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Echo dot (4th generation) kids review: The Amazon smart speaker your little ones will love

A smart assistant for kids – genius or gimmick? We put it to the test

Zoe Phillimore
Wednesday 18 August 2021 17:29
<p>The super cute designs include an adorable little tiger or panda head </p>

The super cute designs include an adorable little tiger or panda head

Research by Amazon shows that kids ask their parents 200 questions a day. That’s a lot of “Err, good question! Let’s look it up!” responses to have to field. But now the company is here with a solution: a smart speaker designed for kids.

The Echo dot kids (£59.99, Amazon.co.uk) is designed to introduce kids to Alexa with appropriate content for their age. It comes with skills and parental controls, and there’s a year’s subscription to Amazon Kids content included. The designs are super cute – adorable little tiger or panda heads that illuminate around the bottom and have some tactile buttons on the top.

While parents might be dubious about adding more tech into their child’s life, Amazon has clearly worked hard to navigate those concerns. The Echo dot kids offers up child-friendly answers, as well as telling age-appropriate stories and fun games for kids. You can set strict parental controls as you can on Amazon’s Fire kids range, which offers peace of mind.

And the Echo dot kids claims to teach kids manners too, thanks to the Magic Word feature – Alexa offers praise when kids say please. Sign up us. Please.

So does the device actually add to our lives? Do the kids enjoy it, or is it another thing to have disagreements over?

Read more:

How we tested

We put the Echo dot kids to the test with our four-year-old tester, delving into the content on offer, looking at how strong the parental controls are and how well it fits into our busy life.

Amazon Echo dot kids

Buy now £59.99, Amazon.co.uk

Setup

We found getting to grips with the Echo dot kids really easy – you simply plug it in, download the app and pair with the device.

You’re then guided through setting up Amazon Kids, given a parental dashboard and lead through setting up a profile for your child. All this took us a matter of ten minutes, and then we were ready to go.

We found the Echo dot kids understood our four-year-old tester well, even when he spoke to it with a mouth full of food – grim. We did wonder if the manners feature extended to sorting this out… but Alexa answered him clearly, and if it wasn’t able to grant his wish then it suggested other things it could do for him.

Content

There is a vast amount of content on the Echo dot kids thanks to the Amazon Kids subscription that comes with it for a year (after that it’s £1.99 per month).

Amazon Kids also gives access to Audible, with thousands of hours of audiobooks at your kid’s disposal. You can say “Alexa, tell me a Disney Story” and it’ll offer you short or long stories, or you can pick characters from Disney to hear a story aboutt. Our preschooler loved asking for Woody stories (big Toy Story fans right here).

You can play interactive games with your dot kids, such as Gruffalo Move – which takes your child through the Gruffalo’s wood, where they’ll meet familiar characters and make “what happens next” decisions. There are also physical activities along the way. For older kids, there is a Star Wars choose your own destiny game. In fact, there is pretty much a game for whatever your kid is into, from Bing and Barbie to Ghostbusters or Duplo.

These games and skills are pretty decent – although some of the voices are slightly robotic sounding. However, that seemed to add to our kid’s excitement somehow. The games are well thought out, and adapts well to whatever our kid threw at it. We only wish the same applied to the parents.

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Another cute feature is your child can set an alarm, which sounds in a character’s voice. Our mini tester went for Alphablocks – the characters do a special wake up call on cue. This would have been a great hit had our tester actually needed an alarm clock (where are these kids who need alarm clocks; don’t they all wake up at 6.30am?)

Amazon has made a big deal over the fact the Echo dot kids can help with homework, and it certainly is great for answering questions, such as facts like what countries’ capital cities are, or how high Mount Everest is. It will also answer how to spell words and maths sentences (parents probably call these “sums”). This is great if your kid just needs an answer innocently, but less helpful if they’re meant to be working out maths themselves. We did ask Alexa about phonics, but it seems she draws the same blank there that we do.

Your child can also make calls using the Echo dot kids, selecting from a list of approved people to call. And a drop-in function lets you use the dot as an intercom – no more yelling up the stairs that they need to get their shoes on as they’re already late for school. Your neighbours will thank you.

Parental controls

The big difference between the dot kids to a regular dot or other Amazon smart speaker is the parental controls.

Amazon has a parental dashboard, which is attached to your Amazon profile. From here you can set up different profiles for each of your children, inputting their name and age so that the device knows what’s appropriate for your child.

You can also set time limits on your Echo dot kids, so it won’t “play” after a certain time. We tested this out, and Alexa simply says she can’t play right now. You can vary this time limit between weekdays and weekends.

The parental dashboard also lets you set educational goals, such as how much Audible your child should be aiming to listen to. Sneakily you can block all entertainment content until the educational goals have been met – we loved this feature.

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There’s functionality to also filter the music they listen to, so no explicit content is played.

Another great feature is you can see what’s been said to Alexa, and delete anything from the archive to provide extra privacy and keep tabs on just how much of the maths homework they did themselves.

And if you are worried about the listening-in function at times, you can also manually turn off the mic on the Echo dot kids. A large button on the top lets you switch it off, and the base glows red when it’s off so you don’t get caught out.

The verdict

We loved the screen-free entertainment that the Echo dot kids provided for our kids. The parental controls are strong enough to give us total peace of mind while letting our kids feel grown-up that they have their own Alexa device. It’s incredibly cute, and there’s enough content on Amazon Kids to keep even the most inquisitive child happy almost endlessly.

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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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