When all they want for Christmas is a new smartphone


If visions of smartphones are dancing through your child’s head this holiday season, you are not alone! But before you buy, we want to encourage you that there is a growing market of alternative products to consider, especially if you are questioning whether your child is ready for the responsibility and mental burden that a smartphone can bring. When buying a device, first consider what level of functionality your kid actually needs—then buy a device that meets the need, but avoids exposure to more mature experiences. There are many products on the market, but here are a few options to kickstart your research!


Gabb Wireless Phone

For parents who are looking a safe way to communicate with their kids, but not wanting their kids to have the stigma of a flip phone, the Gabb Phone is the hottest new product on the market. Kids and tweens love it because it looks like a smartphone—with a touch screen, a 5 MP rear camera, and even the option to outfit it with a fashionable rose-gold case if you want more than the standard black. Parents love it because it is capable only of calls, plain text messages (no MMS support to avoid obscene images), a calendar and calculator. No social apps. And no games…but there’s also no email, no media player, no browser and no app store. Why? Gabb wants to the be the bad guy so parents don’t have to. And no app store means less arguing about what will be allowed.

The $99 phone will only run on Gabb’s network, at a price of $19.99 per month. To grab your one for your kiddo, visit gabbwireless.com. START families receive a $5 discount when you use the PROMO code STARTNOW. We want to be 100% honest and let you know that we are affiliates! Our START team loves this product and use it in our own homes to support our Ride. Practice. Drive. rule of thumb. 🙂


Gizmo Watch

If you are looking for a way keep your kids located, fit, and connected to a few loved ones—but aren’t quite ready for a phone, the GizmoWatch is a fun and kid-friendly smartwatch designed with your child’s safety in mind. Automated alerts and a GPS locator help you keep track of your child’s whereabouts, while a fitness tracker and voice changer add value—without tempting kids to waste time fidgeting with options. Durable, waterproof and easy to use, the $180 GizmoWatch runs on Verizon’s 4G LTE network

With a $5-a-month service plan, a child is able to receive calls from up to 10 numbers that parents approve. Parents can also select up to 20 different text messages for the child to send. Everything is set up using Verizon’s GizmoHub app that also lets you locate your child at any time and alerts you if they travel outside a predetermined safety zone. 

For a limited time, Verizon is offering $50 off on a Gizmowatch with 2-year agreement or full retail purchase.



For parents who would really rather not give their children a screen, Relay is an alternative that works like a walkie-talkie. It uses a combination of cellular networks and Wi-Fi calling, so it works everywhere. No internet access means it’s safer than a phone, and the Relay is simple enough that even small ones can use it. For kids who claim it sounds boring compared to a phone, it has some fun features, including channels that tell a daily joke, make voices echo, play music, and translate.

The Relay regularly costs about $50, and plans are simple: no contracts, and only one basic plan option of $10 a month for Republic Wireless cell service.

From 12/15-12/24/2019, Relay will be $20 off in-store and online at Target, on Amazon, and at relaygo.com (Reg. $49.99, will be $29.99).


Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2

If you don’t really need to stay in touch or track your kids, but want to help your kids establish healthy habits, take a look at the Garmin Vivofit Jr 2. This fitness tracker is easy to use, comfy to wear, and comes bedecked with images from your favorite franchises, ranging from Star Wars to The Avengers to Frozen 2. It also has several games that you can partake in, earning in-game currency or actions by completing preset amounts of exercise or certain chores. Use these fun stats to start conversations at dinner and connect with your child about their day.

Vivofit Jr. 2 and accessory bands are available on Amazon, and range in price from $49.99-89.99.


A Calculator

Are tiny hands constantly grabbing at your phone? We loved this fun solution: a humble calculator. While they do make fake plastic phones for kids, a calculator is a real device with an extremely low-resolution screen that has the added benefit of helping teach about numbers and inspiring imaginative play. Tiny tots take to them instantly, pressing the buttons and watching the numbers appear, even holding them up to their ears and making imaginary calls to their besties. The best part? They’re cheap enough not to worry about breaking.

Check out this article, where University of Michigan pediatrics professor Jenny Radesky, an expert on children and screen time, says she gave her own kids calculators, and that children simply appreciate having a hand-held item that’s “theirs.”

“I like letting my kids explore technology more symbolically like this because it gives me a peek inside their mind: what they like about the technology they see grown-ups using, what they wish they could do and even misconceptions about how technology works,” Radesky says. “I also think it’s an important mirror for parents. When my son first picked up his fake phone, stared at it, frowned, put his hand on his hip, I knew that must be what I look like with my phone.”

Added perk? Calculators are not as addictive as real phones. Kids will put them down after a bit and go in search of Legos, a stuffed animal or a book. This stands in contrast to the TV, which they rarely watch but will prompt howls when it’s turned off — a sign of its power.