• April 22, 2024, 4:39 pm

The best smartwatch for kids in 2023 SoftAIT

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Update : Monday, November 6, 2023

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Buying a smartwatch for a kid is actually, well, incredibly smart. Smartwatches can promote healthy habits by tracking steps. They can teach children the responsibility of owning a cool gadget. They can provide parental peace of mind, acting as a GPS tracker for kids to monitor your child’s location (with the kid’s knowledge, of course). And, of course, they can make your little one smile, reminding them that, sometimes, their parents really are pretty cool. But picking the right one isn’t as simple as grabbing a Fitbit or Apple Watch. Outfitting a youngin comes with its own set of considerations: Do you need GPS or a step tracker? Are kid-specific watches better than stepped-down adult models? Here’s how to wrap your head around picking the best smartwatch for kids. 

The best smartwatch for kids: Reviews & Recommendations

Any parent knows that kids’ personalities somehow show up in infanthood. So by the time your child is ready for a smartwatch—yes, even if she’s only in preschool—they’ll likely have some fully formed opinions about the device that they want for their wrist. Definitely take note because if the gadget doesn’t have the camera or games they’re hoping for, they may not wear it all. 

Best for phone-free messaging: XPLORA XGO3

Specs

  • 4G, 3G & 2G enabled
  • 1.3-inch TFT Touchscreen
  • Camera
  • Microphone & Speaker
  • Make and receive calls, messages
  • Pedometer
  • Waterproof IP68 rating
  • 0.14 ounces

Pros

  • A means of communication means kids can explore independence & test boundaries with a safety net
  • GPS & Safety Zones
  • Pre-programmed responses and emojis make up for no keyboard
  • School mode allows its use as just a watch during study hours
  • No games means less distractions

Cons

  • User guide has limited instructions beyond activation
  • Requires parent to use XPLORA app for messaging
  • Analog watch face might be difficult to use for younger children
  • Short battery life

WiFi and network compatible, the XGO 3 comes with a pre-installed Xplora Connect SIM Card that can be activated to enable voice calls from pre-saved numbers, voice and pre-programmed messages, and more for $9.99 a month. After some initial hiccups setting up the watch for a niece of one of PopSci‘s staff members, assisted via email by very responsive Customer Service, the excited recipient started testing. Not only was she obsessed with trying things out, but mom found that it was great to send her a message or give her a quick call to check on where she was or call her back inside. One of the best features was the child’s ability to record video messages that she could then send to mom. And, in an emergency, an SOS button can be pressed by a child to notify emergency contacts of their location. In addition, pictures can be taken and sent with the onboard camera. A screen protector would be recommended, however, as children are not aware of how easily screens scratch. Overall, the X3GO is a solid prelude for kids who aren’t ready for a phone and for parents who aren’t ready to give their young kid a phone but still want to offer some room to explore without parents standing over them all the time. In the warmer months, this is the kind of watch that can get a lot of use, as all the kids start playing outside around the neighborhood. And, as kids grow and want a higher-resolution screen and camera, there is the XPLORA X6.

Best health tracker: Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3

Best health tracker: Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3

The best health trackers are way more than simple pedometers. And the Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3, with a replaceable battery that should last all year, rises to the challenge. This swim-friendly smartwatch can withstand the pressure under 164 feet of water and will monitor your child’s activity, whether they’re in the pool, on the field, or resting. A compatible parent-only smartphone app (Android 4.4 and up and iOS 9.1 and up) lets you load games that will keep kids engaged to hit their 60 minutes of daily activity. (You can also set alerts to remind the kids to do their homework or take out the trash.) The silicone band is made to fit kids ages 4 to 9, with the regular size going up to 145 millimeters and the extra-large stretching to 170 millimeters. 

Best for older kids: Apple Watch SE

Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen) [GPS 40mm] Smart Watch w/Midnight Aluminum Case

At $150 less than the cost of the Apple Watch Series 9, the Apple Watch SE is perfect for a tween who has a phone and is learning what it means to treat technology responsibly and use it to get things done. Activity tracking features like heart rate monitoring and running routes can help promote your youngster’s budding workout regimen. Plus, they can find the right pump-up tunes by accessing more than 75 million songs on Apple Music. Being able to access their calendar and answer calls and texts from their wrist can help them keep up with increasingly hectic schedules. 

Best for younger kids: Little Tikes Tobi Robot Smartwatch 

blue little tikes smartwatch

With more than 50 faces, the Tobi 2 really does resemble a robot on your kid’s wrist, and by employing fun games and movement motivators—like an augmented reality seek-and-search game, and a dance activity game—it will help children learn and grow, even if they don’t realize it. Kids will enjoy taking selfies and videos with two cameras—the 512 MB of memory can store up to 3,000 photos or 30 minutes of video. And the lithium-polymer battery is rechargeable via USB plug-in, but the kiddo will have to turn it off to charge. 

Best budget: VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch DX3

Best budget: VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch DX3

The KidiZoom Smartwatch DX3 is the latest and greatest model in VTech’s line of affordable kid-friendly watches, featuring two cameras for taking videos and selfies, an easy-to-use touch screen, and over 50 kid-friendly watch faces. In addition to a built-in combo camera flash and flashlight, the KidiZoom features daily routine and alarm apps to help little ones learn about time management. While it doesn’t have two-way calling or GPS functionality like pricier watches, friends can pair two DX3s to send preset messages and play games by scanning each other’s watches in person. Best of all, the watch has no wireless connectivity and uses microUSB for all data transfer, keeping it secure and under parents’ control.

What to consider when buying the best smartwatches for kids 

Modern devices fit a ton of features into incredibly small packages. There are universal needs—like comfort, durability, and long battery life—but if you’re in the market for a child’s smartwatch, weeding out the best choice means focusing on a few broader questions.

Do you want (or need) to track your child’s location? 

A GPS-enabled smartwatch can let parents sleep a little easier. However, we definitely advise being up-front with your kid that you can see their location. The devices are in constant communication with the constellation of satellites orbiting the Earth, so as long as your child is wearing the watch—and you’ve downloaded the corresponding smartphone app—you can find them. The best GPS tracker for kids includes features like SOS alerts, which let kids send distress signals, and two-way calling, akin to a walkie-talkie function. Lastly, you want a watch that’ll last. Most GPS smartwatches will continue to emit a location signal after the battery has died. To further ensure uninterrupted operation, look for the best GPS watch made out of a trustworthy material like non-toxic silicone and rated IP67, which means it can survive being submerged in up to a meter of water for half an hour, and it is dust-tight.

Does your child need help staying active?  

Healthy habits should start young, but only a quarter of kids get the CDC-recommended hour of exercise they need a day. With activity monitors on their wrists, kids can make a game out of their movement. The best health/fitness watches go beyond counting steps. Pairing with smartphone apps over Bluetooth, health trackers motivate users with movement challenges and other activities, and they let wearers set goals and reminders to stay on task. Activity monitors are made to be worn during exercise (and sleep), so they need to be comfortable. Look for silicone bands, especially if your kid likes swimming, and an IP68 waterproof rating. If movement is the main goal, fitness-focused options like the Fitbit Ace and Garmin Vivofit Jr. trade bulkier colorful screens for slimmer fits and more detailed health tracking.   

Is your tween ready for an Apple Watch?

Your middle schooler is likely already begging you for a smartphone. It’ll let them stay in touch with you, they’ll argue. It’ll help them stay organized, they’ll say. Valid points. And if you’re considering caving and buying your tween an older iPhone, an older Apple Watch just might be a good companion purchase. For starters, an Apple Watch can ping the phone it’s paired with, adding insurance against losing the phone. And by pairing the watch with your own phone, you, as the parent, can track your kid’s location (again, be upfront about this). Meanwhile, kids will get the benefits of activity tracking, Siri’s wisdom, and emergency calling right from their wrist with an Apple Watch for kids.

What about a toddler?

The best smartwatches for kids who are younger will be as informative as they are entertaining, with games and other tools imparting lessons like counting, pattern recognition, and time-telling. Smartwatches for little ones should be durable and affordable since all parents know how kids sometimes treat their toys—that means skipping the temptations of expensive upgrades like GPS.  

Can you find a good deal on a smartwatch for kids? 

Let’s face it: A smartwatch is basically a toy. But even on a budget, there’s no reason that toy can’t be cool. Kids will care only about the games, movement activities, or funny filters on the camera—all of which are available in cheap smartwatch options—while parents can rest easy knowing most budget smartwatches can’t text or call anyone.   

FAQs

Q: What are the best smartwatch brands for kids?

The best smartwatch brands for kids depend on the features you’re after. Some of the best GPS watches come from Themoemoe and Apple. Some of the best fitness trackers are made by Garmin and Fitbit. 

Q: Is an Apple watch good for a 10-year-old?

An Apple watch is good for a responsible 10-year-old. They are equipped with GPS tracking, two-way calling, games, cameras, and fitness tracking—all with that distinct Apple look. But Apple products, such as the Apple Watch SE, also cost 10 times more than some of the most affordable options, and, of course, they need to be paired with an iPhone. 

Q: Are Fitbits suitable for 8-year-olds?

Fitbits are certainly a good option for 8-year-olds. In fact, the Fitbit Ace is made for kids 8 and up, so if your third grader loves to move—or needs some added activity incentive—a health tracker could be the perfect fit. Fitbits don’t require a smartphone to collect all that useful health data, but they do need to be paired with one if you and your child want to dive into the analytics. 

Final thoughts on buying the best smartwatch for kids

Finding the best smartwatch for kids comes down to what single feature is the most important. If location tracking is a top priority, look for a GPS-enabled smartwatch. If fitness tracking is more your tween or teenager’s speed, look for a narrower-banded smartwatch like the Fitbit Ace. Finally, if fun is all you need, you may not have to spend a fortune (the VTech KidiZoom, for instance, is under $40), especially if your smartwatch is destined for the wrist of a preschooler. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.



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