Family Life Parent Life Reviews

The Amazon Echo arrived and made itself at home

Introducing……..Amazon Echo w/Alexa

Our Family has been very busy adding new members for the past 2 months. First, it was a wily bunny named Mr. Nibbles. Then a sssssssssilly snake named Spencer, and now we welcome Alexa into our home. Alexa is, of course, the Amazon Echo Dot’s voice assistant who comes with the knowledge of the universe, a neat bag of tricks and an endless song list. There’s even a bit of Fairy Magic in use while she keeps my 5yr old busy long enough for me to get dinner ready.

I was aware, of course, of her presence in the world, but had never gotten on the bandwagon to owning an Amazon Echo. It was during my 1st Airbnb stay in Savannah, Ga that I first made her acquaintance.

How to use Amazon Echo
How to use Amazon Echo

I was walking past the entertainment center when I spotted a sign that said: Want Music? Say: Echo play “genre of music/ specific song.” These and further instructions which were displayed in a cute little picture frame gave me examples of genres and song titles and how to control the echo’s volume as well as how to stop it. I had never had the opportunity to talk to Alexa (that I know of) so I was intrigued. The request of “Echo, play an India Arie song,” came out of my mouth before I knew it. And mere seconds later I was listening to the soulful words of Strength, Courage & Wisdom!

Amazon Echo Set Up

The un-boxing and set-up of our Amazon Echo w/ Alexa was easy
The setup was easy

We’ve been living with this small 3rd Generation, inconspicuous voice assistant for a while now. And she fits into our quirky menagerie quite well. Unboxing her was a snap and set up was quick and easy because like most things these days that are tech-driven, “there’s an App for that.” You simply download the App, follow the directions to introduce Alexa to your WiFi and Presto! I have little to no patience for a 1 billion step by step list of instructions. Somewhere around step #11, I’m usually handing it off to my hubby with a desperate and irritated look on my face. So it was really great that setting up the Amazon Echo was easy-peasy!

Alexa has a little sister and a brother that live in our house as well. Our daughter explained this sibling relationship when we later unboxed the other two Echo Dots. We got all 3 for $61 when we bought it through Amazon. No shipping costs of course. You gotta love that Prime Membership. Our new family members now take up residence in our Playroom, Family room, and the Office.

How the Grown Folks use it. How I use Alexa

Of the long list of things that Alexa can do, and because I’m THAT Quirky Black Girl, my biggest appreciation for Alexa is for the times (most nights) when I wake up around 3 am with a random question echoing in my head. Whether it’s from an issue that occurred earlier that day or a dream I’d just had, it doesn’t matter. Because the awesomeness of the situation is that I can tip-toe down the stairs and whisper my question to Alexa and 9/10 times she gives me a quick answer with no judgment or raised eyebrow.

But, seriously I also use Alexa to listen to the latest TED talks and other favorite podcasts. She plays my audio books and favorite songs on command and is the best incognito Sous Chef EVER! For those times that I don’t want to call up my Chef husband, to ask him for the 100th time about cooking Jasmine rice (instructions too long and too tiny), I ask Alexa. Because let’s face it, I never want to get to the point where she might judge me for asking her to call for take-out instead of attempting to cook. You never know, A.I. is evolving all the time. I don’t want to take a chance with our new friendship.

How the Grown Folks use Alexa

My own relationship with Alexa is quite new. But millions of people have been using the Amazon Echo since it’s debut in 2015. As it says on its website, the voice interaction of the Echo Dot allows you to make and share to-do-lists, set alarms/timers, create calendar events, get news, weather, traffic, and other real-time information.

One of the things that intrigues me and that I’m moving towards is its ability to control compatible Echo smart devices throughout the home. Using Alexa, you can voice control household things such as your Fire TV, lamps, coffee maker, air/heat, door locks, and security systems.

OK, getting back to Alexa for Grown Folks. Here are some more of my favorites hacks.

Parent Hacks for Amazon Echo

  • Setting Alarms for my daughter – (PJ’s/brush teeth/bedtime) so that she’s mad at Alexa and not me. I’m not alerting her and getting progressively louder, Alexa is…
  • Adding items to the Shopping List from the couch or office
  • Walkie Talkie -talking to others in rooms with other linked Echos
  • Timer for things like meditation or yoga or playroom cleanup
  • TV Controller – turning on/off because someone lost the remote
  • Random Noise Maker – diverting attention to avoid impending kid meltdowns, BFF fights or overhearing an adult conversation
  • Settling DisputesKids Court through Alexa is a real thing!
  • Calendar– Alexa connects to google Calander and briefs you on your to-do-list and any upcoming events
  • Self-affirming Sidekick -Seriously, she says things that make you feel better about yourself. You’ve gotta try Skill Blueprint and make your own favorite motivational quotes to be spoken to you by Alexa in a calm and soothing voice.

How the Little Folks use Alexa

Amazon Echo w/ Alexa in the playroom
Alexa in the Playroom

Yes, our little person was just as excited about using Alexa as I was. She too had become intrigued with her on our trip to Savannah. It took her a while to stop shouting at the top of her voice into the device. But, she eventually came to trust that Alexa could hear her at a normal speaking tone.

And yes, it took a while for her to understand that Alexa can’t help her if she asks Alexa to “play that song about the green and yellow basket that got lost after mailing a letter to a friend and some little boy picked it up and took it!” BTW the song is A Tisket A Tasket… After several failed attempts I swear that I heard Alexa groan and suck her teeth right before she turned herself off. “She needs the title or the artist to find it, not a synopsis of the song”, I would have to repeat a hundred times. Ugh!

Her favorite games right now are: SpongeBob Challenge, The Animal Game, The Magic door (Interactive adventure) and the Mickey Mouse adventures.

One of the things that I love about Alexa is how easy it is for my daughter and her friends to use and how it gives them a measure of autonomy. I’m not going to B.S. you, I also love that it gives me a break from the 100 questions per hour game. You can either get the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition or just install Parental Controls via the Parent Dashboard on any Echo Dot.

Amazon Echo Parental Controls can:

  • Stops kids from Adding Items to the shopping lists
  • Monitor what content the kids are using
  • Blocks features that you don’t want them having access to
  • Adds Time Restrictions
  • Enable Magic Words Skill – compels kids to use manners and “nice words” to get Alexa to do things like finding music or play games
  • Disables Voice Purchasing
  • Enables Kid Skills
  • Turns on the Explicit Filter

I chose not to get the Echo Dot Kid’s Edition. The only difference between the two was the price ($40 difference), the color and that the Kid’s edition was Free Time enabled by default. Enabling Free Time on any Amazon Echo is easy.

What does Free Time do? It’s a monthly subscription that offers thousands of content titles for children ages 3 – 12yr. It’s totally worth it. The kids can access educational content, add-free music stations, games, audiobooks, and kid’s skills. I also love that you can create specific profiles for each kid. But, since we only have the one kid, that wasn’t an issue for us.

In the End

As a two parent working household, the struggle to get everything done, on time and make everyone happy is a real one. Having a personal assistant at home that gives you an “extra set of hands,” is priceless. Alexa is making not just our parenting life, but our life in general much easier. Whether it’s creating to-do-lists, managing our calendars or entertaining/answering a million kid questions while I’m making dinner, Alexa has easily become part of the family dynamic.

I absolutely love the way she calmly listens to my requests and replies with a soothing voice. There’s no argument and no judgment as she adds the double stuffed Oreos to the shopping list. Without eye-rolling or a bored, “I don’t know,” Alexa simply gives me an answer, helpful solution or alternative. Just like a top-notch personal assistant should.

If you already have the Amazon Echo Dot what games do your kid’s like to play the most? What are your favorite commands or functions? Let me know your thoughts and reviews in the comment section below.

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