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Fitness trackers are not only a hot ticket item for adults looking to get into shape. With more than a third of children overweight or obese, an increasing number of wearables offer creative solutions to get the younger generation moving as well. These devices are designed to help your kids get fitter and healthier, while making counting steps feel like a fun game.
Essential reading: Best smartwatches for kids
It can be difficult to motivate your child to move more. Official medical guidelines on the amount of recommended activity suggest 60 minutes of physical activity per day. This can include either moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking, or vigorous-intensity activity such as running. Be sure to include vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on at least 3 days per week.
The major benefit of using a Fitbit-like device for your kids is motivation. By setting goals, getting feedback and being rewarded, kids are encouraged to do more.
Fitness trackers for kids should not be confused with gadgets that enable parents to stay connected with their children throughout the day. These wearables, which typically use a GPS system to pinpoint the exact location of your child on a map, are featured in our overview of wearables to keep your children safe.
While compiling this list, we’ve examined functions and features carefully and thoroughly. We try to test every device personally, but where not possible we took user reviews into consideration and dismissed devices with bad customer reviews and low ratings. This left us with the following selection.
Lets cut right to the chase. Garmin’s Vivofit Jr is probably the best fitness tracker for kids on the market right now. The second generation version comes with two important upgrades. First there is an always-on color screen whereas the first version only had a black and white screen. And second, Garmin has teamed up with Disney to deliver a range of branded designs.
Yes, you still get all the great features. This includes a variety of educational mobile adventures for the kids, and family step challenges to get the parents off the sofa. As young ones reach their daily 60-minute activity goals, fun facts and a mobile adventure trail are unlocked. The tracker also reminds kids to stay active with a move bar and even monitors sleep.
Parents will once again be able to assign their child chores to do around the house and Vivofit jr 2 will give the kids a nudge when they need to complete them. These can be set up to recur daily or even weekly. Kids can even earn virtual coins for every task you assign, which they can then use to redeem in-app rewards.
The waterproof device comes with an accompanying smartphone app for parents. You can add multiple children to the app to see all your kids’ daily activity in one place. Characters from the bands will also show up in the mobile app.
The Vivofit Jr 2 band is available in a number of colorful themes including Star Wars, Stretchy Avengers, Marvel and Minnie Mouse. If you prefer, you can also opt for the first generation device (view on Amazon) which comes at a slightly lower price and similar specs.
Ages: 5 to 13
X-Doria, a company we normally associate with smartphone accessories, has branched out into wearables for kids with a low-cost activity and sleep tracker aimed at 5-13 year olds. KidFit, as the device is called, contains a swappable wristband that is made of silicone and comes in 4 colours – blue, pink, black and yellow.
This little fitness device has a snap bracelet that the tracker fits into which means that it will tighten up on the child’s wrist just enough so as not to get lost. The wearable is splash-resistant and has a battery life of up to 7 days – it can then be recharged via USB.
The tracker itself has a LED indicator. When you set it to sleep mode – an orange light will flash. When the child wakes up and the device starts monitoring activity – a green light will flash. When you push the button to sync, the lights flash blue.
Rather than counting steps or calories, a daily activity target is customized for each child and scored out of an easy to understand 100 points scale. While clearly the device tracks steps and distance in the background as a pedometer, the manufacturer realized that a point scale is easier to understand. Parents are encouraged to set goals using the iOS or Android app, which connects to a smartphone or tablet using low-power Bluetooth and provides feedback on a child’s progress.
Ages: 4 to 7
LeapBand is a great choice kids aged 4 to 7. This device turns active physical play and healthy eating habits into a game with a bunch of appealing virtual rewards. This low-cost tracker has a colourful band with a colour screen and comes in a range of designs.
Using similar motion tracking technology as more expensive adult activity trackers, LeapBand measures a child’s activity throughout the day. But LeapBand is another device that doesn’t count steps, distance, sleep, etc. Instead, it offers a novel concept by providing a series of fun physical challenges – walking, running, jumping and dancing – that the child needs to complete to earn points to spend on their virtual pet. Kids can follow their activity progress on the energy bar that moves around the LeapBand screen. Every jump, wiggle, run, and dance earns points to unlock fun new rewards.
Players can choose from a number of different pets, including a cat, dog, dragon, monkey, panda, penguin, robot and unicorn. Points are earned via physical activity. The activities are a lot of fun, and include for example “Walk like a crab,” “Spin like a helicopter,” and “Crawl like a turtle”. As they move and earn points, kids unlock each of the additional eight pets and earn virtual toys for each of them.
LeapBand is designed to facilitate physical activities in a fun, imaginative, and engaging way, supplemented by LeapBand’s virtual pets and an accompanying app that offer age-appropriate lessons about health and nutrition. The device can be a great tool to support a child’s healthy development.
The iBitz Kids Activity Tracker is a low cost pedometer that clips to clothing and interfaces with the iBitz Kids iOS app. All game interaction happens on the mobile device. In this app experience, a child will have their character blast off and explore the galaxy in a spaceship powered by their steps. The more active the child is, the more they can explore and the more rewards they earn.
Parents can set goals, and add in their own real-world rewards. They can also customize things such as screen time and custom adventures, for example “A Trip to the Zoo with Mom”. The parent sets up a parent password to access this area.
The device is available in 7 kid-friendly colors, its water-resistant and has a durable clip for hip and shoe. The tracker stores 30 days of activity, has a LED light on the device which blinks when syncing, and includes an additional battery.
There is also an iBitz for Adults (view on Amazon), so all the family can join in a healthier lifestyle. The grownup version tracks minute by minute activity, including steps, distance, and calories burned. Both the kids and adult versions are colorful, durable, lightweight devices that employ accelerometer technology to monitor physical activity.
Adidas has partnered with Interactive Health Technologies (IHT) to launch Zone, a durable fitness tracker that’s designed for children to use in physical education classes.
The Zone is a wearable for the wrist that offers real-time feedback via a digital display. It tracks heart rate and nothing else, the idea being that the only thing that matters is that the child is moving. The band will show a child’s heart rate and a color will indicate the level of activity being registered (low, moderate or vigorous). A concept similar to interval-zone training with wearables.
The tracker also sends the data to IHT’s system, called the IHT Spirit System. PE teachers can remotely tap into this to view students’ activity and heart rates and figure out which children need extra motivation and support.
This is definitely a worthwile initiative. We have yet to hear whether the tracker will be available for purchase outside of the official programme.
Ages: 4 to 12
If you are looking for a smartwatch for kids that also functions as a pedometer and smartphone, Kidizoom DX2 is your best option.
With a new sleek and stylish design, the DX2 includes 55 digital and analog customizable watch faces. There are two cameras that allow children to capture everything from action videos to selfies. Kids can even customize the pics into watch faces via the accompanying smartphone app. There is also an assortment of new games and a motion sensor for active play challenges.
Essential reading: Wearable devices to keep your children safe
Using the included micro USB cable your child can also upload photos and videos as well as recharge the battery. The smartwatch is very sturdy, and is a sort of a middle of the road solution. With this device you get the advantages of some smartphone features without having to go the full distance to a smartphone.
Healthcare has emerged as the ideal space to link up wearable technology with social good. UNICEF is one such example, with its use of a low-tech wearable device for measuring the nutrition levels of children in developing regions.
The international organisation has recently teamed up with Target to launch the Kid Power Band, a fitness wearable that encourages kids to become more active while at the same time helping to feed undernourished children around the world. The device works like any standard pedometer to record activity.
By completing a certain number of steps, kids finish “missions” that unlock funding from partners, parents and fans, and funds are used by UNICEF to deliver lifesaving packets of therapeutic food to severely malnourished children around the world. The more kids move, the more points they earn, the more lives they save. Definitely a worthwhile initiative.
The Nabi Compete is the first competitive band for kids. It works much like a traditional fitness tracker and uses a battery that lasts three months between changes. It comes in the box with two identical bands, which communicate to a smartphone app to report on activity.
With head to head contests and collaborative tasks, Nabi Compete measures food burn and challenges children to walk, jump, or run. You can select a distance goal and choose from a variety of real life challenges like the length of the Brooklyn Bridge or the National Mall Loop. Or choose a food goal and see who can burn off the calories of junk food. Kids can learn the concept of calories as their food burn is displayed with relatable and familiar foods.
There is also a rewards system to motivate your kids. They can grow virtual pets by completing challenges, and feed and grow them using the “Go Points” earned by being active. Finally, they can also share their mood with friends through the kid-safe social network, nabi Konnect, and choose the teamwork option to reach fitness goals together with others.
Sqord is not merely a step-counter. This is a fitness device than motivates active play by allowing kids to compete and earn points for everyday healthy activities.
The wearable tracks all sorts of movement and converts it all into virtual rewards inside the cleverly designed smartphone app. Your kids can also participate in a weekly leaderboard and in head-to-head challenges with friends. Parents can set goals and create their own, unique awards.
There is some real-world science to back the effectiveness of this tracker too. Third party evaluation with 5th graders found that previously inactive kids using Sqord increased their activity levels by 55%.
Activities worth tracking don’t just occur on land. Those water balloon fights or swim meets can translate into big points inside the Sqord app!
The Activity Pod can take a beating and keep on tracking. The lightweight wristbands are comfortable and extremely durable.
Finally, Sqord uses a standard watch battery designed to last up to 9 months. Which means, no need to plug it in every night to charge. Replacing the battery is easy and inexpensive.
Zip is Fitbit’s cheapest fitness tracker. It is as discreet or as invisible as you want it to be, and can be worn as a watch, in your kid’s pocket or on a belt. The little wearable monitors steps, distance, calories burned and syncs everything to your computer or smartphone. Any metric can be tapped to show historical data, and weekly totals.
Essential reading: Choosing the right Fitbit tracker
The wearable is very rugged and has a silicone clip and is rain, splash and sweat-proof. The battery operates on a replaceable coin cell battery which lasts up to six months.
Because it has a small screen, your kid can see their progress in real time. And, if you have a Fitbit yourself you can promote a bit of friendly family competition. If you are only after a simple pedometer, this is the one to go for.
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