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Toniebox Review: An honest review of the kid’s smartspeaker

Toniebox Review: An honest review of the kid’s smartspeaker

Have you heard of a Toniebox? If you’ve got young children and you’re always looking for fun, creative and educational ways to keep them entertained then keep reading because this is a toy you’ll want on your radar! Here is my honest Toniebox review…

Toniebox review

My Toniebox review

What is a Toniebox?

A Toniebox is a speaker for children.

It’s a simple, square box that’s slightly cushioned and water repellent (perfect in case little hands drop it!)

It has two little ears to control the volume and a rechargeable docking station. When it’s not on the docking station, it’s completely wire-free with no screens or complicated buttons.

It works by placing a Tonie character on the square on top of the box. When the character is in place (there’s a magnet that guides it into the correct spot) it will play the pre-recorded content on the Tonie.

You can tap the side of the box to skip to the next song or next section of a story but other than that, the controls are very simple.

tonies Toniebox Starter Set incl 1 Creative Toddler Toys, Educational Toys for 3 Year Old Boys and...
  • What it is: Our Toniebox is a new and innovative audio player for kids, great for bedtime stories or as a kids' music box. It's screen-free and so easy to use that even 3-year-olds can operate it
  • How it works: Placing tonies audio characters on the Cube begins playback automatically and taking them off stops it. Pressing the ears changes the volume. Tapping the sides changes tracks. Simple!
  • For kids' needs: Kids love to take the Toniebox on journeys. The battery of the portable speaker holds up to 7 hours runtime. The box is padded, robust, and has no sharp edges
Toniebox review

What is a Tonie character?

It’s the Tonie characters that make the Toniebox really special and unique!

Tonie characters are 2-3” figures that are preloaded with audio content that plays through the Toniebox. Think of it like a modern day CD for young children!

You place the Tonie on top of the box and it instantly begins playing stories and music as well as theme tunes and songs. When the Tonie is removed from the box, it instantly stops playing.

Many of the characters will be recognisable from your children’s favourite films, books and TV shows. You’ll see the likes of Frozen, Peppa Pig, Minions, The Little Mermaid and The Gruffalo.

There are around 60 Tonie characters available in the UK and each Tonie is priced around £14.99.

The Tonies are a fun yet simple way for young children to control what they listen to and they can play with the hand-painted figures like they would any other toy. 

tonies Julia Donaldson Figurine Bundle Incl. 4 Characters: Gruffalo, Zog, Highway Rat, and Stick...
  • Screen-free: Tonies are audiobooks, songs and stories that work with a Toniebox, the innovative portable music player system that combines playing, learning and listening, and all screen-free
  • Easy to use: Place any of the tonies audio characters on top of the Toniebox music player for kids, and it starts playing. Take it off, it stops. It is so easy to use, even toddlers can operate it
  • Designed for kids: All Tonies are made especially for use by children - with no sharp edges and extremely robust. They are also hand-painted in child-friendly designs

Alternatives?

Another option for a kid’s smartspeaker is a Yoto Player. I have a full Yoto Mini review over here!


Toniebox Review: What is a creative Tonie?

As well as the pre-loaded Tonie characters, you can also get a Creative Tonie which is a figure you can use to upload up to 90 minutes of your own content. You use the Tonies app to upload the content and the app is very straightforward and easy to use.

Maybe you want Grannie and Grandpa to read a bedtime story or Uncle Nick in Canada wants to record a message? You could preload it with your child’s favourite songs. Maybe someone wants to sing happy birthday or maybe your child just likes to hear their parents voice while they’re at work?

I think you could have a lot of fun with creative Tonies and they could be used in an educational way too.

Creative Tonie

Toniebox review: What ages is a Toniebox suitable for?

While there is no specific age bracket for a Toniebox, I’d say it’s perfect for ages 1-8. I have read on another Toniebox review that it’s suitable for children aged 3+ but I’m sure my kids would have all been able to use it from 18 months and would have enjoyed it from birth (I played audiobooks for Alba when she was a newborn because she didn’t like silence).

My three children are 20 months, 4.5 and 6.5 and they all love it. 

It’s actually really lovely to have a ‘toy’ they can all play with together. They can all work it alone but they can also enjoy it together. 

Once we got into the habit of taking it in turns to choose a Tonie they actually play with it really nicely together! They like to set up a den and fill it with blankets and take their Toniebox inside to listen to stories. It’s the cutest thing and any parents with more than one child will know it’s a rare thing for kids to sit and play nicely together all day with one toy!

A screen-free media device!

One of my favourite things about the Toniebox (and what had led to such a positive Toniebox review!) is that it’s a screen-free media device. My kids are getting the modern, interactive element they love, but they’re not glued to a screen so it encourages them to be creative and play at the same time.

You do need an app to set up the Toniebox when you first unbox it, but once you’re set up there’s no need to use the app other than if you want to preload a Creative Tonie. I really love this because so many multimedia toys require the use of an app — which inevitably leads to my kids using my phone and everyone inevitably getting distracted by the phone.

Can you use a Toniebox on a plane and while travelling?

Of course, we haven’t used our Toniebox for travelling just yet (this blog post was created during the Covid pandemic!) but it’s going to be so good when we do!

The Toniebox has a battery life of 7 hours so it can be used when you’re out and about and on a plane. It also has a headphone jack to avoid annoying your fellow passengers – but if you’re kids don’t like wearing headphones I wouldn’t worry because the noise of the plane does drown out a personal device when it’s playing quietly. 

It’s also great for while you’re travelling because once the device has downloaded the content from the Tonie, you can use it without WiFi.

Toniebox awards

It’s not surprising the Toniebox has won its share of awards!

  • Red Dot Design Prize 2016
  • The German Design Award 2017
  • The IF Design Award 2017
  • The LIMA Award 2017 and 2018 
  • German Founders Award 2019
  • Loved By Parents Award for “Best Innovative Toy 2019” 
  • European Product Design Award 2019 for “Children’s Products”

Benefits of a Tonie over a smart speaker?

You may be wondering if it’s worth buying a Toniebox when a smartspeaker can do something similar? We do have a few Alexa smart speakers dotted around our house and we’ll often play audiobooks through it at bedtime for the kids.

Smart speakers are great but I’d say the Toniebox is more of a toy that kids hold and interact with. Children can choose what they want to listen to and the Toniebox is their device. It’s fun and exciting and they can take it places with them – it’s as much about the fun of choosing their Tonie as it is actually listening to it. They like to hold their Tonies and play with them and sneak off into a quiet corner with their Toniebox.

Another benefit of a Toniebox is that it’s portable so it’s great for long car journeys, travelling or taking out and about with you.

Should I just get a smart speaker?

If a Toniebox is out of your budget then I do think an Alexa smart speaker from Amazon is a great gift for kids. As I mentioned above, we do have these speakers dotted around our house and the kids love them. They do need to be plugged in so you’re restricted as to where you can use them but they aren’t too expensive so you can have a couple around the house.

Our kids use them to play music (via Amazon Music which we do subscribe to) and audio books. We purchase audiobooks via Audible and they are considerably cheaper than buying a Tonie. A Tonie, for example, costs £14.99 but most children’s Audible books cost between £4-£7.

This music and Audible books can also be played via your phone so you can play them in the car or while travelling.

They kids also use the smart speak to ask Alexa questions. Admittedly, sometimes they are silly questions but sometimes they are educational questions or they’ll ask what the weather will be like or what time it is. They love doing this, especially Joseph as he can’t tell the time but the Alexa gives him some independence.

At the time of writing this, Alexa dots were just £17!

Echo Dot (4th generation) | Smart speaker with Alexa | Charcoal
  • Meet Echo Dot—our most popular smart speaker with Alexa. The sleek, compact design delivers crisp vocals and balanced bass for full sound.
  • Voice control your entertainment—stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer and more. Play music, audiobooks and podcasts throughout your home with multi-room music.
  • Supports lossless HD audio available on select streaming services such as Amazon Music HD.

If you’re still not sure if a Toniebox is a good idea, I’ve listed a few of the pros and cons

Pros of a Toniebox

  • The simple design means young children can use it themselves – promoting independence and less frustration with devices they can’t work
  • It’s fun
  • Tonies are also little toys they love to play with
  • It’s rechargeable so can be used anywhere – great for travelling!
  • Makes a lovely gift and Tonies can be bought as smaller gifts
  • It’s a toy that will last a number of years
  • It’s slightly cushioned and water repellent so it’s durable

Cons of Toniebox

  • Content can’t be paused and skipping a section by tapping the box doesn’t always work. You have to tap in the exact right spot and I imagine if you had a creative Tonie with 30 songs on it, this could be annoying!
  • It’s more expensive than a smartspeaker + audiobooks. The Toniebox with one creative Tonie costs £69.95 and each Tonie is around £14.99. You can see how this can quickly become expensive! (But I also do think it’s a very easy gift – I can imagine Nana and Grandpa buying a Toniebox for Christmas and buying new Tonies for each birthday and special occasion thereafter).

There you have it, my Toniebox review! If you have any questions please do drop them in the comments below!

You can find out more at Tonies.com and Tonieboxes and individual Tonies can also be purchased on Amazon.

And don’t forget I have a review of the Yoto Mini on the blog too.

tonies Toniebox Disney Favourites Bundle Incl. 1 Creative 3 The Lion King, Jungle Book, and Aladdin,...
  • What it is: Our Toniebox is an innovative new audio player for kids, great for bedtime stories or as a kids' music box. It's screen-free and so easy to use that even 3-year-olds can operate it
  • How it works: Placing tonies audio characters on the Toniebox begins playback automatically and taking them off stops it. Pressing the ears changes the volume. Tapping the sides changes tracks. Easy!
  • For kids' needs: Kids will embark on exciting adventures listening to their favourite Disney stories: The Lion King, The Jungle Book, and Aladdin. Up to 7 hours runtime

Read more from the blog:

The Travel Hack: How it all began – A 10 year timeline of my travels, blogging and life

What’s it like having 3 kids? The good, the bad and the chaotic

Also, if your child is a big Toniebox fan, you can get these gorgeous Toniebox wall shelves on Amazon. I love this one below but there are lots to choose from!

Dreamhigh Shelf compatible with Toniebox and Tonies – Wall Shelf for Children’s Room -...
  • LARGE SAPCE: Shelf with cloud compatible with Toniebox and Tonies.It offers space for 30 Tonie figures. Due to the metal strips embedded into the wood, everything has its place.The Tonie box also fits...
  • USEFUL: With our shelf you always keep your child's bedroom tidy! The figures stick magnetically to the shelf and the box is securely surrounded.
  • CHARMING: Our playful clouds wall shelf is a real eye-catcher in the children's room.2 unique colours fit into any children's room.

Alex

Friday 22nd of September 2023

You listed as a con that is not possible to pause. I think is just take the tonies figure down from the box. When you place it back ob it should start playing where it stopped. However, you should not place any other figur on the box in the meantime. Then it would start from the beginning again.

Stephanie Halverson

Wednesday 8th of March 2023

Forgot to add - another point in favor of Yoto over the Tonie - the Yoto app shows you how much battery is left on a device (as long as it's turned on and connected to WiFi). The Tonie, there's no advanced warning before you get the red flashing light and the "uh-oh". There is also no charging status indicator, so you never know WHEN it is fully charged, or what the charging status is. The FAQs just say it takes about 3 hours. This can be extremely frustrating if you're trying to put a toddler to bed and go to put on a lullaby or bedtime story, and they get the red light 5 minutes later. And: while the Toniebox has 8 GB of internal storage/memory, the Yoto has 16 GB.

Stephanie Halverson

Wednesday 8th of March 2023

I have 3 Tonie boxes, 1 Yoto, and 1 Yoto mini; my nieces that basically live with me are 2 1/2 and 4 1/2. The Tonie: Definitely geared for the younger ages, especially the content. Two major downsides with the content Tonies themselves are the price (which recently went up from $15 to $18) and the appeal to play with the figures separate from the box. The 2 1/2 yo loves to stuff ALL the figures into her little backpack and run around with it - which stresses me a bit since if a figure is lost, the content is lost as well, and the only way to replace it is to purchase a new one. Also, some of the content is inappropriate as well - they have both LGBT content available on the app as well as a content Tonie - this is marketed for very small children, and unless you're having the "inappropriate touching" discussion with them, ANY type of sexual content with a young child is completely inappropriate. The Yoto: biggest downside are the size of the cards, as they can be easily lost if a child isn't careful. However - to balance this out, Yoto allows you to link owned content to a Make Your Own card. So even if a card is lost, you haven't lost the content. You can even select content to play on a box from the app without having a physical card in the box at all. The Yoto has hundreds more content available, much of which is geared for the older ages (up to 12 easily) so there's something for everyone. You also earn rewards points on every purchase, which can be redeemed at checkout at 120 points per $1. They also have their membership, which for $99 a year gets you two free cards every month (and you can save the credits up, there's no time limit on redeeming it). You receive a 10% discount off EVERYTHING, and it's stackable on top of sales. You also get free shipping with no minimum. Their sales are typically better than the Tonie sales. The cost difference between Yoto and Tonies is one of the biggest reasons I prefer the Yoto over the Tonies. Regular prices for the content cards range from $6.99 to $12.99. And if a pack is available, the built-in discount can be significant. (Example, the 6 Chicken Squad cards are $6.99 each, purchased as a pack they are $30 instead.) The Make Your Own are much cheaper as well - the creative Tonies are either $9.99 or $12.99 a piece, whereas a 5 pack for the Yoto are $14.99 and a 10 pack only $24.99. Both Yoto and Tonies do state the recommended ages for their content, but I think Yoto is a bit better at an accurate age recommendation. Per another post regarding Roald Dahl's "The Witches" I do agree that it is a parents'/guardians' responsibility to confirm that content is appropriate prior to allowing children to have access, but we don't always have that kind of time to spare. (The 4 year old started scream/crying the other day, traumatized over a Sophia the First episode.) For the Yoto vs the Yoto mini - the two main differences are the screen size and the built in light. I personally like the mini, especially since the available storage for content is the same on both; but the nieces fight over who gets the big one.

Charlene

Saturday 19th of November 2022

We love the tonie box. We have two. Tonies are an easy and small present for the children too. Definitely the best toy the children have. I'm a bit confused by some of the comments too there are so many tonies to choose from you don't need to buy scary ones

Monica

Monday 5th of December 2022

Exactly! I also think it's the parent's responsibility, not Tonie's responsibility to make sure what you're playing is appropriate for your child!

Andi

Wednesday 28th of September 2022

I can't find any truly honest reviews anywhere. Tonie company has successfully managed the internet so that all reviews are from people earning money recommending the item. I have purchased two boxes and they are fine. Not really any improvement from 40 years ago when my kids had a cassette recorder and "read along with me" books. But, that's "progress", so whatever. But some of the stories should come with a black box warning. The latest is "The Witches". Incredibly scary for children. Okay for older more sophisticated kids, ages 8 maybe? but really 9-11 ish. My 5 1/2 year old grandson really is traumatized. Can't sleep in his room past 2 nights because the witches get you through your window while you sleep. ANd they look like regular people, any woman could be a witch. Neighbors, teachers (your mom?) This is a very scary concept and totally inappropriate for children. The book itself is recommended for ages 10 ish and up. Tonie says this story is okay for 6 and up. I would like to send them my grandson's therapy bills. And be sure to look for the hidden LGBTQ references in one of their tonies....which my daughter didn't mind, but parents should be TOLD!

Monica

Thursday 29th of September 2022

I'm not really sure this is Tonie's fault though? The Witches is a classic children's story book - one which I read as a child. I think we even read it in school and I personally feel it is up to the parents and caregivers to ensure a story is appropriate for children. My eldest child loves a scary story and has loved them ever since he was really young. But my middle child is scared of almost all stories! He can't even listen to the Gruffalo and he's nearly 6. But I know this and I know what scares him so I feel it's my responsibility to ensure he listens to appropriate stories. I also feel that naturally referenced LGBTQ references are important for our children. We live in a world where people need to be accepting or life will be difficult for both themselves and others if they're not.