We recently added a Google Home to our household. We’ve all been having alot of fun with it and I think it’s very useful for families with children. The device is relatively family friendly, and my kids love having it–so do I.
Here are some of the ways we’ve been using it:
- Timers: I think the timer feature is one of the “killer app” aspects of the Google Home. You simply say something like “Ok Google, set a timer for 30 minutes for Piano,” and it will start running a timer. The cool thing is that you can have as many timers going at the same time as needed. So cooking timers and music practice timers for two kids can all be going together. The time left can be checked by asking “Ok Google, how much time is left on the piano timer.” The convenience of using this feature, combined with the legitimacy of a computer dutifully timing something means less fudging of practice time. The rule in our house is that if it isn’t timed, the practice didn’t happen.
- Games and jokes: There are lots of fun games to be played on the Google Home. For example, Mad Libs. The Google Home will walk you through the Mad Libs interview process and then read back your mad lib. We’ve been having a great time playing Mad Libs as a family. There are plenty of other games it can play as well. My favorite is trivia. “Where was Andy Warhol born?” Not exactly a kid’s question, but fun, nonetheless.There are other kinds of games too–including the “Crystal Ball,” the online version of the 8 ball. You ask a question and get blythe answers like “all signs point to yes.”…and the jokes. So many jokes. Just ask Google Home to tell you a joke, and you get one of hundreds of jokes, not so funny sometimes, but others, pretty good. An example just handed down from Google is “Why can’t you trust an Atom?” “Because they make up literally everything.” It will also be happy to sing you a ditty if you ask “Do you know the muffin man?”
- Controlling Lights – We have a few Philips Hue light bulbs. They are a bit expensive but at the basic level, you can control the bulbs from an app on your mobile phone. You can turn them on and off, slowly bring up the lights over time…if you have a Google Home, you can just ask Google’s assistant to turn them on for you. Commands like “Turn on the light in Mary’s room” or “set the light in the living room to 50%” are fun to use.For even more fun, you can connect IFTTT to your Home device to add additional commands. You can write your own commands and the responses. So when my daughter whines I say “Ok Google, my daughter is whining!” Google responds with my daughter’s name and says “stop whining. You are 8 years old. I am only a few months old, and I don’t whine…” and then it blinks the lights for added effect.
- By the way, you can do some really useful things with IFTTT and Google Home, for instance it can log things into a Google Spreadsheet for you such as keeping track of work hours. By the way again, IFTTT can also control smart outlets such as Wemo. Follow the link to see that it’s just a gadget that plugs into your existing wall outlets, but it can be controlled via your mobile phone, Google Home, and in fact, IFTTT.
- It’s great for controlling Netflix and chromecast compatible televisions for that matter. If you have a TV near the Google Home, it’s most useful. You can ask Google Home to put a certain video or photograph on the TV screen for you.
- Getting facts. Google’s search engine has lots of facts and information. Things come up at dinner. Google knows the answers. “How far away is the moon from Earth?” “What’s the fastest land animal?” “What sound does a horse make?” (It answers that one with a sound!)
- Music. It is fantastic for music. I am amazed at how quickly it can pull up any song or type of music I can think of…and that my kids can think of. We’ve subscribed to YouTube Red (Google Home came with a six month free subscription) and so we’re getting tons of advertisement-free music.