Using smart speakers to help with routines 

I recently got a smart speaker, an Amazon Echo, to help with my daughter’s routines. Actually, I got one for the bedroom and another for the living room, but just hear me out… I’m not a compulsive gadget shopper! 

We already use toys and puppets to help our daughter with routines and prompting. The speakers add an extra voice—literally! There’s a function called Routines on the smartphone app that sets up the speakers. You can program the voice assistant, Alexa, to say words (which you type) at certain times.  

For example, alarms aren’t usually fun, but just past 7am on weekdays, I’ve set Alexa to announce: “Good morning! Have you woken up for school yet? It’s time to have breakfast. Cock-a-doodle-doo!” The last bit always makes my daughter laugh, even when she’s sleepy and grumpy. And then she gets out of bed and starts the day by herself. 

I’ve also programmed Alexa to say other prompts throughout the morning to remind my daughter to finish eating breakfast, brush her teeth and get ready for school. As my daughter thinks that talking speakers are a novelty, Alexa can help as additional reinforcement. 

Call and response 

You can also program Alexa to reply with a specific response when she hears a phrase that you say. This handy feature opens up many creative possibilities.  

For example, stopping playing on mobile is pretty challenging in our household. When I say “Alexa, my daughter is still playing on her iPad,” the speaker responds: “We all know that too much iPad makes you tired and grumpy. iPads also stop working when they get too warm. It’s time to stop playing and turn it off.” 

I’ve programmed all sorts of fun prompting and praising (plus a few dad jokes) to help things along. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. The key is to make your phrases easy to remember because Alexa needs to hear the exact words you program. Get it wrong and she will respond: “Hmmm… I don’t know that one!”  

Luckily, you can program a few variations, like “My daughter hasn’t gone to bed yet”, “My daughter hasn’t gone to sleep yet”, “My daughter is still awake”… you get the idea. By the way, there’s already a bunch of fart-related jokes that Alexa can say, so no need to work on those! 

Labelling routines 

When naming routines, try to group them together with a label or a time of the day to make editing them easier in the future. Some of mine are called: Morning: Wake up; Morning: Finish breakfast and brush teeth; Morning: Praise for ready for school. I also created specific praises for finishing dinner, brushing teeth and putting away the iPad. Have fun! 

PS: I don’t know if you can program Apple or Google smart speakers this way, so please check if you primarily use those brands. 

~ a Plumtree dad

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