My greatest moment with the Toniebox audio player happened when I wasn’t even listening to it. Part of the testing was for a week at the beach with my brother’s family, and one evening I went out for drinks at our rental house where I saw my 3.5 year old daughter, my nephew 6 year old and my 7 year old nephew. old niece huddled on the floor completely engaged around the Toniebox. As any parent knows, screenless entertainment can be difficult to maintain. And screenless entertainment that’s suitable for all ages is next to impossible. But, at that time at least, the Toniebox had pulled off the miracle.
Of course, the Toniebox is by no means a perfect product when placed under the critical eye (and ear) of an adult. Its sound quality is somewhat tinny, and the whimsical Tonie figurines that are key to all the content are bound to get lost or stepped on. Still, my 3-year-old daughter carried her music box all week, replacing Elsa Tonie with Lightning McQueen Tonie at a pace that definitely frustrated her older, much more patient cousins. My daughter even cried when we told her she couldn’t take the music player to the beach. When we finally got home and hung out with some neighborhood friends, she proudly displayed her Toniebox and declared it one of her best toys.
What is the Toniebox?
Created in 2014 by fathers Patric Faßbender and Marcus Stahl, the Toniebox is a deliberately simplistic portable speaker and storyteller that made its international debut in 2016 before arriving in the United States in 2020. Whereas the Toniebox is enriching, educational, entertaining and engaging, all without any incessant, disruptive flashing or blue light – it’s no wonder it was developed by parents.
The 4.7-inch-by-4.7-inch-by-4.7-inch cube is slightly larger than the oversized fuzzy dice you’ve seen dangling from the rear-view mirrors, and the colorful padded fabric makes the speaker almost as soft. Still, this kids music player is shockproof, water resistant and incredibly durable – ours didn’t suffer any ill effects even after my daughter dropped it several times.
Once installed, the Toniebox is easy to use. Instead of relying on outdated discs or a Bluetooth-connected phone to feed it content, music and stories are downloaded by placing hand-painted Tonies characters on the box. These characters place content right in the box, allowing you to listen wirelessly, perfect for road trips. Also good for road trips, the Toniebox has a standard 3.5mm audio jack for headphones or earphones. But these headphones can’t be wireless – the box doesn’t offer a Bluetooth connection.
The $99.99 Starter Kit includes a Creative-Tonie but no preloaded Tonie content – I’ll address the differences below. Our Toniebox was pink, but you can choose from an array of six choices, including fire engine red, sky blue, grass green, purple, and gray.
Setting up the Toniebox
Using the Toniebox is so simple that even a 3 year old child can do it. I saw the proof. However, setting it up requires an adult or at least someone who knows how to connect a device to WiFi. Start by downloading the MyTonies app to your Android or iOS smart device. You will need to create a free profile for your Toniebox on the app. Then hold the two triangular “ears” on the box for 5 seconds until the LED lights on the top of the music player flash. The lights flash for about 20 seconds. When you hear a chime, tap “continue” on the app. Select your wireless network, enter your password, and you’re ready to let your preschooler play DJ. Note that it is preferable to install the Toniebox near your router. My first attempt on the other side of the beach house failed, triggering a temporary tantrum from my daughter.
Tonie’s characters magnetically attach to the top of the box, which they talk to via a near-field communication chip. Once in place, they start playing immediately. Adjust the volume by pressing the ears and change tracks by tapping the box on its left or right side. Don’t be afraid to hit hard! In fact, it takes a pretty solid keystroke to change chapters. To fast forward or rewind tracks, simply tilt the case left or right. If you want to listen to something completely different, replace the Tonie over it. Once you put a new number on top, the Tonie will always start at the beginning of its preloaded content. The temptation to swap these characters over and over is real. In fact, it took several days in our testing before we actually played all of the Tonies through their content.
Main characteristics of the Toniebox
Don’t expect the Toniebox to replace a wireless speaker. For one, it doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, so your content is limited to what’s available directly from Toniebox. And while the audio is crystal clear – and is especially great if you and the kids sing along to the lyrics to “Part of Your World” in addition to the music – it can sound mellow, even with the volume turned up all the way. at the top. It has a rated power of 3W/5W, a frequency range of 180-15kHz, and an average sound pressure of 80dB. This means that the Toniebox will never reach piercing and potentially dangerous levels. It also means that audiophiles in training won’t brag about the sound quality. But seeing how kids don’t repeatedly ask to hear that story about how much treble a speaker has, there’s just a lot to like about the Toniebox. Here are some of the main features.
Content is king
The Disney princesses and cartoon figurines that adorn the Toniebox give character to the children’s music player. Hand Painted Tonies come preloaded with anywhere from 15 minutes to around an hour of content, offering a mix of songs, stories, and games. We loved singing ‘Let it Go’ with Elsa and listening to Peppa Pig’s family go skiing, but when all three kids listened at the same time, arguments over Tonie’s next win inevitably ensued. It gave great lessons in sharing in addition to the lessons in self-confidence and problem solving from the songs and stories passed down.
Toniebox currently partners with Disney, Pixar, Universal Music Group, Scholastic, and Macmillan Children’s Books to deliver characters and content kids will find familiar. Over 30 Tonies – from Winnie the Pooh to Woody to Stick Man – sell individually for $14.99 (about what I paid for DVDs, and I wasn’t always as keen on them as kids and their stories). Losing the Tonies, however, is a bigger risk. Unlike a mundane CD or Blu-ray disc that, at worst, is pushed to the back of a shelf, the Tonies are practically begging to be played with. My 3.5 year old pushed Lightning McQueen like he was a Hotwheels car – and Hotwheels cars always seem to find their way under the couch. And misplacing the Tonies is a problem because without them the content disappears.
Each Toniebox also comes with a Creative-Tonie that lets you record 90 minutes of content. When you are done recording via app or computer, press and hold either ear of the Toniebox for 3 seconds to sync the file. Moments later, you can hear yourself singing the same way you just listened to Ariel or Aladdin. We recorded a little “Happy Birthday” and we also made up the story of a turtle who couldn’t swim.
When story time and playtime are over, you can use the Sleepy Time Tonies to play soothing music for kids, white noise or nature sounds for nap time.
Roll with the hits
Designed in Germany and made in China, the shockproof speaker seems nearly indestructible. Textured fabric is sewn around squishy foam that makes this portable music player more like one of your kids’ cool toys. I rolled the music player across the wooden floor, dropped it while standing, and dropped it down the slide. Yet the pace continued. I even drew on it with a marker and easily washed the mark off with a swipe of my finger and a quick wipe.
Lots of playing time
The Toniebox comes with a wall charger that allows the music player to easily snap onto the top. Toniebox charges for up to 7 hours of playback, but we got an orange LED light – signaling low battery – a few hours later. Admittedly, we had the music player on full blast and changed the Tonies probably more than advised. On the charger, the Toniebox returns to full power in about 3 hours.
So who should buy the Toniebox?
In the age of excessive screens, audio content is kind of on the rise. Podcasts attract more ad dollars and smartphones have given new life to audiobooks. Perhaps it’s proof that nothing quite replaces the timeless tales and songs that originated around prehistoric campfires. The Toniebox delivers some of that timeless entertainment in a fun and engaging way with its colorful fabric and hand-painted characters. That’s why parents looking to keep their preschool to elementary kids engaged without relying on screens should consider purchasing the Toniebox.
The colorful Tonies that go over the top are enough to encourage kids to want to use the music player and the loaded content that comes with these characters – which most of your kids already know – is enough to keep them coming back. You can expect to answer the question, “Are there too many ‘Let it Go’ or ‘Under the Sea’ songs?”
Parents with older kids can consider the $99 Yoto Player, which features content maps instead of characters and has additional partnerships with publishing houses, meaning it offers more mature titles like “The Secret Garden”..And parents who want even more stories ahead of time can consider the Lunii My Fabulous Storyteller, which includes 48 built-in adventures with more available for download, though most of the stories are lesser known. Meanwhile, parents who prefer their child to be able to listen to anything that can be played on a smartphone can forego dedicated music players for a Bluetooth speaker.The waterproof and dustproof UE Wonderboom 2 can be a good option for the children.
But if you’re looking for a screenless storytelling machine that kids will actually play with, the Toniebox audio player is perhaps the best portable music player for kids. These cool toys will have them singing and you singing their praises.