If you only use Alexa to set a timer for your pasta or to find out what the weather’s going to be like, you’re missing out on the many ways she can help out while we’re all stuck at home.
Here, then, are seven things you can ask her which will help you keep fit, motivated and entertained. Some of these are enhanced if you have an Echo Show which can show video or graphics on screen along with audio. However, a regular Echo speaker or even the Alexa app on your phone will also do just fine.
1 "Alexa, give me a quiz"
Alexa can play all the usual stuff, such as 21 questions and rock, paper, scissors, but if you’re after something you can get your teeth into, ask her to play Sherlock Holmes: The Great Game.
It’s perfect if you’ve got no-one else to play with as you can play this interactive game alone, attempting to figure out whodunnit.
For more family-based games, try Trivial Pursuit or Tenable, and Harry Potter fans should enjoy the official Harry Potter Quiz. Also, check out our separate guide to the best Alexa games.
2 "Alexa, let's work out"
If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that Joe Wicks is the most relatable fitness trainer around. Although you won’t find the live PE with Joe videos on Alexa, you can access The Body Coach skill for the same type of high-intensity 15-minute workouts which will not only help your fitness levels, but also get you revved up and motivated for the rest of the day.
There are other fitness skills, but Joe’s is the one to go for.
Read more about Joe and other great exercisers in our best online workouts for kids and teens roundup.
3 "Alexa, read me a story"
A little-known fact is that Alexa can serve up free Audible stories read not by her (because that would be intolerable) but by favourites such as Steven Fry, David Jason and Juliet Stevenson.
Ask Alexa to open Audible stories and you can choose between shorts from Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter, Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens and more.
Currently, as part of a lockdown initiative, you can also ask Alexa to read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for free (until 31 May), and this is great for kids who can read along with a physical copy of the book. Again, this isn’t Alexa reading: each chapter is read by a different celebrity.
Younger kids will appreciate Gruffalo Move, an interactive voice game based on the much-loved book by Julia Donaldson. Just say “Alexa, open Gruffalo Move.”
Alexa can also play many different podcasts. You’ll need to know the name of the one you want as she won’t offer any recommendations. Of course, the world is your oyster with podcasts, so a quick search for Alexa podcasts will help you choose between comedy, news and many other topics, even learning a language.
4 "Alexa, play relaxing sounds"
One of the most common uses for Alexa is to play music, but as well as being able to play specific albums and tracks (depending on the music streaming service you subscribe to) she can also play genres and eras. Just ask her to play chillout music, or whatever you’d like to hear.
You can also listen to thousands of radio stations. You can ask her to “play BBC Radio two” and it will play using the BBC Sounds skill. For other stations, say “Alexa, play [station name] on TuneIn”.
She can also play relaxing sounds: just ask her to play rainfall, birdsong, forest sounds or whatever you find calms you down.
5 "Alexa, let's cook"
Want some inspiration for or assistance with preparing a meal? Alexa is happy to help. Just ask her to find a recipe and she’ll offer a selection to choose from.
As with workouts, this is one that is best on an Echo Show (or a Fire tablet) so you can see the instructions and pictures.
6 "Alexa, drop in on mum"
Alexa offers various ways to communicate with friends and family. One is Drop In, which requires a little setting up, but once done you can say “Alexa, drop in on mum and dad” and she’ll start a voice or video call with them on their Echo.
You can also send voice messages if you simply want to encourage people, and not necessarily talk to them right away.
If you have more than one Echo in your home, you can use them to broadcast announcements to the rest of the family, such as “Alexa, announce it’s break time”.
7 "Alexa, fart!"
You might not have seen much evidence of it, but Alexa has a sense of humour. Ask her to tell you a joke or sing a song and she will oblige. Ask again, and you’ll get a different answer.
You can even be specific and ask her to sing you a song about space, or ask her to rap.
For even more fun, tell her to make a fart sound, or meow like a cat. We’ve put together a selection of 100 funny things to say to Alexa.
And if you’re after updates about the pandemic, simply say “Alexa, when will lockdown end”.
Read next: Best Alexa skills.