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How to pick the right headphones for kids

How to pick the right headphones for kids


It doesn’t cost much for a reliable set of headphones

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Child doing homework
Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

As many schools enter the new academic year with continued remote learning, there will be parents wondering how they can best equip their kids for success at home. There’s the laptop situation to figure out, of course, but headphones are also important — both to make sure students are getting the most from class without distractions and (sometimes) to preserve your own sanity with so much going on at home every day.

If you’re able to keep a close eye on your kid(s) during their remote schooling, you might decide to just use a pair of headphones that are at the ready or a headset they’re already familiar with — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you’re shopping for a new set, there are some useful features to look out for. First, over-ear headphones tend to win out on comfort with younger listeners compared to earbuds, so stick to the former as a safe bet. Many headphones designed for kids have volume limiting capabilities that can ensure that audio levels don’t reach levels that could potentially damage to a child’s hearing. The standard recommendation is that volume shouldn’t exceed 85 decibels. It’s possible to get around the volume limiter in some models, so you’ll want to check customer reviews for an honest assessment. Some level of supervision is important, while adults should do the same, it’s even more important for kids to avoid listening with headphones for prolonged periods of time.

Unfortunately, like with many other tech gadgets right now, there’s been a rush to buy kid-friendly headphones — and some of the usual top picks are difficult to come by. Our friends at The Strategist (and The Wirecutter, too) really like Puro’s BT2200 wireless headphones, but they’ve been going in and out of stock both at the company’s website and from Amazon.

The Puro Junior Jams are limited to a max volume of 85dB, which is the recommended limit.
The Puro Junior Jams are limited to a max volume of 85dB, which is the recommended limit.
Image: Puro

Thankfully the less expensive ($60) Puro Junior Jams are still readily available. Their volume maxes out at 85 dB, which should help maintain safe listening levels, and they last for up to 22 hours on a charge. You can always plug in directly to a laptop or computer with the included 3.5mm cable, too. The Junior Jams have a built-in microphone, which should cut down on any background noise you might get if relying on a PC’s mic. Two sets of the headphones can be daisy chained together — a feature shared by several other headphones I’ll mention — and this lets them both share audio from the same source device.

The JBuddies Studio from JLab Audio are another well-rated pick, though they’re traditional wired headphones and lack wireless connectivity. But they’ve gotten good feedback for mic performance and durability thanks to a ruggedized design that still manages to look fairly stylish. They don’t have much in the way of frills, but for under $20, they should make for a great, affordable home learning tool.

JBL’s JR 300BT headphones come in eye-catching colors (with an included sticker set for personalization), have kid-friendly buttons for adjusting volume, and can last for up to 12 hours per charge; they’re also going to sound significantly better than these other picks whenever your child uses them their favorite TV shows.

JBL’s JR 300BT headphones have kid-friendly controls and should sound better than many other sets in this price range.
JBL’s JR 300BT headphones have kid-friendly controls and should sound better than many other sets in this price range.
Image: JBL

eKids makes a ton of different wired headphones featuring characters from Spider-Man, Frozen, Trolls World Tour, Star Wars, and other family-friendly content; they sell for around $25. “We purchased these because we couldn’t stand listening to Baby Shark or Dance Monkey or any of those other YouTuber things for seven-year-olds. It is easy for my daughter to operate and it folds up,” a reviewer named Cory said. We can all relate.

These over-ear headphones should all make for good online learning accessories and also prove useful for car trips and other times when you’re trying to keep kids entertained. And someday when they start asking for AirPods or Beats headphones, you’ll probably look back fondly on the days when they were satisfied with $20 headphones.

Our picks