​Alexa for kids: Skills, commands and parental controls explained

Make your Echo speaker safer, smarter and more fun

How to set up ​Alexa for your kids

Kids love to play with Alexa, and Amazon knows it - the successful Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition is now in its second generation.

It's not just a regular Dot with a lick of paint to appeal to kids, either - there's a full gamut of Alexa skills just for children, the FreeTime parental control service and the smart speaker can even make children say “please” when talking to Alexa.

Voice assistants are a powerful technology, so it’s little wonder kids get excited when speaking to them. Make sure you read our guide below on making Alexa and Amazon Echo speakers safer, smarter and more enjoyable for all members of the family.

Alexa for kids: Skills, commands and parental controls explained

Best Amazon Echo speaker for kids

Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition

$69.99, Amazon

After originally bringing out the Kids Edition in 2018, we now have a new version of the speaker which has caught up with the third-gen, regular Echo Dot. So, that means it gets the new fabric exterior but, perhaps unfortunately, the interchangeable bumpers from the first go-around have been dumped. Instead, there's two color fabric designs: blue and rainbow. Amazon says the new design makes it 70% louder, too, which the kids will love.

In the new edition, Amazon has also added Alexa Skills Blueprints, which means children will be able to build their own Alexa Skills.

Alexa for kids guide: Skills, commands and parental controls explained

Best Alexa skills for kids

Sesame Street

Kids can chat to Elmo (can we have a go?) who loves to talk about his letter of the day and can even play hide and seek. Audio clues might reveal where he is – and kids can shout out where they think he might be.

Just say: Alexa, ask Sesame Street to call Elmo”.

SpongeBob Challenge

SpongeBob and the crew at the Krusty Krab are having a busy day flipping burgers, and have a lot of orders to remember. Kids can listen and repeat back the orders – and try and remember as many as they can.

Just say: “Alexa, start the SpongeBob Challenge”.

Amazon Storytime

Short stories aimed at kids ages 5-12, and it’s all in conjunction with Audible so the quality is really strong.

Just say: “Alexa, ask Amazon Storytime to read me a story”.

Chompers

Struggling to get the kids to brush their teeth? Chompers makes teeth time fun with jokes, riddles, songs and more, keeping children brushing for the full two minutes. It also keeps track of your brushing streaks, giving kids a reason to stick to the routine.

Just say: "Alexa, start Chompers from Gimlet".

Animal Game

Think of an animal and then play yes/no until Alexa guesses which one you’re thinking of.

Just say: “Alexa, play Animal Game”.

Wake up Clock

This might have a slim chance of working, but we’ll try anything to keep early risers in their beds for an extra hour. You set the time when it’s ok for your child to get out of bed. When they wake up they just need to ask whether it’s time to get up yet.

Just ask: “Alexa, ask My Clock if it is time to wake up”.

Lego Duplo Stories

Interactive stories designed to boost the imagination, Lego Duplo Stories are like a choose-your-own-adventure audio book. Your child is the captain of a pirate ship or a flying bird, choosing where they go and the adventures they set out on.

Just say: “Alexa, open Lego Duplo Stories”.

The Magic Door

An interactive story game, The Magic Door lets kids made choices as they explore a fantasy world, collecting items and meeting talking rabbits along the way.

Just say:"Alexa, open the magic door".

Moshi Twilight

Less interactive, the makers of Moshi Monsters provide bedtime stories with ambient sound effects, design to help little ones drift off.

Just say: “Alexa, ask Moshi Twilight to play a Sleep Story”.

Alexa for kids guide: Skills, commands and parental controls explained

FreeTime and parental controls

If you’re looking to set up parental controls on your Amazon Echo device, you’ll need to do so via the Parent Dashboard from your computer – and to access the Dashboard you’ll need to sign up to FreeTime.

There are two tiers, the freebie Amazon FreeTime and the paid-for FreeTime Unlimited, which costs $2.99 per month for a single child and $6.99 per month for up to four children.

Read this: How I trained my smart home to be a third parent

The basic freebie offers parental control features, enabling parents/guardians to block off features such as adding items to shopping lists. Freetime Unlimited ­– which you can get free for a year when purchasing the new Kids Edition – blocks content with adult elements (swear-y music and the like) from Amazon Music.

Unlimited also opens up 1,000 kids audiobooks from Audible, ad-free stations from iHeartRadio, movies, TV shows, apps and character-based skills from Sony and Disney and alarms.

Unfortunately, FreeTime isn't available in the UK, neither is the Echo Dot Kids Edition, but Brits do get Alexa parental control via the Parent Dashboard.

How to set up controls with the Parent Dashboard

The Parent Dashboard lets you share content with Alexa devices using Amazon FreeTime. You can also monitor what content your kids are using and for how long. You can do it from the app (below) or head to Amazon's Parent hub.

In the Alexa app:

1. From the menu, select Devices.
2. Choose an Alexa device.
3. Select FreeTime and then Parent Dashboard.

Add time restrictions

If you don't want your kids overdosing on Alexa when they're supposed to be doing homework/chores/sleeping, you can set time limits within the Parent Dashboard.

When Amazon FreeTime is turned on, you can set time windows which will pause the device, and prevents use of Amazon FreeTime features. It's not a full lock of the device, but will turn off all the fun stuff.

Switch on Magic Word

Parents have been complaining about the lack of manners required when kids talk to Alexa, which is where the Magic Word feature comes in. Again part of the FreeTime suite of features, this can be toggled from within the Alexa app or the Parental Dashboard browser app.

Disable voice purchasing or add a pin

One of Alexa's greatest conveniences also holds the most potential danger. Voice purchasing can make replenishing paper towels a breeze, but you don't want want to end up finding 50 Lego Death Stars at the door because your kids discovered that your Echo could be turned into an all-year Santa. To enable or disable voice purchasing, or add another layer of security, do the following:

1. Open the Alexa app.
2. Tap Settings.
3. Tap Alexa Account.
4. Hit Voice Purchasing.
5. You can toggle voice purchasing on/off. You can also add a pin code that will need to be read out before Alexa processes any transactions.

How to enable kids skills (UK)

FreeTime for Alexa is rolling out slowly, but that hasn’t stopped some regions adding controls separately. While FreeTime enables you to create schedules for use, the temporary UK controls – which landed with kids apps Lego Stories and Moshi Twilight – just enable you to turn off kids skills altogether.

1. Head to the Alexa app.
2. Tap Settings.
3. Tap Kids skills.
4. Toggle on/off.

Alexa for kids guide: Skills, commands and parental controls explained

Best Alexa commands for kids

Anyone who’s seen a child interact with Alexa for the first time will appreciate how exciting it can be for them. But guiding them towards rewarding commands can be a little confusing. If your kids are getting started with Alexa, here are some cool things they can ask.

“Alexa, flip a coin”

“Alexa, start bedtime audio book for 30 mins”

“Alexa, fart”

“Alexa, who's your daddy?”

“Alexa, tell me a story with a fairy tale ending”

“Alexa, ask Bored kids for a project”

“Alexa, sing me a song”


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