Have you ever been curious about how much your kids move around during the day or have they seen your tracker and want one themselves?

It turns out there are fitness trackers specifically aimed at children. Like adult fitness trackers they use accelerometers to measure activity throughout the day. This is then linked with fun activities like virtual pets or games or family challenges. The general idea being the more active you are the more levels of the game or adventure you unlock.

Most children will easily get enough exercise in the course of their everyday life playing with their friends, walking to school and just generally running around. However, let’s not forget that we live in the technological age and it can be quite easy for children to spend more time sat in front of their tablet than being active. I know there is a certain irony in recommending another technology to address this problem. However, I think it is easy to get caught up in everyday life and not realise that the kids have spent more time sat down than being active. This is where the children’s fitness tracker can be useful.

Why get a fitness tracker for kids?

According to numerous health organisations such as the NHS and WHO it is recommended that children  (5 – 17 years old) get at least an hour of vigorous activity per day. Ideally more. Research suggest that doing more also has added health benefits. The problem is how do you track whether this is happening. There is no easy answer. You might be able to purchase an adult fitness tracker but in general they are too big for your wrist and also much more detail than is necessary when you are young.

Purchasing a child friendly fitness tracker will give you all you need to know. Or, at least give you a baseline from which to start. The aim of the game is to see how close to that 1 hour mark your child is getting. It may be the case they are already above it or you may have suspicions they are below whichever way round the data will be invaluable.

The main goal is to make sure that your children have a positive attitude to their fitness and know that staying active is a lifelong pursuit with amazing benefits to their body, mind and soul.Most trackers will also encourage an educational element such as learning the time or encouraging good behaviour by giving rewards.

Psychology

When thinking about getting a fitness tracker for a child it is really important to think about the affects on their well being and introduce it in a positive way. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the numbers and create an obsession with step counting and calories. Children need to be children and not worry about such things. Our recommendation would be to be very clear about the use of the tracker and try and measure activities that are already happening. If you feel like your child isn’t getting enough exercise you can use the data from the tracker and maybe organise a fun activity for the weekend like a walk in the countryside or an active visit to the park. It’s all about encouraging that lifelong good relationship with fitness

Fitness trackers for kids

  1. Fitbit Ace

    Fitbit Ace fitness tracker specifically for childrenDesigned from the ground up to be a Fitbit for children the Ace is the only Fitbit device that can be used with a Fitbit child account (for 8 year olds and over). As you would expect being designed for kid means that the strap is a little bit smaller and should fit securely around the wrist. The unit itself is showerproof so not suitable for swimming. Check out the Garmin Vivofit JR2 below for that. It is available in 2 colors of purple and blue. An OLED screen displays the stats. You can choose from 10 clock faces which can be configured horizontally or vertically. It is fair to say that the Ace tries to stay true to the rest of the Fitbit family without any gamification. This means you can get reminder to move every hour to do 250 steps (this can be turned off) and a firework celebration when you reach your 10,000 step target. The other thing to note is that the Ace does not have any calorie tracking abilities as Fitbit feel this encourages the wrong mindset and its goal is purely about staying active.

    The benefit of the Ace is that it gives you access to the Fitbit app. This allows you to set up a family account where you can set up challenges and also the ability for you and the child to view their progress and habits whilst using the tracker. If you feel the Ace is a little too simplified for your child maybe consider the Fitbit Zip or Fitbit Flex 2 which may be more appropriate.

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  2. Garmin Vivofit JR2 (our recommendation)

    Garmin Vivofit JR2 fitness tracker for kidsGarmin decided to take a different tack to Fitbit with the Vivofit JR 2. Instead of a scaled down version of the adult track they went for trackers that are themed around characters from Disney and Marvel. You can choose from Captain America, Star Wars and the Avengers amongst others. For this reason it is likely to appeal to a slightly younger age range. Each one is linked to a game in the app. By meeting your 60 minute activity target you will then gain moves in the game which is the prim

    As well as being a tracker the display will show time and date so can easily be used as a watch. Other things of note on the display are total number of active minutes, steps taken and the move bar. The move bar shows up if a child has been inactive for more than 1 hour and adds segments for every 15 minutes after that. The only way to get rid of it is to get up and move.

    Ready equipped with a replaceable battery that last 365 days the Garmin is waterproof and can be used for swimming without issue. Although it is important to note it will not track swimming as activity for your daily totals. It comes with 2 different types of silicon bands, stretchy for 4-7 year olds and adjustable which are designed to be used by kids over 6 years old.

    You need to download a parent app to your tablet  / phone where you are able to control the configuration. You can do some neat stuff such as setting up ‘chores’. The chores then show up as icons on the device and the  child who can earn virtual coins for completing them. Typical examples are brushing your teeth or cleating up your toys.  The app allows you to see how many steps and how much sleep your child has been getting and set up family challenges.

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  3. Leapfrog LeapBand

     Leapfrog LeapBand fitness tracker designed to appeal to childrenThe LeapBand follows the same pattern as other trackers by linking activity to challenges. This time it is a customisable pet which is brought to life using animated graphics and audio. Available in blue, orange, pink or green each device comes with a choice of eight pets (cat, dog, dragon, monkey, panda, penguin, robot and unicorn). The main idea being that being active by jumping or running earns credit which you then get to spend on your pet. The more active you are the more points you get and the more you can do with your pet. An activity bar on the tracker gives you an indication of how well you are doing

    If your child isn’t able to read yet the device also has the ability to provide audio instructions so they don’t miss out. In keeping with this the LeapBand is designed so that the controls are easy to work out and use. Rechargeable battery, water resistant. Carrying on the pet theme there is the possibility of using your credits in the companion Petathlon Games which can give some more scope to the challenges originally included.

    From a parent’s point of view it is possible to customise the LeapBand by addiing additional challenges to the ones that come pre-loaded. You can also set it so that the tracker goes into School Mode which disabled all games and Pet Play but continues to track activity and work like a watch.

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  4. Unicef Kid Power Band

    Unicef Kid Power Band for kids

     Instead of racking up points for games the Kid Power Band takes an altogether different approach. Being active, not only helps the child wearing the app but also other children too. A very noble cause! The way it works is that activity such as running,, jumping and walking gets relayed back to the companion app as points. In simple terms, 1 point is equivalent to 2400 steps. The goal is to get 5 points in a day or in other words 12000 steps. Once 25 points have been reached it is converted into a therapeutic food pack which UNICEF then deliver to malnourished in need children around the world

    Although maybe not as sophisticated as some of the other tracker it does all the things you would want including step counts. There is also some extra motivation through completing special missions which give you access to videos giving more detail about how the food packets are being used. A great idea!
    Pet Play but continues to track activity and work like a watch.

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Smartwatches for kids

Moving out of the realm of fitness trackers there are increasing numbers of smartwatches for kids becoming available too. One example is the VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX 2. This offers the ability to take photos and videos and add effects. Its TimeMaster application is a great way of getting kids to learn the time and you can download watch faces and other apps from the Learning Lodge. It is more a multimedia entertainment centre. It also features a pedometer which will allow you to track your steps throughout the day. So maybe you can compare against each other.