As virtual assistants become more and more integrated into our everyday life, it would come as no surprise if your kid’s first word is “Alexa.” Admittedly, we might tend to think about Alexa skills as convenient features for adults. But why leave the kids out of the adventure? There are tons of things that Amazon Echo and Alexa can do for your kids. All you have to do is ask nicely.
Here is everything you need to know about getting your kids in on the fun and taking the hassle out of parenting. But first things first: Is Amazon Echo suitable for kids?
Can kids use Amazon Echo?
Amazon Echo comes pre-packaged with tons of content specifically meant for kids. These are referred to as “skills” on Echo devices and come from a wide range of providers. Some of the providers are established players such as Disney, Highlights magazine and Sesame Street. They let kids access functions such as playing games, getting homework help, entertainment, jokes and even physical activities such as dancing. In addition to these kids-specific features, Alexa has lots of functions that could help both the pint-sized user and parents to get things done. We will discuss these in further detail below.
Is Amazon Echo kid-friendly and safe?
One of the top priorities for any parent would be to ascertain kids’ safety as they explore the endless possibilities that Alexa offers. Undoubtedly, there are security concerns when it comes to using devices such as the Amazon Echo. After all, it is an Internet-of-Things device with a connection to the cloud. While it can provide lots of functional value and convenience, by virtue of being online, it is also vulnerable to hacking. With the use of such devices, your child’s safety and privacy are vulnerable to threats and malicious attacks.
As such, even though monitoring your kids’ activities might not be fun, it is an integral part of having Alexa in your home. It is also important to train kids on basic safety precautions such as being careful what information they give the virtual assistant. Another practical measure is listening to your kids’ voice recordings on a regular basis and deleting whenever necessary. Parents could also teach their kids to mute their speakers when they are not in use so as to avoid potential problems.
Amazon has also taken considerable measures to protect the privacy and innocence of young Echo users. This comes in the form of an Echo device meant specifically for the young – the Echo Dots Kids Edition.
Amazon Echo for Kids (kids edition)
In the US, kids as well as their parents have the opportunity to grab an Amazon Echo version specifically designed with the young ones in mind. You may be wondering though, “Why is Echo Dot Kids more expensive?” Though it resembles the regular Echo Dot models, the Echo Dot Kids Edition has countless advantages over the regular models.
First, it comes with a plastic case in place of the fabric exterior of the former. The purpose of this case is to absorb shock in the case of accidental drops, ensuring durability. Additionally, it comes with a two-year warranty, during which period, if your child breaks it, you get a free replacement.
Besides the fact that it comes in bright colors and looks like a high-tech toy, the device is also more kid-friendly. For instance, Alexa in this Echo Dot version offers responses tailored for the young and often responds with stories rather than direct answers. The device also filters out explicit song lyrics, does not have voice-purchasing and disables adult-themed Q&A scenarios.
Alexa takes it a notch higher, giving her pint-sized users positive responses whenever they use “please” and “thank you.” Another handy feature is FreeTime which features tons of material for young minds and allows parents to control the amount of time kids spend using the device. Using this feature, you can set daily time limits, pause Alexa on the speaker and review your child’s activity. FreeTime is a paid feature on other devices but on the Kids Edition you get a free one-year unlimited subscription.
How to set up an Amazon Echo for kids
If you are using the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition, the setup process is fairly easy. Here is what you need to do:
- Download the Alexa app on your device and sign in
- Place the Echo Dot Kids Edition at least 20 centimeters (8 inches) from walls and windows
- Plug in the power adapter into the device and then into a power outlet
- First, you will get a blue light on the device, which will then turn orange and you will hear a greeting in Alexa’s familiar voice
- Follow the instructions on your app to connect the device to a Wi-Fi network. This will take you to Settings>Device Settings, select the device you want to connect, next to the Wi-Fi network select Change and then proceed to connect
- Enable Amazon FreeTime Unlimited family plan and you are good to go
Note that the Kids Edition comes with built-in parental controls and additional controls through FreeTime Unlimited. As such, you do not need to manually modify controls to make it safe for kids.
But if you are using any other Echo device, you need to enable Amazon Echo parental controls. After setting up your Echo device:
- Create an Amazon Household account
- Log in to your Amazon Account and go to “Accounts and Lists” to select Your Account
- Go to “Shopping Programs and Rentals” and select “Amazon Household”
- Select “Add a Child”
- Follow the prompts that appear on the screen and fill out your child’s profile
- Click “Manage Your Content and Devices” where you will get options to control your child’s access to your content
- Repeat the process for all the children you want to have on your family account, creating an Amazon Alexa Child Account for each of them.
Turning Off Voice Purchasing
One of the most important points to remember while undertaking this process is to turn off voice purchasing. This way, you will not have a surprise box of cookies showing up at your doorstep.
Follow these steps:
- Open the Alexa app
- Tap the ‘Menu’ icon
- Select ‘Settings’
- Click on ‘Voice Purchasing’
- Either disable the feature altogether or create a four-digit PIN to control access to it
Turning on Explicit Content Filter
You do not want to hear F bombs booming from your kid’s speakers. Thankfully, you can set an Explicit Filter to block any music or content containing explicit phrases or words. Here is what you need to do:
- Launch your Alexa app
- Go to ‘Settings’
- Select ‘Music’
- Toggle on ‘Explicit Filter’
Note that your kid can simply overrule this setting by telling Alexa to turn off the filter. To avert this, toggle off ‘Voice Deactivation’ as well.
Turning off or Restricting Drop In
Though Drop In is a useful feature for communicating around the house, you may not want people dropping in on your kids unannounced. Since the feature allows for unsolicited pop-ins, it might be a good idea to allow it to work only within the household.
- Go to ‘Settings’ on your Alexa app
- Tap ‘Device Settings’
- Select the Echo device in your child’s room
- Tap ‘Communications’ and then scroll down to ‘Drop In’
- Toggle it to ‘My Household’ or ‘Off’ depending on your preferences
Schedule ‘Do Not Disturb’ for the kids
You do not want to keep your kids awake with unnecessary distractions in the form of alerts, messages, reminders and timers. Use Do Not Disturb mode for specific times of day when you do not want such interruptions, for example, when they are doing homework or sleeping.
To do this:
- Go to ‘Settings’ on your Alexa app
- Tap ‘Device Settings’
- Select your kid’s Echo device
- Go to ‘Do Not Disturb’ and toggle it on
- Toggle ‘Scheduled’ to set specific times when you want it to start and end
How to Use Amazon Echo for Kids
Right from the start, kids have found it easy and fun to engage with Alexa on the Amazon Echo. But before you place an Echo Dot or other Alexa device in their space (playroom or bedroom), there are some practical things to consider.
As mentioned in one of the introductory sections, the Echo Dot Kids Edition is exclusively available to US users. The same applies to FreeTime Unlimited. Hence, users outside the US need to configure some aspects manually so as to ensure the best experience for kids. Here are some of them:
- Turn on Kids Skills
Some Alexa Skills are meant specifically for the young, but you have to enable them on your device. To do this:
- Go to ‘Settings’ on your Alexa app
- Tap on ‘Alexa Account’
- Go to ‘Kids Skills’
Notably, kids’ skills are disabled by default for a good reason. To begin with, there are parents who do not wish to turn Alexa into a play thing. Moreover, some parents are uncomfortable with the idea of having their kids’ interactions with Alexa recorded and saved on the cloud. If you choose not to enable the feature, your kids can still try to use the skills. But when they do, you will get a notification on your app to enable the skill.
- Review Voice History
In case you enable Kids Skills, Alexa will go ahead and record voice interactions with all users. But the best part is that these will be open for review. What this means is that you can check what your kids have been asking for and telling Alexa.
To review and delete recordings:
- Launch your Alexa app and select the hamburger menu on the top left side
- Scroll down and tap ‘Settings’
- Scroll down again and tap ‘History’
- Go to ‘Recordings’ to view the list of all conversations Alexa has recorded
- Tap individual recordings to listen to/and delete them
- Turn on Magic Word
Adults know where to draw the line when it comes to showing manners when speaking to real people as opposed to dealing with Alexa. But for kids, getting used to giving orders to Alexa can blur the lines of polite behavior. With this in mind, some parents want Alexa to require good manners when taking orders from kids.
This feature is available under a setting known as ‘Magic Word.’ Whenever kids accompany their requests with the word “please” then Alexa responds with positive reinforcement. She executes the request and says, “By the way, thanks for asking so nicely.” Magic Word is available on FreeTime under the Parental Dashboard.
What Can Amazon Echo do for kids (or you)?
Now that we know how to set up Amazon Echo for kids and configure the settings for the best experience, it’s time to get down to action. There are lots of activities kids can enjoy on Amazon Echo devices.
Helping the Babysitter
One of the most useful functions Amazon Echo can do for kids of all ages is to help the babysitter get important information and find things. It’s not always easy to remember everything your sitter needs to care for your young ones. And getting a flurry of texts asking where to find things is not the perfect idea for a night out.
Fortunately, you can let Alexa help out using the babysitter blueprint. This feature lets the caregiver ask Alexa for information on where to find kid-related items. A custom Q&A: set questions and customized responses, lets you prepare your preferred responses to a list of likely questions.
To customize the Q&A, you actually fill out a form, responding to questions such as the morning or evening schedule. And the babysitter will need to ask for the skill by saying, “Alexa, open Babysitter Guide” (or whatever other name you give the customized skill). This feature is comparable to the information sheet you would ordinarily stick somewhere in the kitchen, but certainly much better.
Tracking Baby’s Activities
Bringing a newborn home comes with a lot of excitement and lots of work too. It is, in fact, so much work that parents at times forget to keep track of all the things that matter. Alexa comes in handy for such situations, thanks to a skill known as Baby Stats.
Baby Stats tracks feedings, bowel movements, sleep and weight among other things. Unlike smartphone apps, this skill allows you to use voice control to log details even when your hands are full. Asking Alexa for information on the stats is equally easy, just an audio request away.
Customizing Bedtime Stories
Short Bedtime Story is yet another great Alexa skill that lets you personalize bedtime stories to your kids. You can have your kid, as well as the rest of the family, as characters in the story. You can upload your own stories, edit existing stories to include your child and remove stories that you do not want to hear.
How to keep kids entertained with Amazon Echo
In addition to the above useful features, you can also keep your kids entertained with lots of games that combine fun and learning. Here are some of them:
- The Magic Door
This is an interactive story time skill that allows young kids to use their imagination and make choices to keep things engaging. Other interactive features are the characters and sounds, all of which create a fun experience for everyone. Each story is between 10 and 15 minutes long, perfect for bedtime.
- Spelling Bee
For grade school children, this skill is indispensable for helping them practice words. You can have as many rounds as you want, making it a flexible teaching tool.
- Math Mania and 1,2,3 Math
If you want the young ones to brush up on their math skills, this is the Alexa skill for you. It has different levels and challenges in the form of number sequences and word problems.
You can also help your kids learn through this interactive game that offers a lot of facts on interesting topics. It is perfect for times when you want to balance entertainment and learning.
- ‘Would You Rather?’ Game For The Family
When you want the whole family in on the fun, this family-friendly version of a popular game is a great choice. Featuring only family-friendly questions, it has no awkward moments. There are more than a hundred questions for non-stop fun.
- Animal Workout
For kids who need a little motivation to get moving, the Animal Workout is ideal. It requires them to pretend to be a specific animal and move like it against a music background. The best part is that it can keep everyone including you entertained.
This is a great skill for walking your kids through the proper teeth-brushing technique while entertaining them. Throughout the process, Alexa will tech, tell jokes and play music as the kids brush.
- Silly Things
This is one of the best options of Amazon echo kid funny things to do. In this game, Alexa tells your kids funny things to act out. For example, she can tell them to act as if the floor is hot lava or as if they just ate a lemon.
- Fart Sound Jokes
Alexa can tell all manner of jokes to cheer up the kids. If you want to have the young ones in hysterics for hours on end, try out skills such as the Fart Sounds jokes. Simply say:
“Alexa, tell Fart Sound to fart”
Comparable to the age-old whoopee cushion, fart jokes are a sure way to keep kids entertained whenever they seem bored to their wits end.
How can Alexa help kids get ready for school?
Few things are quite as frustrating for parents than getting the kids ready for school and out the door every morning. Fortunately, Alexa can make things a whole lot easier. Of course, setting alarms is one of the more obvious options. But Alexa can take it a notch higher, letting you wake your child up to their favorite song on an Echo Dot in their room. Alternatively, if they would rather wake up to light and not sound, you can set a routine to turn on their bedside lamp when it’s time. In addition to getting them out of bed, you can set alarms to ensure they do not miss the bus.
Here are other ingenious ways Alexa can help get the kids ready for school:
- Out the Door
This has got to be one of the most innovative Alexa solutions for getting your kids ready for school. Instead of using individual skills to get things done, one at a time, this all-in-one model turns the process into a single comprehensive package.
Out the Door is designed to turn morning activities into an adventure. Every morning, your kids will get a fun mission to complete, with new superpowers and different creatures to fight. The adventure incorporates things such as dressing up, brushing teeth and other morning activities. Basically, it offers motivation for the kids to get ready without too much of a hassle.
Kids can sleep through almost anything, including multiple alarms. If this is the case in your home, you can turn it up a notch by using Drop In to get things going. No matter where you are in the house, all you have to do is say:
“Alexa, drop in on [kid’s name] bedroom”
This command will allow you to talk to your kid without their having to receive your call. And you can drop in as many times as it takes to peel them off of their bed.
Another great option is to use the Announcements feature to broadcast to all your kids at once. In this case, you preface your announcement with “Alexa, broadcast …”
This will let them know when breakfast is ready or when it’s time to go
Get everyone dressed right for the weather by asking Alexa for the day’s forecast. Since this is a necessary part of every morning routine, you can incorporate it into your Flash Briefing. Or simply ask, “Alexa, is it going to rain today?” This will help you know whether or not to pack umbrellas for the young ones on their way out.
For kids who have a habit of forgetting their lunch box or homework, use reminders to avoid disasters. Once you do this, all you or your kids have to ask in the morning is:
“Alexa, what are my reminders?”
To make things even easier, you can create a calendar or to-do lists with all the events and tasks for everything they need to do on a daily basis. Whichever approach you choose, it would be wise to train the kids to make it a habit to ask Alexa for their to-do lists before they leave.
- Educational Games
Educational games can keep kids busy whenever they get ready before everyone else or simply to get their brains up and running. There are lots of games in math and other subjects that could come in handy in such situations.
- Bathroom and Toothbrush Timers
You could also consider setting timers to ensure that your kids are not spending too much time in the shower and that they are spending enough time on their teeth. To avail yourself of this convenience, create a routine on your Alexa app. For instance, you might set a two-minute timer for toothbrush time and a ten-minute one for showers. The kids can trigger the routines by saying “Alexa, toothbrush time” or “shower time.”
Amazon Echo best kid fails – Funny things kids have done
Kids always have an amazing time with Alexa, listening to bedtime stories and knock-knock jokes. But then, Alexa is not always on top of her game when it comes to dealing with her pint-size users. While this mostly has something to do with the limited verbal skills of kids below five years, it sure makes for a fun experience when you least expect it.
As a parent, you must have experienced countless communication breakdowns, not getting what your kid is trying to say or totally misunderstanding them. Well, Alexa has tons of such moments with kids as well, running into problems with interpretation.
One of the most widely renowned instances of such misunderstandings involved Alexa ordering treats worth $162 after a conversation with a 6-year old. The little girl was reportedly talking to Alexa about cookies and a dollhouse and Alexa mistook that for a purchase order. She went ahead and placed an order for a huge dollhouse and four pounds of cookies.
To make things even funnier, when other people’s Alexas heard the news on TV, a number of them actually made similar orders.
There have been worse situations when Alexa has responded to kids’ commands with crude remarks and other inappropriate statements. We’ll discuss Alexa fails in greater detail in another article.