Garmin makes the best watch for kids in school

Garmin Bounce
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

As your kids make their way back to school this year — if they haven't already — you might be feeling a bit of anxiety. Maybe this is your child's first year away from home, or maybe you just moved, and they're starting life anew at a brand new school.

Whatever the case, getting them the best kids smartwatch could help alleviate everyone's concerns. Over the years, my son and I have worked together to test lots of these little watches, and while all of them have their own set of pros and cons, my son always asks to wear just one model when testing is done: the Garmin Bounce.

Simplicity is best

Tapping activities on the Garmin Bounce

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Lots of smartwatches focus on specific tasks to set themselves apart from the pack. Most of the best Garmin watches, for instance, are best for one specific reason, and this laser-focused nature makes it pretty easy to pick the one that's right for you.

As I noted in the Garmin Bounce review, my son was able to put the watch on and figure out how it works within minutes despite this being the first smartwatch he's ever used. The UI is very intuitive, and all the things your child would want to do are front-and-center, not hidden in sub-menus that require you to look up YouTube videos just to figure out.

Messaging — an important everyday feature — is one swipe away at all times. When your child swipes to the right on the watch face, the messaging screen pops up, and they can immediately send messages or voice memos to anyone on the parent-approved contacts list.

The most important features aren't hidden in sub-menus and don't require watch YouTube videos to figure out.

And the Garmin app doesn't mess around when it comes to notifications, either. Some kids' smartwatches use flaky apps that don't always deliver notifications or messages in a timely manner, leaving seeds of doubt in the back of your mind about their reliability.

The Garmin app always delivers messages when they've been sent and even does a great job of letting me know when the watch battery is low, when my son leaves the GPS fence I set up, and even gives optional notifications for when he's playing a game or exercising.

Garmin Bounce

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

God forbid I lose track of him somewhere, the LiveTrack GPS feature is a single tap away in the parent app and enables a 30-minute window of real-time location tracking. Garmin's app is smart enough to create a historical map and save it when tracking is over, and your kids can even start a LiveTrack session if they want to go out and play.

My son found this to be the most comfortable smartwatch despite it having big features like GPS and eSIM packed inside.

The watch itself is also quite slim compared to many other full-featured kids' watches, as well. My son finds this smartwatch to be the most comfortable out of all the smartwatches he's ever used, and part of that is because Garmin uses eSIM instead of a physical SIM tray like some other kids' smartwatches.

This, of course, is both a blessing and a curse. Using eSIM keeps the watch slim and makes management easy. You pay Garmin $10 a month and never have to worry about SIM cards, configuration, network compatibility, or any of that kind of stuff.

Sleep tracking on the Garmin Jr app for the Garmin Bounce kids smartwatch

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The downside is that you can't just slap a SIM inside and bundle it with your phone bill. Aside from sheer billing simplicity, many carriers offer smartwatch additions for $5 instead of the $10 Garmin charges.

I also found cell reception to be a bit lacking in some buildings, although connecting it to Wi-Fi fixes this issue.

It doesn't have video calling or a camera, but that helps keep it light and simple.

Some watches, like the Angel Watch R or TickTalk 4, offer features like video calling via onboard cameras. These are pretty nifty features to have and may be preferable for some kids. However, I found these features made the watches a bit clunkier than my son would like, which is one of the many reasons he prefers the Garmin Bounce over other kids' smartwatches.

Families who have more than one Garmin smartwatch will find the Bounce feels familiar from the get-go. Plus, the Garmin Jr app makes it easy to set goals and challenges that all family members can take part in, including step competitions and sleep tracking.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu