The Best Smartwatches for Kids, According to a 9-Year-Old and His Mom

by Kristi Pahr

The Best Smartwatches for Kids, According to a 9-Year-Old and His Mom

Image Credits: Walmart, Verizon

Shop Story

This boy knows what kids want in a smartwatch, and his mom knows what parents need.


As a mom, I like the idea of being able to get in touch with my kids in case of emergency and knowing if they stray from where they’re supposed to be. So I can understand why parents have begun to buy smartwatches for their children, especially those who are too young for cell phones. But since the market is flooded with at least 8,000 different kinds (not a real statistic), it’s hard to decide which smartwatch is the best for your own child. To keep you from being overwhelmed with gadget choices, my 9-year-old son and I decided to take one for the team and do some testing.


The Best Smartwatches for Kids


Best GPS Kids Watch: Xplora X5 Play
Best Fitness Tracker for Kids: Fitbit Ace 2 Activity Tracker
Best Smartwatch for Younger Kids: VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX3
Best Kids Smartwatch for Verizon Users: Gizmowatch Disney Edition
Most Durable Smartwatch for Kids: TickTalk 4
Best Kids Smartwatch With Long Battery Life: Garmin Vívofit Jr. 3
Best All-Around Smartwatch for Kids: Apple Watch SE


How to Choose a Smartwatch for Your Kid


Many smartwatches for kids offer similar features like texting, calling, and GPS functionality, but there’s really quite a lot of variation between watches, based on different needs. Do you want to manage every aspect of your kid’s watch usage? Do you need automatic answering so you can get in touch with your child even when they can’t pick up? Do you need notifications when your kid leaves a certain area? Or do you want them to be able to place calls and dictate texts almost as if they were using a phone?


It all boils down to what will work best for your family and your specific situation. And of course, your budget. Some of the watches we tested are fairly pricey, and others are pretty affordable. Finding the best combination of features and cost means you’ll hit the sweet spot and get exactly what you need for a price you can afford. Also, many smartwatches will need to be added to your existing cellular plan, so don’t forget to add in the cost of an extra line.


How We Tested These Smartwatches


My son and I had seven different watches from seven different companies to test. We went through setup and activation of each watch, figured out different interfaces, added contacts and emergency info, and set GPS boundaries. We texted, we called, we photographed, we played games, and basically we put each of these watches through their paces for about four days each, for a total of about 340 hours.


Below are the smartwatches for kids we tested, and my son’s and my verdict on each.


1 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

Best GPS Kids Watch: Xplora X5 Play


The Xplora X5 Play is chock-full of fun features, but the standout is definitely the GPS and activity tracking it offers. While the X5 Play can make texts and calls, take photos, track fitness, and provide fun diversions, the GPS function is what will put many grownups’ minds at ease. Parents can establish “safe zones” for their kids—school, Grandma’s house, the soccer practice field—and when the watch detects the child leaving the borders of the safe zone, the parent gets an app notification.

We set the borders of my son’s school as the safe zone, and as soon as we drove away after pick-up, my phone dinged with a notification that he’d left the area.

My son loves this watch because it is “cool looking” and has a variety of games and activities included. The Xplora rewards movement, combining active play and movement with fun games and activities to keep kids off the couch and on their feet.

Technical Specs: The Xplora X5 uses an Android operating system and has stellar battery life, only needing a charge once every couple of days. According to Xplora, it lasts for 72 standby time, or five hours of continuous call time. It connects to Wi-Fi, but—and this might be a big but for some folks—it’s not compatible with Verizon, US Mobile, or Sprint. The company recommends T-Mobile cell service and a SIM card (not included) for smooth set-up and operation.

2 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

Best Fitness Tracker for Kids: Fitbit Ace 3 Activity Tracker


This device is fantastic if your kid, like mine, has always begged to wear your Fitbit so they can count their steps. It does not connect to cell service, so don’t expect call and text functionality, but what it does as an activity tracker, it does well.

As it tracks sleep, steps, and activity, the Fitbit Ace 3 provides a fun platform with an animated clock face and encourages kids to earn badges and compete with (parent-approved) connections in fitness challenges. Best of all, parents can see these stats too, so if you’re worried that your child isn’t getting enough sleep after lights out, it’s all right there in the app.

By the end of the first day with this watch, my 9-year-old was out running laps around the yard to get his step count up to try to beat my steps for the day. (He totally did end up beating me. I’m not ashamed.)

Technical Specs: My son wore this Fitbit for four days for testing purposes, and the battery only needed to be charged once during that time. The company claims that the battery can last eight days without using the animated face. It’s waterproof up to 50 meters. The Ace 3 connects wirelessly to Android and iOS devices. Recommended for age 6 and up.

3 of 7 Image Credits: Walmart

Best Smartwatch for Younger Kids: VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX3


VTech is a name we know well in this house. From the time they were born, my kids have had VTech stuff—you know, the ones that light up and make tons of noise all in the name of stimulating baby’s brain? Well, despite how you feel about noisy baby toys, VTech makes one great little kid smartwatch. We decided the VTech KidiZoom Smartwatch DX3 was a bit young for my 9-year-old, so I handed the reins over to the 6-year-old, who immediately fell in love.

The VTech has a ton of movement games as well as two-player games like tic-tac-toe, which kids can play with friends who also have the same model. They can also share pre-set messages with other paired DX3 watches. The DX3 lets you choose among different watch faces, both digital and analog, to help with learning to tell time. It also has dual cameras, so my little one could take as many adorable 6-year-old selfies as he wants. It’s sturdy enough that I don’t worry about him destroying it, and the interface is easy for him to navigate. It can also remind him that it’s time for chores!

Technical Specs: For testing purposes, he wore it for about 4 days and the battery held out for two before it needed a charge. Recommended age: 4-12 years.

4 of 7 Image Credits: Verizon

Best Kids Smartwatch for Verizon Users: Gizmowatch Disney Edition


If you use Verizon and are looking for a smartwatch for your kid, the network has its very own line of kids’ smartwatches, and they’re pretty awesome. The Gizmowatch Disney Edition really checked all our boxes. My son flipped out the very first day because he got to choose if he wanted his avatar to be the Child (a.k.a. Baby Yoda) or Darth Vader (the Dark Side won that particular battle), and there are several other Disney favorites to choose from as well.

Text and call features (with 10 pre-approved contacts), as well as an SOS/emergency call function, are all available on this watch, which parents can control with an app on their phone. The Gizmowatch also has GPS and boundary notifications, but we noticed that the GPS is a little glitchy and not 100 percent accurate. Like with the Xplora, we set up his school as the boundary area, but I didn’t get pinged quite as quickly when we left the school grounds.

My son enjoyed sending pictures and videos to me, but video calling isn’t available for this model. Hopefully that’s something they integrate into future models. All in all, this was one of our faves. He loved the features; I loved its durability and the extra security I felt when he was away from home.

Technical Specs: The battery life is pretty standard, a day or two before it needs a boost. Verizon states it lasts for three days of standby time, one and a half days of usage time. One thing to watch out for: The magnet that holds the charger to the watch body isn’t the strongest, and the slightest nudge can dislodge it, leaving you with a dead battery even after you thought it was charging for hours.

5 of 7 Image Credits: Amazon

Most Durable Smartwatch for Kids: TickTalk 4


The look of the TickTalk 4 can be described in one word: rugged. It’s a chunky watch that feels solid when you hold it, and I was never afraid it would get broken like some of its more delicate counterparts. My son put this watch through the wringer, and it came away without so much as a scratch. It’s waterproof, so it definitely saw the inside of a pool and a couple of rain showers to boot. He loved the design and thought it looked “tough.” And unlike the other smartwatches we tested, the TickTalk charger is a base, so he was able to set it up like a display in his room, which he thought was awesome.

Like its competitor brands, the TickTalk 4 has voice calling (via Wi-Fi or cell network), talk-to-text and preset text messaging capabilities, a good camera, GPS tracking, and a fitness tracker. It also has video calling and free streaming music from iHeartRadio Family.

Technical Specs: The watch works with AT&T and Verizon services, but if you don’t want to muck around adding another line to your cell plan for your kid’s smartwatch, then TickTalk 4 is definitely one to consider. Your purchase includes a SIM kit that provides U.S. users with a no-contract $10/month plan through Red Pocket. Battery lasts 100 hours on standby. Recommended ages: 5-12 years.

6 of 7 Image Credits: Garmin

Best Kids Smartwatch With Long Battery Life: Garmin Vívofit Jr. 3


The Garmin Vívofit Jr. 3 isn’t just your average fitness tracker. It’s like a fun social studies/P.E. class hybrid right on your kid’s wrist. When they reach daily activity goals, kids can unlock games and activities that teach them about the world around them and allow them to have adventures across the globe. My son thought being able to explore famous places was the best part about this watch, and he lost himself in learning about the pyramids of Egypt.

The Vívofit also allows parents to schedule reminders for chores and other tasks from their own phone. My son was not thrilled to look down at his wrist only to find out that it was time to unload the dishwasher, but, hey, at least I didn’t have to tell him five times that he had work to do.

Technical Specs: Let me tell you, this battery? It lasts for up to a year. Yes. One year. No chargers to misplace, no cords to tangle, no running out of juice in the middle of something. The Vívofit Jr. 3 uses a replaceable battery, just like every single watch in the entire universe used to, and I tell you what, it feels revolutionary at this point in my cord-chaos life. This activity tracker does not have messaging capability and connects to the parent’s phone (Andriod or iOS) via Bluetooth.

7 of 7 Image Credits: Walmart

Best All-Around Smartwatch for Kids: Apple Watch SE


You knew it was going to be on the list so it probably isn’t hard to figure out which watch took the top spot. The Apple Watch SE GPS plus cellular with Family Setup definitely takes the smartwatch cake. It has every single feature you can possibly imagine, and with Family Setup, parents can check their kid’s location, set up personalized activity goals, and set school-time hours where the watch’s functionality is limited.

This Apple Watch has a walkie-talkie function, which I thought would be really annoying, but I actually kind of loved it. With the push of a button, we could talk from across the yard without having to worry about placing a call. Time to come in for dinner? Walkie-talkie. Need to walk the dog? Walkie-talkie. Just want to drop a quick “I love you”? Walkie-talkie. It’s super convenient.

The setup was straightforward and simple, the battery life is awesome, and the watch is sleek and has a very low profile. I have one caveat, though: if you’re not an iPhone user, tread lightly. We were sent two watches and an iPhone from Apple to facilitate testing, and I have always been an Android user. I went into it with an open mind, ready to love everything about the watches (which I did!) and the phone (which I did not.). We only tested for four days, which doesn’t feel like enough time to really get used to an entirely new way of doing phone things, so we’re going to give it another shot because honestly, those watches are amazing.

Technical Specs: There are two versions of Apple Watch SE, one with GPS only (which allows messaging and calls when paired with a nearby phone) and one with GPS and LTE cellular, which works independently through Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile/Sprint services. It is water resistant up to 50 meters and has a 32G capacity. The battery lasts for 18 hours of usage time.