Did you know Alexa can play math games and read bedtime stories to your kiddos? I tested some of the most popular, kid-friendly Alexa skills that will keep your entire family entertained for hours. Alexa isn’t just about the music.
My quick take:
With us for over 8 months now, Alexa has planted firm roots in my household’s routine, and my kids are her most frequent summoners. She’s someone we speak to, even yell at, on a daily basis. While we mostly use Alexa for streaming music, managing time and basic Q&A (“Alexa, what’s the weather today?”), I have learned there are thousands of other things she can be “trained” to do. Alexa is already enabled to answer knock-knock jokes and play “rock, paper scissors” and “20 questions.” But there are thousands of other things she can learn to do. She can gain “skills,” when a user adds them via the Alexa app or through your Amazon account. Much like the early days of the Apple app store, there are thousands of skills being developed, daily. Many are junk and some are gems. Here are some of my favorites!
Best of Alexa’s kid-friendly skills:
1. Alexa will read a customized bedtime story to your child
“Alexa, tell a Bedtime Story to Angie.”
With the Short Bedtime Story skill Alexa will read a short story to your child, which can be personalized for your child’s name each time. My kids love this app. The biggest complaint is that Alexa hasn’t quite learned whether my (and other) children’s names are masculine or feminine, and so pronouns can be mix up in the story. Some say stories are read too fast. Still, one reviewer praises, “This is hilarious…we have yet to hear the same story twice and there are 5 kids in our house using it…but this is just a really fun way that your kids can play with your Alexa!”
2. A choose your own adventure story, the Alexa way
“Alexa, open the Magic Door”
The Magic Door skill opens the door to an Alexa-powered interactive adventure with original stories. You decide what choices to make as you navigate a forest, a garden or ancient temple story. A reviewer writes, “This is a verbal adventure game that is well done and quite creative.” You can find more tips and tricks for this skill here.
3. Always have board game rules on hand
“Alexa, ask Board Games how many people can play Monopoly?”
Board Game Answers skill enables Alexa to answer your common questions about board game rules. Lost your manuals? No problem! Also, “who goes first in Scrabble?” can be asked, too.
4. Play a family-appropriate round of “would you rather”
“Alexa, start Would You Rather”
With the Would You Rather for Family skill, enjoy a simple but addicting game where you have to choose between 2 options presented by Alexa. All questions are family-friendly.
5. Play Jeopardy with Alexa
“Alexa, enable Jeopardy!
Test your Jeopardy trivia knowledge with questions written by the show’s official writers! Enjoy questions in the categories of sports, pop culture, travel, world history and much more
6. Become a Word or Math Master
“Alexa, ask Word Master to start with Apple”
With Amazing Word Master Game, Alexa starts the game by saying a word and you have to respond with a word that begins with the letter in which Alexa’s word ended. The longer your word, the higher the score. Say exit or don’t respond to end the game. For math puzzles and sequence games, open Math Challenge.
7. A game for music lovers
“Alexa, open Beat the Intro”
With the Beat the Intro skill, Alexa and her friend, Foxy, will explain exactly what you need to do in games that test your music knowledge. Games change daily and vary in style. For example, the TriplePlay game gives you three classic intros to crack before the singing starts. If you ever get stuck, ask Alexa for ‘Help.’
The Alexa skills store is still in its infancy, as the Apple app store once was. The gold rush effect to develop skills in a new ecosystem will inevitably lead to the creation of stuff that may not work technically or functionally. In fact, I found a skill specifically for making Palak Paneer, the Indian spinach delicacy…and that’s all it does!
Another challenge is keeping track of all the skills you enable. In fact, a new study shows that there is only a 3% chance you will remember and use a newly downloaded skill after 2 weeks. For me, and especially to help my kids, I keep a cheat sheet of kid-friendly Alexa commands close to the device, so they are always visible at a glance. I also have a more comprehensive list I keep on my phone, with both kid and adult skills.
One personal wish for Alexa: the ability to set a “master” voice controller in a household; one voice that shuts down all other little voices (particularly on weekdays around 8am). It is around this time that my disdain for Alexa emerges. This is because of the tendency of my littlest people to use Alexa’s music on-demand capabilities to start impromptu dance parties at the precise moment they should be departing for school. Until we have separate devices for family members or the kids have their own devices, such as the one Mattel will release, we have to find a way to peacefully get along, with Alexa always taking my side, of course.