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Best kids’ headphones 2023: Keep the noise down and protect their hearing with the top headphones for children

From simple wired headsets to wireless, noise-cancellers, these are the best kids' headphones available

Most children are constantly glued to one form of electronic entertainment or another, so it really pays off to ensure they have the best pair of kids’ headphones possible.

Don't get us wrong, children should always be encouraged to play outside or read a good book, but the chances are they’ll still keep coming back to their YouTube videos, music and video games.

Here, the best headphones for kids play two vital roles. First, they give your offspring a much richer experience than they’re going to get from their device’s tinny built-in speakers. Second, they save us adults from having to suffer through the audio of whatever they’re watching, playing or listening to, which is good for your sanity. If you’ve ever been assailed by the racket from a YouTube funny memes compilation, a game of Fortnite or the average Netflix kids’ cartoon, you’ll know exactly what we mean.

We've run the rule over numerous kids' headphones and below you'll find our pick of the best of them, along with a buying guide detailing all the things to consider before buying your little one a pair.

READ NEXT: These are the best tablets to buy for your kids

Best kids' headphones: At a glance

How to choose the best kids' headphones for your child

What’s different about headphones for kids?

Kids’ headphones have many of the same features as adult headphones, except they tend to be smaller (for obvious reasons) and brightly coloured (because black or white is boring). They come in wired and wireless varieties, and with or without active noise cancellation. The crucial difference is that they usually feature some kind of volume-limiting technology, to stop your kids from whacking the sound up and doing permanent harm to their ears.

How limited should the volume be?

There’s plenty of research showing that prolonged listening through headphones at high volumes can damage hearing and cause additional symptoms like tinnitus. Children, whose ear canals are smaller and whose ears are still developing, are even more at risk than adults.

Generally speaking, kids’ headphones should limit the volume to below 85dB and may have additional measures to stop kids from exceeding the limit. Some health experts suggest keeping the limits even lower, to around 70dB, though this might be a bit too low if there’s any chatter or ambient noise around.

What about design materials?

The other thing we’d suggest you look for is the build quality. Kids don’t tend to be careful with their headphones – they leave them lying around and let the cables tangle, or ditch the protective case and carry them around loose inside a bag. The tougher the headphones, the longer they’ll last. Also, take a good look at the thickness, design and materials of any cables, not to mention whether the plugs are reinforced or not. It’s these weak spots that often result in a pair of headphones hitting the recycling box.

Wired or wireless?

Wireless headphones have a couple of advantages. You don’t have a cable to trip over or get tangled up with, and they pair easily with one or two devices – you just turn them on and they connect. And there’s also less danger of over-enthusiastic plugging in and out causing damage to your phone or tablet’s headphone socket.

The downsides are that you need to keep them charged, they’re more expensive and they can be less convenient if your child tends to switch between, say, a smartphone, a tablet and a console; they may need to pair and unpair to get their headphones working, whereas the old plug just works every time. With battery life increasing and prices coming down, a Bluetooth set makes the most sense, especially for older kids, but it’s not always the best option.

READ NEXT: All our favourite wired and wireless headphones

Is active noise cancellation essential?

Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a bit of a luxury, but one of the reasons kids tend to turn the volume upwards is that they can’t hear their headphones over the outside noise. So having ANC can help keep the decibels down. It’s also a big help for kids sitting in the back of the car or stuck on a long train or plane journey, as it helps to mask engine noise.

It’s also worth mentioning that kids on the autism spectrum sometimes find ANC headphones can help them focus, even without any sound actively playing through them, as they dampen outside noise and help them concentrate on their current task.

The best kids’ headphones to buy in 2023

1. iClever Kids Headphones: The best tough headphones for kids

Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon

Needless to say, kids don’t always treat headphones with respect. If you find yours can wreck a pair in ten seconds flat, give these iClever headphones a try. The headband is designed to be twisted, grabbed and stretched, and does a fantastic job of flexing back into shape every time. The tangle-resistant cable is similarly tug-proof, and the pair even fold down for easy storage. But while they’re tough, they’re not rough on the ears or head. In fact, their light weight and soft padding make them comfortable enough for watching movies or making it through a long car journey.

For under £15 you can’t expect miracles in terms of sound quality, but the iClever Kids are better than you might expect. There’s some bass, but it’s neither mushy nor too strident, and you can make out individual instruments or sound effects. They come in a nice range of colours, too, so there’s a pair for every kid out there.

Key specs – Wireless: No; Connections: 3.5mm headphone; Volume limit: 85dB; Battery life: N/A; Weight: 153g

2. Onanoff BuddyPhones Explore+: The best headphones for younger kids

Price: £28 | Buy now from Amazon

The BuddyPhones Explore+ are the ideal headphones for younger kids. They’re robust, but extremely lightweight at just over 100g, with a tough flat cable with added reinforcement around the plugs. There’s enough grip to keep them from falling off smaller heads, but not so much as to get uncomfortable. Ample cushioning on the earcups, coupled with some nice padding on the headband, keeps them nice and cosy. Onanoff also throws in a travel bag and a set of stickers kids can use to personalise their brand new headphones.

They also sound pretty good, with just enough bass and bright treble to make pop songs come alive and only a little hint of boxiness creeping in. Movies, games and cartoons get an enthusiastic sound, and with an 85dB limit, you don’t have to worry about excess volume. Our testers also liked the thoughtful buddy socket – an extra headphone socket on the cable where you can plug in another set of headphones to share the sound.

Key specs – Wireless: No; Connections: 3.5mm headphone, 3.5mm buddy socket; Volume limit: 85dB; Battery life: N/A; Weight: 110g

3. Planet Buddies Kids Wireless: The best wireless headphones for younger kids

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

There’s a lot to like about these wireless headphones, especially for younger kids. They come in three colours – aqua, coral pink and black – and each features a different animal on the earcup, with a penguin, owl and panda. Each critter gets its own bit on the box to share an environmental message, and all the packaging is made out of recyclable materials.

More practically, the batteries last for up to 38 hours and take just two hours to charge through via USB-C. If they do run out of juice, Planet Buddies bundles in a tough, braided cord for a direct connection to a laptop, phone or tablet.

They’re also easy to use, with volume and playback controls on the right earcup and a power/pairing button on the rim, and volume is limited to the recommended 85dB. And while their smaller size means they won’t be so good for older children, the Planet Buddies are lightweight and comfortable for younger kids, with some thick padding underneath the headband.

In terms of audio quality, they’re no match for the JBL and PuroQuiet headphones and the sound can get congested, but there’s a nice, warm tone with decent levels of detail, and enough space to make crazy cartoons and action-packed movies come alive.

Key specs – Wireless: Bluetooth 5; Connections: 3.5mm headphone, USB-C; Volume limit: 85dB; Battery life: 38 hours; Weight: 134g

4. JLab JBuddies Studio Wireless: The best cheap wireless headphones for kids

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Where kids’ headphones tend to go big on fluorescent, high-contrast colours, the JBuddies Studios have a more grown-up look, which means they’ve got a better chance of growing with your child instead of getting dumped before they’ve even left primary school. They’re built to last, too, with lightweight yet tough plastics that shouldn’t fall apart within a year. You won’t have any problems pairing them with a tablet or smartphone, with spoken alerts to tell you when you’re connected or the battery is low, and the Bluetooth range is excellent – better than many adult pairs, in fact.

The output is a bit heavy on the treble, but there’s some body to audio and bass never gets too thumpy. It’s a good fit for pop and dance music, and cartoons and kids’ movies sound really punchy. You can hear details and background effects that some cheap wireless headphones leave out. They’re also really comfy, thanks to swivelling earcups that extend from the headband and thick padding on the band and earcups. A great cost-conscious choice.

Key specs – Wireless: Bluetooth; Connections: 3.5mm headphone, micro-USB; Volume limit: 85dB; Battery life: 13 hours; Weight: 116g

5. Puro PuroGamer: The best gaming headset for kids

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

Perhaps the best thing about the PuroGamer headset is that it doesn’t look as if it’s designed for kids. In fact, it looks much the same as the gaming headsets worn by Fortnite streamers and MLG legends. The sound won’t let your kids down, either. Play music from a smartphone and it’s detailed, well balanced and fun. Hook the PuroGamers up to a PS5 or Xbox controller, and you get a wide stereo soundstage, allowing you to pick out the direction of enemy fire, and there’s plenty of boom and bombast without the volume hitting harmful levels.

You can also connect to a PC, PS4 or PS5 through the USB connector on the cable, though the sound is a bit subdued on consoles when you hook it up this way. However, the microphone is very clear, and the PuroGamers are comfortable enough for a good hour or so of solid gaming (and probably more if you let your kids get away with it). There are some better adult headsets available for the same kind of money, but none with volume limiting onboard. If you’re buying headphones for a young teen or pre-teen gamer, you won’t find a better pair.

Key specs – Wireless: No; Connections: 3.5mm headphone, USB; Volume limit: 85dB; Battery life: N/A; Weight: 275g

6. JBL JR 460NC: The best wireless kids’ headphones for sound quality

Price: £68 | Buy now from JBL

The JBL JR 460NC headphones are a great bet for older kids and teens. Not only is JBL an established audio brand name, but the two-tone grey models we reviewed could easily pass for adult headphones. They’ve got ANC on board as well, plus a battery that lasts up to 20 hours with ANC turned on and 30 hours without. We also like the simple controls, clear built-in microphone and the fact that they use USB Type-C rather than old-school micro-USB for charging.

The real knockout here, however, is the sound. Audio purists would call it a little unrefined and bassy, but then kids don’t tend to be hi-fi buffs, and the output’s really warm, powerful and dynamic. It’s a strong match for pop such as Dua Lipa, Imagine Dragons or 1989-era Taylor Swift, but surprisingly able with rock and indie too. Animated movies, blockbusters and games also sound fantastic. Volume limiting works well, with a little note that chimes in when you hit the max level, and the generous padding on the cups makes the 460NCs pretty easy on the ears. Noise isolation and cancellation isn’t as good as with the PuroQuiets, but it still does a solid job of masking chatter and engine noise.

Key specs – Wireless: Bluetooth 5; Connections: 3.5mm headphone, USB Type-C; Volume limit: 85dB; Battery life: 30 hours (20 hours ANC); Weight: 200g

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