For years our daughter has asked when she can have a Fitbit, or Apple Watch. Seeing Mom & Dad with their fitness and smart watch wearables, she has always been intrigued by these devices. Though a few companies have produced wearables for children, the first decent unit to finally reach consumers is the Garmin Vivofit Jr.
For a few months now our daughter has been rocking her purple Garmin Vivofit Jr. with pride. For the first few weeks I was confident the battery would never last close to the full year claimed, because she was obsessed with pressing the button to scroll through all the menus. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Right out of the box the unit screams simplicity. There is but a single button on the unit, and the app for the Garmin Vivofit Jr. is unique to the Vivofit family. Where the adult devices have their own Garmin Connect app, the Vivofit Jr. has an app intended primarily for use by the parent, though most screens are kid friendly. That is to say they are colorful, feature big easy to read icons, and come off as being extremely straight forward.
This is actually a welcome feature, as setting up some fitness wearables can be troublesome. But not the Garmin Vivofit Jr., which start to finish was up and running in about 10 minutes. You’re able to configure a family (and connect your Garmin account if you as a parent/guardian have one). You set a bed time as this device can be worn while sleeping to record data similar to the rest of the Vivofit line.
(Click below for larger images from our gallery)
One aspect that had me most curious was the daily activity settings. Whereas most adult devices allow you to setup a desired activity level, often recorded by calories or steps, the Garmin Vivofit Jr. works simply off active levels of movement. So the more active your kid is the closer they’ll get to their move goal. Like the other Vivofit devices from Garmin, there is a red indicator bar that will show up and remind the kid to move, should they become stationary & inactive for a long enough period of time.
Another huge component of the user experience are the coins the child can earn. As the parent/guardian you configure this however you want. For us we chose to make it chores around the house (which is what the Garmin Vivofit Jr. app expects, based on some of the preset suggested coin earnings). But you could use it for anything you want. It is a great way to engage your child to do the dishes, make their bed, do the laundry, etc.
As shown in the gallery, you can adjust the number of coins for the tasks, choosing from custom tasks or suggested ones. From there, you can allow the child to redeem coins for various items. Our only real complaint here is that due to the small size of the screen, and the fact that the app is for the parent, the child has no way to see what coins are able to be earned that day, or what prizes they are working towards. But the flip side is that this requires engagement between child & parent, which is something we should all get behind. So if having a Garmin Vivofit Jr. means you spend a few extra minutes each night playing with your kid, that is a win, right?
Speaking of playing, one screen within the app is dedicated to a progress “safari” of sorts. You learn fun facts about animals, and move along a trail, so long as your move goal was met that day. Miss a few days? Don’t worry, all the prior days that you met your goal are waiting for you, to take the steps along that trail. Though it is a smart feature, I do wish there was a companion app for your child’s tablet device, too.
Our take away is this: the Garmin Vivofit Jr. is a superb device, and the best one yet that we’ve seen for kids. Others are clunky, or feel like they are trying too hard. Garmin gives you just what you need– no GPS, no cell phone, no games, no gimmicks. With the Vivofit Jr. it is just the basics: activity, rewards for activity (and chores), and simplicity. Being swim proof, 24/7 capable, and offering sleep tracking is just icing on the cake. If you have a little one that you want to get off the couch, and out playing, we give the Garmin Vivofit Jr. two little thumbs up!