When it comes to buying the best smartwatch for your child, telling the time probably won’t play much of a role in your decision making. The latest designs come with enticing fascias and colourful straps, with silly and somewhat superfluous interactive settings to keep your child suitably entertained. And with a choice of high-tech extras such as cameras, built-in fitness trackers and various games, choosing the perfect design may take a little more thought than you’d first imagined.
To make it easier for you to choose the perfect smartwatch for kids, we’ve compiled a list of the most fun and inspiring designs around, assessing them on ergonomics, useful settings, ease of use and – most importantly – fun and engaging features. So if you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that the children – and all their gadgets – are the future, take a moment to browse through the WIRED edit of smartwatches for kids here to find a design that will work for your child.
What’s the best smartwatch for kids in 2021?
Our top pick of the best kids smartwatch comes in the form of the Xplora X5 Play (£150), which is ideal for older children and features GPS tracking, a step counter and it can send and receive calls and messages.
For a kids smartwatch for under fives, we like the Tobi Robot Smartwatch (£37.50). Its cute built-in robot animation moves its arms and legs and sulks and laughs – much like a toddler. It’s enough to keep little ones giggling, while its games and camera will challenge them as they get to know the device.
Meanwhile, for a kids smartwatch that will gently introduce kids into a world of connectivity, try the new Neo The Kids Smartwatch, which costs £99 upfront, with £7 a month subscription.
Xplora X5 Play
WIRED Recommends: The Xplora X5 Play is great for older kids and young teens
Dimensions: 4.9 x 4.5 x 1.5cm | Camera: 2 MP | Battery life: 72 hours
In terms of looks and functionality, the Xplora X5 Play (£99) is most like an adult-style smartwatch and is aimed at ages four and up. We think its features and design are best suited to kids eight and up however, who’ll be able to better navigate the touchscreen controls. The X5 design is an upgrade of Xplora’s existing X4 model, and includes a 1.4inch TFT display and a two-megapixel camera.
The X5 Play comes with convenient and fun features, with the ability to make phone calls and send and receive voice and text messages. It also has a GPS tracker and convenient ‘school mode’, so kids don’t run the risk of being told off by teacher for fiddling around with the watch in class. You can choose from an all-black finish or go for a design with a pink or blue border around the main watch face.
Bear in mind that it comes with a Giffgaff SIM card that will need to be inserted into the watch and topped up with sufficient voice and data allowance to use it – this Pay As You Go will cost you around £6 for 500GB data and unlimited calls/texts.
Set up is straightforward and we simply downloaded the Xplora App on our smartphone – which you can find on both the Apple and Google App stores – to create a ‘guardian’ account and then linked it to the watch to make use of all the features. Our young tester found the fuss-free design on the watch easy to control by simply swiping across to choose the desired icon – be it to make a call, send messages to up to 50 approved contacts or use the camera, which takes a clear and vivid picture.
The school mode comes in useful as it disables the interactive features when needed, while GPS tracking means parents can keep track of users – you can even create a ‘safe zone’ that will alert you when your child leaves and enters a zone. What we like most about this watch is that it does a good job to encourage kids to get moving as it rewards with Xplora coins and badges for every 1,000 steps taken. These can then be exchanged for merchandise and games on a personal account on the Goplay platform online.
Pros: Clean and easy to read design; useful GPS tracking; send and receives calls, texts and voice messages
Cons: Bulky; advertised for kids 4 and up, but we think it should be 8 and up; no games on the actual watch – online only
Tobi Robot Smartwatch
The best smartwatch for young kids
Dimensions: H27.94 x W13.72 x D6.99cm | Camera: 5MP | Battery life: Up to 5 days
You can choose from 50+ watch faces on the Tobi Smartwatch (£37.50), which has a splashproof touchscreen display and is ideal for pre-schoolers. It comes with all the basics you’d expect from a decent smartwatch, but has the unique charm of its built-in robot that interacts with the user and gives it personality.
We found this watch ideal for our young tester – aged four – who instantly got to grips with the touch controls by experimenting and discovering what each icon does. Our tester instantly delighted in Tobi Robot’s endearing expressions and giggled along happily as Tobi responded to voice, swipes and movement and giggled, got angry, moved its arms and legs and smiled. There’s also the option to feed Tobi fruit, which provided ample entertainment in itself.
The Tobi comes with two protective covers – in either pink or blue – that you can either wear or clip onto clothes – as the watch is quite bulky our young tester preferred holding the clip and stand version. You can take photos and edit them with stickers or film short videos and there’s also an option that allows you to record and play back voice. The icons can seem a little abstract until you get to know the device so operating features such as this is a little trial and error, but our young tester had fun trying to work it out. The pedometer was also a big hit and got our tot moving about enthusiastically.
Pros: Ideal for 4-6 years; fun interactive robot
Cons: Bit too chunky for small wrists – holding it with the clip casing was preferable for our young tester
Neo The Kids Smartwatch
Best for nurturing a sense of independence
Dimensions: H1.5 x W4.5cm | Camera: 5MP | Battery life: 24 hours
Perhaps the most stylish of designs in our round up, Neo The Kids Smartwatch (£99) comes with a slick touchscreen colour display that comes alive with visual effects – choose from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters such as Buzz Lightyear, Darth Vader and Minnie Mouse.
The Neo is the latest gadget to join the ‘Designed & Connected by Vodafone’ range and – unlike the majority of the watches featured in our round up that are a one-off purchase – you’ll need to buy a separate Vodafone Smart SIM subscription on top of the cost of the Neo itself to make use of its connectivity. This will let you control features via the Vodafone Smart App on your smartphone and their monitor location, chat to your child and send them messages and emojis – all while discreetly giving your child a sense of independence.
Designed by Vodafone in collaboration with Yves Béhar’s studio, the body of the Neo is minimal in styling compared to its competition. We like the fact that there is no access to the internet or social media on this phone. On board you’ll find a built-in forward-facing 5MP camera that can be easily selected via the discreet button on the top right hand corner of the clock face. While the pictures look very small on the screen, we found the picture quality sharp and colourful.
There’s also an activity tracker that lets kids log their movement and encourages them to set goals – up to an hour a day. They can also access a calculator and weather info and parents can add reminders to the calendar via the app. We found this watch best suited to older kids and early teens who can navigate the touchscreen controls and handle its ample 4.5cm wide face. Up to nine contacts can be added to the watch, so kids can call mum, dad and the extended family with ease, so unless you want prank calls from a mischievious pre-schooler every five minutes, it’s best left in the hands of older – more responsible – users.
Pros: Send and receive messages; takes great-quality photos; manage screen time with parent ‘Quiet Mode’; personalise with Disney sidekicks
Cons: You’ll need to pay extra for the built-in SIM; not ideal for younger kids
Vtech Kidizoom DX2
Best for games and funny photo effects
Dimensions: H22.4 x W4.6 x D1.5cm | Battery life: Around 2 weeks
While it’s not exactly new to the market, the Vtech Kidizoom DX2 (£36) still does a great job of keeping kids entertained and its colourful display feels fresh – if a little garish on the adult eye. A great all-rounder, the Vtech Kidizoom smartwatch comes in a range of pop-colours including bubblegum pink, blue and purple, and features a range of games and camera capability. The casing is soft and splash proof too, and feels like it can handle a few more knocks and bumps than the average smartwatch.
While this watch can’t make calls or send messages, it does come with ample features on board to amuse and engage. As it provides no access to social media or the internet, and no GPS tracking for that matter, this is the kind of design you can safely give to your child to explore freely without having to worry about safety. While its recommended age spans from four up until 12 years, we think its vibrant features are best suited to the under 10s.
Its display is intuitive and easy to navigate for young and older kids alike with colourful icons illustrating each feature. Our young tester enjoyed swiping across to choose from the on-board offering that includes a dual-camera, which takes a surprisingly sharp snap and clear video footage. There’s a photo gallery where kids can easily add and edit photos will imaginative, and sometimes silly, effects, which kept our young tester entertained time and time again.
There’s also a voice recorder and pedometer on board and a selection of custom watch faces – our tester particularly like the Wizard of Oz design. The Time Master app also teaches your child how to tell the time, but, if we’re going to be honest, it was hard to navigate them away from the range of on-board games that makes this watch a big hit with little kids. And if permitted, we’re sure they’d happily play the games for hours.
Pros: Impressive camera with photo and video effects; lots of games
Cons: A little garish (for adults!)
Kurio Watch 2.0+
Best for interacting with other users
Dimensions: H4.3 x W22 x D1.2 cm
Bridging the gap between the Xplora X5 Play and the Vtech Kidizoom DX2 comes the Kurio Watch 2.0+ (£40) smartwatch. It comes with built-in apps and games, a camera and video, and messaging capabilities via Bluetooth with another Android device or other Kurio watches.
The Kurio doesn’t have as many high-tech features as the X5 Play and doesn’t need a sim card, but it is smarter than the Vtech – with its options for pink, blue and purple rubber straps, you would be forgiven for thinking it has a similar spec at surface-level. What it has that makes it feel more suited to an older audience than the Vtech however, is a 1.54-inch 240x 240pixel touchscreen digital interface, which has the feel of a mini computer screen. The extra strap that comes in the box is also a colour-changing thermal strap that changes from purple to blue.
Our seven-year-old tester was instantly attracted to its vivid display that lets you swipe between its built-in features including a camera, speaker and microphone. There are 20 built-in apps including a host of games to keep kids occupied and our tester was particularly taken with the motion detection games such as Ninja Roll and Snake that encourages movement. If paired with another Kurio watch user kids can play games such as noughts and crosses, which seems like a nice interactive touch, as does its ability to send photos, emojis, doodles, texts and voice messages to other Kurio watches via Bluetooth.
Pros: Splash proof and scratch resistant screen; ability to send photos, texts and voice messages to your smartphone via Bluetooth
Cons: Screen a little too fiddly and sensitive for younger users under six