Any parent with small kids will likely have heard of either one of – or both of – the Yoto Player and Toniebox. Both are small electric devices which work as audiobook players, but are aimed at being suitable for kids aged three plus to use on their own.
They’re similar enough: they both cost around £75, they’re both small(ish), they both operate without being plugged into mains electricity, and they both offer audio stories and songs from popular books and TV shows, such as Disney, the Julia Donaldson collection and Paw Patrol.
Gem bought her son the Yoto, and I bought my son the Toniebox, so these are our honest reviews about how each one works, and the pros and cons to both.
We hope you find it useful!
Yoto Player – reviewed by Gemma
What is it?
Developed by two parents who were worried about how their kids having too much screen time (who isn’t?) the Yoto Player is an easy-to-use screen-free audio player that children can control by themselves, promoting independence and developing imaginations.
How does it work?
The Yoto Player works by inserting credit card sized audio cards (bought separately) into a slot on top of the player. Children can listen to audio books and music from Yoto’s extensive (and ever-expanding) library, as well as Yoto Daily, the player’s daily podcast full of age-appropriate jokes and riddles, and Yoto Radio, which plays kid-friendly songs.
Because it’s designed for children to control independently, the Yoto is super simple to use. To get started, just connect to WiFi, download the Yoto app (which you can use to control the player) and follow the instructions. Everything is controlled by the two orange buttons on the top of the player, and playing a story or card couldn’t be easier – simply pop the card in and wait for it to start. The audio cards also work without a WiFi connection, as long as you’ve inserted the card previously while connected to the internet.
The Yoto comes with charging dock and takes 5 hours to fully charge. After that, you can get anywhere from 3-8 hours continuous playback, depending on how you are using it. To turn the player off, you simply hold the power button for 3 seconds.
What age is it for?
Yoto say their player is suitable for anyone aged 3 and over, but the audio library offers cards aged from birth to 12 years. I bought it for my son’s third birthday, and we often listen to stories with his 1-year-old sister too.
How much does it cost?
Turn the Yoto Player face down to activate nightlight mode.
What I love about it…
Where to start? The Yoto player has so many brilliant features, the first of which is the design. It’s kid-friendly without being too kiddie. It’ll grow with them and isn’t I like that it has a clock on the face when there isn’t a card inserted, and that when there is, the pixel display shows the characters from the story – my little boy loves seeing the Gruffalo or Zog appear.
To call the Yoto Player multi-functional is an understatement. As well as playing audiobooks and music via the Yoto cards, the Yoto Daily podcast and Yoto Daily radio, when turned face-down it becomes a nightlight (with adjustable brightness) and also functions as a wake-up clock where you can set the time that the clock switches from day to night in an attempt to encourage little people to stay in bed a bit longer. You can also use it as a Bluetooth speaker.
The Yoto audio card library is brilliant, offering stories from iconic authors like Roald Dahl, Julia Donaldson and Enid Blyton alongside educational books, Marvel comics, Disney stories and music compilations such as “Summer Jams” or bedtime lullabies. Then there’s the “Make Your Own” cards, which allow you to put any audio on a card, be it an audiobook MP3 you already own or a recording of their favourite story by you or another family member – cute!
Finally, Yoto offers plenty of accessories for your player, from a protective “adventure jacket” to headphones and card storage options. I’m yet to buy any additional things, but I’d definitely consider the card case or pouch as I’m constantly worried that the audio cards are going to get lost.
What’s not so good…
I’ve really struggled to think of negatives of the Yoto Player. Obviously, it’s not cheap, but I do believe that you get a lot of bang for your buck. We ummed and ahhed for a while before buying it for my son’s birthday, but I know it will last a long time and will be enjoyed by him and his sister. It makes a great gift – especially if people club together – as do the cards, which I now always suggest to people when they ask for Christmas and birthday ideas.
While the Yoto Player is pitched as being portable, it’s probably not the easiest thing to take away with you unless you’re travelling by car. It might be worth checking out the mini version if you’re looking for something more portable.
It’s not something I’d buy “just because”, but for a birthday or Christmas present I think the Yoto is a worthy investment and offers plenty of functions to justify the cost. Has it stopped my son watching YouTube on my phone or his iPad? Absolutely not, but it has become a really enjoyable part of our bedtime routine and I’d always recommend it to any parents looking for a gift for children aged 3 and older.
Toniebox – reviewed by Hannah
What is it? Described as a ‘storytime companion’ the Toniebox is a 15cm square box which makes it easy for your kids to listen to music or stories by themselves without the need for a grown-up, giving them independence but also promoting time away from screens.
How does it work? The musical box comes in six shades, and whilst it’s got all the electronics inside, it comes inside a padded case so that it’s not easily broken or smashed about by clumsy toddler hands. The way it works is simple – you place a Tonies figurine on top of the box, squeeze one of the ears on the box and voila, storytime begins. The ears control the volume and the different figureines represent different audiobooks. We have six in our personal set now, including Moana and Nemo which are both a mixture of songs and storytime, and Peter Rabbit and Stick Man which are both stories. We also have a whale figure which tells facts about whales, dolphins and the ocean.
Each box also comes with a Creative Tonie which allows you to record 90-mins of your own audio or song. You can choose between two different skin colours which is a brilliant touch.
The box comes with a charging station (we tend to use this every few nights) but can also be used on the go and works with headphones.
What age is it for?
The website officially says ‘three years and up’ but our almost-toddler has just about got the idea of it…
How much does it cost?
The Toniebox is £79.99 on the official website but you can find it slightly cheaper elsewhere. It’s currently £70 on both Argos and John Lewis. Whilst the Tonie figurines (which act as the ‘books’) cost between £12 and £15 each.
What I love about it…
I love the fact it helps both my kids sleep. We predominately use it before bed time to help that transition from TV time to sleep time and it’s a great way for them to unwind whilst also helping them feel less scared of being alone in the dark. I have memories of listening to audiobooks as a kid (The Famous Five on cassette) and used to listen to Harry Potter on Audible whenever I was on a night flight, so I wanted to recreate that comfort of story-telling at bedtime for my kids.
I love how unbreakable it is and how well it charges. I also love how readily available the story figures are – I can panic order off Amazon Prime, pick up slightly cheaper at TK Maxx or even find a few different ones in Tesco.
There’s also a brilliant selection of the story figures, with plenty of kids’ favourites, plus white noise for babies!
What’s not so good?
I find that the prices of the figurines are pretty high for what they are. A standard Paw Patrol or Disney character will set you back £14.99 and some of those will only come with a play time of 15 mins so you’re literally paying £1 per minute. It means that to gain a big collection of storybook options for your kid takes time unless you’re breathtakingly minted.
I also wish there was an obvious way to skip forward on an audiobook. A lot of the Disney ones, for example, have songs for the first half, whereas the kids would probably rather listen to the story.
The only other disadvantage is the size of the box which means it isn’t ideal for use on things like planes or trains.
It’s a fairly big initial spend for something that isn’t particularly transportable and doesn’t do a huge amount of things, but with that being said, it’s an important part of our every day bedtime routine and the kids both really enjoy it so I have no regrets on buying it as a birthday present for my four-year-old!