August 31, 2017Jeff Blankenburg
We’re excited to announce that, starting today, Alexa supports kid skills in the US. You can now publish fun and educational skills for kids under the age of 13. Kid skills available today include The SpongeBob Challenge from Nickelodeon, Sesame Street from Sesame Workshop, and Amazon Storytime, as well as several more games including The Tickle Monster Game!, Animal Sounds, Animal sounds quiz, Old Macdonald, Silly Things, and Zoo Walk. Hundreds of developers have already expressed interest in creating kid skills, and we expect the number of kid skills to grow quickly.
When a customer asks Alexa to enable a kid skill for the first time, Alexa will ask the customer to give permission in the Alexa app. The Alexa app will guide the customer through the process. To give permission, parents will need to verify their identity using a one-time SMS code sent to the mobile phone number in their Amazon account, or by entering the security code of the credit card in their Amazon account. Alexa will save the parental consent and access to kid skills will not require this verification again. Parents can view and revoke permissions for profiles associated with the household on Amazon.com. To learn more about building kid skills for Alexa, check out our FAQs.
Before building any skill, the first step is to think through how people will interact with it. The same goes for kid skills. Ask yourself some key questions, and think like a kid. What will a kid expect my skill to do? What about the skill is important to a kid? How would a kid respond? Will they need some help with what they can say? Your skill should be built for your audience, and should interact with them in the way they expect. Keep the options and interactions clear and simple.
Here are three tips to help you get started on building for a young audience.
1. Expect kids to be curious and explore. Kids are fearless with technology. Hand a mobile phone or a tablet to a child and before you know it, that kid has found a game and is playing it better than you. As adults, we may have preconceived notions of how voice commands should work, and may interact with Alexa like we would a computer. But kids don’t. They may even talk to Alexa like a friend. Try to design your skill to account for the many ways that kids may converse with it. Consider how kids might want to try new things and what they might say. Encourage exploration and discovery of new experiences. Help them uncover fun surprises.
2. Create memorable moments. Even if your skill follows a proven educational curriculum methodology, it has to be fun and engaging. Otherwise it’s just chocolate-covered broccoli. Think about how you want to surprise and delight them. Do you want to spark imagination? Do you want to make kids laugh? Will you use expressive speechcons or sound effects like silly horns and boings? How will Alexa cheer them on? Build in moments that kids tell their friends about on the playground.
3. Consider the age range you want to reach. Think about what engaging means for the age group you want to serve. Will you optimize for the attention span of a 5-year-old and keep them coming back for more? Will you design challenges to keep older kids engaged for extended periods of time? Do you want kids to advance to your next skill? For the little ones, don’t expect them to remember too many steps or comprehend complex instruction. The older kids, on the other hand, may love a good challenge.
For more insights into building skills for kids, check out our case studies on The SpongeBob Challenge and Sesame Street. We can’t wait to see what you create for kids!