Soon, toddlers can ask Alexa for help cooking in their very own toy kitchen. The Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market, from toymaker KidKraft, weaves in the Amazon voice assistant into an interactive pretend kitchen and grocery store.
Making its debut at this weekend’s New York Toy Fair, the $300 deluxe wooden play set is expected to go on sale at Amazon.com later this year, and includes 100 play pieces that prompt various reactions from Alexa. Not included: Alexa itself, which would come from their parents’ , designed to sit at the center of the play set.
KidKraft created a program that works in the Amazon Alexa world that helps kids learn about cooking meals and shopping as they play, without having to say “Alexa” to get the assistant to react. Once the parent or child asks Alexa to start the KidKraft program, the smart speaker reacts to everyday words and phrases kids may say during play. So, if Alexa picks up on a kid saying “spaghetti,” “market” or “let’s play,” Alexa will chime in with prompts for a recipe, a shopping list of ingredients, or start up a game.
But Alexa is not just responding to kids’ voices — it can also tell which items kids are playing with and react accordingly. The accessories in the play set, which include fake food and cookware, are fitted with RFID chips, and sensors can tell which items are at the register or on the stovetop. The play set then relays that info to the smart speaker via Bluetooth. That means when a child places the pot on the stove, Alexa may say, “Now that the water is boiling, can you open up the fridge and grab some vegetables?”
The play set is also programmed with several games Alexa can play. For example, the “Secret Ingredient Game” challenges kids to guess which food Alexa is thinking of based on clues. Then kids have to scan the right item at the check-out counter.
To address any concerns over kids interacting with voice assistants, Amazon requires Alexa programs for kids — including this one made by KidKraft — to follow stricter content guidelines. Programs for kids can’t include any advertising, sell anything, collect any personal information or include content that is not suitable for all ages.
Why It’s Hot
As toy companies determine the balance of technology and analog, tactile ways to play, this kitchen set seems like a great first step into how to upgrade a classic toy without the use of screens or interfering with imaginative free play.