Fitness trackers are not just for adults any more. If you have a child who is very active you might not feel the need to help encourage them to be more active. If they prefer playing computer games or watching TV, that’s an entirely different story.
Child obesity is a growing problem. Statistics show that it has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Today, more than one third of children and adolescents in the US are overweight or obese. The causes of excess weight gain in young people are similar to those in adults. A balance of healthy eating and physical exercise is a long-term approach to helping solve this problem.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers for kids
Garmin was an early mover and pioneer in the wearables market when it introduced its first running watch more than a decade ago. The company is yet again leading the way with its first wearable for kids – the Vivofit Jr. Pretty much a re-imagined version of its popular Vivofit 3 for adults, the device is a motivator and activity tracker to encourage young ones to stay active.
Here is what we made of it.
Features and software
In terms of design, this is a very robust little device that can take a lot of beating. With a water-resistant, swim friendly body, it can be worn 24/7. The wearable is designed for ages four to nine and is available in black, broken lava, digi camo, purple strike and real flower band patterns. With enough manoeuvring the main unit pops out of the rubber band, so you can swap colours if you choose to do so.
Garmin made sure the activity tracker is easy to put on. The regular sized stretchy band fits wrists up to 145mm in diameter. The extra large bands are available for wrists up to 170mm. A quick search on Amazon shows that some users experienced issues with the band tearing after a few months of use – you might therefore want to consider purchasing an extra band just in case.
There is no clasp to secure and fiddle around with so its just a matter of stretching the band and slipping it on. If your child has a large wrist size and prefers another colour, you can always slip the core unit into a Vivofit 3 band, which are entirely compatible.
Just like the band for adults, the Vívofit jr has a high-resolution, sunlight-readable display. The wearable will monitor kids’ steps, sleep and active time. There’s a move bar on the display too, which reminds kids to move if they have been inactive for too long. The watch face also tells the time and date and you can customise it with your child’s name.
There is only one large square button which is located right below the screen. Pressing the button activates the backlight and allows the child to scroll through the individual screens (time/name, calendar, number of steps, how close they are to their 60 minutes play goal, tasks and rewards). A long press initiates a manual sync with the accompanying smartphone app and brings up other auxiliary functions.
The little wearable is powered by a coin cell battery which, you’ll be happy to know, means no charging. The battery life is a massive one year thanks to the single CR1632 battery.
The Vívofit jr. activity tracker is designed to be managed by parents using the compatible app. The device is incredibly easy to set up. Before you start, you will need a Garmin Connect account though. I already have one because my fitness tracker of choice is the ‘Jack of all trades’ – the Vivoactive HR. If you already have an account, the whole process should not take more than 10 minutes.
The device must be paired directly through the Vivofit Jr app instead of from the Bluetooth settings on your smartphone. Download and install the app, log on using your Garmin Connect username and password, and follow the instructions in the app to set up your family and add each child.
You can also add further guardians who can also view and interact with the family. Only the administrator, though, has full access to the settings. At some point you will need to press the button on the Vivofit Jr to pair the unit with the smartphone.
The app lets you track your children’s daily activity including daily steps and active minutes and sleep. This is all displayed visually with a circle and line chart indicating how close your child is to the 60 minutes daily play goal. This specific number comes from the World Health Organisation which encourages at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day for children.
The sleep statistics are displayed in a bar chart, with separate bars for light, deep sleep, and awake time. Unfortunately there are no aggregate statistics (weekly, monthly), but you can scroll through to view activity for previous days.
But this is not just an activity tracker. Garmin has cleverly recognised that motivation is an important benefit of using such a device. Customising all this takes a bit of time, but by having goals, getting feedback and being rewarded, kids are encouraged to do more. It should probably be a project where both the parent and child participate.
Parents will be happy to know, they can assign their child chores to do around the house and the Vivofit jr will alert the child when they need to complete them. These can be set up to recur daily or even weekly — perfect for children who need reminders to brush their teeth and make their beds. There is a list of chores to choose from, although you also can add your own.
For youngsters who like to procrastinate, you can set up a task timer so Vivofit jr. reminds them that the time to finish homework or to get dressed is ticking down. This includes, for example, brushing teeth (2 minutes), sharing toys (5 minutes), finish eating (10 minutes), screen time (30 minutes), etc. All these can also be customised, of course.
Because syncing is automatic throughout the day (when the smartphone is in close vicinity of the tracker and a Bluetooth connection has been established), the app will inform the parent when a task has been completed. If the parent is happy with the outcome, they can tick off the task as done. The kids will see the update on the tracker screen. Parents can even reward good behaviour with virtual coins for every task they assign, which kids can then use to redeem in-app rewards.
Here is a nice little video from Garmin explaining the basic features.
The app offers other motivational features as well such as educational mobile adventures. As kids reach their daily 60-minute activity goals, fun facts and a mobile adventure trail are unlocked, inspiring kids to do their best every day.
To get the parents of the sofa there are family step challenges. Other family members with compatible Garmin activity trackers can join in on a leaderboard and compete in a daily step challenge. Nothing beats a bit of friendly competition within the family!
Here is another video by Garmin which does a nice job in explaining the Adventure Trail.
Vivofit Jr works well because it takes across the same technology that Garmin uses for its fitness trackers for adults. The company has more than a decade of experience in designing such devices. The build is robust, but as these will be used by kids, don’t be surprised if damage eventually occurs to the band or if the screen gets scoffed.
Rather than just a fitness tracker, Garmin has designed a whole ecosystem. The app is an essential part of the package, equal in importance to the hardware. And it offers quite a few kid friendly features such as tasks, rewards and adventure trails which you and your children are welcome to use, or not if that’s your preference.
Garmin Vivofit Jr
Is this the perfect fitness tracker for kids? Probably not. But its as close as you will get to that right now.
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