Family Fun with Alexa: Our New Amazon Echo Friend

Did you, perhaps, get an Amazon Echo for Christmas? Was it something for the gadget guy in your family? Or was it given to you because someone didn’t know what to get you? Or maybe it was on your wishlist because it sounded rather fun and tech-worthy. But now that you have it, what do you do with it? Sure, Alexa can tell you about the weather and can play music. But, this gift that was originally meant for just my husband now entertains, educates, amuses, and fascinates my entire family. I must admit I had no idea what this little device could do, but we are all having fun finding out. If you’re wondering about your Amazon Echo or Echo Dot’s capabilities, here are a few of its talents:

1. Music Trivia

Sure, we enjoy calling out artists’ names or a type of music for Alexa to play. During Christmas, we would just say, “Alexa, play holiday music,” and Alexa would go to town! However, our new favorite game is Song Quiz. This “guess that tune!” game allows you to play music from different decades, but for my children’s sake, we stick to music from the 2000s. My kids love playing, and even my eight-year-old can hang. Actually, they both beat the pants off me!

2. Stories

We have listened to audio books before, but usually on long trips or as solitary reading exercises. Now, my eight-year-old and 13-year-old can listen to audio stories either together or alone. Amazon StoryTime provides a short story for my eight-year-old. Audible provides one free novel a month, and right now The Hobbit is perfect for my son. He’s read it before but enjoys the audio version. Audio Mad Libs also provide a silly break for us all. Just like the old-fashioned Mad Libs from childhood, you supply adjectives, verbs, nouns, etc. and Alexa creates a silly story. We plan to check out the scary stories feature soon!

3. Mysteries

A great way to pass some time with family is to solve a puzzle together. Escape rooms, where participants are placed in a room with hidden clues that they must find and solve to escape, are all the rage right now. Alexa provides this in an audio format. She chooses a setting, and the clues to the audio mystery are provided through commands. It’s definitely a good game for the family. My daughter also enjoys The Magic Door, a game that allows you to choose the next step in your journey to a certain destination.

4. Sneaky Learning

We use Alexa to play various fun games and quizzes. The kids so enjoy competing that they don’t even realize they are learning. Word Chain features different categories in which you call out examples of items beginning with specific letters, much like Scattergories. For example, in the “fruits and vegetables” category, we try to create a chain of fruits and veggie names that begin with different letters of the alphabet. The kids and and I enjoy learning new fruits and veggies, and I have hopes that maybe it will lead to unique fruit and veggie sampling! Alexa always has an answer, but the rest of us mortals use the “pass” feature quite often. My son and husband enjoy the “capitals” category. They haven’t made it far, but they are having fun trying! There are also many math games that we have yet to try, but the spelling game for kids keeps mine on their toes.

5. Reminders, Timers, and Household Tasks

My kids ask Alexa to set timers for themselves regarding cleaning, daily reading logs, or whatever. They also enjoy adding to the grocery list when they get a chance to tell Alexa what to add. They even set their own reminders to bring things in to school or—gasp!—do something I’ve told them to do. It just seems more fun with Alexa.

Alexa has tons of features and, apparently, new ones to come, as beta features and even Alexa add-ons are coming down the pipeline. Once you load the Alexa app, you can see all the categories that exist and the many, many skills, games, and features that Alexa can provide. Start small and be sure to read the reviews, but definitely give it a whirl and see what Alexa can do for you and your family!

Do you have a favorite family feature on your Amazon Echo or Echo Dot? Please share in the comments.

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