A well-thought-out, fully featured fitness tracker for kids; the question is, do you or your kids really need it?
- Packed with features
- Effective and easy to use
- Lightweight and comfortable
- In-app "game" is weak
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is: you’re almost certainly worrying about how many daily steps you’re doing. Whether your kids are too, however, is debatable. If yours are like mine, they’re probably partial to sweet food and spending too long playing video games, but they don’t care – so persuading them they might need to wear a fitness tracker like the Garmin Vivofit Jr 2 to encourage them to get more active might be a bit tricky.
This is why, presumably, Garmin emblazons its latest kid-friendly fitness tracker with Disney-related graphics, with a couple of Mini Mouse versions (one for four- to seven-year-olds, one larger one for ages 6+), two more Star Wars models and a pair of Marvel-themed trackers in the range.
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Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 review: What you need to know
I still had trouble persuading my daughter to keep the Captain America version on her wrist while she was “testing” it, but there are other reasons your child might want to keep the Vivofit Jr 2 strapped to his or her wrist.
And these mostly surround incentives. Via the app on your phone, you can use the Vivofit to set up activity-based goals, just like most fitness trackers, but the difference with the Jr is that, as your little ones reach their various goals, rewards can be earned.
Hit the daily 60-minute activity target for instance, and a new “stage” on the in-app themed game is unlocked. Parents may also be pleased to discover that the band can also be used to incentivise the completion of chores.
Underneath the brightly coloured wrapping, however, this is essentially just a pedometer. It has an accelerometer inside for tracking movement and a small colour, always-on screen, but itdoesn’t have any fancy features like GPS or heart-rate monitoring.
Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 review: Price and competition
There’s plenty of competition for the Vivofit Jr 2 but this tends to come from brands such as LeapFrog and Vtech that specialise in child-related tech and tend to be a bit more clunky than this. Prices for these sorts of devices tend to sit around the £30 to £40 mark, but the Vivofit Jr 2 is twice this price at £80. It is, however, much more fully featured and a little more grown up.
Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 review: Design and features
I’ve already covered the Vivofit Jr 2’s main features in the summary above, but it’s worth going into a bit more detail. As I’ve said, the Jr is an activity tracker – no more, no less – but there are a few things that elevate it from simply a brightly coloured Fitbit.
The first is battery life. Because there’s no power-sapping heart-rate monitor or GPS, and the screen is not backlit, the Vivofit will last up to a year from a single coin-cell battery. The second is that it’s waterproof and comfortable to wear (so my daughter tells me), although do be careful which model you buy. The one for four- to seven-year-olds has a stretchy strap for smaller wrists, while the one for six years and over is a larger, classic buckle design. Get the wrong one and it likely won’t fit.
The third is that it’s a very easy-to-use and effective activity tracker, crammed with useful and innovative extra features. It does the basics, tracking active time and the number of steps (with the default goal being 60 minutes), but kids can also access a stopwatch and select from a list of preset countdown timers – for instance, two minutes for the brushing of teeth, 30 minutes’ screen time or 15 minutes for homework – on the device itself. Parents can also set up custom alarms for chores (see below).
Kids can also take part in a step challenge on the watch, in which the idea is that they complete as many steps as possible in two minutes. It’s even possible to link two Vivofit Jr devices together so kids can compete against each other, although I can see that one lasting for about half an hour before your kids get bored.
Likewise, there’s the in-app “Adventure Trail” in which kids unlock moves, badges, levels and more every time they hit their daily activity target. It’s themed to match the design of the watch and although I can see it appealing to younger ones, I’m not convinced it’s engaging enough for older kids to keep coming back for more, especially if they already own a handheld games console or tablet.
Fortunately, the parent-driven features on the app are a little more compelling. In the app, it’s possible to select from a list of preset chores (or set up your own), which you reward with virtual coins and, as your child completes the chores on the list, you tick them off in the app. This is synced back to the Vivofit and, once enough coins have been earned, a reward – also set in the app – is earned.
You could use this to set up small rewards, such as extra screen time or a movie night – or, if you’re adventurous, for bigger rewards that take longer to earn. The great thing here is how much customisation you get as a parent. You can schedule chores to be done every day, every week, every other week, only Sundays and Tuesdays – whenever you want, effectively – and you can set reminders for each one, in the form of a buzzing alarm accompanied by text and an icon, so your kids know exactly what task they should be performing.
Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2 review: Verdict
The Vivofit Jr 2 is very, very good, but whether it will persuade your kids to be more active is debatable. The main difficulty you’ll have is you’ll need an iron will as a parent to get your kids to wear it all the time and to abide by the rules you set up on it. You also need to be consistent in applying those rules and to remember to sync the band with the tracker regularly.
The reason is that, beyond the initial rush of having a new toy to play with, there’s not much here to keep kids’ interest going. The app-based exploratory game doesn’t provide enough incentive to today’s children to keep coming back, and after that it’s fairly basic carrot-and-stick stuff – stuff you should already be doing with your kids anyway.
Having said that, if you’re serious about getting your kids to be more active and you have the will to stick with it, if your kids benefit from a more structured approach, or if you’re simply at your wits’ end and worried the little ones aren’t getting enough exercise, you’ll find the Garmin Vivofit Jr 2 to be an excellent helper. Just don’t expect it to do the job of parenting for you.