Best smartwatches for kids with GPS, games and more fun features

·15-min read
 (Canva)
(Canva)

Are your kids constantly stuck to their iPads or glued to the screen of their favourite TV show?

With us all too aware of the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, you may be concerned if your kids are constantly stacking up screen time rather than getting some much-needed exercise in the great outdoors. Smartwatches and activity trackers for kids offer a great incentive to help encourage children (and indeed the entire family) to get up off the sofa and become more active.

Increased activity can not only help your kids burn off some excess energy but also improve their coordination, stamina, confidence and overall physical and mental wellbeing.

Just like ‘grown up’ fitness trackers and smartwatches, these clever devices can encourage and motivate your children to move more and increase their overall activity levels, whilst counting their steps and offering rewards for hitting set targets. When teamed up with us grown-ups, they can also create some friendly competition amongst friends and family.

What should you look out for when choosing a smartwatch for kids?

There is a wide range of kids’ activity trackers and smartwatches to choose from, so here are some things you may want to consider when making your choice:

  • Age of your child: How old is your child? What age group is the product aimed at? Some smartwatches and activity trackers can be used on children as young as three, whilst others are more suited to teens or tweens who may want the benefit of enhanced functionality and a more ‘grown up’ design.

  • Features: What features do you want for your child? Do you want fun games or rewards to motivate younger children? Is it fitness tracking that’s most important, or do you want the added reassurance of GPS tracking, call and text features?

  • Watch size: Whilst all kids’ devices are tailored for a smaller audience, they do vary considerably in size and shape. Whilst a bigger, bulkier smartwatch may be suitable for an older child or teen, you may want to opt for a more compact, lightweight watch if your child is younger or has small, petite wrists.

  • Cost: Does the device come with one-off upfront cost, or do you need to factor in the cost of subscription and data contracts too?

  • Battery life: Are you happy to charge the device daily or weekly, or are you the type that will forget with yet another device to plug in at night? Whilst most kids’ smartwatches and activity trackers need a boost every 1-8 days, some devices come with the benefit of longer battery life.

Whether you’re after a basic step counter watch for younger kids, a feature-rich smartwatch from a trusted brand or an all-round watch, activity and GPS tracker that offers parents peace of mind, here is the ES Best round up of the best smartwatches and activity trackers for kids in 2022.

Garmin Vivofit Jnr 3

The only watch from our selection to fit a five-year-old’s wrist without looking bulky, the Garmin Vivofit Jnr 3 is a mid-to-high end price point activity tracker aimed at children aged four and above.

An upgrade to its predecessor, the Vivofit Jr 2, the Garmin Vivofit Jnr 3 looks less like a fitness tracker and more like a traditional watch, with a square watch face and 1.4cm colour display. With seven different designs to choose from, options like Iron Man, the Little Mermaid and Disney Princess are sure to appeal to younger wearers, whilst the more subtle lilac floral or blue star options are a great choice for those seeking a more stylish and grown-up design.

The comfortable silicone strap comes with a buckle fastening and a wide range of size settings, making it easy to adjust and secure even the smallest of wrists.

Whilst children may need to mentally adjust to the lack of a touchscreen, it’s super easy to use, navigating between screens using a large button on the right hand side of the screen. Unlike some other smartwatches, the Vivofit offers a wide range of customisable screen faces and comes in full colour too (although it can be a little dark in low light).

Not only is the Vivofit Jr 3 compatible with a smartphone to monitor steps, active energy and sleep, but parents can also even manage and assign chores (from a predetermined list or simply creating their own). Children earn points for every chore completed, working towards a reward and positively reinforcing their good behaviour.

From a motivational perspective, the Vivofit Jr 3 comes with the option of timed activities, step challenges and ‘Toe to Toe’ step challenges to compete with friends, even enabling weekly step challenges with other families where every family member’s scores count (even the grownups!).

Garmin also includes an engaging and child-friendly interactive app experience - whereby the more your child moves, the more they can explore a fun interactive map adventures and collect gems for hidden surprises.

With a target of 60 minutes of exercise each day, the Vivofit Jr 3 offers powerful incentives to exercise and encourages children to get up and move around.

By far the biggest plus point for the Garmin is its battery life, which, unlike most others, requires absolutely zero daily or weekly charging. Instead, the included battery offers up to one whole year of battery life, after which it can easily be replaced by parents.

Buy now £79.99, Amazon

Fitbit Ace 3

The Fitbit Ace 3 is a feature-rich smartwatch and activity tracker aimed at children six and above and whilst it may not have the annual battery life of the Garmin, it comes at a more affordable price and still only requires a charge once every eight days.

With a slimline design and comfortable silicone strap that fits well on smaller wrists, the Fitbit Ace 3 is available in two colours and offers additional enhancements from the previous Fitbit Ace 2 design, including improved screen brightness and longer battery life.

With almost 30 different face designs to choose from, children will love the animated black and white displays that change throughout the day. Our favourite was the plant that starts as a small bud and grows taller based on your child’s activity levels. The watch is intuitive and easy to use for kids, with simple touch screen navigation.

Quick and easy to set up through the parent app, it doesn’t matter if you’re not a Fitbit user yourself (although it’s fun to compete if you are). Once the app is downloaded you create a family and then add each child individually. Parents can then track multiple siblings in the parent view, whilst children get a more basic view of their data.

It’s worth noting that the Fitbit Ace 3 can sync smartphone messages and call notifications, so if you’re using it with a younger child who doesn’t have their own phone, you may want to turn this feature off unless you want them to read all your notifications.

In terms of features, the Fitbit Ace 3 is swim-proof and waterproof up to 50m and tracks steps and active minutes, using a 60-minute activity goal and a 10,000 steps target by default. Kids can earn achievement badges for hitting their goals as well as compete with friends who have their own Fitbit device.

Overall, the Fitbit Ace 3 is a budget-friendly smartwatch and activity tracker with decent battery life and the ability to sync with their smartphone. But it doesn’t offer GPS or location tracking.

Buy now £49.99, Amazon

VTech KidiZoom DX2

Slightly more of a toy than a smartwatch but great fun for younger children, the VTech KidiZoom DX2 comes with a variety of fun motion sensor games that encourage kids to get up and move around - counting steps using an inbuilt pedometer.

Simple to use, the KidiZoom DX2 comes with a large, vivid full-colour touchscreen and menus that are intuitive and easy to navigate, sliding between options before pressing to select their choice.

Using the interactive Time Master app, children can learn to tell the time in both analogue and digital clock faces whilst the Monster Detector app allows them to track monsters in their home or garden using augmented reality (think Pokemon Go style).

Using the built-in dual cameras, children will absolutely love taking photos and selfies before adding cool stickers and effects. With an internal 256MB memory, they can save them up and then with help, transfer them to a computer via USB.

With an alarm, timer and stopwatch, the DX2 has some practical yet fun functionality and offers great entertainment for long journeys, however like many of the younger smartwatch models, it is fairly bulky with a tendency to catch on coats and jackets.

Buy now £33.99, Amazon

Little Tikes Tobi Robot

If you have a preschooler who wants to get involved with the family step challenges, the friendly robot character on the Little Tikes Tobi Robot smartwatch is sure to attract their attention.

Whilst the design is very bulky for the target age group and therefore much less practical to be worn as a watch, Little Tikes Tobi comes with a choice of two cases, one of which also offers the ability to use this smartwatch and activity tracker as a clip-on pedometer and step counter.

The tracker itself is super engaging, with a playful robot that appears on the screen. He has a fun personality with over 100 expressions including the ability to giggle, dance and play and can help younger children to learn the time in both analogue and digital, with a choice of over 50 watch faces.

With a rechargeable battery that lasts around five days, the Tobi smartwatch also comes with a variety of educational games included, including an augmented reality game called Search and Seek and a dance activity.

Similar to the DX2, the two built-in cameras can film video, take selfies and capture and save photographs, with the ability to add photo stickers and fun frames. With a fairly substantial internal memory, the Tobi Robot sport watch can also store up to 3,000 photos or 30 minutes of video.

Buy now £39.99, Amazon

Spacetalk Watch

For junior children and above, you may want to invest in a smartwatch with increased security.

Designed in Australia, Spacetalk is an all-round smartwatch, activity and GPS tracker in one aimed at children aged 5-12 and is a great choice for putting parents’ minds at ease whilst giving their child some freedom and independence. Due to its fantastic location pinpointing and 4G connectivity, the Spacetalk is ideal for children who are walking or travelling by public transport to and from school.

Whilst it does require some initial setup (mostly downloading the app and creating an account), the watch itself is simple to use and comes with a wide range of useful features that will appeal to parents and children alike.

We love the 5MP camera, the ‘always on’ GPS tracking and the option to set up ‘safe zone’ notifications, allowing parents to be informed when their child safely arrives at their destination. There is also an SOS alert, which can notify parents instantly in an emergency and share your child’s exact location.

With no social media or internet browsing, you don’t need to worry about cyberbullying or unwanted contact. All contacts are parent-approved and there is a handy ‘school mode’ to ensure they won’t get disturbed during lessons.

Due to its mobile phone-like capabilities however, the Spacetalk does come with a subscription model, requiring a data plan for phone network, so you may want to factor in the additional cost. Like most mobile phones, the battery life also runs down relatively quickly, so you will need to charge it every day.

Our only criticism is that the Spacetalk is a bit bulky even on a 9-year-old. We would love it to be just a bit smaller and slimmer for more discreet wear.

Buy now £189.00, Currys

Vodafone Neo Smartwatch

An excellent choice for Disney Fans and aimed at children aged 6-9, the Vodafone Neo smartwatch provides one of the most ‘sleek’ designs of the watches featured in this roundup, appearing more like a grown-up Apple Watch than a child’s smartwatch or tracker.

With a choice of mint or ocean colours and a decent 1.3 inch display, your child can personalise their device with characters such as Minnie Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, Darth Vader, The Mandalorian Child, Iron Man and Elsa who can motivate your child to move more throughout the day.

In terms of features, the Neo offers the ability to call up to 9 pre-approved contacts and send both emoji messages and predefined texts. There is no free text option however, which may be a bit limiting when your child’s away from home. There is also no internet browsing or social media, making it a safe alternative to a first phone.

Whilst GPS enabled, the child has to approve a request from parents and it doesn’t store your child’s location history. This may be preferable for a child’s privacy, but less reassuring for parents than an ‘always on’ locator.

Neo also includes a 5MP camera, sleep tracker and the option to set timers or diary reminders and even the ability to check the weather or tot up a quick sum using the integrated calculator. It’s IP68 waterproof rated, meaning your child doesn’t need to remove it to shower, and it can withstand depths of up to 10 metres for 30 minutes without damaging the watch.

Due to its phone-like capabilities, children will need to charge the Neo every day, and it’s worth remembering that as well as the fairly substantial upfront cost, an ongoing data plan is required. The integrated smart sim costs £5.99 a month.

Buy now £70.96, Amazon

Xplora X5

Another practical, functional yet attractively designed smartwatch and tracker combined is the Xplora X5, aimed at children aged four and above. With a large 1.4 inch display however, the Xplora X5 is on the bigger side, so possibly a bit bulky for younger kids.

It comes with a comfortable and easily adjustable strap with three colour choices and is water-resistant 1.5m for 30 minutes, meaning your child won’t harm it if they forget to remove it before their shower.

With a built-in GPS, parents can track their child’s location on a detailed map, as well as check their full location history.

The Xplora X5 offers your child the ability to send and receive text messages, as well as make calls to up to 50 pre-approved contacts, meaning they will always be fully contactable when away from the home. For peace of mind, the SOS button can instantly notify pre-set contacts and share your child’s location in the event of an emergency.

With no social media or browsing however, the Xplora X5 is also a safer option for younger children who may be walking to school but don’t need to delve into the realms of a full smartphone just yet.

The Xplora X5 requires an app download (compatible with iOS and Android devices) and unique from some other incentives, the Xplora X5 allows kids to earn coins for extra activity, which can be exchanged for real goods in the Xplora Go Play auction store. The highest bidder wins!

The battery life lasts around three days, which for a GPS based device is really strong, but it’s worth remembering that the SIM card is not included and you’ll need to purchase a separate data plan with a phone network such as Vodafone or O2.

Buy now £154.00, Amazon

HONOR Band 6

Last but by no means least, for older children or teens who are showing more of an interest in their health and fitness, the HONOR Band 6 Smartwatch covers a wide range of fitness metrics and has a decent battery life, without the higher price tag of Garmin, Fitbit or Apple Watch.

With a real-time heart rate, blood oxygen and sleep tracker, teens can quickly track up to 10 different modes of exercise including running, cycling and walking, to accurately track their steps and active calories. It’s also IP68 waterproof level, so they can wear this step counter while washing their hands or swimming.

With the accompanying app (compatible with iOS and Android devices), your teen can learn more about their overall health data and track trends, including monitoring the quality of their sleep. They can also sync the watch to their phone to receive call and notification alerts.

With 14 days of battery life, it is a budget-friendly and more maintenance-free option when compared to the Apple Watch, but may not offer quite the same ‘street appeal’ for older children.

Buy now £42.99, Amazon

Verdict

Whilst parents of older children may prefer the GPS and phone/text capabilities of the Xplora X5, Neo or Spacetalk, our top pick of smartwatch and activity tracker for kids is the Garmin Vivofit Jr 3.

With a compact size and shape that fits a variety of ages and wrist sizes, the Vivofit has some great functionality and an incredible year-long battery life. We love the way it really incentivises children to get up and move more and can be tailored to your child’s preferences. Overall, a reasonably priced device that can really improve your child’s overall health and wellbeing.

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