This review was updated in September 2020.
Fitness trackers can help motivate your child to get more active, and they don’t have to cost a fortune.
There’s a big variety of trackers – some are ideal for kids who need to exercise more, others are designed to help the sportiest children monitor their progress.
Here, we bring you our best buys, plus advice on how to get the most from a fitness tracker.
What is a fitness tracker?
A fitness tracker – usually worn as a wristwatch – is designed to monitor daily activities, counting steps and reminding you to move if you’ve been sedentary for too long.
Kids’ versions are often more basic in terms of functions than those aimed at adults, but often feature fun games to encourage wearers to be active. Most will display some sort of celebration once your child hits their daily targets. More sophisticated trackers can do everything from measure your child’s heartbeat to monitor their sleep.
However, fitness is a complex area, so we recommend using a tracker to complement a healthy lifestyle that includes a varied diet and plenty of exercise. Whatever your child’s hobbies and interests, it’s important they’re balanced against a positive and accepting body image.
You may also want to assess whether the tracker is used just at home or during family activities, to avoid it becoming a distraction at school or other times.
If you’re looking for more ways to get your child excited about sport, check out our guide on how to host a sports day for kids as well as advice on a balanced diet for school children and a balanced diet for teenagers.
Which fitness tracker should I buy?
If your child is particularly sporty, they might enjoy a tracker with inbuilt GPS, so they can see the distance they’ve covered in cycles or runs. Look out for waterproof models if they’re into swimming.
Looks, of course, are very important if you’re buying for a fashion-conscious young person. Teenagers in particular may prefer watches that are indistinguishable from adult ones.
Many trackers have customisable watch faces, so your child can select one that is right for their age group. This also means the watch can grow with them, so shouldn’t need replacing too often.
Prices in this market vary hugely, so it’s worth deciding if they need an all-singing, all-dancing version, or if something simpler will do the trick.
Best fitness trackers for children
We asked our reviewers to test 12 kids’ trackers by wearing each one for a day, and going for a run while wearing them. We asked the reviewers to look for ease of set-up, range of functions, style, accuracy, reliability (battery life, for example), fun add-ons and value for money.
Vtech Kidizoom smart watch DX2
Most fun for younger children
This watch has younger school kids in mind (it says it’s suitable for those aged over four), with games and challenges to keep their bodies moving and brains whirring.
It comes in bright blue or pink, and the USB cable will have it charged within two hours. The battery lasted over a day of heavy use during our test, and much longer if used more lightly. We like that it’s fairly robust, easy to put on and not too bulky, on even a tiny wrist. Its touchscreen and buttons seem easy for little fingers to operate and explore, too.
Like an adult smart watch, it has a pedometer, stopwatch, and a motion sensor to nudge you to move. We like that many of these key features are linked to games to get kids active; for instance, the Monster Detector game, where users track down 60 creatures, will easily get them up to their daily steps target in double-quick time.
Kids of any age will love that this watch has two cameras, with one on the front for taking selfies. They can use the app to add filters and stickers to the images they take with it.
It also doesn’t forget it’s a watch, with more than 50 different digital or analogue 3D faces and a learn-to-tell-the-time game.
We think this is a genuinely fun way for youngsters to discover the world of smart watches on their own terms.
Garmin Vivofit Jr 2
Most motivational for primary schoolers
From Disney characters to Marvel superheroes, this watch caters for a wide range of little people’s tastes. We tried out the Star Wars-themed watch, and were impressed how well it kept kids engaged while motivating them to keep active, too.
Unlike so many of its rivals, its charge claims to last a whole year (before a replacement battery will be needed), so no daily recharges are needed here.
We like its easy-to-read watch face, which allows young users to really enjoy the adventure games, a key part of this range. In the Star Wars-style watch, for instance, you can take on challenges involving favourite characters from the movies, from Han Solo and Darth Vader, to newer ones such as Rey and BB-8. Getting to the next level means users need to be more active.
We also like that it has a series of basic fitness moves to follow, again featuring familiar characters. Who wouldn’t want to be encouraged to do star jumps by the calming voice of Yoda?
All the data can be seen by parents on an app. As well as activity and sleep, household chores or tasks (ranging from teeth brushing to homework) can be inputted, and kids are rewarded when this goal is achieved.
FourFit Mini 2
This is an ideal fitness band for those who don’t want something too childish-looking, and don’t want to spend a fortune on it, either. It really hits that sweet spot.
It comes in a choice of five slightly muted colours, so it looks more grown-up. It’s also slimline, feels good on the wrist and is easy to do up with a secure buckle.
Charging is painless, too. After easing off the straps, it plugs directly into the USB port, so there are no trailing cables to worry about. Two hours is sufficient to get it fully charged, and the battery lasted for five days during our testing.
It uses the Lefun health app, which is not the most exciting, but is more than adequate, as well as being easy to navigate and scroll through.
The watch counts steps, records activity and calories burnt just like an adult one. All of this is illustrated with bright and cheery graphics on a coloured screen watch face. It also gently vibrates to tell you to get up and move. We were impressed with the amount of useful health data, which left many of its rivals in the kids’ smart watch world in its slipstream.
In addition to monitoring sleep quality, it tracks heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels – maybe a little OTT for a watch for kids, but handy all the same. This information might be good for parents to know; it can all be synced from the watch to their device once a day or week.
Ideal for a secondary-school-aged children or older teenagers who want a bit more than the basics from a fitness tracker at a fair price.
Available from Fourfit (£24.99)
Aupalla kids’ activity tracker
Easiest to use
We reckon this fitness tracker will be a hit with kids and their parents, who will both be impressed at what it can do.
For kids, it’s bright (it comes in a choice of four colours) and has a comfy, easy-to-secure buckle strap. Its rectangular face is easy to read and displays cheery, colourful graphics that are simple to follow. A single touchscreen button means the user can rapidly scroll between screens.
Its functions included heart rate and sleep tracking as well as steps, calories and alarms. It also shows your incoming messages and notifications. Our tester liked the football function in its choice of sports modes, which will let you know how much ground your young footballer has covered in a kickabout.
Meanwhile, parents will be relieved that it only needs charging every five days with moderate use, using a clip-on style charger. They can use the app to see at a glance when the user has been busy, as well as if they are getting a good night’s sleep.
For its price, we think it’s excellent value, and would be suitable for a primary-school-aged child right up to a young teen with an interest in the stats about their day.
Available from Amazon (£25.99)
Fitbit Ace 2
One disadvantage of buying a child’s watch is that they can quickly outgrow it. This watch has been cleverly designed to avoid that happening. It’s fairly elegant and timeless-looking, with a lightweight strap.
Using the app, your child can select an age-appropriate watch face, from ant cat and rocket options for younger children, to plainer options, including art deco, statistics and retro digital for pre-teens.
It’s easy to get information like steps and active minutes by scrolling through the watch, and it will track your child’s sleep, too. They’ll get a nudge to move if they haven’t done so for an hour, which might prompt them to get off their screens briefly, and there are celebrations when they hit targets such as hourly steps. It’s also waterproof, which is useful for swimmers.
Be aware that there’s no GPS or heart-rate monitor, but that’s not what every parent will want for their child anyway. It’s a good, solid model if you want a handsome, fairly low-key option to motivate your child to be more active.
Withings Pulse HR health and fitness tracker
Most stylish teen tracker
For those who like a slim tracker with a fairly minimalist appearance, this elegant design will feel at home on your wrist.
Apart from its unobtrusive look, another one of its positives is its satisfyingly long battery life – it claims to last for 20 days. Once out of its box, the tracker gets going with its magnetic charging dock within seconds. After two weeks of testing, it still had some power in reserve.
It manages to save so much battery because the screen display is not always showing, so you do have to flick your wrist or press the side button on the bezel to see the time and other data.
Being GPS connected, it will happily record the duration, distance, time, pace and calories burnt on your runs, walks and cycles (in total it can be used for 30 different activities). But, be warned – as soon as you’re ready to run, the timer starts without any sort of countdown, so there’s no hanging about. Scroll through the app on your phone to see heart rate while exercising or throughout the day. It can even be worn while swimming, as it’s water-resistant up to 50m.
We particularly like how it measures sleep time and quality – it provides a ‘sleep score’ rating based on how well you slept, which is fun to wake up to.
Kalenji HR 500
Best motivator for teens
If we’re honest, this tracker doesn’t have all the bells and whistles enjoyed by some rivals we tested. But, we found it hugely motivational, especially for the novice starting out on a new fitness regime. Within 45 minutes, it’s out of the box, charged and ready for action. We downloaded the Decathlon Coach app which has some useful workout programmes, ideal for both the novice and the more experienced. The four buttons on the edge of the watch face are simple to master after a few minutes of play.
This tracker will act as a stopwatch to time how long you’ve been active – especially handy for runners, walkers, or those doing sets during cross-training, as it shows calories burned and tracks your heart rate. By clearly showing your heartbeats per minute, it provides a telling insight into how hard you’re working. It’s satisfying, for instance, to know you’re in the comfort zone while jogging, while still burning calories.
During testing, the watch’s charge lasted for three days when using the HR feature, but much longer when used more sparingly or simply as a watch. If the world of fitness trackers leaves you bemused, this is an unfussy one to get you started.
Honor Band 5
Best value for teens
For the modest price (about £30), we think this slimline, lightweight fitness tracker is excellent value for money.
Once its app was downloaded, we were pleasantly surprised when we put it through its paces during our test – the tracker appeared pretty accurate when measuring and timing runs and walks. We particularly like the clear graph that tracks heart rate over a 24-hour period, pointing out where your beats per minute are especially high or low. All the data is easy to study on the app later, but a simple flick of the wrist while on the go makes all the basic stats appear on the brightly coloured watch face.
It can be used to track swimming, too, and provides a detailed insight into sleep patterns when you aren’t working out. It seems to hold its charge well – it lasted more than a week on a single two-hour blast from the charging cradle during our test. It might at first appear basic, but its simple appearance only masks a whole host of useful features.
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This review was last updated in September 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.