Fitness trackers for kids have become a hot ticket item in recent years. Read on to find out which device is best suited for your little one.
With many children overweight or obese, such devices offer creative solutions to get the younger generation moving. Many of these activity trackers are designed to help your kids get fitter and healthier, while making counting steps feel like a fun game.
- Best Fitbit for kids
- Best smartwatches for kids
- Fitbit Ace 3 vs Fitbit Ace 2: what’s new and different?
- Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 vs Fitbit Ace 2: the battle of the kid friendly fitness trackers
Childhood obesity is a serious problem in many countries putting kids at risk for poor health. In the US, obesity now affects 1 in 6 children.
In fact, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled in the last 40 years. Over 400 million children and adolescents aged 19 and below are overweight or obese. The latest statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) show this is not only a problem for high-income countries. Almost half of all overweight children under 5 live in Asia and a quarter in Africa.
The causes of excess weight gain in young people are similar to those in adults, including factors such as a person’s behavior and genetics. Weight management is a long-term approach to a healthy lifestyle. It includes a balance of healthy eating and physical exercise.
Children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity. Adult obesity is associated with increased risk of a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. If children have obesity, their obesity and disease risk factors in adulthood are likely to be more severe.
Physical activity declines over time
The view that physical activity is high in children and does not decline until adolescence continues to be widely held. However, a new study shows this to be wrong. It is actually an assessment of 50 published studies from around the world covering some 22,000 youngsters between the ages 2 and 18. The assessment was led by researchers at the University of Strathclyde, but also involved scientists from University College London, the University of Glasgow and the Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Doha, Qatar.
According to their figures, daily activity falls by around 3 to 4 minutes each year from the age of four or five. This is the case for both boys and girls.
“The view that physical activity is high in children and does not decline until adolescence – and even then chiefly among girls – continues to be widely held among policymakers and practitioners around the world,” said Professor John Reilly, of Strathclyde’s School of Psychological Sciences & Health.
“As a result, policies and practices aimed at promoting activity have focused on adolescent girls, who are seen as a group at high risk group of low and declining physical activity; our study indicates that, while the relative decline is greater among girls, there is no one high risk group. All children face a high risk and physical activity needs to be promoted to them – and their parents – before they even start school.”
Separately, the World Health Organization found that four out of five children between the ages of 11 and 17 do not meet current physical activity recommendations.
Kids may even be less active then their parents!
A recent survey in 10 countries found that over half of children play outside less than an hour each day. What’s more, the report suggests kids are less active than their parents, four in five of whom head outdoors on a daily basis.
The report comes from market research firm Edelman Intelligence. They collected data from 12,000 parents who have at least one child aged 5- 12. Around 1,000 interviews were conducted across Brazil, India, Turkey, Portugal, China, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia; and 2,000 interviews in the US and UK. The study consisted of a 20 minute online interview.
Not surprisingly, the study found that more than two-thirds of youngsters watch TV every day. Kids also found around of 11 hours per week for chatting on the phone or typing away on the computer. Only a third of parents said their child’s favourite activity was playing outside.
In terms of actual figures, 69% of youngsters cited watching TV as a favourite activity after school. This was followed by playing outdoors (56%), playing indoors (48%) and playing on the internet/social media (45%). When asked to pick their favourite past time, playing outdoors was cited 36% of the time, followed by watching TV (28%), playing on the computer (26%), playing on smartphone/tablet (17%), playing indoors (16%) and watching Youtube videos (14%).
It can be difficult to motivate your child to move more. Medical guidelines from the World Health Organisation 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.
In the US, physical activity guidelines have recently changed. There are new key guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 and updated guidelines for the 6 to 17 year olds.
For pre-school children, the emphasis is on active play of light to vigorous intensity for at least 3 hours each day. This is important to enhance their growth and development. Teenagers should still aim for at least 60 daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity.
Children love to achieve something. It makes them feel more important, it gives them something to work towards. By setting goals, getting feedback and being rewarded, little ones are encouraged to do more. Fitness trackers for kids create a sense of achievement, whilst making fitness seem like a game and promoting friendly competition.
And let’s not forget the all-important cool factor. That’s an area in which kids will always naturally compete: who has the best toys.
By teaching your children about their activity levels, you can help to make fitness a habit, not a chore. The more they learn about the benefits of movement and activity, the more likely they are to make an effort to stay fit long into their adult lives.
On top of all of this motivation, you can be sure that using the fitness trackers will be excellent for you as a parent. You will know when to reward effort and when to push for more, just by glancing at the stats.
Trackers for kids may not yet be as commonplace as they are for adults, but perhaps they should be. What follows is our selection of some of the best devices on the market right now. Make sure that you give your kids the best start at fitness by getting them the coolest and funkiest fitness trackers.
These devices should not be confused with gadgets that enable parents to stay connected with their children throughout the day. Although some share the same functions, these wearables typically use a GPS system to pinpoint the exact location of your child on a map.
- Well known brand,
- always-on color screen,
- colorful designs,
- gamifies fitness,
- rewards good behavior,
- no charging
- More suitable for younger kids
Let’s cut right to the chase. Out of all fitness trackers for kids we’ve come across, Garmin Vivofit Jr 2 is our choice as the best device. The activity band ticks all the right boxes.
The gizmo comes with two important upgrades over its predecessor – an always-on color screen instead of a B&W screen. And second, Garmin has teamed up with Disney to deliver 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 are able to assign their child chores to do around the house and Vivofit jr 2 will give the kids a nudge to complete them. 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 which comes at a slightly lower price and similar specs.
Bottom line: This is the one to pick if you’re after the best fitness tracker for kids. It comes with an always-on colour display wedged in a rugged design, it gamifies fitness, there’s no charging and it comes from a well known brand. The only caveat is if you yourself own a Fitbit. In this case your little one might be better off with a Fitbit Ace or Ace 3 with their Family Account options.
- Leading brand,
- 64 color screen,
- educational app adventures,
- rewards good behavior,
- no charging
- More suitable for younger kids
The look is the main difference between Vivofit Jr 3 and 2. The latest edition comes in the form of a smartwatch with a more high-res, 64 color display. This makes it more suitable for younger kids. The second generation takes the shape of a traditional fitness band with its 8 colour screen.
This iteration also keeps your kids engaged with educational app adventures. Parents also have the ability to set chores and tasks giving your little ones an opportunity to earn rewards.
Distance travelled is the only thing added to the third generation but it loses the move bar. The other thing it gains is a widget that holds your child’s emergency contact information.
The tracker can be picked up in a choice of designs. This includes Disney Princess, Marvel Studio, and a generic Garmin one.
Bottom line: More suitable for younger kids than its predecessor, Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 takes across most of its functions but packs it into something that looks like a kid’s smartwatch. The display is a nice improvement – not only is it bigger this time around but it’s also colour.
- Integrates into Fitbit’s range of products,
- suitable for older kids,
- Family accounts in app,
- light and comfortable to wear
- Needs to be charged every 5 days,
- only tracks fitness (no games like Vivofit Jr 2)
Fitbit was not someone you would associate with fitness trackers for kids until recently. With the Ace, little ones finally got a Fitbit of their own. The wearable is an Alta lookalike that is specifically designed for those 8 and older. The showerproof device automatically tracks steps, active minutes, sleep and provides encouragement to be active. It has up to 5 days of battery life and comes in a number of vibrant colours.
Because Ace has an OLED tap display, your kid can see their progress in real time. The tracker dishes out rewards for moving with celebratory messages and fun, collectible badges. And, if you have a Fitbit yourself you can promote a bit of friendly family competition.
Along with the wearable, the San Francisco outfit has introduced a family account which allows parents to safeguard their kids’ privacy and stay on top of their activity. The Parent view lets you navigate between your view and your kid’s view to check their activity and progress. It also allows you to manage who your children connect with and what information they see.
The Ace is a one size fits all affair. It is meant for wrists measuring between 125mm and 161mm and, just like the Alta, the width of the tracker is only 15mm.
Bottom line: Fitbit’s first attempt at a fitness tracker for kids is a revamped Fitbit Alta. With its adult look it is more suitable for older kids, whilst retaining kid friendly features and the ability for parents to safeguard their kids privacy through the Family Account.
- The best Fitbit for younger kids,
- can take a beating,
- large display,
- 8 day battery life,
- Family accounts in app,
- virtual badges
- only tracks fitness (no games like Vivofit Jr 2)
Released a few days ago, Ace 3 is designed for children 6 and up. To serve this purpose it comes with a more rugged design than the first generation, along with better water resistance (5 ATM).
This is a direct successor to Ace 2, making the second generation pretty much redundant. The two are practically identical, the changes are slight. The bumpers around the display are more streamlined and there are some other visual tweaks and more watch-faces. However the main improvement is that the battery life has been increased from 5 days to 8 days.
In terms of activity, Ace 3 tracks all-day steps and active minutes, sleep, there’s a 1-hour active minutes goal (as per WHO recommendations), virtual badges and more. Unlike Ace 2, Ace 3 has a heart rate monitor. This is currently switched off but as its there, don’t be surprised if Fitbit enables it via a future software update.
Bottom line: If you are after a device for younger kids, Ace 3 is a great choice. Particularly if you own a Fitbit yourself. It covers all the kid-friendly basics without overloading with features.
Ages: 4 to 7
- Wonderful design,
- fun physical challenges,
- lessons about health and nutrition
- not suitable for kids over the age of 7
LeapBand is a great device for kids aged 4 to 7. It turns active physical play and healthy eating habits into a game with a bunch of appealing rewards. This low-cost fitness trackers for kids has a colorful band with a color screen and a range of designs.
LeapBand is another device that doesn’t count steps, distance, sleep, etc. Instead, it provides 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 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. The device can be a great tool to support a child’s healthy development.
Bottom line: Now a few years old, this one is suitable for very young kids. The wearable comes with a fun design which should keep your little one engaged. No fitness stats on this one, kids get fun physical challenges instead.
Ages: 4 to 12
- Integrates smartwatch functions,
- camera for videos and pics,
- assortment of games,
- great design,
- May not suit those just looking for a fitness tracker,
- only splash proof
If you are looking for a smartwatch for kids that also functions as a pedometer and smartphone, look no further than the Kidizoom DX2.
With a 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.
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.
Bottom line: This one crosses the line a bit into kids smartwatch territory. It comes with much more than just fitness tracking so if you’re after a bit of photo and video taking it is the one to go for.
- Helps a worthy cause,
- simple design and functionality,
- Battery needs to be charged every 5 days,
- no fitness gamification functions
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.
Bottom line: Often sold out, the UNICEF band is pretty basic when it comes to features. Its unique aspect is the brand and the fact that you and your little one will be helping feed the hungry around the world.
- Head to head contests,
- 3 month battery life on a single charge,
- rewards system,
- virtual pets keep kids engaged
- Users have reported sync issues,
- mixed reviews on Amazon
There are many fitness trackers for kids but Nabi Compete is the first that markets itself as a competitive band. 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.
Bottom line: As its name implies, the most unique aspect of Nabi Compete is that it offers the prospect of competition. To keep them interested, your little one will be able to participate in contests with others and virtual challenges.
Ages: 5 to 13
- simple kid-friendly design,
- customized daily target
- LED indicator (no proper screen),
- only splash proof
X-Doria, a company we normally associate with smartphone accessories, has branched out into fitness trackers for kids with a low-cost activity and sleep tracker aimed at 5-13 year olds. KidFit contains a swappable wristband that is made of silicone and comes in 4 colours.
The thing 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.
The tracker itself has a LED indicator. When you set it to sleep mode – an orange light will flash. If 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.
Bottom line: X-Doria may not be a well known name in the adult fitness tracking game but it is when it comes to kids. KidFit comes in a fun design and pedometer functions. This one is very robust and inexpensive, so no need to worry about it getting damaged or lost.
- Simple design,
- simple to use,
- LED light – game interaction happens on the mobile device
This 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 device is available in 7 colors, it’s 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, so all the family can join in a healthier lifestyle. The grownup version tracks minute by minute activity, including steps, distance, and calories burned.
Bottom line: iBitz is a low-cost pedometer. If you’re just after the basics – this is the one to go for. Your kid doesn’t even need to wear it. Just attach it to their clothes or shoe and it will happily count steps.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why should I buy a fitness tracker for my kids?
Fitness motivate your child to move more by creating a sense of achievement, turning fitness into a game and encouraging healthy competition amongst friends and family. By teaching your children about their activity levels, you can help to make fitness a habit, not a chore. Kids will learn about the benefits of movement and activity, which will make it more likely they will stay fit long into their adult lives.
What is the best fitness tracker for my child?
You are typically best off going with well known brands. Fitbit and Garmin have a wide selection of fitness trackers for adults as well as kids.
Our device of choice is the Garmin Vivoactive Jr 2. It has an always-on color screen, colorful designs, it gamifies fitness, a variety of educational mobile adventures for the kids, doesn’t require charging. However, if you have younger kids, you are better off going with the third generation tracker.
The Fitbit Ace 2 also represents a good choice. It is light and comfortable to wear, it is suitable for older kids, it integrates into Fitbit’s range of products, and there are Family accounts in the app.
What is the best Fitbit for kids?
Our recommendation is to go for Ace 3. The device is an iterative upgrade over Ace 2. Fitbit will probably sell off the stocks of the second generation and phase it out. If you have older kids, you might be better off going with the first generation Ace. The other option is to go for an adult Fitbit. Charge 4 is not bulky and might be a good fit for a teen.
You can read more about various Fitbit options for little ones on this link.
What is the best device for teenagers?
Statistics show that obesity prevalence totaled 18.5% amongst Americans aged 2-19 years. This goes up to more than one in five for the teenage generation. So a device to motivate your teen to move more is a good purchase.
We have done a separate piece on the best fitness trackers for teenagers. You can check it out on this link.
What about privacy concerns?
A lot has been written about privacy issues to do with kids wearables. Concerns have been raised about GPS devices for kids that have been discovered to have security flaws which make them vulnerable to hackers. The good news is that you will not have such worries with the devices on this page. None of them have built-in GPS so are not as vulnerable to outside intrusions.
The problem is there for kids smartwatches and safety tracking devices, but not fitness bands. Many of these are produced in Asian countries, which don’t have such stringent safety procedures, and imported elsewhere. This is why it’s best to opt for a well recognised brand.
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