Choosing the best headphones for your children is important because using the wrong ones could cause life-long damage to their hearing.
Headphones for kids are essential tech kit for parents as none of us want to hear Spongebob for more than ten minutes or be subjected to either blam-blam action gaming or the high-pitched whine of Alvin the Chipmunk. And maybe we can listen to something else while the kids are amused on the computer, tablet, phone or TV.
With remote-learning and home-schooling, a decent set of kids' headphones is even more important these days, and look out for pairs with a microphone for virtual-classroom interaction.
Another good reason for investing in child-specific headphones is for use on long-haul flights. Getting your child to watch a couple of movies during a boring flight is a big bonus for parents. The trouble is that airline-supplied headphones aren’t designed for small heads and so often slip off. These kids headphones shouldn’t do that.
But putting adult headphones on to your child’s head could endanger their hearing. See more on child headphone use below our list of our favourites. You should also consider fit, comfort and design, but also limit the amount of time a child uses headphones whatever the volume. We tested each model for sound quality, volume limitation, comfort and safety.
The maximum noise level recommended by many auditory health organisations is 85 decibels (dB), and to get our recommendation a child’s set of headphones shouldn’t, we believe, go any louder than that – Maxell and Sony sell kids sets at 90dB.
Adult headphones usually peak at 115 decibels (equivalent to a loud train), and experts warn that you could experience severe hearing loss after just 15 minutes of listening at that level every day.
There's a pair of headphones reviewed below that are made specifically for gamers - and this is vitally important as players can be listening to loud explosions and other ear killers for hours on end.
What we are looking for in a great set of kids headphones is an effective volume limiter to protect those sensitive ears, a good, comfortable fit for smaller heads, minimum noise leakage (the sound that others can hear outside of the headphones), and some kid-friendly fun in the design.
Don’t buy earbuds or any in-ear model for children – as the closer the sound source is to the delicate working of the inner ear, the more damage loud sound can do.
And just because your chosen headphones are volume limited, don't let children wear them for hours on end. Even at 85dB prolonged headphone usage is not recommended.
Always remember that corded headphones pose a strangulation risk to young children, and as such most warn against under-threes wearing them unsupervised. One solution is wireless headphones, although these cost more and require regular battery charging. If you can afford it, Bluetooth kids headphones are well worth consideration.
Best headphones for kids 2022
iClever TransNova BTH16 - Best value kids wireless headphones
The iClever TransNova (BTH16) Kids Wireless Headphones are great value for money, offer an excellent battery life for Bluetooth headphones, are light and comfortable with an adjustable headband, and come with multicoloured LEDs and multiple interchangeable plates for the earcups.
Sound quality is great (with a tendency to bassiness) for a pair of headphones in this price range, and the volume is limited to 85dB, although this still sounded quite loud in our tests.
We’ve tested quieter, but these often raised complaints from our helpful child testers, so if you can trust your child not to wear these at full volume for hours on end, you should be ok.
Pairing via Bluetooth 5.0 was easy after fully charging the headphones, and they also come with a detachable cable for those times when you’ve forgotten to charge the headphones up beforehand.
There are basic controls on the earpiece: play, pause, next/previous track, answer/end phone calls, and activate Siri.
If you want to run the battery down a little quicker or just look the coolest kid at the party, then turn on the multicoloured LEDs on each earpiece. You can turn them off again with the press of a button.
Conveniently, they fold into a small and robust shape to fit in the tough but colourful travel/storage case, although exactly how robust they are depends on your child, of course!
ONANOFF BuddyPhones School+ - Best kids budget headphones with boom microphone
These excellent kids headphones are built for home-schooling and remote learning, with a quality boom microphone built into the BuddyJackCable, which also allows another headset to be added to the one source.
It also comes with a mic-less cable if you don't need the microphone.
Audio quality is great for both wearer and listener. The kid-safe volume-limiting (85dB) works a treat, and isn't either too loud or too quiet, and it features effective passive noise cancellation.
The over-ear headphones are comfortable and adjustable, and come with a bunch of stickers for customisation. There are colour options from Blue, Pink and Green to Yellow, and a carry bag is included.
The headphones aren't wireless, so you may need an adapter for modern phones or tablets that don't come with a headphone jack.
ONANOFF BuddyPhones Cosmos+ - Best kids wireless headphones with boom microphone
The quality wireless Cosmos+ sound as good as we've heard for a set of kids headphones, and they've got everything you need, including a detachable boom microphone for video calls.
The improved audio quality is down to the active noise cancellation, which works excellently.
There are three safe-audio modes: Toddler Mode is set to an ear-protecting 75dB; Kids Mode goes up to 85db; and Travel Mode ups the volume to 94db to block out background noise. Try to stick to the lower levels if possible.
A Study Mode isolates voices from other sounds, producing clearer vocals to help when studying during online learning.
The Cosmos+ are comfortable and suitable for all but the youngest heads. The audio controls are easy to use, and pairing is simple to setup.
They come in a sturdy travel case, and charge via USB-C rather than fiddly microUSB. There's a separate audio cable when you want to use them wired if the 24-hour battery runs out.
One thing we didn't like was the childish and rather gender-specific outer earpiece graphics, which might put off older children, but there's plenty of colour choices as they are available in Cool Blue (DJ graphics), Rose Pink (Princess), Sun Yellow (Lion), Grey Matter (Scientist), Deep Blue (Pirate), and Snow White (Unicorn).
Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet - Best noise-cancelling kids headphones
Also from Puro are the PuroQuiet kids headphones, which are a class apart from most of the cheaper headphones reviewed here.
They are not just volume-limited (to the standard 85dB) but offer active noise-cancelling (up to 22 dB). Just flick the ANC switch on the right ear cup, and background noise is filtered out, and the audio quality improves significantly.
There are volume buttons on the left cup, with the power on/off switch. The volume did sound a little higher than some of the other headphones - not excessively so, but still noticeable. If you can trust your child not to keep pushing volume up, then you shouldn't have any problems.
Using Bluetooth, the PuroQuiet do away with a cable, which also reduces risks of injury by entanglement. The wireless pairing was simple. In case you forget to charge the headphones (via the included microUSB cable), there's a detachable cable included, as well as a nice carry case to protect them when not in use.
Available in rather gender-based Blue and Pink, PuroQuiet is at the higher end of the price scale but warranted for the build quality, which is excellent. These headphones seem built to last compared to some of the cheaper plastic sets. If you can afford the extra you get your money's worth.
Puro Sound BT2200 - Best non-kiddy kids headphones
While many kids headphones are quite plastic-y the Puro Sound Labs BT2200 headphones look more like a high-end adult audio product, and the cost reflects this, too.
Buying the Puro BT 2200 is a big step up from most of the cheaper headphones listed here. However, there's a special deal on the BT2200 until January 1, 2020; see pricing above.
You don’t get just a more stylish, less kiddy look. The audio quality of these headphones is also noticeably higher, even using Bluetooth.
That’s right, the Puro BT2200 are wireless, too – which is great if you’ve had too many cables damaged by a child yanking them around, or you’re worried about the cable wrapping around a small neck.
Volume is limited to 85dBA, and we found that this was more than sufficient. DSP-based volume-limiting means that the electronics actively monitor volume levels, with the limiter kicking in only when the sound reaches 85dBA.
These headphones go further than just limiting the volume. They also block background noise, attenuating 82 percent of sound at 1kHz. This reduces the need to turn them up to a dangerous level even when in a noisy environment such as an aeroplane.
The comfortable ear cushions also help block outside noise. The ear cups and headband are made of durable aluminium, while the ear cushion and band cover are leather. There are available in Purple, Blue, Pink and Grey.
Using Bluetooth means that these headphones need to be charged, and the “up to 18 hours” of battery life should be enough for most journeys. If the battery does run out there’s a detachable cable included. Volume controls are situated on the left earpiece.
The Puro Sound Labs BT2200 headphones certainly cost more than most kids headphones but the higher audio quality, build and wireless function make them serious contenders as our favourites.
PuroBasics - Best wired kids headphones
Also from Puro, which has several different models of kids headphones, are the PuroBasic - which we have to presume is the entry-level for this quality brand.
The sound is good for an inexpensive pair of headphones. Volume is limited - not so much that you can’t hear much (a common complaint) but enough that I’d count these as fairly loud.
They are comfortable and adjustable, with the soft ear cups made from vegan leather in a lightweight, flexible plastic frame.
PuroBasic are wired headphones (with 3.5mm jack), so you’ll need an adapter if you want to use these with a phone or tablet without a headphone jack.
They are available in Red, Blue, Pink and Green.
imoo Ear-care Headset - Best off-ear headset
If you worry about sticking earbuds into a child's ears or covering them with foam and so blocking outside noise, the Bluetooth imoo Ear-care kids wireless headphones cleverly keep the speaker away from the eardrum.
The speakers instead sit just in front of the ear, beaming the sound into the ear. They therefore allow outside sound (which might well be the parent's voice or traffic noise) to be heard. Noise leakage is surprisingly low.
Audio quality is pretty good, maybe lacking some bass but nice and clear.
The Imoo headset is lightweight (30g) and is designed for children aged 4-15 years old.
Volume is limited to 85dB, although they seemed a little louder than some. We weren't worried about this as much as with other headphones as the sound is not right into the child's ear.
Snuggly Rascals - Best alternative kids headphones
We like a product that tries something different, and that’s the case with Snuggly Rascals over-ear children headphones. These wrap around the child’s head and are adjustable with Velcro. It will even keep little ones’ ears warm, and they won't fall off or break as easily as normal headphones.
They’re super comfortable, and you can’t feel the flat speakers through the material.
The sound quality was good, even through the fleece and a child’s long hair. Although specified as a maximum of 85 decibels it’s at the quieter end of the audio spectrum in reality, which will please many parents keen to protect their kids’ hearing.
The speakers can be removed and the headband popped into the washing machine.
There’s a range of great designs: Monster, Unicorn, Plane, Giraffe, Penguin, Piggy, Chicken, and Cat.
ONANOFF BuddyPhones Play+ - Best kids headphones controls
ONANOFF make a wide range of kids headphones, with Play+ standing out with its excellent manual controls.
These wireless headphones are easy to pair over Bluetooth and are volume-limited to 85db. But they go further, with a quieter 75dB limit in Toddler Mode for very young ears, and a Travel Mode that does a little louder at 94dB.
There's also a Study Mode that noticeably enhances spoken voice for online learning purposes, but is also great for audiobooks.
They are comfortable, lightweight, adjustable and foldable, and come with a light store-away bag.
Audio quality is good for kids' headphones, and there are side-mounted controls for volume, pause/play, back and forwards, etc. A microphone is built-in.
You can attach an audio cable for those times when the battery runs out. A matching USB-C cable is also included for charging.
Choose from a range of course including grey, light and dark blue, yellow and pink. There are even a few stickers to personalise the ear cans.
Puro JuniorJams - Excellent sound but quite loud
At the less expensive end of the Puro Sound Labs wireless range are the JuniorJams. If you want much-cheaper Puro headphones, look for the PuroBasic wired headphones.
These wireless, lightweight foldable on-ear headphones feature volume limiting (to the standard 85dB) are look as good as their pricier siblings, the BT2200 and PuroQuiet.
Sound quality is excellent - possibly the best we've heard on a kids product, and these look and feel like quality products.
That said, we found the maximum volume to be much higher than others tested here - this may be no bad thing as some find the volume limiters too quiet, but these headphones can go louder than we'd want on our head, let alone a child's.
As such, you need to trust your child to not pump the volume up when you're not around, and definitely not for the very young.
A cable is included so you can connect two headsets and then share via Bluetooth to a single phone or other music-giving devices.
That cable can also be used to connect to a phone (with a headphone jack or adapter, of course) if the batteries run out of juice for wireless play - which Puro claims is 22 hours.
Control buttons are located at the bottom of the right ear cup to play music, answer/reject calls and volume up/down.
They come in a durable soft carrying bag, plus all the cables you need to connect and charge.
JLab Audio Jbuddies - Affordable wireless kids headphones
The JLab Audio JBuddies are well-made wireless kids headphones that limit volume to 85dB.
They are comfortable with foam cushions, and they fold to save space and keep them safe when not in use. They would suit ages 8 and up more than tiny tots, and the design is pretty gender and age neutral.
Audio quality is fine for the price.
Bluetooth is great as it removes any cord safety issues, although you must remember to keep them charged as they don't (unlike some others tested here) come with a detachable cable for wired listening.
Battery life is stated as 13 hours - long enough for even a long-haul flight, although we'd recommend some sleep instead!
One annoyance was the instructions that didn't explain the "automatic" Bluetooth connection adequately - the secret is to hold the power button for 30 or so seconds until it flashed blue and red.
Kitsound Mini Movers - Decent kids headphones
These wired kids headphones from Kitsound are very reasonably priced, and offer volume-limited sound (85dB).
While the audio quality is hardly hi-fi, it's fine for kids.
They feel comfortable and have an adjustable headband.
The cable is 1.2m long. They are available in two colours - rather obviously aimed at boys (Blue) and girls (Pink). Each has customisable ear cups, and comes with pencils and blank cards.
JVC HA-KD5 Tiny Phones - Kids headphones you can decorate
The JVC Tiny Phones (HA-KD5) are well made, and feature comfortable soft padding, which also restricts noise leakage. The headband is wide and seems robust.
They are available in two vivid models (pink/purple and yellow/blue) with obvious girl/boy choices. They are built for ages 4 and up. Again, they’d expand to fit most (even adult) heads.
The volume limiter (85dB) is good – slightly louder than the Griffin MyPhones but much more acceptable than others on test.
The cord is 0.8m, which is about right for laptop/tablet/phone use but might require an extender for TV viewing.
You need to have these headphones on the right way round for comfort. There’s an R and L to show the correct side, but if your kid doesn’t know his or her left from right you may get a complaint every other time they’re put on incorrectly. Hey, maybe it’ll teach them their left from their right!
A bonus with the JVC kids headphones is customisability. The child can decorate the headphones using the supplied stickers that include letters and pictures. We had the purple/pink set in for the test and the stickers included hearts, wands, teddies and bunnies – so I’d hope the blue/yellow pair come with some less cutesy stickers!
To be fair you could slap any old stickers on these or any of the headphones on test here, but it’s a gimmick that will attract some parents - and most kids!
We liked the JVC HA-KD5 Tiny Phones. They’re not too tiny and should fit most kids’ heads so the name might needlessly put some parents off.
Are any headphones safe for kids?
Experts also suggest that the time spent listening to headphones should be limited to two hours a day (for children and adults), even if the volume is limited at 85dB.
Limiting the volume on headphones you give to your kids is obviously a wise decision if you want to help protect their hearing, but some experts warn against children using any type of headphones.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) and EU state that 85dB is an effective safety limit, the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 70dB as the average daily noise exposure level. That 85dB level is derived from occupational studies of noise exposure and hearing loss for adults, not children.
The trouble is that 70dB is very quiet and will likely not drown out ambient noise, so 85dB becomes the norm despite it being potentially damaging to a young person’s hearing.
Children’s ears are more sensitive to noise damage, due to growth and development of nerve fibres and other cells. Also because of their smaller external auditory canals, the eardrum is closer to the sound source.
Daniel Fink MD, who serves on the Board of the American Tinnitus Association, warns: “An industrial-strength occupational noise exposure level (85dB) meant for truck drivers, factory workers and miners is far too loud for a child’s delicate ears, which have to last her or him a lifetime."
A sensible compromise would be to invest in a decent set of headphones that limits volume, but also limit the length of time children wear them.
Many smartphones and tablets let you monitor your headphone volume. iPhones and iPads do this in the Health app, under Hearing and Headphone Audio Levels. Some Android phones let you set a volume limit, too. And the Google Play store has apps that limit volume, such as Volume Limiter.
Find out how we test audio.