Best fitness trackers for kids 2023: make exercise a habit, not a chore
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
Why are kids’ fitness trackers so popular?
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. Recent 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!
Another 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%).
How active does my child need to be?
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.
Are fitness trackers good for kids?
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.
What are the best fitness trackers for kids?
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.
1. Garmin Vivofit Jr 2 – Best overall for kids
- 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 features reminders for 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.
2. Garmin Vivofit Jr 3 – best for younger kids
- 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.
3. Fitbit Inspire 3 – Our choice for teens
- Integrates into Fitbit’s range of products,
- suitable for older kids,
- needs to be charged only once every 10 days,
- light and comfortable to wear
- 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 range, little ones finally got a Fitbit of their own. However for older kids there are other options.
One of these is Inspire 3. A replacement for the Alta range, this is something that can be used by anyone. The showerproof device automatically tracks steps, active minutes, sleep and provides encouragement to be active. It has up to 10 days of battery life and comes in a number of vibrant colours.
Because Ace has a 1.4 inch AMOLED display, your kid can see their progress in real time. Sensors on-board include a 3-axis accelerometer, vibration motor, heart rate and SpO2. Plus, if you have a Fitbit yourself you can promote a bit of friendly family competition.
Bottom line: Fitbit has a range of fitness bands on offer including some purely dedicated for kids. But with its adult look Inspire 3 is more suitable for older kids. It is a complete activity tracking solution that can also be used by adults.
4. Fitbit Ace 3 – Best Fitbit for kids
- 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)
Ace 3 is an activity band designed for children 6 and up. To serve this purpose it comes with a more rugged design than the previous generations generation, along with better water resistance (5 ATM).
This is a direct successor to Ace 2, making that iteration 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.
Along with the wearable, the San Francisco outfit has recently 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.
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.
5. LeapFrog LeapBand
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.
6. VTech Kidizoom DX3
Ages: 4 to 12
- Integrates smartwatch functions,
- camera for videos and pics,
- assortment of games,
- great design,
- the price is right
- May not suit those just looking for a fitness tracker
If you are looking for a smartwatch for kids that also functions as a pedometer and smartphone, look no further than the Kidizoom DX3. The latest generation comes with various improvements over its predecessor including a new sleek, more rounded, more durable design.
The DX3 can do a lot. It includes a bunch of 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 and motion-tracking activities.
Other functionality worth a mention is a voice-recorder with cool effects, activity reminders and a LED that can be used as a flash and flashlight. 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. For example, little ones can stay in touch with others by sending preset messages – contacts can be pre-approved by scanning a code on their friend’s DX2.
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.
7. Xiaomi Mi Band 7
- suitable both for kids and adults,
- fully-featured fitness device
- excellent battery life
- good value for money
- No physical buttons, can be difficult to navigate display
Mi Band is a budget fitness band. It is a popular choice for adults as it gets the basics right and with its lightweight, slick, water-resistant design, looks good enough to wear during the day, in the office or for an evening function. But this is a lightweight wearable that is also suitable for kids.
The seventh generation comes with a massive 1.62 AMOLED display that is easy to read. As detailed in our hands-on review, that is the main upgrade over the predecessor generation.
With regards to features you get the full gamut of basic fitness tracking including an SpO2 sensor, performance metrics and more.
The build of the device is kid friendly in that it is robus plus you get 5 ATM water-resistance. Battery life is awsome – something that we’ve come to expect from Xiaomi devices.
Finally, Mi Band 7 also comes with some non-fitness functions. This includes smartphone messages, Caller ID, weather, alarm and more.
Bottom line: Those looking for a no-frills activity tracker for their kids will not be disappointed. The wearable simply does the job and will not break the bank.
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.
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 Inspire 3. The other option is to go for an adult Fitbit. Charge 5 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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