Yoto Player full review
Yoto Player is a Bluetooth speaker that’s designed and built especially for kids - and, just as importantly, for parents.
Its main function is to play audio content supplied by physical cards (with integrated NFC chip), although it works just as well as a Bluetooth speaker you can pair with a phone or tablet.
Aside from a very basic matrix pixel display, there’s no actual screen – which is meant as a benefit, and an alternative to yet more distracting and harmful screen time on a kid’s tablet or phone.
There’s no camera, microphone or social sharing, so it’s secure from external misuse.
You pop a special card into the Yoto Player and the audio starts - streaming at first, then downloading onto the Player. When you take the card out, the audio stops. You use the big orange buttons to control play, volume, etc.
All the content cards are kid-friendly, and feature kids’ classics and big-name narrators. There’s Imelda Staunton reading The Gruffalo, or Kate Winslet on Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood or Roald Dahl’s Matilda. The Yoto Card Store has a rich library: Mog, Ladybird Adventures, Malory Towers, Julia Donaldson, Hans Christian Anderson, Kipling’s Jungle Book, and even Oscar Wilde…
There are National Curriculum phonics letters and sounds cards plus other educational content, and meditation/mindfulness options, too. The Phonics pack comes a guide and imagery to assist with some of the exercises.
Cards cost from £4.99 or $5.99 each, and you can buy bundles, such as a Wimpy Kid, Famous Five and Roald Dahl collections from around £20 or $25. If you get carried away, the cost could mount up.
There is also free content, with podcasts, jokes and fun facts added daily. There’s even a content-controlled radio option.
The content is for ages ranging from babies to 12 year-olds, although - as with all children’s toys - the player isn’t recommended below 3 years old. Toddlers are a law unto themselves.
What’s really special is the ability to create your own audio content cards - maybe grandparents reading stories, or favourite songs sung by family members or friends. This function really sets it apart, and opens up plenty of creative possibilities.
Via the app, you make your own audio files from your phone or tablet, and then load them onto a blank card, which can then be decorated.
A 10-pack of reusable Make Your Own Cards costs £18.99 / $19.99, including draw-on stickers.
Obviously, we wouldn't recommend parents give up reading to their children with real books, which is essential for their education and bonding. But having the audio option can have its uses at other times of the day.
Sometimes kids want to take back some control, and, of course, just love gadgets.
Yoto Player control
The player is portable, with a rechargeable battery that lasts a few hours – charged by a safe magnetic dock.
It is controlled either by two orange buttons on the top or via an app (iOS and Android).
You can also use the Yoto Player as a normal Bluetooth speaker, and the sound quality is pretty decent.
There are wired, volume-limited headphones that connect to the player. We found these very quiet with the app-controlled limiter on, and acceptable with it off. We think there are better kids’ headphones available, but you’ll need to pick some wired headphones to work with the player.
The player’s speaker can go quite loud. We all know how painful kids’ audio content can be, especially when it’s played over and over again until adults go insane, so thankfully you can set the speaker volume in the app, or just switch to headphones (also volume limited for safety).
The Player is also a nightlight and clock (12- or 24-hour) as well as a smart speaker.
There are parental settings in the app, which control the volume limiter, nightlight colour and brightness, and button shortcuts.
For best results you need the free app and a Wi-Fi connection.
Tested by kids
Our tester, six-year-old Olive, carried the Yoto Player around with her, listening to stories at night, daily facts at breakfast time, and throughout the day listening to Mrs H’s songs. She took to it straight away.
And her one-year-old brother Remy will be able to enjoy it too, and it might do the trick at sleepovers and parties while parents can maybe relax a little.
Olive’s parents certainly appreciated the constructive distraction offered by Yoto Player, and its lack of full screen.
The player is well made and looks robust enough for most responsible (ish) children.
Yoto Player price
The Yoto Player costs £79.99 or US$99.99, and comes with a Welcome Card, Quick Start Guide, and Magnetic Charging Dock, but you’ll want to buy some content cards at the same time.
We’d have preferred a couple of free cards with the player, but there are bundle options when you buy direct.
Buying lots of content would get quite expensive, but you can inexpensively create your own content, and get faraway family and friends to join in, too.
It would be expensive on its own as a Bluetooth speaker, but comes into its own when you use the cards.
Most music or audio devices require a screen somewhere in the chain, so any tech for kids that doesn’t include one is to be cheered. Of course, you can use it as a standalone Bluetooth speaker with a phone or tablet if you want.
There’s plenty of safe content to hit most age groups, and we liked the educational options, such as Phonics. The ability to create your own audio cards is the really special part.
The player is sleek and well-designed with a clever charger connection, and it’s easy to set up via the app and on-player controls.
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