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Alexa And Kids, And You: It is as if Smart Assistants Are Made to Step in When You Are Overwhelmed

Just some of the things Amazon Alexa can do. (Image: News18)

Just some of the things Amazon Alexa can do. (Image: News18)

The thing with smart assistants such as Amazon Alexa is that you have something readymade and primed to get your child away from a screen such as a TV, a phone or a video game, and mix in educational and entertainment routines.

You are home. Well, actually, you should be if you aren’t. You have work. You have the chores at home. All in all, it be very tiring to manage the schedule, keep tabs on what the kids are up to and more. Overwhelmed, much? That is where virtual assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, in the company’s Echo line-up of smart speakers and displays, becomes a perfect fit. It is all about having to simply call out to a smart device sitting somewhere in your home or letting it automate some tasks for you, so that you can instead focus your already fast draining energy on other things.

The thing with smart assistants such as Amazon Alexa is that you have something readymade and primed to get your child away from a screen such as a TV, a phone or a video game, and mix in educational and entertainment routines. For a while, the very ability to a speaker to respond back will probably keep the little one engrossed. It is fun watching them trying to talk to Alexa! I’ve seen it, and it is equal parts hilarious and relaxing—the latter because this is keeping her away from a screen, potentially. What we've tried to establish here are just some things that you can deploy Alexa to do at home, for yourself and your kids. A lot of this is based on an evolving personal experience, so you can be assured that this sort of stuff has a higher success rate than you may expect.

Less is More

First up, get your day in order. Use the Routines feature in the Alexa app to set up an automated routine for every day of the work from home routine. This can start in the morning, when you simply say “Alexa, Good Morning.” Configure this to get the weather report, the news updates, your calendar for the day (Zoom calls are not to be missed, after all), get your smart lights ready and primed for you to get out of bed and start working. I’d recommend skipping the sports scores for the time being—there are no sports being played around the world these days, no new human achievements to celebrate and it’ll only add to the sense of despair. Now what does this routine eliminate? The need to pick up your phone or tablet or switch on your laptop to check your calendar, for instance. Or go to yet another app to check up on the news. Less is clearly more.

Soundtrack for the day

Some of us really like to listen to music while working. I am particularly enjoying switching between the Amazon Echo Studio and the Marshall Kilburn armed with the latest gen Amazon Echo Dot, for the soundtrack when I need to do some serious writing. It is simple to just call out with the track, artist, album or genre you want to listen at that time, and Alexa does the rest for you. You can even ask Alexa to find a nice playlist for you. If you are an Apple Music subscriber, head to the Alexa app and link your subscription in the settings menu to access all that music on your Alexa speaker.

How about a music alarm?

Yep, you read that right. “Alexa, wake me up at 6:30a.m. to We Are the Champions” could just be the kickstart some people need to get going. I’d take a bit of trance music or Duke Dumont, thank you very much. Yes, you can upgrade from those shrill and frankly irritating alarm sounds and wake up gradually to the sound of music.

While you figure all this out and try to get that work done before the deadline, there is the small matter of that incredibly excited and equally bored child running around the house, trying to somehow stay entertained. And somehow, you need to limit their screen time—switching on the TV is lazy parenting, and may be very harmful for the child’s health in the long run.

Soap, water and Alexa

First up, Alexa can be a companion in the health and hygiene department. “Alexa, sing a melody for 20 seconds” can do the trick as your child washes hands—the doctors recommend at least 20 seconds of hand washing with soap, but somehow, time flies faster in the kids’ world.

Inquisitive child, say hello to Alexa

Children tend to ask a lot of questions. To be honest, one must never curb that instinct. Now, redirect them to the Echo smart speaker, and let Alexa be their guide on worldly matters as you either get work done or try to catch your breath after a hectic day. Everything about earth, water, fire, the universe, the animal kingdom, their favorite cars, animal sounds, sharks—you name it, and Alexa can really help your kids with all of these. It’ll be easy for you to get your child to get talking to Alexa once they realize the fun of interactivity, and its sooner than you expect. Pretty soon, they will be listening to podcasts about regulating drug prices and what not.

Alexa, the kid has got talent

Alexa can play some of the evergreen nursery rhymes and that can be a great way to get the little one to learn Lakdi Ki Kathi or Nani Teri Morni, Amazon specifically point out to. And if you have an Echo Show smart display, even the lyrics show up to add to the fun. Pretty soon, your little one will be humming these all day.

Then there are some games too, that Alexa can be a part of. Memory games, word games, brain teasers and riddles are some examples. Hours can fly by as your little one and Alexa jostle for supremacy. Breathe!

Alexa can also tell stories. Either to keep your little one engrossed and busy, or to put them to sleep when it is bedtime. Simply say Alexa, tell me a story” or “Alexa, tell me a bedtime story” and let Alexa pick something for you. Or you could specifically ask for whatever story you want to listen to, and your wish is Alexa’s command. Again, while these smart skills tie in with your mission of finishing work and chores without getting disturbed, it also keeps your child away from the screen—a TV, a phone, a tablet or a video game. And that is priceless.