If you don't already own a smartwatch, it's likely that you know someone who does! These wearable gadgets are keeping adults everywhere on track with fitness goals, appointment reminders, email notifications, and even hands-free phone calling!
Wearable Tech and Kids
Okay, so it's unlikely that you want your six-year old to make and receive calls from his wrist, but consider some of the other skills that you do want your child to be independent with... getting ready in the morning, transitioning to after school activities, remembering household chores... and now think about how often your verbally direct your children time and time again.
What you may not realize is that eliminating your verbal prompting is one of the hardest habits to break and one of the most limiting factors in a child becoming independent. Your child may come to rely on mom or dad to prompt him for following through on multi-step tasks...hence the feeling of "nagging" our kids!
As an occupational therapist, I look to break down tasks into manageable parts, provide visual instead of verbal cues, and built in some positive reinforcement when kids successfully complete their tasks! I bet your Apple Watch reinforces you with a big showy display of achievement when you hit your targeted movement goal!!! It even gives you visual prompts to "keep moving" or "stand" when you've been slacking on that movement goal. Kids can benefit from the same strategies that we have found to be effective and reinforcing in our adult-sized wearable tech, so It's no wonder that companies are beginning to look at wearable technology for kids.
When I found the Octopus Watch by Joy, I immediately saw the potential for kids of all abilities, but especially for kids with differing abilities.
The Octopus Watch
Octopus is a kid-friendly, icon-based watch that provides haptic feedback (vibration) for scheduled events and reminders. It is programmed through an app on the parent's iPhone and then synced through Bluetooth technology. Because it does not require WiFi connection to operate, the watch provides notifications regardless of where the child is in relationship to the iPhone it is synced with. We love that the bands are interchangeable and the screen looks like a kid-sized Apple Watch that is simple in design yet stylish. Plugging in to recharge is simple with the magnetized charging cable or the adorable, night-light Octopus Companion
On the watch face, the screen can display in 3 different modes: icon, digital time, or analog time. The screen is not a touchscreen. Instead, kids push the only button to signify task completion. This feedback goes back to the parent's app when the watch is synced next so parents can see how much their child is doing based on the reminders and events prompted.
The free app is very easy to program and you can select events to repeat as needed so routines are simple to customize once for the entire week. There are 700+ icons to choose from and you can select black/white or full color icons based on how your child understands best. While programming our own Octopus, we were able to "request" a specific icon that the database wasn't showing, so we love that the Joy Family Company is taking feedback from parent users! In fact, the company's representative was amazingly communicative about upcoming updates and tweaks that they have made to accommodate special requests just like ours!
This watch is notably absent the following features (which we appreciated!): making/receiving text messages or phone calls, GPS tracking, WiFi capabilities, email access, fitness tracking. While there may be a child whose parents would like those features, the streamlined purpose and function of the Octopus watch make it ideal for kids who would otherwise be distracted by those extra features. And to be quite honest, less is sometimes more until kids learn to use technology appropriately!
Applications for Kids with Different Abilities
Because of the level of scheduling and reminder-customization, the applications for the Octopus extend past home use and into community and school settings as well. Children who struggle to stay on task, manage their time, transition between scheduled activities, require repeated reminders for task completion, or have attentional difficulties can all benefit from this wearable tech. The icon-based communication makes it a good choice for kids who have print-based learning disabilities or are non-readers.
- Down syndrome
- Executive functioning difficulties
- Learning disabilities
Tech Tips: Takeaways
The Octopus Watch is a fabulous, user-friendly solution for kids of all abilities to gain independence with routines, transitions, and task completion. The watch provides just enough functionality to serve the purpose of keeping kids on-task instead of being a distraction with unnecessary features. For non-readers, the Octopus' icon-based communication is a great way to visually support kids who are working on independent skills while decreasing the amount of verbal prompting needed.
Check it out and let us know what you think!