Wearable tech is not incredibly kid friendly. The devices tend to be expensive, not very durable, and, frankly, not appropriate for most 8 year olds. As much as they might want an Apple Watch or Fossil Q Founder, these are way overkill for their needs – and let’s not forget the untimely end a quick jump in a pool could cause the device. But wearables are new and exciting, so it is not surprising that a kid you know might want one. The good news is that there are wearables on the market designed especially for children. Whether you are looking to get them a wearable that can communicate with friends, one to make sure they stay active throughout the day, or simply something to trigger an interest in STEM, there are a variety of devices for you to gift the kid in your life!
UNICEF Kid Power Fitness Tracker
UNICEF’s orange boxes have long been a Halloween staple, but this year the organization decided to try something a bit more 21st Century! The UNICEF Kid Power is a fitness band designed specifically for kids. The watch-like device tracks your child’s activity throughout the day and allows them to compete with their friends. It also empowers children to help people in need by translating your kid’s daily activity into Therapeutic Food packets (RUTF) for starving families. The Kid Power device awards one point for 2,400 steps, this means, based on the National Institutes Of Health’s recommended amount of activity, a kid should earn 5 points a day. For every 25 points earned through daily activity, UNICEF will donate one Therapeutic Food packet (RUTF). There are also “missions” that allow kids to earn an RUTF quicker, but those are only available through a separate in-app purchase of $3.99. The fitness tracker features a black and white OLED touch screen and a flexible TPU band available in a variety of colors (including 2 Star Wars themed designs). It has a 1 week battery life and the companion app is compatible with both iOS and Android. It is worth noting that the device is not rated as being waterproof. Overall though, there is something almost fascinatingly balanced about the Kid Power; we love that something designed to promote fitness and a healthy weight also helps to combat world hunger!
The UNICEF Kid Power activity tracker is available with either a blue, orange, black, or white band (the latter two are Star Wars themed). It is available exclusively through Target for $39.99.
Around Circuits And Cable Knit we love Jewelbots! While the device doesn’t ship until 2016, the wait seems like it will be worth it. The diminutive, LED-laden wearable is targeting girls, luring them in with the promise of magically reacting when friends are nearby or communicating via lighted ‘messages’ (like a connected friendship bracelet). But the Trojan horse is that Jewelbots can perform virtually any imaginable task through simple coding. Powered by Arduino, the device can be configured to do everything from providing notification alerts to controlling a drone. This extended functionality is not just a hack, it is part of the design of the device – to engage young girls in STEM. Co-founders Sarah Chipps and Brooke Moreland, who each have an impressive track record, founded Jewelbots in 2014 because the two were alarmed by the fact that female interest in STEM (the academic disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) had been dropping. According to Moreland,”The numbers are showing that girls who are doing tech and computer science are dropping; they are even lower than they were 30 years ago. Every other field, women are making gains – in that one, it’s not even staying the same, it’s getting worse. That’s disturbing. This field is very important moving forward; we are literally writing the future and creating how people are communicating with each other and how the world works. It’s hugely important to have women’s voices as part of that story.”
Jewelbots was funded on Kickstarter and is currently available for preorder through the company’s website. They each come with 3 bands and should ship this Spring. A single Jewelbot costs $69, a pair is $99, and three are $139.
If your little one is still a bit young for something like Jewelbots, you should take a look at Linkitz. The way we would think about it is Linkitz is to Jewelbots as Duplo is to Legos. The bright plastic, modular Linkitz is designed to be a kids’ introduction to wearable devices and the concepts of programming. The main ‘brains’ of Linkitz are in a center module and additional features can be added with attachable accessories which connect almost like petals on a flower. Three of these additional modules can be added at a time and they add functionality such as LEDs, a speaker, or a motion detector. These in turn enable the device to behave differently, serving as anything from a walkie talkie, a friendship bracelet, or a Simon Says game. To program the device, Linkitz wanted the device to be an introduction to programming so they have kept it simple, relying entirely on a pictographic programming language with the emphasis being on teaching the principle ideas behind programming.
Linkitz was originally available through Kickstarter and you can still pledge for the device through Backerkit. If you want to preorder a band, they start at $60, but if you want every module, you will need to order the set of two bands for $250. Linkitz is expected to ship in May.
Speaking of STEM, while it isn’t a wearable device, please consider giving the gift of STEM to your child this holiday season! An interest in STEM related academics could be one of the most meaningful gifts you ever give them. Our culture and how we communicate is being defined by technologies and services. These are being conceived of and created by a small subset of people who are not terribly diverse in either culture or gender. In fact, female interest in STEM related studies is actually in decline. STEM related fields have the potential to change the world!
If you would like to get your child more involved, a great place to start is looking for local after-school / weekend programs. For girls, see if there is a nearby Girls Who Code club or check out Made w/ Code. If you are looking for something to put under the tree, the board game Robot Turtles provides a fun, interactive way to learn programming concepts. There are also a variety of toys, such as littleBits, which allow kids to build almost anything they can imagine with snap-together electronic modules. LittleBits can even be expanded though an Arduino programming kit! If you are looking for kits with a bit more guidance, KitHub offers project kits for both boys and girls tailored to their age – K through 8. There is also a subscription service from Cratejoy, which for $29.95 a month delivers everything you need for several STEM related activities designed for girls 4 to 8 years old. And don’t forget to let your kid show off their new found love for STEM with a clever tee, such as the ones at My Girl Genius or Spread Shirt.
Hexoskin For Juniors
If you really want to take the fitness wearable gift to the extreme, take a look at the Hexoskin for Juniors. This is the kids version of Hexoskin, a tank top embedded with sensors to enable you to view your breathing rate and volume, have ECG precision heart rate readings, including heart rate variability, and understand your cadence and calorie burn. This is really detailed, precise information to help you make sure your body is working efficiently when you are working your hardest! The junior version of the Hexoskin is identical to the adult version, the shirt is just sized for a smaller body. This means all of the same amazing information, but it also means the same amazing price tag. If your child is a serious athlete though it might be worth the investment.
The Hexoskin for Juniors is available directly from Hexoskin for $379.00 and includes the shirt and the Bluetooth data recorder.