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15 Amazing Alexa Skills You Never Knew You Needed

Alexa has come a long way since first launching in 2014. What started as a simple voice assistant that could tell you the weather and play music has evolved into a robust platform with over 100,000 skills enabling everything from smart home control to language learning to gaming and beyond.

As of early 2023, Alexa is integrated into over 140,000 smart home devices from more than 9,500 brands, with a presence in over 200 million households worldwide. (source) It holds 69% market share for smart speakers, compared to 25% for Google Nest and 5% for Apple HomePod. (source)

With Alexa‘s rise to dominance has come an explosion of third-party skills, which now span over 20 distinct categories:

Alexa skill categories
(Image source: Amazon)

Some of the most popular skill categories include:

  • Smart Home (54% of skills)
  • Education & Reference (22%)
  • Music & Audio (18%)
  • Productivity (12%)
  • Food & Drink (11%)

But with so many options, finding the truly useful gems can feel overwhelming. As an Alexa developer and voice AI consultant, I‘ve tested hundreds of skills to separate the wheat from the chaff. Here are my picks for the most useful, innovative, and entertaining skills every Alexa user should enable today.

Best Productivity Skill: Todoist

Todoist is a powerful to-do list app that syncs seamlessly across all your devices. But did you know it also integrates with Alexa? With the Todoist skill, you can add tasks, check on your day‘s agenda, and mark off completed items just by talking to Alexa.

You can say things like:

  • "Alexa, add ‘buy groceries‘ to my Todoist"
  • "Alexa, what‘s on my to-do list for today?"
  • "Alexa, mark ‘submit expense report‘ as complete"

It‘s a huge timesaver when your hands are occupied. The integration works reliably and the voice recognition is spot-on in my testing.

Where Todoist really shines is in organizing your life across work, home, and personal projects. You can set up separate lists for different areas, assign due dates and priorities, and even delegate tasks to other people. Having Alexa as a hands-free interface makes it all the more powerful.

Todoist offers a free tier, but some of the more advanced features require a Premium subscription for $4/month. In my opinion it‘s well worth it for the productivity gains. If you struggle with staying on top of your tasks and want an ever-present assistant to keep you on track, the Alexa-Todoist combo is a must-have.

Best Skill for Parents: Chompers

Getting kids to brush their teeth is a nightly battle for many parents. Chompers aims to make dental hygiene fun by turning it into an interactive Alexa game.

The skill includes 60 "tooth brushing adventures" that entertain and educate kids while they brush for the dentist-recommended two minutes. Each episode features jokes, fun facts, silly songs, and imaginative prompts to guide kids through the brushing process.

To start, just say "Alexa, open Chompers." You can also set up reminders for specific times. The skill will nudge kids to brush twice a day and track their progress, awarding virtual stickers for consistent brushing streaks.

I love how Chompers sneaks in oral health tips and makes the chore of brushing something kids actually look forward to. It‘s designed for ages 4-7 but could appeal to older and younger kids too. The production quality is excellent, with professional voice actors and catchy music.

Chompers was developed by Gimlet Media, a leading podcast network, in partnership with Oral-B and Crest Kids. By gamifying a daily habit, it‘s a shining example of voice technology‘s potential to drive behavior change. If you have young kids and want to instill good oral hygiene habits (without the power struggles), Chompers is a lifesaver.

Best White Noise Skill: Sleep and Relaxation Sounds

If you have trouble falling asleep or focusing, ambient noise can help. And while there‘s no shortage of white noise skills for Alexa, Sleep and Relaxation Sounds is a standout for its sheer variety and customization options.

The skill includes over 125 different sounds across multiple categories:

  • Nature sounds (rain, wind, birds, etc.)
  • Water sounds (ocean waves, babbling brook, etc.)
  • Ambient noise (plane cabin, oscillating fan, vacuum, etc.)
  • Musical elements (bells, piano notes, wind chimes, etc.)

You can mix and match up to 3 different sounds to create your ideal soundscape, adjusting the volume of each. So you could have ocean waves with a light rainstorm and seagulls in the background, for example.

The audio quality is excellent, with no jarring loops or interruptions. You can set a sleep timer so the sound fades out automatically. There are also soothing narrator-led meditations to guide you into relaxation.

One feature I love is the ability to save your favorite combos. So if you find the perfect rainy day reading ambience, you can quickly pull it up again later. You can even set certain saved environments to play on a schedule as an alarm or at bedtime.

The base skill includes a large library of sounds for free, with optional in-skill purchases to unlock more. I‘ve found the included options to be more than sufficient. If you like having background noise for sleep, work, or unwinding, this skill is a must-enable.

Best Workout Skill: 6-Minute Full Body Stretch

Tight muscles and limited flexibility make us more prone to injury and stiffen us up as we age. But most of us don‘t have the time or patience to stretch as much as we should. The 6-Minute Full Body Stretch skill makes it quick and easy to sneak in some daily mobility, no matter how busy you are.

Developed by a physical therapist, the skill guides you through a gentle full-body stretching routine that targets the major muscle groups we often neglect:

  • Neck and shoulders
  • Chest and biceps
  • Lower back
  • Hamstrings
  • Hips and glutes
  • Calves and ankles

The whole sequence takes just 6 minutes, but you‘ll feel looser and more relaxed afterward. The stretches are suitable for most fitness levels, with audio and visual instructions to help you get the correct form and alignment.

To start, say "Alexa, open Full Body Stretch." The skill will default to a standing stretch routine, but you can also request seated movements if you have limited mobility or want to stretch at your desk. A separate evening routine helps you release tension before bed.

I try to do these stretches daily after my morning workout, or whenever I‘m feeling stiff from too much sitting. The skill keeps it simple and doesn‘t require any equipment besides an optional mat or towel. The audio cues are timely and easy to follow along hands-free.

Regular stretching is one of the best things you can do for your physical health and mobility. This skill lowers the barrier by packing an effective flexibility routine into an easily digestible 6 minutes a day.

Most Entertaining Kids Skill: Lemonade Stand

Plenty of Alexa games can keep kids occupied, but I especially like Lemonade Stand for its mix of education and imagination. The skill puts kids in charge of running their own virtual lemonade stand business.

They have to decide on pricing, inventory, and upgrades to grow their profits over a simulated 7-day period. Alexa explains basic business concepts like revenue, cost of goods sold, and profit margins along the way.

Kids can track their results on a companion mobile app or printable worksheet. The game takes about 15-20 minutes to play through, making it a perfect quiet time or car ride activity that exercises math and decision-making skills.

The voice acting is cheerful and encouraging, and the writing sneaks in some subtle lessons about entrepreneurship, money management, and problem-solving. My own kids love comparing their final profits and debating the optimal lemonade recipe.

While a single playthrough is plenty engaging, I do wish there was a little more variation or an endless mode to extend the replay value. But for a free skill, it delivers plenty of interactive edutainment. If you‘ve got school-age kids looking for a fun mental stimulation, Lemonade Stand is a clever use of voice gaming.

Best Cooking Skill: Serious Eats Guides

I‘m a big fan of Serious Eats for their scientific approach to recipe testing and technique. So I was thrilled to discover they have a suite of Alexa skills serving up culinary how-to guides and tips.

There are a dozen different skills covering topics like knife skills, cast iron cooking, grilling, and sous vide. My personal favorite is the All About Eggs skill, which offers a treasure trove of information on one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen.

You can ask questions like:

  • "Alexa, ask Serious Eats All About Eggs how to boil an egg"
  • "Alexa, ask Serious Eats All About Eggs the difference between brown and white eggs"
  • "Alexa, ask Serious Eats All About Eggs for a deviled egg recipe"

The skill will respond with detailed, scientifically-backed explanations and step-by-step instructions. It‘s like having a culinary school instructor on call to answer all your cooking queries.

The production quality is top-notch, with clear audio and helpful visual aids if you have an Echo Show or Fire TV. I love being able to get authoritative answers and guidance while I‘m in the middle of cooking, without having to wash my hands and consult a recipe.

Serious Eats has built a well-deserved reputation for rigorous testing and trustworthy culinary information. Having that knowledge base distilled into an Alexa skill is a godsend for any home cook looking to up their game. Whether you want to master the perfect omelet or learn the science behind dry-brining, these skills are an invaluable kitchen resource.

Handy Utilities

Beyond the major skill categories, there are a number of single-purpose utilities that can streamline small but frequent tasks:

  • Bring! – Sync your grocery list across devices and family members. Just tell Alexa to add items and everyone‘s list updates instantly.

  • Quick Events – Quickly add events or reminders to your calendar with voice. Works with Google, Apple, and Microsoft calendars.

  • Send to Phone – Share links, notes, and more from your Echo to your phone via notification or SMS.

  • Email Checker – Have Alexa check and read off your latest unread Gmail messages hands-free.

None of these are life-changing on their own, but they all help maximize the power of voice controls to handle quick, common actions. I use Bring and Email Checker almost daily.

With so many skills available, it‘s easy for handy utilities like these to get lost among the flashier, branded offerings. But they‘re often the ones that prove most useful over time by shaving down friction on the small tasks that add up.

The Future of Alexa Skills

The rise of Alexa skills reflects the larger trend toward conversational, voice-first interfaces. More than half of U.S. adults now use voice assistants, and Alexa has led the pack in terms of skills and integrations. (source)

But the competition is heating up, with Google, Apple, Samsung and others all investing heavily in their own voice platforms and developer ecosystems. Google Assistant now has over 1 million "actions" (their equivalent of skills), for example. (source)

Currently, Alexa skills have a discoverability and retention problem. There are so many skills that finding the good ones is a challenge for users. And according to Amazon, there‘s only about a 3% chance that a customer will be an active user of a skill a week after enabling it. (source)

To stay on top, Alexa will need to do a better job surfacing relevant skills at the right moments and making them more integral to the core user experience. I expect we‘ll see Alexa get better at proactively recommending skills based on a user‘s context and preferences.

Amazon has shown a willingness to acquire promising skills and integrate them directly into Alexa‘s feature set, as with the popular kids storytelling skill Novel Effect in 2021. (source) I wouldn‘t be surprised to see more of that as the company looks to level up Alexa‘s capabilities.

The most powerful skills going forward will likely be the ones that tie into Alexa‘s existing knowledge bases and leverage AI to enable more natural, conversational interactions. So instead of manually invoking a skill, Alexa would intelligently route your request to the appropriate skill in the background based on your phrasing.

Amazon‘s own AI investments, like the 2022 launch of its Alexa Teacher Model for more coherent and engaging dialog, point to a future where Alexa can handle more nuanced and multi-turn requests that would traditionally require a separate skill. (source)

The end goal is for Alexa and other voice assistants to become more of an ambient computing layer, skillfully mediating app interactions to accomplish tasks quickly and conversationally across our devices.

We‘ve only begun to scratch the surface of what‘s possible when you can access information and services just by asking out loud. The current crop of Alexa skills offers a glimpse of that future, putting nuggets of audio content, tools, and entertainment at our beck and call.

As Alexa and her underlying skills grow more sophisticated, the vision of a do-it-all voice assistant that can reliably handle almost any request inches closer to reality. For now, these top skills showcase some of the most powerful and delightful experiences you can currently have with Alexa.