As a working mom, I’m always on the hunt for products or services that can make my life easier. Amazon’s Alexa devices have become a member of my #momsquad, a true BFF who can help me get stuff done. Not only is she a true task-masker, but she’s quickly become the best listener in my house. Unlike Siri, who somehow translates “call Mom” into “remember to pick up avocados.”
There are a variety of devices and price points available from Amazon, but I’ve been able to get by just fine with the $50 Echo Dot. She sits prominently in my kitchen and is connected to a Bluetooth speaker. There are plenty of simple, but effective, things that Alexa can do without investing in the $200 special light bulbs and thermostats, because that’s money you could be spending on makeup and clothes. With a hands-free, Bluetooth connection, she can play music, make calls, send and receive information, search the web and more, instantly.
But where things really get interesting is with the “skills”, new capabilities that you can enable to truly customize your experience.
Here are our favorite features and skills that this hard-working lady can do so YOU don’t have to work so hard.
Check the Weather Before You Leave the House
As Liz once said, “I got 99 bags and not the one damn thing I need in it.” Ask Alexa what the weather’s like today, and she’ll let you know if you need to pack sunscreen or an umbrella, or both.
Check the Traffic
Because nobody wants to sit in the car with a screaming toddler longer than they have to. Let Alexa tell you what the traffic’s like on a specific route, and she’ll let you know if your route is heavier then usual, and you can make the decision if you need to bring the iPad to entertain the kids en route. And don’t forget to download a podcast for yourself so you don’t have to listen to Moana for the hundredth time.
Settle a Family Dispute
When you and your husband are arguing over the original Real Housewives cast, just ask Alexa. She knows all kinds of random facts and trivia. And when she doesn’t, she’ll search Google and report back.
Have a Personal Assistant
Long gone are the days of multiple handwritten lists and fridge calendars. I’m pulled in so many different directions each day that the only way to keep up with it all is to have information readily available at my fingertips. With Alexa, I can check and update my calendar, add to my to-do list and even set myself a reminder while packing lunches and talking through a project plan with my boss.
Alexa has a built-in to-do list feature, but you can also sync it with your Todoist app. This means you can tell Alexa “Add buy a birthday present for Zoe’s friend to my to do list” and she’ll do it, without you having type anything or nag anyone. She also syncs with your Outlook and Google calendars. I’m telling you, she’s a smart cookie.
Set a Hands-Free Timer
There’s a lot happening at our house pre-dinner. There are little people asking for snacks, whining about something their brother did, dogs barking and more while I’m trying to saute, chop and season. With all of this chaos, I have to set timers or the chicken’s definitely going to get forgotten about while in the oven. Alexa let’s me verbally set a timer so I can simultaneously nag someone to finish their homework and not burn the potatoes.
PRO TIP: Add multiple timers by naming them: “Alexa, set a homework timer for 30 minutes.” “Alexa, set a vegetable timer for 20 minutes.” “Alexa, set a mommy break timer for 10 minutes.”
Get Out the Door on Time
I’ve found the quickest way to get a kid to move is gamification. “Can you get ready in the next five minutes? Let’s see. Alexa, set the timer for five minutes!” Trust me, it works.
Get Free Medical Advice
It may just be me, but my kid always seems to get a fever or vomit in the evening, just after the doctor’s office closes. Thankfully, I can ask Alexa about common symptoms and even get dosing recommendations for over-the-counter medications. Just enable the KidsMD skill and avoid the panic and fear of a Google search.
Add to Your Shopping List
Is there anything more frustrating than spending a weekend afternoon grocery shopping with a toddler only to get home and realize that you forgot to pick up something important, like eggs or dry shampoo? No, nothing is more infuriating. Thankfully, you can ask Alexa to add items to your shopping list as they come to mind. When you get to the store, just pull up the list in your Alexa app to help make sure you don’t forget a thing – no matter how distracting your kids are that day.
Be Your Sous Chef (or not)
Of course, there will still be times when you are cooking dinner and are missing one key ingredient. Ask Alexa for a substitute for butter, or to help you convert quantities while cooking. Or use the Campbell’s Kitchen skill for an on-demand cookbook. And for those night’s when you just give up on cooking, just ask Alexa to order you a pizza by enabling the Dominos skill.
Entertain Your Family
Whether you need some motivation to survive the day, distract a cranky toddler or just want to have a Friday Night Family Dance Party, just ask Alexa to play some music. Alexa can stream anything from Prime Music, iTunes, Google Play and even services like Pandora and Spotify.
Find Your Damn Phone
You’ve checked everywhere: the counter, diaper bag, purse, under the sofa cushions and in your kid’s toys. WTF is my phone?! Alexa to the rescue…
Next, we need her to help us find the damn car keys.
What are your favorite Alexa features or must-have skills? Let us know in the comments!