a detachable high-quality beam mic that works brilliantly at cancelling out background noise and picking up the child’s voice. We liked the fact multiple listeners can share a single device using the BuddyJack system, while the included stickers allow children to customise the headphones however they prefer. A wireless version will be available to buy from mid-August too.
The go-with-everything JLab JBuddies Studio Wireless Headphones are a safe bet that pack easily into a bag, feel comfy to wear and can be used with or without a wire. If your child is begging for in-ears instead, go straight for the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless Earbuds which have a decent battery life, feel secure and look so good you might even borrow them yourself.