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Monday, November 26 2018 16:55

Holiday Wish Guide: Smart Home, Smart Kids - Amazon Echo Dot Kids & Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

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  • While all content is editorially chosen, articles may contain affiliate links which may generate revenue for the site when a purchase is made.

This post was sponsored by Amazon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

When I last wrote about starting our "smart home" with Amazon Devices, I was pretty excited to have the Echo Plus as our central hub and was just starting to experiment with things like smart lighting. This, of course, is just a tiny, tiny silver of what can be done with the power of Alexa. In just a short time, our home has become more efficient and entertaining. I've fallen in love with Alexa to the point where I've begun to expand our smart home - having since purchased an Echo Dot, smart plugs and additional lighting. As I mentioned when we got the Echo Plus, our girls were also becoming enamored with it as well - using it in unexpected ways, like helping out with spelling, checking the weather and even calling upon Alexa to serve-up some jokes. Now they've got their own devices as we've just added an Echo Dot Kids Edition and a Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet to the mix. There's a lot to love with these, and parents (especially those concerned with screen time) should take note of just how good the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is.

Amazon Devices for Kids

Let's start with the Echo Dot Kids Edition - a smart speaker built for kids. Like our Echo Plus and Echo Dot, the Kids Edition pairs with the whole house (we have them in a group called "Everywhere") so that I can say things like, "Alexa, play music everywhere" and find music playing in every room where there's a dot... but it also allows for two-way room communication and "drop-in" so we can check on the kids. It can help with learning, play games, tell stories and play songs (and you can filter explicit ones from Amazon Music or Spotify).

Echo Dot Kids Edition

Kids will be able to control lights and smart switches just like we do on our Echo Plus, but the experience can be customized through robust parental controls - available online or through the Alexa app. With 1-year of FreeTime Unlimited included, the kids have access to thousands of hours worth of premium, ad-free content like books, premium skills, and more - all from trusted partners. It also comes wrapped in a kid-safe case, along with a 2-year "worry-free guarantee" - if kids break it, Amazon will replace it! 

The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet is impressive, and I say that as someone who's spent a lot of time with a lot of devices. I'm also constantly mindful of how much screen time our girls are getting, and what content they're consuming. My biggest problem with tablets aimed at kids is that they've really been more of a toy than a tablet and they're clunky and get outdated very quickly. The workaround has usually been to take one of our older or lesser-used devices and make that "the kid's tablet," and that's okay, but not great. The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition solved everything.

Fire HD 8 Kids Edition

It's a real, full-function tablet with an 8" screen and 32GB of storage (expandable to 400GB with micro SD card) with a 1.3ghz Quad-Core processor that can be set-up with profiles for each child (and grownup profiles, too!), and FreeTime Unlimited (1-year included) curates a selection of age-appropriate content from major partners like Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, National Geographic, Mattel, LEGO, PBS Kids . For our kids, what we see displayed for our 9-year-old differs from what our 6-year-old sees. Everything is curated, and while there are web videos (some sourced from YouTube), there is no YouTube app in freetime, so kids can't go down the rabbit hole of weirdness. Likewise, since the FreeTime Web Browser features curated websites, kids can't access any search engines - so no free-range surfing, either!

Parental controls are accessible on the tablet or online (for remote access) so families can set educational goals, filter content, set timing limits, etc. Incredibly, all of these premium features are packed into a remarkably affordable package (MSRP is $129), and like to Echo Dot Kids, the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is in a kid-friendly case and comes with that same 2-year worry-free guarantee. 

After years of fighting and pushing-back against the rise of "devices" for our kids, I've finally found two that I can completely get behind. Quite simply, they're useful and solve problems while consistently surprising us with new skills and features that are 100% Rock Father-approved!

*About FreeTime Unlimted:

  • After the first year, Amazon FreeTime Unlimited starts at just $2.99 per month for Prime members and $4.99 per month for customers who are not yet Prime members. You may cancel at any time by contacting Customer Service.
  • FreeTime Unlimited on Alexa is available on compatible Echo devices, including Echo Dot Kids Edition, Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus. The same FreeTime Unlimited subscription can also be used on Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers, compatible Android phones and tablets, and compatible iOS phones and tablets. FreeTime Unlimited experience will vary based on device.
James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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