We live in a technology-driven world. Sometimes that’s a scary thought, but other times, like the times we’re in now of self-distancing and quarantine, it’s a lifesaver. If it weren’t for computers and smartphones, millions of people around the world would miss out on precious moments spent with family and friends during the last several weeks. Technology is bringing people together when we can’t physically be together. I don’t know that I’ve ever been as grateful for technology as I have been the last couple of months.
One of my favorite pieces of technology to use right now is our Amazon Alexa. Let me clarify…we have several. We have them in bedrooms, our playroom, bathrooms, the kitchen, and in the basement. I know that may seem like overkill, but having that many really does come in handy.
When we first purchased them, I thought we’d just ask random questions that we would typically google, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at all the nifty things Alexa can do:
- Announcements/drop-ins: If you have multiple Alexa devices, this skill works a lot like a home intercom system. You can make announcements to every device to let everyone know dinner is ready or 10 minutes until bedtime. You can “drop-in” on single devices. I use this feature if I only need to talk to one child at a time. This is almost like a walkie-talkie feature. If you have Alexas with a screen, you can even see them. These two skills have saved me from yelling all over the house so many times! I use this skill multiple times a day. You can even send announcements or drop-in from your phone if you only have one device in your home. You can use this feature on your phone from anywhere — you don’t have to be at home to do it.
- Call/message: As long as you’ve uploaded your contacts from your phone (there’s an Alexa app for your phone), you can call and message people just like you would from your phone. You have the option to call or message their phone, and if they have an Alexa device, you can call or message it. My boys love this feature…they call cousins and grandparents a lot and they don’t need my phone! When my children reach the age where they can be left alone at home for short periods of time, this feature will keep us from needing a landline or providing our kids with a cell phone.
- Video chat: If you have an Alexa with a screen, you can video call other Alexas. My boys LOVE this feature. Once again, they call cousins and grandparents all the time and can see them (think FaceTime). If your loved ones don’t have an Alexa with a screen, it supports Skype as well. This has been a fabulous feature during this social distancing time.
- Weather: Every day we ask Alexa the weather forecast. It’s a wonderful feature when you don’t have time to watch the news. We’ve also set ours up for severe weather alerts, so if dangerous weather is headed our way, we get notifications on our devices and our phones.
- Audiobooks: My boys and I listen to the Harry Potter books on Audible while we’re in the car. When we want to listen to them in the house, we can ask Alexa to open up our audiobooks and it picks up right where we left off.
- Music: We use our Alexas a ton to listen to music. We have an Amazon Music account, but even if you don’t, there are hundreds of free songs you can listen to on Amazon. At any given moment, there may be four different devices in our house playing four different songs. It’s so handy because you just tell Alexa what song you want to hear; even my four-year-old can do it. There are parental controls as well, so you don’t have to worry about young ears hearing mature songs.
- News brief: Before life came to a standstill due to quarantining, I didn’t have time to watch the news in the morning. I did have time however, while doing my hair and makeup, to listen to my Alexa give me an update. I chose all my favorite news stations/sports stations that I wanted to get updates from, and when I ask Alexa to “tell me the news” it rattles off daily/hourly updates from those sites. It’s a great, quick news fix when you’re busy or when your kids take over the TV in the mornings.
- Timers/alarms: We use our Alexas for morning alarms and timers every single day. My boys set theirs before bed by voice command, and it couldn’t be easier. You can format them to multiple days or however you’d like. I also use the one in my kitchen for cooking timers…it’s a lifesaver when your hands are full.
- White noise: I ruined my children’s sleeping habits when they were babies with white noise machines. As our machines started to get old and stop working, we started using our Alexas for white noise. There are hundreds of sounds to choose from, and you can tell it to stay on all night. You can control the volume as well. I even use one for my husband and myself.