Far more than just a redesign, the Echo Dot Kids is a great smart speaker for children
- Adorable designs
- Parental controls tools
- Lots of extra audio content
- Alexa app is bloated and complex
Amazon announced its Echo Dot Kids smart speaker way back in September 2020, but it’s finally available in the UK – in time for Christmas 2021, nearly a year later.
Essentially, it’s the same speaker as the Echo Dot (4th generation) but with a cutesy redesign. The Echo Dot Kids is far more than a superficial redesign, however, and now has a good selection of extra Alexa-based kid-focused features and localised content to go along with it.
Amazon Echo Dot Kids review: What do you get for the money?
So what do you get for your £10 extra, other than the adorable redesign? The most significant extra is that the speaker comes with a year’s subscription to the Amazon Kids+ on Alexa service, which normally costs £3.99 per month (or £1.99 for Prime members). That’s a saving of £48 for non-Prime members and £24 for those already with a Prime membership.
This includes, in addition to everything that’s already included with a regular Amazon Kids+ subscription, a selection of Audible books and ten ad-free radio stations for children from Fun Kids to listen to.
The speaker also comes with a two-year, no-questions-asked guarantee, so if it’s dropped, sat on or thrown out of a window in a fit of pique, it will be replaced.
It’s all rounded off by a selection of “premium” Alexa skills, including Alphablocks and Numberblocks to help younger kids learn their numbers and alphabet, the Harry Potter’s Wizarding World Book Quiz, Disney Stories, Times Table Guru, Star Wars: Choose Your Destiny and Gruffalo Move, which is a kind of aerobics with the characters of the Gruffalo stories (you can see a full list here).
The speaker also provides suggestions when children say “Alexa, I’m bored”, offering to either read them a story, take part in a simple three-question quiz or – and this is very cool – have a chat with a couple of characters from the Clangers.
Alas, Reading Sidekick, a tool announced alongside the speaker that’s designed to help kids improve their reading ability, isn’t here. For now, it’s a US-only feature and there’s no news as to when or whether it will arrive in the UK.
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Amazon Echo Dot Kids review: What does it do well?
Amazon has done a great job with the design of the Echo Dot Kids, and although there are only two models to choose from, both make brilliant use of the spherical shape of the Dot. They’re cute, cuddly and suitably neutral, too, so would suit any child’s bedroom.
For such a small speaker, the sound quality is rather good, with plenty of volume and a full, rounded, balanced sound that does a very good job of delivering most audio content, from radio and audiobooks to music. It’s also nice that the Echo Dot Kids retains its 3.5mm audio jack on the rear, making it easy to connect to a sound system for even better audio quality.
The parental controls are a great thing to have, too, although this isn’t a feature exclusive to the Echo Dot Kids or the Amazon Kids+ subscription – you can use them with other Echo speakers as well.
These are located on the Parent Dashboard, which you could previously use to view activity and set time limits for your child’s tablet use. Here you can see what Alexa Skills your child has been using and the questions they’ve been asking Alexa, alongside other activities and how long they’ve spent on them.
Where the Echo Dot Kids comes into its own is the extra audio content that comes as part of the year-long Amazon Kids+ subscription supplied with the speaker. I particularly like that there are so many audiobooks included; at the time of writing, there were 120 on the list and these included C S Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, Toto and Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo, plus a broad selection of children’s classics, from Five Children and It to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Amazon Echo Dot Kids review: What could it do better?
As ever, the Amazon Alexa app that’s used to set up and maintain the Echo Dot Kids and all the various parental controls options is a dreadful thing to use. It’s so bloated and packed with features that it’s almost impossible to remember where all the various options are, and if you want to change anything, you’ll probably end up having to use Google to find out how to do what you want.
The Parent Dashboard, for example, is buried deep in the device’s settings menu, and once you get there (after no fewer than eight clicks) you’re fired off to the Amazon website to make changes. It’s bafflingly labyrinthine and is in bad need of an overhaul.
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Amazon Echo Dot Kids review: Should you buy it?
Other than that, though, I think the Echo Dot Kids is just great. It’s a brilliant little smart speaker that works beautifully and sounds unbelievably good for something so small. Kids will love the redesign – it’s cute but not too saccharine – and with a year’s worth of Amazon Kids+ thrown in, there’s plenty of content for your children to get lost in before bothering you to buy more.
For only a tenner more than the regular Echo Dot, the Echo Dot Kids is brilliant value for money. Just beware: once you’re locked into the Kids+ subscription, it may be difficult to persuade your children they don’t need it any more.