We all know that our kids will listen to anyone other than their parents. And with schools closed, and not being able to go out or meet other people, this confrontation between child & parent has worsened. Until the intervention of Alexa, the small Amazon AI assistant. Used smartly, this can be a blessing saving you from having to repeatedly nag your kids to do their routine activities.
Does your daily interaction with your kids start like this? "Good morning, time to wake up!" and eventually 8 reminders and 45 minutes later..." Wake up!!! It's getting late for online school"!!!
Then 5 to 6 times of "Have you brushed your teeth yet? How many times do I have to remind you?"; then on to 4 times of " Breakfast is ready...are you coming!?"...
and then a few times of on top of your voice...."It's time to log in!!!!"
And this is just the morning, and as the day goes on, this endless instruction giving and keeping track of the time to switch activities, all the while handling the kitchen and your work, can drive you absolutely up the wall.
Here's a very simple working idea, since most of the instructions we yell out to our children are repetitive, at the same time every day for months on end, why not outsource the yelling!!?? It's definitely made my life as a working mom of two much simpler. You'll be amazed to know when the kids know that you can't argue back to a device, they are ready to co-operate. Is it this I wonder, or just the fact that they know that Alexa will not negotiate or budge, unlike the parent who might give in if the child fusses enough!
Alexa can help you with these routines. Set them on the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone. (For the non savvy, the device we are talking about is the echodot by Amazon)
Let's see what Alexa can do to help the parents of 7-year-old Anvi with
Alexa has been programmed to say...
7.30 am- Good morning Anvi, it is time to wake up. I hope you have an amazing day.
I'm playing your favourite morning bhajan.
7.45 am- It's time to brush your teeth. I'll sing your brush song.
8.30 am- Time to get ready for online class. Pick up your towel, and clothes and go have a bath. Let's see if you can finish in 10 minutes. GO Anvi!!
8.45- Applause- You did a great job Anvi, on time today!
Alexa with 13-year-old Gaurav with Autism, the parents say
"As he is getting more independent, Alexa has been very useful. He uses it to play his own music, and we use his favourite music as alarms & reminders. His tantrums and annoyance at our repeated reminders for his daily tasks have reduced as we have moved a lot of this to Alexa."
So here are the best ways to use the Alexa app for your child with special needs.
1) Alexa can help you with these routines. Set them on the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone. "Alexa, tell my child to brush his teeth" Great to set daily reminders which set off at the same time daily. It can be made fun with the use of music etc. ( Go to the Amazon Alexa app, Go to Routines; set up a new routine using your child's name in every reminder and statement to customise your routine).
2) Set the morning wake up routine; with a music playlist playing at a set time. Choose your morning prayers like Suprabhathams; (Yes, Alexa knows MS Subbalakshmi!) or bhajans; melodious songs or just about anything you and your child enjoy. Better for the child to wake to any type of music than to nagging and scoldings by the parent.
Set the bedtime routine. Choose your relaxing music- piano or flute or instrumental music playlists. Ideally have this start at least 30 mins before bedtime, so the child has time to calm down from the activity they are doing and settle down to bed.
"Alexa, Play relaxing bedtime music at 9 pm every day"
3) "Alexa, set a reminder in 20 mins to stop using the tab"- This is a perfect way to set a timer or a boundary. When you give your child use of the Tab/ iPad/ Tv; the toughest job is to take it away. Set an on the spot reminder on Alexa, before you hand your child the device. Cuts down the tantrums & meltdowns which come when taking the device away.
Also remember to set the command for the next task, so the child knows what to switch to. Set the timer to say "Time to stop watching and start doing puzzles"
4) Speech repetition; Kids love listening to the same stories, songs, rhymes repeatedly and this is a great thing to outsource. Our kids need a constant auditory stimulus and the input of language, which parents do have their limitations of time with. Kids who have speech can communicate with it directly and we've seen younger kids start pronouncing better so Alexa understands them.
5) Alexa can be given the task of story reading. Fun stories and bedtime stories can be read off kindle. (Yes, dear therapists and critics, this is no substitute for storytime with the parent, and yet in the real world in the current times, from the perspective of a working mom of two, I take the view that it is better to have the device do it than the parent getting around to it once or twice a week)
6) With a connect to Amazon music, your child can request any song they like and put it on repeat. Dance music, Rock, pop, jazz, Bollywood, any of these and the best part is they don't need to pick up your phone to do this, and won't end up watching the music videos on youtube!! Yay!!! No watching! Only listening! All this achieved without the parent yelling!!
7) Check out Amazon kids apps like freeze dance, 'Simon says' etc for some activities for the kids.
Note of caution- Like any other device connected to the internet, you do have to build in safety for your child so they cannot access unwanted content.
The downside? Artificial Intelligence can make the child expect instant replies from people, and also give an unreal perception of whom they are communicating with.
Used with parental care and restrictions, it can be of great benefit in the current stay home and no socialising times though.
Do tell us how you use Alexa for your child, send us ideas and thoughts & we'll add them here. write to us at email@example.com with "Blog" in the subject. We look forward to hearing from you!
( Disclaimer- We are fans of this device while being careful parents, and we have no vested or commercial interest in promoting this product.)