I received an Amazon Echo for Christmas a few years ago, and I have to admit at first I was a little skeptical. What is all the buzz about anyway and what can I actually do with an Amazon Echo?
I wasn’t sure it could really do more for me than Siri or my phone, but after having Alexa (cool note: that’s the voice’s name, though it’s come to stand for the device) in my home for a few years now, connected to my WiFi and linked to my Amazon account, I have to say that it’s been life-changing.
It’s helped with everything from little things like checking the weather to bigger tasks, like grocery shopping and meal planning, even homeschooling, which is where our sponsor Bamboo Learning comes in.
This post has been updated for 2020
Their Alexa skills feature innovative, super fun ways for kids in grades K through 5 to learn and practice math, english, language arts, history and a whole lot more. In fact, all you need to do is say Alexa, open Bamboo Learning to get started.
So, on their behalf, we’re sharing 44 cool things you can do with the Amazon Echo just by asking Alexa. Hooray for technology!
Note that some of these commands will need to be enabled in your Skills tab in the Echo app
1. Alexa, play David Bowie. Purchase music on Amazon and stream it right to the excellent Bluetooth speaker, though the Echo can also play content from Amazon Prime, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Audible and Kindle Books. So, pretty much anything. All without draining my phone battery or using up data — though I would probably replace a system like Sonos in favor of a new one if I want to blast tunes for a party.
2. Alexa, when’s the next time we’ll have a Saturn and Jupiter conjunction? You can ask Alexa to look up any info you’re curious about, like sports schedules and scores; who won the Golden Globe for best actor in 2020; or which year Cleopatra was born.
3. Alexa, set timer for 10 minutes. Whether you’re setting an alarm for the cookies in the oven or the kids’ screen time, it’s really easy to just call out for Alexa to do it for you.
4. Alexa, start 7 minute workout. The results offer simple exercises like jumping jacks and sit ups, but maybe this Echo command will get you moving — or your kids — especially as we’re all stuck inside this winter.
5. Alexa, play NPR. I love how easy it is to catch up on the news in the morning, since Alexa plays streaming radio upon request.
6. Alexa, what’s traffic like right now? Alexa can tell you the roads to avoid on your morning commute, which is especially nice if you don’t want to wait ten minutes for a traffic report on your local station. You can even get the estimated time of your drive!
7. Alexa, turn on my humidifier. Or bedroom light. Alexa can connect to any WeMo Switch enabled outlet or Wink Home Hub. Name it according to what’s plugged in there, and Alexa it will turn on and off for you.
8. Alexa, play Bingo. Download some free printable bingo cards, like these at Aspen Jay, and ask Alexa to join you for an easy family fun night. Unfortunately, she won’t pop the popcorn for you — unless you have a popcorn popper hooked up to a WeMo, actually. (Bonus: For a more advanced game, try Alexa, Open Escape the Room for five fun Escape Room games of different levels.)
9. Alexa, I need a recipe for chocolate chip mint ice cream. Alexa will provide measurement conversions (Alexa, how many cups are in a pint?) and even give you step-by-step recipes through AllRecipes. You can even tell her to set your SousVide machine to a certain temperature if it’s smart-connected.
10. Alexa, how many calories are in this pint of chocolate chip mint ice cream? Ask her questions…but be sure you want to know the answers.
11. Alexa, what wine goes with a chocolate chip mint ice cream? Yes, you can get wine pairings using MySomm skill. Though I can’t say I recommend them with ice cream, but you do you.
12. Alexa, forget wine. Order me some coffee from Starbucks. Using Starbucks Reorder skill, you can open up your last 10 locations you’ve visited and choose from 5 previous order, just run in the shop and pick it up.
13. Alexa, is it going to snow today? This is a favorite of ours, especially with the weather as wonky as it’s been.
14. Alexa, ask Translator to how to say “please clean your room” in Japanese. Ask for translations in 50 languages, and you’ll find the answers in the Alexa app. (Sadly, Alexa’s foreign language speaking skills aren’t existent right now so she won’t repeat them back to you.)
15. Alexa, check my credit card balance. Thee Capital One Alexa Skill does this if you have a Capital One card, and even lets you go ahead and make payment.
16. Alexa, what are your deals? Get special deals from Amazon, just for Alexa users. Just be sure that if you turned Voice Purchasing off, you’ve got it turned back on if you want to shop.
About our sponsor
With all of us doing some sort of remote schooling this year, we’re happy to find anything that makes learning easier, which is why we’re so thrilled to discover Bamboo Learning. They offer fun ways for elementary-aged kids to learn and practice all sorts of subjects, all with Alexa. It’s just as simple as saying “Alexa, open Bamboo Learning.”
With Bamboo English, you’ll get over 60,000 exercises, including 10,000 free ones to get you started, for phonics, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. Need math help? Bamboo Math has over a million exercises from number and word problems, to place values and decimals, and pretty much everything in between. They’ve also offer dozens of narrated books with questions to help kids practice listening and reading comprehension through Bamboo Books. And using Bamboo Luminaries introduces your kids to over 250 historically important people.
What’s cool is that you can actually track your kids’ progress, up to 6 on one account, using the optional Bamboo Grove feature f the Bamboo Learning website. And with all of these voice-activated exercises, kids can continue to move around, and well, learn, like kids do.
To get started, just say “Alexa, open Bamboo Learning,” or visit the Bamboo Learning site for more information.
17. Alexa, reorder dog food. When you empty the last bit of puppy chow (or AA batteries or bulk pack of paper towels), just shout out for Alexa to add it to your shopping cart on Amazon. In fact, you can add anything from your recent Prime shopping history, so no, your kids can’t order an Xbox without you knowing.
19. Alexa, what’s on my calendar today? She’ll search through connected calendars (in the app) like Google Calendar, and pull up your day’s activities while you’re making your cup of coffee in the morning. Nice to remember oh…those 400 things parents have to do every day. You might even remember to sign that permission slip if you ask in the morning.
20. Alexa, add “call the dentist” to my to-do list. Voila, you’ve now got a reminder saved. While you can use the Alexa app as your daily to-do list, it now offers more comprehensive integration with popular apps like Todoist so you’re not managing multiple lists.
21. Alexa, read my book. When Amazon Echo is connected to your Audible account, a number of commands allow you to hear any book read to you through the speaker, plus you can skip chapters, pause, resume, and more. However this week, Amazon Echo added the ability to read back books in your Kindle library. I wouldn’t use it as an alternative to hearing David Sedaris read Me Talk Pretty One Day, but it could be great for certain non-fiction books where tone isn’t essential. It can also read articles, say ones you’ve saved through the Pocket app, which we love.
22. Alexa, Simon says… Alexa will repeat whatever you say immediately following “Simon says,” which is a really fun trick to play on your kids. Especially if you use the Echo’s remote control from another room and suddenly they hear Alexa say, kids, take the trash out. I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces.
23. Alexa, ask Word Master to play a game. This is like Geography, in which Alexa says a word, then you have to follow with a word that begins with her word’s last letter. The longer the word, the more points you get. It’s fun, and even a little challenging for the kids.
24. Alexa, start Animal Game/Capital Quiz. Try playing 20 questions (all animals, no minerals thankfully!) or helping kids with geography. There are plenty more games and quizzes, but these two in particular great for kids in grade school.
25. Alexa, start Star Wars quiz. Like that won’t your favorite thing ever, especially with Season 2 of the Mandalorian in the mix.
26. Alexa, play Jeopardy. Trivia geeks, like me, will love the six Jeopardy style questions that Alexa asks each day. Just don’t forget to answer in the form of a question!
27. Alexa, what happened on this day in history? How cool is this? The This Day in History (by A&E) skill will tell you exactly what happened on this day in history. There’s also This Day in Disney History for the kids.
28. Alexa, what Chinese restaurants are nearby? Now you can support that local restaurant in your neighborhood that you keep forgetting to order from. Or, ask whether the local bakery is open right now. Especially these days with restaurants and food-related businesses changing their hours or adding delivery services, it’s smart to do.
30. Alexa, tell a Dad joke. She’ll tell you one, but we won’t guarantee it will be a good one.
31. Alexa, roll the dice. This is one of my favorite cool little skills you can do with Amazon Echo. It’s perfect for those games that are missing dice, or for younger kids who can’t manage to roll dice without them knocking over all the game pieces on the board. (And FYI for all you gamer geeks out there, she’ll roll 10-sided, 20-sided, and other dice too!)
32. Alexa, add milk to my grocery list. Using AnyList, Alexa will add items to your grocery list, so when you hit the store, you can just check the app on your phone. Genius!
33. Alexa, read us a bedtime story. Use the Short Bedtime Story skill to tell your kids a bedtime story — you can even customize the names so they match your kids. Of course it’s no substitute for you telling your kids a story, but it is a pretty cool think that Alexa can do.
34. Alexa, I need some white noise. Start a white noise machine. Try Sleep Sounds: Ocean Sounds which is a favorite for me, though there are also options like a fireplace, rainstorm, and babbling brook. And if it takes you a while to fall asleep, say, “Alex, ask Ocean Sounds to loop.”
35. Alexa, ask for a fart. No, we have not told our kids about this one yet. But then, they probably knew it before you did.
36. Alexa, trigger “find my phone.” Another cool thing you can do with Amazon Echo if you’re signed up for IFTTT, is to link it to your Amazon account and download any of the dozens of recipes for Alexa. That includes Find My Phone, send a voice email or SMS to someone, or print your shopping list.
37. Alexa, send a text for me. Upload the Molly skill then say “Alexa, ask SMS with Molly to send ‘see you Friday’ to Kristen.” Done!
38. Alexa, make a phone call. Use Alexa to make a phone call, or call other Alexas or Dots around your house so you can use it like an intercom system.
39. Alexa, more cowbell. The same way Siri has fun answers for What does the fox say? And what’s the meaning of life? you can try one of the many, silly Amazon Echo Easter Eggs out there. Questions and statements to try include Alexa, to be or not to be? And, Alexa, rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock. There are dozens! Movie fans might try Alexa, use the force! Or Alexa, who shot first?
40. Alexa, we need a dinner conversation topic. Need something new to discuss at family dinner? Try a few rounds of Would You Rather?
41. Alexa, open up The Magic Door. Try this choose-your-own adventure as you journey through fantasy worlds filled with gnomes, princesses, wise wizards and witches.
42. Alexa, I want to play Earplay. These are interactive story-based games for adults and teens (think film-noir mystery) that let you also choose your own adventure as the story progresses.
43. Alexa, help me plan my vacation. If you have a Kayak account, you can say “Alexa, where can I go for $300?” and she’ll give you options.
44. Alexa, I need to meditate. You can use Alexa to access Guided Meditation. That’s something we could all use more of these days.
PRO TIP: if you happen to have a family member named Alexa — like, say, you happen to be reading this post, Billy Joel or Christie Brinkley — you can change the command name in your settings to Amazon so your Alexi is not turning on everytime you speak to a living, breathing Alexa However if you have relatives named both Alexa and Amazon, you’re out of luck.
Thanks to our sponsor Bamboo Learning for helping us make our Amazon Echos an educational tool. All parents can use that help this year!