Whether you are looking for an inexpensive pair of kids’ headphones to leave at school, or a lightweight pair to take on a road trip, we’ve got the best kids headphones in 2021.
We started researching kids’ headphones when S entered Kindergarten. As part of her class list, she was required to bring in headphones to leave at school. We did not want to spend a lot, but we wanted something safe, with volume-limiting, that would be comfortable and hold up to the rigors of daily use.
From there our needs only increased- remote learning brought greater urgency to having good kids headphones with a microphone. As we planned our Epic Cross-Country Road Trip we began to prioritize collapsibility and weight. Here are our picks for the best kids’ headphones in 2021 for each situation.
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How will the Kids Use the Headphones?
How your kids will be using the headphones affects which elements are most important to you. If they are only using them for watching videos on road trips, then you may not need a microphone. If remote schooling or chatting with friends and family while on the road is part of your plan, a microphone is essential.
For our kids, headphones need to fill a lot of roles- they have used them for remote learning, travel, catching up with family on facetime, and in venues with live music to protect their ears. We’ve even used them when watching fireworks!
What Age are these Kids Headphones for? Can I use them for My Toddler?
These recommendations are generally aimed at grade school-age children. However, we’ve used headphones since our youngest was 3, including for remote classes with her preschool. Most kid’s headphones have a volume limiter that makes them safe even for young kids, but you’ll want to prioritize that feature for toddlers.
Features to Consider when Choosing Headphones for Kids
Here are some of the features you’ll want to consider when choosing the right pair of kids’ headphones for your family.
This is perhaps the most important feature for young ears. It can also be confusing to know what is the safest way for little kids and toddlers to use headphones. There are two main factors that contribute to hearing loss with headphones- loud volumes and loud volumes for extended periods of time.
The industry standard for volume limiting is 85dB, but this is also based on a listening time of eight hours. It is continuous high volumes that can damage little ears. It is also important to take the background noise into account. If you are traveling, whether in a car, train or plane, there can be a lot of background noise that will easily exceed the 85dB max volume of a headset.
Some headphones give you the option of switching between 85dB and 95dB so that you can adjust the sound for the current environment. This is best if it is controlled by the parent, meaning the parent knows how to change it, but the kid doesn’t. Also, if you are on a long trip, with lots of headphone time, it is best to take breaks, at least every two hours, of ten minutes or more.
If your child is doing home learning, talking to friends in school chats, or FaceTiming with family, having a headset with a microphone is key. Bluetooth headphones will have a built-in mic. If you have a corded headset, the mic and on/off button will be on the cord, closer to one side. It is important that the microphone is at the end nearest the headset to work properly.
This is important for any product, but especially for kid’s products. Kids can be rough on their belongings- they often do not know their own strength. Durability is often hard to judge when online shopping, where images are curated and limited.
Headphone comfort is important for heavy daily use or long trips. Headset padding at the ears makes extended use more comfortable, and quality materials will also help with noise isolation. Over-ear tends to be more comfortable than on-ear headsets for long hours of use. Padding at the top of the headset where it sits on the child’s head is also important. Lighter products will alleviate some of the need for padding, but not all.
Size, Weight & Collapsibility
If you are using headphones for travel, all three of these are important. The right balance of these will depend on the individual. For travel, we went with the over-ear headset (slightly larger) that was light and collapsable. Our favorite headset for home learning does not collapse and is on-ear, but has lots of great padding.
Wired or Wireless
The advantage to wired headphones is their simplicity- you don’t have to worry about losing the cord, or charging the headphones. However, many headsets actually have detachable cords, which can be a blessing or a curse. If you have a younger child, you may want to choose a wired pair for ease of use and affordability.
Wireless headphones offer a cordless experience that many kids prefer. We also love that we can leave the cord at home if we use the headphones in a live music venue to protect the kids’ hearing.
If you are choosing a wireless headset, find one with good battery life and fast charging. Battery life can range from 6 to 35 hours, with 12 hours being typical. Full charging can take an hour to three, but most have a fast charge, where 10 minutes will get you an hour or more of listening.
Our Top Pick: Best Kids Headphones for Remote Learning and Travel
When choosing headphones that must work for remote learning and travel, you need the holy grail of comfort, functionality, durability, and collapsibility. We have tried a lot of pairs of headphones to find one that we feel hits the mark for all of these qualities.
These are the headphones both of our kids are using on our Family Year Out. (What’s a Family Year Out?)
JBuddies Pro Wireless Over-Ear Kids Headphones
The JBuddies Pro Wireless Headphones by JLabs are the headsets we are currently using. I was worried initially at how they would fit, as they are targeted for 8 years and older, but they fit comfortably on our 4-year-old at their shorter setting and have plenty of room to grow for our almost 7-year-old. We are using them with the cords to keep things simple, but looking forward to using Bluetooth.
Built-in volume switch toggles between the max volume of 85dB (recommended) – or 95dB for louder environments. The switch is hidden behind the fabric in the earcup to be accessed by parents only.
Ergonomic Over-Ear Design
These headphones are shaped like an ear, not just round, so they fit over kids’ ears but are not overly large. And the over-ear design and soft cushions mean they stay comfortable longer.
Wireless and Wired
With the longest playback time we have found, these Bluetooth headsets offer 35+ hours of wireless listening and only an hour for a full charge. Plus they come with a cord for when you run out of battery life. The batteries are rechargeable with the included USB power cord that fits into a USB C port of your computer or adapter (not included).
There is a second port on the left side for connecting a second pair of headphones. The sharing feature can be used while the main headset is either wireless or wired. Our kids love to connect their headphones so that they can both watch the same program at the same time on one iPad.
Light Weight and Collapsable Design
These headphones fold up to make them more compact for travel. When headphones don’t collapse well, they take up a ton of room in the kids’ backpacks. Also, kids should only be carrying approximately 10% of their body weight, so when you have 4-5 pounds to work with, every little bit counts!
Only Two Colors
Currently, these headphones only come in black with blue highlights or black with pink highlights. With two girls, I bought two pink versions, so they wouldn’t argue over who got which color.
No Storage Bag
With two cables to keep track of, having a protective case or even a bag would go a long way towards not losing parts and keeping them organized.
Light Weight and Collapsable Design
Moving parts mean more to wear out or break. These seem sturdy and well built, but time will tell how they hold up.
Best Beginner Set of Kids Headphones:
This is where we’d recommend starting if you need a very basic set of headphones for either a younger child or you’re just not sure how much you’ll be using them.
Amazon Basics Kids Headphones
Amazon’s Amazon Basics Volume Limited Wired Over-Ear Headphones for Kids with Two Ports for Sharing were a great introduction to kids’ headphones. They have all the features we look for; very affordable, volume limiting, microphone, share port, lots of colors to chose from. This is what we got when our youngest daughter needed to bring a pair of headphones to leave at Kindergarten. Since they were going to live at school (in the classroom), we wanted something inexpensive that we wouldn’t worry about. This is also what we used when remote learning first started. Both kids liked the headphones, but they did not survive a full year of school. With two kids, we went through three pairs of these in less than a year. These headphones are currently no longer available, but keep an eye on them- they have been very popular and it may just be a temporary supply issue.
These were the most affordable of the headphones we tried. Our oldest needed a pair at home and a pair for school, but we did not want to worry about them or stress about whether the kids were being too rough with them.
These have a max volume of 94dB, which is on the high side for kids’ headphones but still considered safe.
These headsets have a detachable fifty-one-inch braided cloth cord with a built-in mic and volume control. So when we misplaced a cord, it was easy to swap in another.
These headphones taught us the benefits of a shared port. At the time, the girls would share an iPad to watch a show or video. With the shared port, they could both be on headphones and we would not have to listen.
These headsets come in lots of fun colors, so the girls got to pick out the color they wanted and it was easy to tell them apart.
The volume control did not work with all platforms or devices and would jump from muted to the loudest setting when trying to adjust.
The ear cushion covers for the headsets started to come off after prolonged use and there was no way to fix them. The cords also began to fall apart where they connect to the jack.
These headphones are no longer available on Amazon and there is no date for them to return.
Best Alternative Beginner Set of Kids Headphones
Since the Amazon Basics are currently unavailable, this alternative has a lot of the same features, plus some, at a similar price point.
Yusonic Kids Headphones
The Yusonic Kids Headphones have all the great features of the Amazon Basics, with a few improvements including more options for volume limiting and sound isolation. We haven’t tried these personally, but reviews indicate that these headphones are more durable than the Amazon Basics.
The detachable cord has a mic, on/off button, and volume limiting switch to toggle between 85dB and 93dB.
These headphones easily fold down for storing or travel.
They are available in a wide array of fun colors.
The volume limiting control is too easily accessible to kids.
Best Kids Headphones for Remote Learning
These headphones are a great combination of durability and functionality. They have higher quality sound and stood up well to the rigors of daily remote learning. These also come in fun patterns that make them very kid-friendly.
Untangled Pro Kids Bluetooth Headphones
LilGadgets’ Untangled Pro Bluetooth Headphones are designed for ages 4 and up. After three pairs of the Amazon basics, we wanted to try something at a higher price point to see if there was a noticeable improvement in materials, sound, features, and durability. We got a pair for our 6-year-old and she picked out a set with a fun pattern that she loves. We were very happy with what we found.
Volume Limiting & Passive Noise Reduction
The Untangled Pros are volume limited to 93dB. This is higher than standard, but they also offer passive noise reduction with their padded fixed ear cups, bringing outside noise down by 13dB. This means in theory, that you will not have to turn up the volume as much to hear clearly.
Wireless and Wired
These Bluetooth headphones have a 12-hour listening battery life and 180 hours of standby time. They also have a 30-foot range (typical) from the device they are connected to, should you need it. They also come with a cord with an on/off button and mic if you prefer to not rely on the wireless feature. You can also use the cord if the battery dies on longer trips or travel.
There are two 3.5 headphone jack ports in the headset, so with Bluetooth on, you can connect multiple headsets to share a movie or show.
These headsets come in an array of colors and designs including fun kid-friendly patterns.
While the rigid design is solid and well made, it does not collapse and takes up more room when not in use, which makes them tricky for long-term travel.
These were the most expensive kids’ headphones we tried, at over $50.
Other headsets we have reviewed have longer battery life and charge in half the time. We mostly used the cord with these, so battery life was not often an issue for us.
Best Mid-Range Headphones for Younger Kids
These headphones are a step up from the Amazon basics, with better sound quality and passive noise isolation. They are wired and the cord does not come out, so there are no parts to lose or come unplugged. These are lightweight and collapsable, making them a good candidate for travel headphones.
JBuddies Studio On-Ear Wired Kids Headphones
We bought the JBuddies Studio Wired Kids Headphones by JLabs to replace the Amazon Basics for our younger child. We wanted to spend a little more and get something that was better made and would hold up to daily use. It had to have a mic for video chats with school and FaceTime with family. These are supposed to be for ages 6 and up, but we found they fix E great at age 3 and were very comfortable. She also loved the blue and pink ones!
These headphones have a max volume of 85dB, so we did not have to worry about damaging young ears.
The headphones come with a built-in braided cloth cord with an L-shaped jack. We did not have to worry about finding the cord when it was time for school and while they would be in knots by the end of the day, with the cloth cord they would come out easily.
Light Weight and Collapsable Design
We were really happy with the construction of these headphones. They are really light and easily adjustable. The headphones fold in to make them more compact for travel.
Wired and L-Shaped Cord
While the L-shaped cord is great for little fingers to push in, without damaging it, we found it hard to get it past some of the more puffy protective tablet cases we were using.
No Share Port
While we could plug these into the other headphone’s share port, this pair does not have one of its own.
No Storage Bag
Especially for kids, having a place to store these out of the way and to keep the cord from getting tangled up would be very handy.
There You Have it!
Our list of the best kids headphones in 2021 for learning and travel. Are there others out there that you think should make our list? We would love to hear from you!
Kids headphones are one of our Road Trip Essentials, check out our list of what you should consider packing!