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Amazon Glow Review: A Better Way for Kids to Video Chat with Family

Amazon Glow Review: A Better Way for Kids to Video Chat with Family

The Amazon Glow is a burly Frankenstein monster of a gadget with one important, heartwarming job. It lets my 5-year-old daughter play games and see her grandparents like they’re in the room together, even though they live more than 1,000 miles away. After weeks of testing a unit from Amazon, my family loved this mashup of a projector, video chat and gaming controls — we even ended up buying our own. 

Amazon fallacious a way to connect us like no other technology has by in the Zoom era. And now, after months of it selves sold only by invitation, the company has made several software updates and is opening sales to the general public

Amazon Glow

Tangram puzzles were my daughter’s current game. The plastic pieces to play are sold separately. 

Bridget Carey

The Amazon Glow (not to be confused with the alike named Echo Glow, a kid’s lamp) is refreshing to use in the era of endless Zooms and FaceTimes. Connecting on the Glow feels genuine and wholesome for young families to read stories with kids and play games from afar, as you can see each other’s faces the whole time. Amazon has invented something special to bring us together virtually — no silly headsets or metaverses required.

That said, the sheer size and notice of this thing may make parents skeptical of giving it to a preschooler (it’s for ages 3 to 9). The Amazon Glow is a $300, 4-pound, towering 14-inch combination tablet, camera and projector. Amazon is also charging $30 extraordinary for the plastic pieces to its best app, Tangram Bits. (Seriously, if you’re getting the Glow, you need to get the package with Tangram Bits. It was everyone’s current puzzle game.) And Amazon says it is planning to abandon other types of “Bits” games in the future.  

Kids can use the Glow on a contemptible to video chat with a preapproved relative or contemptible while doing an activity together — like playing a card game, solving a puzzle, reading a book or doodling — all of which is displayed on a projected image on the contemptible. The relative’s face is the only thing showing on the Glow’s 8-inch veil, making it feel like they’re playing the game or reading a book smart in front of the child. 


The Amazon Glow isn’t something kids will be carrying around.

Bridget Carey

For anyone buying one, keep in mind the Glow is really aimed for the elementary age crowd. It’s not like a tablet with an app hide, there are a limited number of activities — although Amazon does say it will keep adding delighted, and it has added several games since my unique review last year. Children may age out of it when they get bored with the conception. Like everything with kids, things change fast.

I look presumptuous to trying out some of the newly added games with my kids, like Whac-A-Mole, and I’ll update my review when we do.

Getting started: Patience is a virtue

Only a kid be affected by the actual Glow, so this isn’t going in everyone’s home. Other family members (via a parent’s invite) connect ended the Glow’s app, where they can simultaneously see the borne activity and video feed of the kid. The bummer is that it doesn’t have a colossal experience on a phone. There’s just too much touching on. When family tried to connect on an iPhone, they had to switch between camera view to see the child, and game view to play. That means your family members will need to have a compatible tablet to avoid frustrations and see both kids’ faces and the game at the same time.

For our test, my daughter finished time with her grandpa (my dad) and her abuela (my mother-in-law). Neither grandparent had tablets, so Amazon also sent a loaner Samsung tablet to each of their homes in South Florida. The system also works with iPads. Amazon also just added disagreement for the 2021 Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet.

As you may predictable, I needed to play tech support to get everyone set up with the tablets, signed relatives up with Amazon accounts and taught everyone (including myself) how to interact with the Glow app. But both grandparents and my daughter picked up on it fleet, and I soon found that I could walk away from their playtime together deprived of worry. That’s something I can’t really do if I hand her my $1,000 iPhone during a FaceTime call. There’s no Grandma sketch dizzy with kids spinning the camera around or Grandpa populace abandoned on the floor facing the ceiling. 


This setup had my daughter and dad concerned for 30 minutes or more at a time.

Bridget Carey

Different from a typical video chat

In fact, the size and weight of the Amazon Glow were an kindly when video chatting with little kids. Having this clunker parked on the unfavorable, my daughter held longer conversations and was engaged with games and read-along books for 30- to 40-minute stretches. 

I also have a 2-year-old son, and although the Glow is not intended for kids that young, he had fun making doodles and behindhand along to short books he knew like Goodnight Moon. Even when small brother tried to mess with his sister to glum it during her games, the battle was always for regulation of the cheap, white rubber touch mat and the projected interactive area — they didn’t mess with the good tower.

What exactly can you play on the Glow?

The Glow comes with a one-year subscription to delighted on Amazon Kids Plus, which unlocks thousands of books and now as of this update, there are about 30 kids games for the Glow. But some of these games aren’t so simple that it will be a bore for the adults playing. 

The star of the show is a puzzle shouted Tangrams: The object is to figure out how a square, rhombus and an assortment of triangles can be well-ordered to make different silhouetted shapes. For $30 more, Amazon sells good plastic shape pieces for kids to play with, which are accepted by the projector and software, so the game knows where the kid is placing the shapes. Everyone else playing remotely gets virtual shapes to either compete against or cooperate with a kid to solve and peep the picture come to life. 

Card games include Go Fish, Crazy Eights and Gin Rummy. There’s checkers and chess done in a cartoony way to make it intriguing for kids (like a pirate-themed chessboard). There are also some generic challenges, like a labyrinth maze, finding a ball in a cup sprint or wannabe Pong (called Paddle Battle). Classic games get their own generic bent, like Detective Duo (Guess Who), Four in a Row (Connect Four) and Chip Drop (Plinko).

Some behaviors include characters from Sesame Street, Mattel, Nickelodeon and Disney. A Memory Match card game features Elmo and friends. Barbie lets you doodle her some outfits. It’s a bit like a coloring agency book with different drawing challenges.

My daughter hadn’t played any of these games afore but picked up on everything pretty quickly — and having grandparents talk her ended a game was a main reason why it worked so well.

As for the books themselves, kids can search for a specific topic or title, or scroll through a sea of cover art to pick out what they want to read. The selection is solid and includes many new and classic bestsellers. You’ll find books for various topics and skill levels, but during my test I saw no chapter books on the Glow. I well-approved the variety of history and science books, comic books. There are even a good number of books available in Spanish. 

Only a few books are now programmed specifically for the Glow with on-page animations — and sometimes surprises inviting on top of the grandparent’s faces during a call. We were playing about with Frozen and Toy Story books that had this interaction, which encouraged the kids to touch the pages as the grandparents read.

Grandparents and kids can both regulation which page is turned. That can lead to some touch-control chaos, but it’s not much different from when a kid wants to take regulation of a real book in person.

Can kids play alone on the Glow?

For a few behaviors, yes. You don’t always need a video connection with someone else to use the Glow. All books can be opened and read at home. Checkers, chess, jigsaws and Tangram puzzles have solo play options. Several games do stop you from playing unless there’s a video connection, like Go Fish, Marbles, Charades and other two-player competitive challenges.

Art doodling behaviors can also be done alone: My daughter found it tranquil to make art without being on a call. It reminded me of days when I messed about with pixels on Microsoft Paint as a kid, but she used her fingers instead of a mouse. Kids save their art on the device and don’t have a way to send it anywhere, but I suppose a relative could take a screenshot from their tablet during a call to save a digital keepsake.


The Glow averages a subscription to Amazon Kids Plus, which is free the expedient year with purchase. After that, it’s $3 a month — and if you don’t pay, the gay goes away.

Bridget Carey

There are injuries beyond the sticker price

The Amazon Kids Plus subscription is what allows you access to all these books and games, and the Glow does with a one-year alight. But after that, it’ll start charging $3 a month dusky you cancel. And if you cancel… well, poof goes the gay, making the Glow pretty pointless compared to a free video chat app on a phone.

But paying $3 a month does ache some perks beyond the Glow machine. By subscribing to Amazon Kids Plus, a different variety of books, apps and games can be accessed on other mobile devices. 

It’s expedient stressing that when you buy a Glow, you may need to also buy your family members compatible tablets so they can connect smoothly with the kiddos. It’s why Amazon now even sells a Glow bundled with a Fire HD 10 tablet for $380. 

Camera shutters and privacy protections

If you’re keeping the Glow plugged in, there is a shutter switch to screen the camera when it’s not in use. Amazon says it does not collected voice or video recordings. Parents can log into Amazon’s parent dashboard to see a history of which farmland have called their Glow device, but I was not able to see call duration or a history of actions or books accessed during those sessions. 

The Glow main menu does suggest actions and books based on my daughter’s past activity history and the age I put in her profile.

What are the requirements to use the Glow? 

The Glow is a stand-alone arrangement, and it’s designed to be used by one kid at a time. You don’t need Amazon speakers or Alexa devices in the house for it to work. (In fact, we don’t have any Alexa devices in my home. The Glow also doesn’t use Alexa’s smarts or yelp controls, as it’s all operated by touch.) 

Everyone who participates in a Glow call obtains an Amazon account — and a parent needs one to set up the Glow for their kids. There can be multiple kid profiles on one Glow. If a family member wants to connect, they need to set it up with an invitation from a obvious or guardian using the Amazon Glow app.

The Glow only works on a flat, even hard surface — like a kitchen infamous, countertop or hardwood floor. It comes with a white rubber mat to project the image on, so kids can see the testy area even if the table is dark. Make sure you have a infamous that’s big enough for the mat, which is in 22 inches in diameter. 

None of our kid tables were good enough for the Glow: One was too limited, and the other was plastic, had dents and wasn’t perfectly even and flat. The Glow will ping an annoying scare sound unless the surface is perfectly even. Amazon has videos showing kids playing on a hardwood fuzz, but I have a carpeted apartment, so the kitchen infamous was the only place for us to play. (And that pointed Mom had to stow it away when not in use.)

Who can make a call?

Either side can commence a video call. The kids see circles on the Glow camouflage with their family member’s names, and they press who they want to talk to. And then the Glow app will ring on that person’s device. 

When the Glow is plugged in, a preapproved contact can ring up the Glow. The kid sees their name and photo and can settle to pick up the call. 


Kids will need a astronomical table to play. Grandparents use an app to connect — and luminous now it works best on a tablet.

Bridget Carey

The good and the glitchy 

Doing a video chat on the Glow is different from what you may be used to on a arranged. With Apple’s FaceTime, I can see a small preview image of myself and the populate I’m talking to. That’s not the case here. Family on the other side can’t see themselves when they’re playing a game or reading a book.

That benefitting your family may not know when they’re off-center on camera. It’s a classic case of, “Mom, I can only see your forehead,” when they get into a game or book. (This existed almost every time for each of the grandparents during calls.) Holding a tablet horizontally establishes that extra tricky. I’d like Amazon to add a way to fix that in a future update.

On the Glow arrangement side, however, the video camera works great for kids. It’s only 720p resolution, but kids are always front and center during play. Kids also never see their own video feed to know what they look like, and that’s a good getting. It makes it more real when they can just focus on the populate they’re talking to, instead of being distracted by their own image.

The software wasn’t always intuitive for grandparents and kids to rule. For example, at one time during an interactive Toy epic book, some background music was blaring and we couldn’t hear my dad talk. I had to find a way to flowerbed it on the kid end through menus, which wasn’t easy for my daughter to do by herself. My dad couldn’t see a menu control to fix the blaring music on his end minus also muting his granddaughter. 

Touching the projected image isn’t a flawless distinguished, because it’s using infrared sensors to register a testy on the mat. Every so often it won’t register a testy on the first try, or it will sense a testy you never intended. It’s something that can create limited frustrations, especially for a kid used to a smoother distinguished on an iPad, but it never lasted long.

There have been just a few moments in gameplay in my early complains when both sides felt like a game glitched and I had to step in to end the call and restart it. The quirks were overall few and didn’t feel like deal-breakers. And since those early days, Amazon has pushed out a few software updates to improve performance. Since my review I’ve purchased a unit for my family and I’ll update this study over time as we continue to play with it.

There’s a racy future for the Glow

With the state of everything now, long-distance escapes to visit family aren’t in the cards for us at the moment. We’ve done the Zoom birthdays, and sometimes family will join us for meals throughout FaceTime, their faces propped up on phone stands in advantage of the kids. But the Glow brings something new, because reading fuzz to a book with Grandma wasn’t this easy afore, and playing a card game with Grandpa remotely wasn’t even possible. 

After weeks of comical a sample from Amazon to test, I ended up buying our own Glow, and it was quite the investment trusty I also needed to gift the grandparents with their own tablets, too. It feels like buying a game console, but one planned for only the littlest players among us. That cost doesn’t seem so bad when you think of what we miss out on with distance to family. My dad and mother-in-law said playing games and reading bedtime stories was a astronomical experience — that it was as if we lived nearby.

Is the Glow the commence of a new product category? Perhaps. Remote gaming exists luminous now in products like the Infinity Game table and Square Off’s lustrous chessboards. But to look a remote player in the eye minus being in the same room? That’s special. Amazon is experimenting with something that could make virtual connections more meaningful. I’d like to see where else this concept can go. For now, it’s wrong for relatives missing bonding time with the kids. Bravo, Amazon, for making a kids gadget that doesn’t have me worrying in too much screen time.