If you aren’t familiar, GeoPalz are pedometers for kids that come in a variety of skins like lady bugs and butterflies and soccer balls and pirates. The product uses 3D Tri-Axis Accelerometers, and is designed to be worn on the shoe or hip. Children are able to track the amount of steps they take each day and then enter them into their personal account on the GeoPalz site, earning points to win prizes and certificates.
Our almost 8-year-old daughter loved her peace sign GeoPalz and our 5-year-old son was proud to wear his football. It took just slightly more brain power than I had at that time of year to set them up but it really wasn’t as difficult to get them going as it initially seemed.
I did have some reservations going in about the kids using a system that relies on external motivation as I really want them to choose to be active because it’s fun and good for them, not because they might win a prize for it.
Also concerning, was the daily need to enter the kids’ steps into the GeoPalz website.
Introducing something that is meant to increase physical activity but that in reality also increases screen time seemed like one step forward and two steps backwards.
However, although both kids eagerly wore their GeoPalz the first day and we input their steps into the computer that night, it was the first and last time both those things happened, and here’s why:
- The GeoPalz are designed not to come off during active play which is great but it means they are impossible for little fingers to put on. Even I had trouble clipping them on to their waist bands, so that is a big barrier to kids actually using them.
- When they do manage to get them on their clothes, the chances of them taking them off at the end of the day and putting them somewhere safe, at least in our house, were practically nil. GeoPalz were lost, found, lost again…and inevitably given up on by day 2 or 3.
Our son did wear his once or twice after that but he completely forgot about entering his steps in the website and the GeoPalz seems to reset to 0 after 24 hours (to make it easy to start from scratch the next day probably), so we weren’t able to enter them retroactively.
The whole entering steps in the computer literally takes seconds but if you are like me there is already too much to remember and accomplish each day and I wasn’t willing to add this to my list of things to do.
I’m sure that GeoPalz could work for some families. Maybe older kids that are more responsible and nimble-fingered would have success with it. Or maybe it would work for kids that are already navigating their way to parent approved apps and websites (for good or bad we haven’t built “tech time” into our daily routine yet).
Given that we walk back and forth to school four times a day, I don’t feel we really need to worry about counting daily steps. I’m far more concerned that our children get the fundamental movement skills that make up physical literacy.
GeoPalz might be just the right kick start necessary to get some sedentary kids moving, but for us it really wasn’t the right fit.
If you are a parent who is concerned that your child isn’t moving enough or getting the appropriate amount of physical activity, you might want to start with Active for Life’s free printable activity log before spending the money on a device like GeoPalz.