8 ways Echo devices can make back to school season easier

Your school year routine is about to get a lot easier thanks to Alexa.

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Growing up, I had a faux wood and black-colored digital alarm clock that lived on my bedside table. I (begrudgingly) woke to the alarm sounding each morning when it was time to rise and shine for school and was instantly greeted by the bright red glow of the digitized numbers.

Fast forward 20 years and my nightstand looks a lot different now. Traditional nightstand alarm clocks don’t exist in my house anymore. (And, I don’t miss that harsh red glow one bit.) When my kids aren’t rousing me from slumber at the crack of dawn, I rely on the Echo Spot to get my day started.

Until recently, my iPhone XR served as a trusty alarm clock. While I’ve enjoyed using Apple’s Bedtime feature, it was time for my phone to make an exit from the bedroom—for good. Why? I found myself wasting time scrolling through social media before bed and mindlessly in the mornings when I could be doing something more productive, like making coffee or preparing for the day ahead.

So, with less than two weeks until my daughter starts first grade, out went my phone and in came the Echo Spot to help me stay on task and establish productive habits for back-to-school.

What is the best Echo for your morning routine?

Echo Spot on nightstand
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

The Echo Spot is a smart alarm clock, but the device can do other helpful tasks like read your calendar to get you ready for the day ahead.

Amazon introduced the Echo Spot as a part of the Amazon Echo device family in 2017. Thanks to its compact and circular design, the Echo Spot looks a lot like an alarm clock (but way more stylish). However, it can do more than just wake you up every morning. The Alexa-enabled device, which features a 2.5-inch display, can control smart home devices, give you the news, stream music and videos, and make video calls to friends and family.

The Spot is a useful tool to help parents get back into a routine as a new school year approaches.

The size is one of my favorite things about the Echo Spot. It “clocks” in at 3.8 inches tall and 4.1 inches wide, so it won't take up much space at all on your nightstand. The Echo Spot is pretty similar to the Echo Show in terms of functionality, but, given its small size, you can think of it more like the younger sibling of the two Echo video-enabled devices.

At $129, the Echo Spot isn’t cheap, especially considering you can buy a basic alarm clock for around $10. But, in my experience, the Echo Spot lives up to the hefty price tag when it comes to a smooth, morning wake-up routine.

Why you want the Echo Spot’s help

Echo Spot weather face
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

Help your kid's dress for the day's weather by checking the forecast on your Echo Spot.

My daughter, who is an early riser by choice, is often up before the rest of the house despite school not even being in session yet. My husband and I, on the other hand, operate at a pretty leisurely pace when it comes to waking up in the summer.

And, as tired parents of 15-month-old and 6-year-old children, we’ll gladly take all the sleep we can get.

However, in a few short weeks, my family will all need to be out the door at a certain hour again and that requires some coordination on my behalf. Adjusting back to the rhythm of the school year isn’t always a walk in the park, but the Echo Spot can be a useful tool to help parents get back into a routine.

1. Wake you gently with the “sun”

Echo Spot Sunrise
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

The Sunrise Effect can be toggled on and off on your Echo Spot device.

Well, not really, but there’s nothing like artificial light to get you out of bed. I find it easier for my eyes to adjust slowly than if I was to just flip on the overhead light after opening my eyes. If you swipe down from the top of the display screen, you’ll find the Sunrise Effect function in the Settings folder.

This feature, which can be toggled on and off, gradually displays lighting that mimics the sun. It starts 15 minutes before your alarm is set to go off, as long as its set between the hours of 4 and 9 a.m.

2. Access helpful information for the day ahead

Normally, you might roll over and say good morning to your partner (or dog, kids—you get the idea), but instead, you can save your morning time greetings for your Echo Spot. After shutting off the alarm, say, “Alexa, good morning." This command prompts Alexa to give you a fun fact to kick off the day with.

Alexa can also give you updates on the weather or a quick video rundown of the day’s top news events.

This way, you're prepared for the day before you ever leave the bedroom. Taking the train or driving in? Ask Alexa for traffic updates and commute times. Doing so can help you plan to leave earlier, if necessary.

3. Sync your calendar

One thing to do before tackling the day ahead is to check your calendar for upcoming appointments, meetings, school events, and more. This can help you manage your time and plan accordingly.

Using the Alexa app, you can link your calendar to your Echo Spot. Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Microsoft Exchange calendars can all be connected to the Echo Spot. After you’ve got the news and weather down for the day, say, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar?”

4. Check to see if your kids are out of bed yet

Drop In Echo Spot
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

The Echo Spot can be used to drop-in existing Alexa-enabled devices in your home, so you can make sure the kids are up.

Getting ready in the morning, especially when you’ve got kids to help, can feel like a circus act. Need to hop in the shower but don’t want to go upstairs to make sure your kids are up and moving? You can use the Echo Spot like a two-way walkie-talkie using audio or audio/video to drop in on other Echo devices in your home.

For example, you can say, “Alexa, drop in on my kitchen Echo Show” and begin a conversation. To end the dialogue say, “Alexa, hang up.” The hands-free drop-in feature is optional, but it can make hectic mornings easier when you’re short on time and trying to keep the family on schedule.

5. Upload your favorite photos to motivate you in the mornings

The Spot comes preloaded with a variety of clock faces to choose from, or you can upload your own picture background via Prime Photo. The customization feature is a nice touch.

Wishing you could wake up at the beach on a Monday morning? Just set your Spot’s background to your favorite photo from your oceanside vacation to give you good vibes all day long.

6. Wake up to your favorite tunes

Alarm Clock
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

Ready to set your alarm to wake up before the kids? Just ask Alexa to take care of that for you.

Instead of an intense, blaring alarm, ask Alexa to wake you up with your favorite song. To do this, say "Alexa, wake me up at 6 a.m. tomorrow with ‘Cheap Thrills’ by Sia." Alexa will repeat back the command, so you can be sure that your alarm is set. The clock face will also display the alarm time at the bottom of the screen.

Come alarm time, Alexa will wake you up with the song you requested. Just keep in mind that an Amazon Music subscription may be required. To dismiss the alarm, swipe up on the screen or say, “Alexa, stop.”

7. Play soothing sounds to help you relax

Ambient Sounds
Credit: Reviewed / Rachel Murphy

Stressful day? The Echo Spot plays soothing sounds to help you relax.

I try to go to bed every night at around the same time, but some evenings are more successful than others. After a busy day, I sometimes have a hard time unwinding and relaxing for bedtime. One thing that helps? Asking Alexa to play calming noises.

So, if the lights are out and you still can’t sleep, just ask Alexa to “play ambient sounds” or “bedtime music.” Want the music to stop at a certain time? Say, “Alexa, turn the music off in 60 minutes.” And, hopefully, you’ll be asleep when it stops.

8. Help you fall asleep by dimming the screen

I don’t know about you, but I need complete darkness when I’m ready for bed. The TV is off, the shades are drawn, and my Echo Spot dims itself almost completely. Before I got the Echo Spot, I was worried that it might display a little bit of light like previous alarm clocks I’ve had.

Surprisingly, the screen on the Echo Spot goes dark, so I can fall asleep and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow. To shut off the screen say, “Alexa, screen off.”

Every parent’s routine and schedule is going to look a bit different from another’s as a new school year starts. These are just some of the ways that your Echo Spot can help you get back into a routine for the upcoming academic semester.

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10 ways an Amazon Echo can help kids prep for back to school
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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