I Taught My Kids How to Use Alexa: Here’s What Happened

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For years, I fought against bringing Alexa into our home. But when Amazon was practically giving away its Echo Dot a few years ago, my husband caved. And as it turns out, it’s a pretty nifty piece of tech—especially for us parents.

We put the first Dot in my son’s room. He was 4 or 5 at the time. We thought he could use it to listen to music, which he does on a daily basis. But having a curious mind with a constant load of questions, we thought Alexa could help us fill in the gaps when we’re too tired to satisfy his thirst for knowledge.

Here’s what we taught him (and eventually, our daughter) to ask Alexa and what came out of it:

1. “Alexa, what’s the weather today?”

My kids are old enough to dress themselves each day, and Alexa has helped them to make better clothing choices. Before Alexa, they didn’t know 80 degrees was warm or 30 degrees was cold. They simply wanted to wear whatever they felt like.

Having used Alexa to learn the weather each day for about 2-3 years now, they’re starting to learn what certain temperatures feel like. My hot-blooded son knows I won’t let him wear shorts to school if the high of the day is below 55 degrees. My daughter knows to grab a jacket if it’s under 65 degrees. They’re not slipping on sandals if it’s going to rain. I don’t have to micromanage their clothing choices as much these days.

2. “Alexa, how do you spell [word]?”

Spelling has been a big deal in the last couple of years. Every week, the kids have spelling tests and usually ace them (just like their mama used to). They’re also writing a lot more now, and Alexa plays a big role in helping them spell words they don’t know yet.

I like to think of it as the digital equivalent of a dictionary. Alexa will spell words and even use them in a sentence.

3. “Alexa, what time is it?”

Another skill my kids are currently learning in school is how to tell time. Sure, they could just check the digital clock on the oven. But I want them to learn what that time means in the bigger scheme of the day.

Alexa not only tells them the current time, but will also tell them how much more time they have until bedtime, if they ask. We have Alexa set up in each of the kid’s rooms to deactivate itself at a certain time so the kids aren’t talking to it after tuck-ins. It’s not a time teacher, necessarily, but it does help to support them in learning about our constructs of time.

4. “Alexa, tell me a joke.”

Another favorite of mine? Alexa always knows a good joke. My kids love hearing Alexa’s jokes and even write them down to try on their grandparents later. Sometimes they get the punchline right away, sometimes they don’t. Alexa is no Steve Martin or Jerry Seinfield, but she does give us a few occasional chuckles.

5. “Alexa, can hamsters eat [food]?”

One of our stipulations when Ryan asked for a hamster was that he needed to play a big role in its care. This meant giving it the right foods every day. Alexa helps us to fill in our hamster knowledge gaps by telling us what hamsters can and can’t eat.

That goes for our other pets, too. We have two golden retrievers and a cat, and we’re getting chickens soon. The kids will be keeping Alexa busy when that time comes, learning all about the diets of chickens.

6. “Alexa, tell me three things about [subject].”

Now that we’re getting deeper into the school year, the kids are using Alexa more and more for their homework. One of their projects this year was about nutrition. They were each assigned a letter, and they had to choose a fruit or vegetable that started with that letter. They did lots of activities with their food, one of which was writing three facts about it.

Enter Alexa, the schoolwork superhero that told them how many calories were in a tomato, where Valencia oranges came from, and the nutrients in each. We repeated this process when learning facts about Benjamin Franklin and a few other notable folks in history.

For kids who need just basic information and can’t yet browse the internet alone, Alexa has been a big win for us. And for my two kids, Alexa is just another part of their day. But for me, I’m still amazed at how far technology has come since I was a kid. I didn’t have internet service until I entered high school, and back then it was only dial-up. Now we have voice-activated devices in the home that can answer just about any common question.

RELATED: All the Alexa Skills for Kids You Should Know

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Alli Hill is a freelance writer and married mom of two humans and five fur babies currently living in Georgia. She loves French fries, hiking, the moon, and prosecco, and is sometimes funny. Connect with her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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