Kids love to play with Alexa, and it seems that Amazon has realised that. It's released a bunch of high-quality Alexa skills for kids, the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition and a new FreeTime parental control service that can even make children say “please” when talking to Alexa.
Voice assistants are a powerful technology, so it’s little wonder how excited kids get when speaking to it. So 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.
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 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”
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”
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”
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”
How to use 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, a freebie and a paid-for version, which costs $2.99.
While FreeTime is available in UK, US and Germany, Alexa parental control via the Parent Dashboard is still US-only and in the process of rolling out.
The basic freebie offers parental control features, enabling parents/guardians to block off features such as adding items to shopping lists. The paid-for tier – of which you get a free year when purchasing an Echo Dot for kids – blocks content with adult elements (sweary music and the like) from Amazon Music.
It also opens up selections of kids audiobooks from Audible, ad-free stations from iHeartRadio and character-based skills and alarms.
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 https://parents.amazon.com.
In the Alexa app:
1. From the menu, select Alexa Devices
2. Choose an Alexa device
3. Select FreeTime (if you can't see it, it's not rolled out to you yet), and then Parent Dashboard.
If you don't want your kids ODing 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 free time features. It's not a full lock of the device, but will turn off all the fun stuff.
How to 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.
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
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, 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”