Let’s just get this out of the way first, this is not a technical review. If you want to find out how many menus this thing has, what kind of Bluetooth connectivity it boasts, or need a list of all its features a quick Google search will deliver several websites that do a fantastic job of covering those topics. Instead, our goal in this review is to elaborate on why we find this gadget useful and how we’ve tried to leverage it to help motivate (+ educate) our 5-year-old. Interested? We hope so…read on!
Despite the Garmin branding, this “watch” doesn’t include GPS. Instead, it’s much more of a fitness tracker, geared towards counting steps and motivating your kids to keep moving. It only has one button, on the front bottom, which cycles through the different screens. While you can connect it to an app on your (the parents) smart phone, to be honest we don’t really use any of those features much. For those so inclined, there is a game in which you child can play more levels based on how many activity goals they complete. We tried this for a few weeks, but overall found that Miles lost interest quickly. There is also a feature in which you can set chores, and mark them completed on your phone. This sends a congratulatory message to the watch. That’s great and all, but we don’t use that either.
When we moved overseas, we quickly realized how much more we were walking than when we lived in the States. There were some days in the first few weeks before we had a car that we were logging 15+ miles every day. Penny wasn’t walking much at the time, but we were impressed when Miles kept true to his name and stuck with us mile after mile. We got curious how many steps he was putting in and decided to spring for the Garmin as a surprise gift. He loves it, and we’ve utilized it in a few different ways that have proven useful.
First, we use the step counter feature to help motivate Miles when he gets tired or just doesn’t feel like keeping up when we are on the go. There was one day in Malaysia when he amassed nearly 40,000 steps. We remind him of this epic day when he is dragging a bit at 2 or 3k and it seems to kick him right back into gear.
Secondly, we’ve used the Garmin to start teaching him some of the principles of saving, compound interest, and personal finance. Yes, I realize this sounds crazy for a 5-year-old, but we really think that laying down these principles early will pay dividends (pun intended) as he ages. Here’s our approach: For each 1000 steps he walks when we are out travelling (normal days don’t count), he gets 10 cents. This automatically gets deposited into the Bank of Mom & Dad, where it receives a 100% match and begins to grow at a constant 10% interest rate. Yes, that’s a pretty good rate of return, but it helps him see how crucial compound interest is in growing wealth. He can log into his account (an Excel spreadsheet), and see how his money grows as time goes by. He can make a “withdraw” at any time to buy a toy or something, but then witnesses the decreased power of his savings. We’ve found this approach helpful in motivating him to stay active and also begin to impart in him the importance of saving and investing his money. As he gets bigger, we may have to change approaches (particularly if he becomes a runner like his mom), but for now it’s working pretty well.
So there you have it! The Garmin VivoFit Jr. 2 is a great little fitness tracker for you child which has a lot of amazing features that you will likely find completely and utterly useless. With some creative touches, however, it can prove to quite the useful little device.
What we like:
- Works as a fantastic motivator to help keep your kids outside and active
- Has replaceable/interchangeable bands that can easily be switched when your child decides they are into something new
- Waterproof and impact resistant (i.e. – childproof)
What we dislike:
- No rechargeable battery – while it is user replaceable, it would be much easier to plug this in when it eventually wears out. (its been nearly a year and ours is still going strong on the original battery)
- It’s kind of expensive for what it does
- Has a ton of features that most kids and parents likely won’t even bother with
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