Creating Routines with Alexa

Recently I have been experimenting with making ‘Routines’ in the Alexa app. 

I believe the ‘Routines’ function within the app has so much potential, the possibilities are endless. As a parent of four year-old twin boys, one of which has Cerebral Palsy and communication difficulties, I am going to share with you how I have been using them. I will also share a video at the end of this post to help you make your own.

As many parents would agree, routines for young children are important. Having that consistent approach to daily activities, such as bedtime, can help reinforce those expectations of what needs to happen. Unfortunately, children are not always understanding in the amount of thought you have placed into making these routines work, nor are they always necessarily compliant to do what has been asked of them… or even acknowledge that you have spoken(!) Thankfully, Alexa has your back. 

Every evening after eating their tea, my boys like to play with their toys before bath time. We call this ‘wind down’ time. In the Alexa app I set WiFi bulbs to automatically dim to 50% and gentle music to play on the Amazon Echo. The aim here is to have a calming effect, and I would say nine times out of ten it does what I intended it to do. 

Five minutes before bath time, Alexa speaks, reminding the boys that it is nearly bath time and asking if they know where all the toys go. (I changed this to be less direct than saying “it’s time to tidy up”, which seems to work better.) At bath time the music turns off and Alexa speaks again, telling them that the bath is ready and asking them if they can get undressed (again less direct than telling them to get undressed.) 

After bath time, the boys have a story in the bedroom. Here I have set the WiFi bulb to gradually dim, creating a low light that will start to make sleepy eyes close. Sometimes my boys have asked that I leave the light on. For me this is not a problem as I set the light to dim gradually still until it eventually turns off. 

Does it work? Well, if you’re like me and are willing to try anything to get your little angels quickly to sleep, then I would recommend. I’ve also set up routines for getting dressed in the morning, teeth-brushing and putting on shoes. Alexa seems to have this magical voice that children listen to first time… how does she do it?!

Regarding setup, Amazon Echos and WiFi bulbs are relatively inexpensive and you can often find them on sale. The app is also fairly simple to use. I would say, however, it does take a bit of trial and error to get it to work for you. All children are different and their needs are always changing so your routines will have to be personalised around their needs.  

Does it stop them from waking early? No, sorry. I wish it did. Certain noises such as a baby crying or coughing can trigger a routine though. So, if you have a young child that wakes often during the night you could have an Amazon Echo in their room that will turn on soothing music, a light to come on at its dimmest setting and an alert sent to your phone or other device. Pair this with a WiFi camera and you have a pretty decent child monitoring system. 

Like I said before, it does take a bit of trial and error. Every child is different. To help get you started I’ve made a quick video. I hope you enjoy.

Tom McDonald

Tom McDonald

Tom is an Assistive Technology Consultant here at access: technology, with a passion for communication and music. He can be contacted directly at tom.mc@accesstechnology.co.uk

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