If you’ve got an Alexa (and kids) in your house, you’ve probably heard your fair share of “Baby Shark” and endless loops of Disney songs. But Amazon’s nifty wifi-enabled speaker can do a lot more than play music and make cat sounds. Whether you need help organizing your grocery list or counting down to your kid’s next birthday, read on to discover 24 things you probably never knew Alexa could do.
Manage Home Wi-Fi
Tired of battling technology during dinner time? Alexa will soon pause Wi-Fi access in your home, then unpause access with simple voice commands. Just say "Alexa, pause Wi-Fi on Joey's tablet."
Devices will use the assistant to manage WiFi access quickly for as little as one device or the whole family. In addition, users will be able to schedule specific Wi-Fi access times.
Listen to Celebrity Voices
Get ready to hear some famous voice the next time you ask Alexa a question. Later this year, Amazon is rolling out a variety of celebs who will cater to your needs, like Samuel L. Jackson. Supposedly the voices will be generated from recordings with celebrities, but time will tell.
Use Alexa Communication For Kids
Do your kids use your Amazon Echo device to talk to family and friends? Now parents can use the newest security setting to enable approved contacts with Alexa Communications for Kids for a safer experience. Whitelist specific people your littles can video and audio chat with, and set limits for your teens and tweens.
Cook with the Food Network
Now you can cook with your favorite celeb Foot Network chefs! On your Echo Show, ask Alexa to show cooking classed from the network's stars, save recipes and replay moments from cooking demonstrations. Order up!
Protect Your Home
Alexa Guard has even more skills than ever. When heading out, say "Alexa, I'm headed out" to arm the system. While you're away, your devices will stay alert and will detect smoke alarm sounds, carbon monoxide alarms, or glass breaking and send users Smart Alerts. Also coming soon, Guard can also send alerts to notify homeowners of sounds like coughing, footsteps, talking and even a door closing when no one should be home.
Turn Your Lights On & Off
When you're carrying, say, two kids and a bag of groceries into a dark house, it's a whole lot easier to have someone else turn the lights on. With the new Amazon Smart Plug, anything plugged into the special plug can be controlled with your voice. All you need to do is say, "Alexa, turn on the lights," or, "Alexa, turn on the family room fan." You can also control your Smart Plug devices from the Alexa app—set your lights to go off and on at a specific time, for instance—which can be especially helpful if you're out of town and need to make it look like someone's still home.
Cook Your Dinner
Microwave buttons can be so tedious. Why not hand the job over to Alexa? Just pop your food or drinks into an AmazonBasics Microwave and say, for instance, "Alexa, cook one cup of coffee." Then, let your smart device figure out how long that needs to be. It's just one of a slew of Alexa-enabled appliances and gadgets now on the market. Because the future is now. And cooking with buttons is so 2017.
Whip Up an Awesome Mad Lib
Do your kiddos know their verbs, nouns and adjectives? Let them practice their silly skills by creating a nonsensical story on Alexa. Just enable Mad Libs on Alexa then say, "Alexa, open Mad Libs." Your kids will be silly storytellers in no time.
Psst: If you've got the kids version of the Echo Dot, you can also access "Disney Plot Twist," Disney's version of Mad Libs, read by Disney characters themselves.
Filter Out Profanity
When a three-year-old asks for a song, it's anyone's guess as to whether Alexa will get it right ... or very, very wrong. To nip any explicit lyrics or otherwise unsavory results from blasting through your speaker, be sure to enable Amazon Freetime on your Alexa device. Not only will Freetime help keep it clean, but it will also block your kids from accidentally (or intentionally!) ordering anything from Amazon. It will also give "safe" answers to some perennially curious questions.
To enable Freetime:
- Go to your Alexa app and hit "settings."
- Click on "Device settings" and choose the device you want to filter.
- Under "Freetime" setting, slide the tab to the right to enable.
Note: Some Alexa skills won't work while Freetime is enabled, so if you're having trouble accessing things, go to your Alexa app and disable Freetime until you're ready to hand the reins over to your kids.
Play Hide & Seek
Obviously, Alexa can't do the hiding, but this simple game will do the job if wee ones want to hide under the bed and see if it can "find them." Just say, "Alexa play Hide and Seek" and Alexa will ask three questions to see where you're hiding. Most of the time, it won't get it right—but your kids will love trying to see if it can!
Help You Be More Organized
If you're having trouble keeping track of all the stuff you need to do, just ask Alexa to "Create a new To-Do list" and start getting organized—stat! Once you've created your to-do list, you can just add items to it by saying, "Alexa, add [item] to my To-Do list." You'll never forget your grandma's birthday present again.
Talk Without Waking Your Baby
Sometimes Alexa can be so loud. If you want to make sure the booming voice doesn't wake your snoozing baby, just enable "Whisper Mode" to make sure Alexa keeps it quiet. All you have to do is say, "Alexa, enable Whisper mode." Once enabled, if you whisper to Alexa, it will "whisper" back.
You can also enable Whisper mode via the Alexa app. Here's how to activate it:
(1) Open the Alexa app on your phone.
(2) Tap the menu button (on the top left).
(3) Select "Settings."
(4) Select "Alexa Account"
(5) Tap "Alexa Voice Responses."
(5) Slide the slider to the right to enable the "Whispered Responses" mode.
Organize Your Shopping List
Next time you pour out the last drop of milk or eat the last slice of bread, simply say, "Alexa, add bread and milk to my shopping list" and Alexa will help you out. Then, when you're at the grocery store and your kids are clamoring for your attention (thereby zapping all memory of what you needed to buy), all you have to do is open your Alexa app, find your shopping list and shop away.
And, if you have a Whole Foods nearby, you can add items to your virtual cart via the Prime App! Once you check out, items will be bagged up and delivered to your doorstep like any other Prime Now order.
Tell Your Fortune
Who needs a Magic 8 Ball? Just ask Alexa to "Open Fortune Teller" to find out what your future holds. You can even customize this skill with personalized fortunes to wow your kids into believing.
Count Down the Days Until...
If your kids just can't wait until their birthday ... or Christmas ... or the end of school ... Give them a little something to help them count down the days. Just enter an event and date here, then ask: "Alexa, how many days until my birthday (or Christmas, or the end of school, etc.)."
Choose Your Wine
We know: At the end of some days, it doesn't matter whether the wine is good or a Two-Buck variety. But on the days when you want to get fancy with your vino, Alexa can help. Go to the Alexa app and add the MySomm skill to its' repertoire. Then, just ask Alexa for wine recommendations based on whatever you're eating. To activate, say "Alexa, ask Wine Gal to recommend a wine for _______."
Soothe Your Baby to Sleep
If you've got the kind of kid who needs a little noise to successfully slip into slumber, Alexa's got a few tricks. Whether it's ocean waves or pittering rain, Alexa's Sleep and Relaxation Sounds skill will work wonders for your snoozer. Just say, "Alexa, Open Sleep Sounds "or "Alexa, play ocean sounds."
Wake You (or Your Kids) Up with a Specific Song
If nudging and/or prodding won't wake up your stubborn sleepyheads, program an alarm to wake them up to their favorite song. Just say, "Alexa, wake me up to It's Raining Tacos (or whatever their favorite song is)." You can also use this feature to usher in a particular part of the day: "Alexa set an alarm for the Clean-Up Song at 7 p.m. tomorrow."
Get You In Shape
Got seven minutes? Ask Alexa to "Start the 7-Minute Workout" and let it guide you through a series of intense cardio and strength-training exercises designed to whip your body into shape in just a few minutes a day.
Get Your Kids Into Shape, Too
If your kids are stuck inside and you want to get them moving, Alexa's got a few kid-centric workouts that'll get your littles happily hopping around. Our faves? Alexa's Animal Workout and Freeze Dancers, both of which will totally engage the under-eight set. Your kids won't even know it's exercise—and you can just sit back and watch.
Be Your Board Game Manual
Can't remember how much money you're supposed to start with when you play Monopoly? Don't know who goes first in Scrabble? Ask Alexa! Enable the Board Game Answers skill and let Alexa remind you how to play some of your favorite games.
Order You Dinner
Hungry? Never again go online or use a phone (retro!) to order food delivery. Just start ordering on Amazon Restaurants and from then on you can just say, "Alexa, enable Amazon Restaurants" or "Alexa, order a pizza" and Alexa will scroll through all your past orders and help you get your grub in no time. Read more on Amazon to find out more about how to use this feature.
Work As a Baby Monitor
If you've got an Echo in your room and another Echo device (like an Echo Dot) in your baby's room, all you have to do to listen to your baby's every grunt and snore is "Enable Drop In on my Echo Dot." This will open a connection so you can hear what's going on in the other room. Just make sure to turn the volume all the way down in your baby's device so she can't hear you on the other end. Check out this article to find out more about how to use this feature.
Want to make a quick call? You can use Alexa to call anyone else who has an Echo device. Think of it as a high-tech walkie-talkie. Just go to the Alexa app and enable the "Drop In" feature (make sure the person you want to call has this feature enabled, too). Then, when you want to make the call, just say, "Alexa, drop in on ______" or "Alexa, call ______." This feature is even cooler if you and the person on the other end of the line both have Alexa Show, which lets you also see the person on the other end of your drop-in. Check out this article for more details on how to use this feature.
Remember Things for You
If you're as exhausted as we are, you probably find it hard to remember all the stuff you're supposed to remember every day. Let Alexa do the remembering for you! Just say: "Alexa, remember that I put my keys in the kitchen drawer." Or, "Remember I hid the kids iPads on the top shelf of the cabinet." Or, "Alexa, remember that there's a PTA meeting on Jun. 1." When you need to remember, just ask: "Alexa, where are my keys?" Or, "Where did I hide the kids' iPads?" Or, "Alexa, when is the PTA meeting?" Nobody will call you scatterbrained again!
Use It as an Intercom
Want to get your kids off the TV and downstairs for dinner? You can use Alexa as an intercom to communicate with other Echo devices throughout your home. Just go to the Alexa app on your phone to rename each of your Echo devices, and enable the "Drop In" feature. Tell Alexa to drop in on your other devices, i.e. "Drop in on the Upstairs Echo." And talk away. Your kids will feel like you're right there with them. Check out this article for detailed instructions on how to use Alexa's Drop In.
Hint: Since the Alexa app works anywhere, you can "drop in" on your home devices even when you're away. So next time you're out, and your kids are home, try popping in to say hi. They'll love hearing your voice in the room.
Change the Way Your Kids Play with LEGO
If you've got a little LEGO fanatic, Alexa makes playing with DUPLO blocks even more engaging. Just go to the Alexa app and enable LEGO Duplo Stories. Then say, "Alexa, open LEGO DUPLO stories" and Alexa will launch a story game designed for kids ages 2-5. The game invites kids to use their DUPLO blocks to help tell an interactive story where they choose all the pieces (literally). Toddlers can choose between five vehicle or five animal stories, and define the route of the story, while guided by Alexa.
Play All Kinds of Games
Alexa can play all sorts of games, but we think these are the best ones for kiddos:
* Bingo - You'll need to go online to print out free BINGO cards, but then all you'll need is a pen to mark off your BINGO cards when Alexa calls out each square, one by one.
* Simon - You'll need the external Alexa Buttons gadget to play this, but once it's all set up, kids (and grown-ups) will love playing the classic color-changing memory game in a new, high-tech way.
* Rock, Paper Scissors - It may not keep your youngsters entertained for long, but if you need a 10-minute time-sucker, this works.
* Speak & Spell - If you're old enough to remember the awesome orange spelling game that E.T. used to call home, you'll love handing the Alexa over to the kids to play Speak Spell, a modernized take on the original game.
* Deal or No Deal - Test your luck opening imaginary cases of cash to try and win the big money.
* Guess The Number - A simple number-guessing game, where you have to guess a number between 1-100 and Alexa gives you clues (higher/lower) to help you get to the winning digit.
* 20 Questions - You'll be surprised how often Alexa gets this one right.
* Would You Rather - Kids will love this (clean) version of the classic game of silly choices (i.e. "Which would you rather? Have no hair or hair made of yarn?").
Psst: To get Alexa to launch any of these games, just say, "Alexa, play ______" or "Alexa, launch ______."
Say All Kinds of Things
You can now customize Alexa's responses to your specific questions by writing set Q&As. This Alexa skill is a fun way to wow (and entertain) your friends and family. So next time your kids are being testy, go for it. Say, "Alexa, what's wrong with my kids today?" and try to hold your smile in when Alexa says, "They had way too much candy at Grayson's birthday party today" (or whatever the case may be). Go to Amazon Blueprints and try it for yourself.
—Melissa Heckscher & Karly Wood
Feature photo: courtesy Amazon