Nickelodeon NickWatch review: Smartwatch for kids, tried and tested – The Independent

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This wearable device allows children to play games, send messages, make calls and more
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Aimed at children between the ages of six and 10, the watch promises hours of entertainment
If you’re not quite ready to splash out on a smartphone for your children but you’d like to be able to contact them and track their movements, a kids’ smartwatch offers the perfect compromise. With GPS tracking and the ability to call and send SMS messages, just like an adult smartwatch, but without access to the internet and social media networking apps, you can keep your child safe while they’re out and about, without fear they’ll stumble across something they shouldn’t online.
As big fans of SpongeBob Square Pants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we were excited to hear that the TV channel Nickelodeon has released a smartwatch for kids. The NickWatch sets itself apart from other children’s smartwatches by offering several in-built games featuring characters from the most popular Nickelodeon TV shows. In theory, this means you’d no longer have to bring a tablet out and about when you want some peace and quiet at dinner or for long car journeys, as the watch promises hours of entertainment.
There are fun educational features, too, such as an option to experiment with musical instruments and voice simulators and a design setting where kids can use their creative flair to personalise their own watch face.
The NickWatch is being billed as easy to use for children between the ages of six and 10, to help them develop tech skills in a safe and controlled way. We managed to get our hands on one to see whether these claims were true, and to bring you a full review.
Could this new piece of wearable tech for children help them communicate with us when they were out of sight? And did they enjoy the games? Keep scrolling to find out.
With the help of a six-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy, we spent weeks testing out all the apps on the NickWatch. As the children are boisterous and enjoy running around, we put the watch through it’s paces for durability, checking that it still functioned properly after numerous bumps and scrapes. We let the children work out what the watch could do on their own, to see whether or not they could call and message adults independently and to find out what games, if any, they enjoyed the most.
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The NickWatch was a lot easier to set up than expected – our mini testers were able to start using it within 15 minutes of unboxing the smartwatch. Once we’d switched on the watch’s screen, there were step-by-step instructions explaining how to download the NickWatch app for our smartphone and sync the watch to the app, so we could set up a family group (called a Family Ring).
A SIM card is built into the phone, and you can choose different subscription plans to activate it. The rolling commitment costs £9.95 a month, and you’ll never have to worry about running out of data. Children are able to send as many SMS messages, voice notes and phone calls as they want.
Exactly as advertised, we found that our testers figured out how to use the watch straightaway. From the home screen that displays the time, they can swipe up to open the app menu. From there, they’ll see options to play games, design, track movement, communicate through calls and SMS and use the Family Ring function to see family members’ locations, using GPS.
Our testers’ favourite function was SMS messaging and voice notes – from sending messages to ask how their family members were feeling to sending a stream of emojis. The voice notes they created were waffle and nonsense, but they found it hilarious. They especially enjoyed testing out the call function in the supermarket, hiding in one aisle and using the watch to give directions to where they were (by the baked beans).
When farther afield, such as in the park or at a festival, the watch is extremely useful at keeping track of a child’s location. To find out where they are at any time, open the NickWatch app on your phone and you’ll see a clear map showing the exact location of your child.
If they feel frightened or in danger, they can press and hold a physical SOS button on the device, which sends an emergency message to Family Ring members via the NickWatch app. It is a good idea to warn children that it’s only to be used in emergencies, as ours had a little too much fun with it at the start.
Let’s not forget about the games. Using interactive technology, children can virtually race through underground tunnels with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, balance silly objects on SpongeBob’s head or learn Morse code with Lincoln Loud.
Our testers’ favourites were ‘Karate’ and Ninja School, which aid fitness and cognitive skills. Our seven-year-old also had a lot of fun with the Patrick Says game. This is just like Simon says but with SpongeBob’s sidekick Patrick interactively asking children to complete hilarious and unexpected tasks.
Although it does require a monthly cost in addition to the purchase of the smartwatch, it’s worth it for peace of mind when it comes to knowing exactly where your children are at any given time and keeping them entertained by playing games rather than staring mindlessly at a TV show.
You can currently buy the watch from Nickelodean (was £119.95, now £79.95), with an annual subscription to the app costing £89.95 or a monthly subscription costing £9.95. However, Argos is selling a combined bundle of both the watch and a one-year subscription to the NickWatch Caretaker app for £159.99, saving you £10 on the cost of buying them separately.
If you’re looking for a smartwatch for kids that allows them to feel grown up and learn how SMS and voice notes work, you won’t be disappointed with the NickWatch. A bonus is that it’s packed with games that will keep them entertained for ages.
With educational activities such as learning Morse code and physical activities such as karate and counting their steps, the watch works on multiple levels to fire up connections in children’s brains. Our only gripe is the rolling monthly commitment – if it wasn’t for that, we’d have awarded it a full five stars.
Bring the family together with the best board games for hours of fun
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