Not all Garmin wearables are for grownups. Its very popular Vivofit Jr is designed to help kids get fitter and healthier, while making counting steps feel like a fun game. A few months ago, Garmin upgraded the original version and slapped on a few new features. This includes an always-on color screen, a watch-style buckle design and a range of branded themes including some from Disney.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers for kids 2018
Mind you, all the great features of the first generation device are still there. This includes a variety of educational mobile adventures for the kids, and family step challenges to get the parents off the sofa. The tracker also reminds kids to stay active with a move bar and even monitors sleep.
Here is all you need to know.
Features and software
Just like the first generation, Vivofit Jr 2 comes in a swim friendly body that can take a lot of beating. In fact the dimensions and the weight, at 17.5 grams, are unchanged.
The silicone and plastic tracker can be worn 24/7 and is designed for ages four to nine. Garmin has teamed up with Disney this time around to come up with a number of colorful themes in addition to Star Wars and Marvel. With enough manoeuvring the main unit pops right out of the band allowing you to swap designs if you choose to do so.
Garmin made sure the activity tracker is easy to put on. The stretchy band fits wrists up to 145mm in diameter. The extra large bands are available for wrists up to 170mm. Unlike the first generation, a number of designs also come with a regular watch-style buckle. This comfortably fits wrists measuring 130-175 mm in circumference. For smaller ones you will need to opt for the stretchy band. Owners of the first generation tracker will be happy to know they can slip the original device into one of the new adventure themed bands.
The other important change is the screen. The first generation tracker comes with a B&W, 10mm x 10mm, 64 x 64 pixel display that is off by default. Just like a regular watch, the new device goes a step further and comes with an always-on colors screen. The display face tells the time and date and you can customise it with your child’s name.
There is only one large physical square button which is located right below the screen. Pressing the button allows the kiddos to scroll through the individual screens. A long press initiates a manual sync with the accompanying smartphone app and brings up other functions.
Just like the original, the little wearable is powered by a coin cell battery which, you’ll be happy to know, means no charging. Despite the bump in specs, the battery life is a still a full year thanks to the single CR1632 coin cell battery.
In all honesty, when it comes to features and software there is little to separate the first and second generation tracker. Why change something that works? The Vivofit Jr is, after all, one of the best selling fitness bands for kids.
All the functions are controlled via the accompanying smartphone app. The tracker is very easy to set up and if you already have a Garmin Connect account, the whole process should take no longer than 10 minutes.
Download and install the app, log on using your Garmin Connect details, and follow the instructions to set up your family and add profiles for multiple kids. 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. Finally, pair the device via the app and not the Bluetooth settings on your smartphone.
Its super-easy for kids to track their activity as everything is clearly displayed on their watch-face. The default screen is the current time. A single press on the physical button shows the date, and further press show the number of daily steps, active minutes, number of chores accomplished for that day, coin earnings and the number of stars earned.
Parents can track their childrens’ daily activity via the accompanying smartphone app. All the activity and sleep metrics are displayed visually, and there is a circle and line chart indicating how close a child is to the 60 minutes daily play goal. This particular figure comes from the World Health Organisation which encourages at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day for young ones.
Something that you get on the second generation device but not on the original are ‘toe-to-toe’ challenges. This allows your child to challenge other kids (or even themselves!), to timed step competitions. Once the competition is over, they’ll both see the total number of steps during the challenge and find out who triumphed. They can even compete with parents and other adults who install the Connect IQ app on their compatible devices. Garmin’s latest Vivofit 4 fitness tracker comes with this feature already built-in.
To keep the kids interested, Vivofit Jr 2 comes with three new missions. This includes the BB-8 Adventure: A Star Wars Story where your little one goes alongside BB-8 and the pilot Zepha as they tackle adventures on the planet Jakku. Mickey’s Birthday Surprise: A Disney Adventure pairs your little character alongside Minnie Mouse and her friends in adventures as they plan a surprise birthday party for Mickey Mouse. And Ultron’s Revenge: A Marvel Avengers Mission where your little hero goes alongside Captain America and the Avengers as they tackle app adventures in New York City and try to defeat Ultron.
In order to progress through different levels in the game, kids unfold new adventures as they reach their daily 60-minute activity goals. Fun facts and a new mobile adventure trails are unlocked, keeping kids interested enough to want to keep playing. They can, however, only progress one move in the adventure each day they meet the 60-minute goal.
But this is not just an activity tracker. Rightly so, Garmin has recognized that motivation is an important part of the equation. Customising all of this in the app 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 for both the parents and kids.
You can set up chores around the house and the Vivofit Jr 2 will alert the child when they need to complete them. These can be set up to recur daily or even weekly, meaning they are less likely to be forgotten. There is a list to choose from and you also can add in your own chores. 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.
Parents can see in the smartphone app when a task has been completed. They can then tick off the chore as done and this will be shown on the kid’s tracker screen. Parents can even reward good behaviour with virtual coins for every task they assign, which your kiddos can then use to redeem agreed-upon in-app rewards.
To get the parents of the sofa there are family step challenges as well. 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 family competition!
Here is a nice little video from Garmin showing the basic features.
Garmin didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with Vivofit Jr 2. Its sitting on a winner with the first generation tracker and didn’t see the need to revamp something that works well.
But don’t think of this as a fitness tracker. The app is an essential part of the package, equal in importance to the hardware. It offers quite a bit of flexibility with kid friendly features such as tasks, rewards and adventure trails. This should, hopefully, keep your young ones engaged and motivated to do more each day.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 2
Owners of the first generation device will be happy to know they can take advantage of the adventure themed designs as their tracker slips nicely into the new bands. They will miss out on a few features, such as the toe-to-toe challenges, but this will allow parents to save a few bucks.
Is the device perfect? No, its not. But it incentivizes good habits, provides kids with rewards, and helps keep them active and fit. In a market largely untapped by the big name players, Garmin is still the one to beat when it comes to fitness trackers for kids. You can check out Vivofit Jr 2 on Amazon.
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