“Alexa, entertain my kid with high-quality content.”
If you have an Echo device, you know this is a tall order. Not only is Alexa a finicky listener, but you need to launch specific “skills” to get the device to do what you want.
With hundreds of skills in a huge range of categories listed on the Amazon Alexa app or website, it can take some digging to find the good stuff. But if you do dig, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty sweet games and activities, including interactive storytelling, math practice, exercise, games to play together and more.
Check out the educational and entertaining skills we’ve hand-picked for your little kid, big kid, tween or teen or for the whole family. Of course, before you do any of this, look into the possible privacy concerns of using a smart speaker in the first place.
>> Animal Workout. To get little kids moving, this skill tells them to pretend to be a certain animal and do movements while music plays. Try it alongside your kid for even more fun. Say, “Alexa, open Animal Workout.”
>> Chompers. Ever have trouble getting your kids to brush their teeth (or do it for more than 10 seconds)? This skill will entertain your kids for two minutes by doing things like singing a kid-authored story or telling jokes. Just make sure your kid isn’t so distracted they stop brushing altogether. Say, “Alexa, start Chompers.”
>> Mommy-gram. When you have to be away from home and your kid is too little to text or call on their own, they can use this skill to touch base. After they say their message to Alexa, it will send it to you via text message, and you can respond. (It works for all parents, of course.) Say, “Alexa, launch Mommy-gram.”
>> Sesame Street. No surprises here: Elmo leads kids through an activity about the letter of the day and plays hide-and-seek so kids “find” him through sound cues and multiple-choice options. Say, “Alexa, open Sesame Street.”
>> 1-2-3 Math. With word problems addressing a variety of math skills, this activity requires careful listening. Though the math on the easy level is fairly simple, the medium and hard levels are challenging enough for upper elementary-school students, especially if applying math skills — or word problems in general — is tricky for them. Say, “Alexa, open 1-2-3 Math.”
>> Focus Game. This simple activity asks kids to sit down, relax and listen to sounds such as gongs until the sound fades. You can use the Focus Game as a standalone activity or to calm kids as they settle down for homework. Though not all the prompts will work for all kids, the question “How does your body feel when you focus?” is a solid way for kids to reflect and recapture a focused state. Say, “Alexa, ask Focus Game to start.”
>> Kids Quiz! Four difficulty levels and a wide variety of subjects make this a fun trivia game for kids. Kids Quiz! offers multiple-choice answers, so kids have a better chance of choosing correctly, even if they don’t know much about certain subjects. Say, “Alexa, play Kids Quiz!”
>> Kiwi Monsters! Through a fun story laced with choices, kids get to determine how their monsters evolve. As they choose certain colors, habitats and food, their monsters’ evolution will shift. Kids have to know about the concept of mating to understand some of the choices. Say, “Alexa, open Kiwi Monsters!”
>> Lemonade Stand. While an Alexa skill can’t compare to the thrill of setting up a real corner stand, this activity based on an existing game guides kids through the practical stuff: thinking ahead, budgeting and allocating money to supplies and advertising. It also throws in some challenging curveballs, such as virtual shifts from sunny to rainy and planning for days when no one wants lemonade. Say, “Alexa, open Lemonade Stand.”
>> The Magic Door. Like an audio-based choose-your-own-adventure book, this skill lets kids decide what happens next. Some of the stories are mildly creepy, so they may not be a great fit for little kids. Also, Alexa’s inflection doesn’t always match the tone of the story. Still, the interactive element is super fun. (Other good ones to try include Earplay and Storyflow, and if your kid just wants to listen, Amazon Storytime.) Say, “Alexa, open The Magic Door.”
>> Science Kid Radio. Science Kid Radio works like a podcast, offering kid-friendly, science-based audio shows. Say, “Alexa, play Science Kid Radio.”
>> Bolabot Search. If you’ve ever asked Alexa a specific, fact-based question and haven’t gotten the info you wanted, this skill might be worth a try. Though it’s in beta and rated Mature by Amazon (because it’s basically an open web search), the phone-free ability to get answers could be a great help when your kid needs to check a quick fact while in the middle of a homework assignment. Say, “Alexa, open Bolabot Search.”
>> Curiosity. For each round of facts, kids get two choices of subjects, like space flight or chemistry, to hear information about. Though parents will hear a “mature content” warning before it starts, nothing iffy came through during review. Say, “Alexa, open Curiosity.”
>> Song Quiz. Some adults will remember the game show “Name That Tune,” and this skill has that feel. You can select from several decades of music and then decide whether you’re playing with a friend or a random online player (there’s no actual contact with strangers). Then you listen and name the song and artist if you’re able. Say, “Alexa, open Song Quiz.”
>> Travel Quest. Kids get a virtual passport, answer questions and learn facts as they travel via Alexa to different countries. So far kids can only go to Canada or Japan with the promise of more countries available soon. Because of its narrative format, this is a fun way for kids to learn about different places and cultures. Say, “Alexa, start Travel Quest.”
>> Daily Routine. If your teen needs reminders about school, chores activities or something else they need to do for the day, this skill might help. Teens can set a list of tasks that recur each day. As they work through them, they can have the satisfaction of virtually crossing them off the list. It’ll save some nagging and hopefully foster some independence. Say, “Alexa, open Daily Routine.”
>> Do Good. Name a pressing social issue and Do Good will let you know about the organizations that are working to help. For instance, if your kid is interested in caring for animals, say, “I want to help animals,” and this skill will provide the best places to invest your time, energy and resources. Say, “Alexa, open Do Good.”
>> Escape the Room. Escape rooms are all the rage, and now you can experience one from your own home. Using simple directions, teens can “look” around a virtual room, gather clues and solve the puzzles. While the lack of actual visual cues might be tricky for some teens, this could be a fun game for older kids to play together. Say, “Alexa, open Escape the Room.”
>> Yes Sire. Much like the app Reigns, this silly skill puts you in the shoes of a monarch who has to make choices for the kingdom. Be careful — those choices can end in more wealth and prosperity or utter ruin. Note that there are some mature themes and references, so this isn’t one for little kids. Say, “Alexa, open Yes Sire.”
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at commonsense.org.