Abstract Although different educational agents have been proposed to facilitate student learning, most of them operate from a “smart” (i.e., intelligent and autonomous) perspective. Recently, a so-called “non-smart” perspective is also attracting increasing interest, and is now regarded as a topic worthwhile of researching. To this end, this study utilizes a reciprocal caring approach for the development of a pet-styled educational agent, named My-Pet, designed to help elementary school students learn Chinese idioms. The effects of the reciprocal caring approach are evaluated in two experiments. The results indicate that the My-Pet system could enhance students' relationship with educational agents, but do not contribute to students' learning achievement and efficiency. Based on these results, some implications on the value aspect of motivation and reflections on the further design of educational agents are discussed.