Child-friendly and tech-savvy, keep your little one busy with one of these audio players from Amazon, Muito, Fisher-Price, Smyths Toys and Toniebox
Whether it’s for school work, a bit of down time or simply just so you can grab five minutes to drink a cup of tea in peace, screens are increasingly present in our children’s day to day lives. Some of it is, claro, unavoidable, but it’s fair to say kids’ screen time has sky rocketed over the past decade, which is why we’re always looking for other ways to get them engaged.
Audio feels like the perfect medium. From music to stories, there’s so much choice to help inspire, educate, relax and entertain kids, screen free, whatever their age or interests.
We’ve come a long way from the days of sitting on our bedroom floor, taping our favourite songs off the radio, with children’s audio players now harnessing the latest technology to impress even the most tech-savvy of kids. All packaged up in a child-friendly and easy-to-use way, the best audio players are the ones your kid will reach for again and again.
We tried out a variety of children’s audio players with our two, five and eight-year-old testers, for homework, play and chilling-out time, paying close attention to how intuitive and simple they were to use and, mais importante, if the kids were able to work them independently. Great for boosting confidence, as well as giving us time to get on with other things, having an audio player which our little testers could operate on their own garnered huge plus points.
We also looked at how quickly the audio players were to set up, the size, sound quality and durability (even when faced with a curious toddler with zero concept of “gentle hands”). How they looked was a factor – especially if they were destined to be on display in a child’s bedroom or the living room – but the biggest consideration was how much fun they were to use and how much they fired up our testers’ imaginations.
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The best kids’ audio players for 2021:
- Melhor geral – Toniebox starter set: £69.95, Amazon.co.uk
- Best all-rounder – Amazon echo dot kids (4th generation): £ 59,99, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for portability – Clementoni once upon a time storyteller: £ 19,99, Smythstoys.com
- Best for toddlers – Fisher Price classic record player: £27.99, Bargainmax.co.uk
- Best bluetooth speaker – Planet Buddies pepper the penguin wireless speaker: £29.57, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for older children – Yoto player: £79.99, Yotoplay.com
- Best educational audio player – Timio: £83.62, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for little DJs – Hey Duggee spin and groove with DJ duggee: £35.99, Very.co.uk
Toniebox starter set
Melhor: No geral
Colourful, robust and so easy to use, every detail of the Toniebox has been designed with kids in mind. Forget about lots of buttons or complicated controls, this screen-free, audio player was simple enough for even our two-year-old tester to get to grips with. After a quick set-up, synching the Toniebox to your wifi, all you need to do is place a Tonie – a small hand-painted character containing an audio story or music – on top of the box and it starts to play. When you’re done, just take it off. It’s as simple as that!
Our testers loved getting hands-on, tapping the side of the box to skip chapters or songs, and tilting it to fast-forward and rewind. Thankfully it’s well-padded and pretty robust, so there’s no need to worry about it breaking after some over-enthusiastic handling!
The starter set comes with a Toniebox (there’s six colours to choose from), a charging station, a creative-Tonie (a blank Tonie you can fill with up to 90 minutes of music, audiobooks or your own recordings) and instructions on how to set up your box. It’s worth downloading the free Tonie app, where you can personalise your creative-Tonie, as well as set a parental volume control for the box.
There’s a huge range of Tonies to choose from including Disney classics like Moana e Monsters Inc, kid’s favourites Oi Frog e Stick Man, as well as sing-along songs and lullabies (perfect for bedtime). There’s also more fact-based Tonies covering everything from the natural world to dinosaurs and space. Our testers loved how the Tonies looked almost as much as the content – the attention to detail is amazing and they wouldn’t look out of place displayed on a shelf in your child’s bedroom.
Lightweight and with a battery life of up to seven hours when fully charged, you can easily take the Toniebox on car journeys. We just made sure to pack child-friendly headphones so our five-year-old tester could plug in and listen uninterrupted.
Capturing the imagination of all of our testers, the Toniebox has serious kid-appeal across a wide age-range, so it’s a solid investment as an accessible, engaging alternative to screens. We can’t rave about it enough!
Amazon echo dot kids (4th generation)
This clever smart speaker, designed specifically for children, may be little but it’s absolutely packed with kid and parent-friendly features. Super-quick to set up with the Alexa app – we were up and running in less than five minutes – you just follow the prompts, and everything is done automatically. There are a lot of parental controls built-in (reassuring with a smart speaker) so it’s worth taking a bit of time to set these up to your preferences. You can set daily time limits, add a bedtime so the device can’t be used after that time, filter explicit songs, view and delete your voice history or choose not to have your voice recordings saved to begin with. There’s also a “mic off” button on the device if you prefer.
Available in a tiger or panda design, looks-wise it was a huge hit with our testers, especially our two-year-old, who loved “Alexa tiger”. The device includes a year of Amazon kids+ with access to an incredible number of child-friendly Audible books, which our five and eight-year olds loved having played in the background while they enjoyed some serious Lego building in the playroom.
As well as playing music (we can confirm that the sound quality when playing the Frozen 2 soundtrack on repeat is excellent!), the Echo dot kids came into its own at homework time, answering all kinds of random questions from our testers – “Alexa, how do you spell pterodactyl?”, “Alexa, what is photosynthesis?” – with no problem. Honestamente, we think the device is worth the price tag alone for helping us dodge some tricky spelling questions over the past couple of weeks. “Alexa, we owe you one.”
Clementoni once upon a time storyteller
Melhor: For portability
Measuring just 24x20cm, this mini audio player is the perfect travelling companion. It’s a fun concept, where you can create your own story by picking a “character”, “emotion” and “setting” from each of the three rolls – for example “animal”, “friendship” and “countryside” – then press play to hear your personalised fairy tale.
It’s super easy to operate, with a dial to click the power on and adjust the volume, then three large buttons to play, stop and pause. Our five-year-old tester figured it out straight away. There’s also a headphone jack, so the whole family won’t need to listen to the stories on a long car ride, which is always a bonus.
Each story only lasts around three minutes, so it’s a decent length to hold the attention of pre-schoolers and young children, but probably a little too simplistic to engage the older ones. Existem 64 story combinations, providing over two hours of content, with the option of downloading more from the Clementoni website (there’s a USB port for uploading these onto the device), Contudo, it’s only compatible with Windows, so Mac users are a little stuck.
Our five-year-old tester loved the interactive element and enjoyed being in control of the stories they listened to. We think it’s a great idea for taking on holiday instead of a heavy pile of books, as an alternative to bedtime stories.
Fisher Price classic record player
Melhor: For toddlers
When a toy is still a firm favourite 50 anos depois, you know you’re onto something good, as this classic, battery-operated, Fisher Price record player – originally launched in 1971 – goes to show. The retro styling gives us a heavy dose of nostalgia, but it still has serious kid-appeal, with our two younger testers regularly fighting over who got to pick the next record.
The five double-sided records – more “traditional nursery rhymes” than “banging tunes” – are grooved, plastic discs that click onto the player, then you just slide the “needle” across and wind it up to hear the song play. It’s simple, but you can’t deny the pull this toy has on children – in particular toddlers and pre-schoolers. Our two-year-old tester had no problem getting the record and “needle” in place, before thrusting it at us to wind up, whereas our five-year-old managed perfectly on their own.
The records all store away neatly inside the player and there’s a carry handle, making it easy for kids to take it wherever they go.
Planet Buddies pepper the penguin wireless speaker
Melhor: Bluetooth speaker
This little penguin speaker scored high on the cute scale – really, what’s not to love? Sweet, colourful and tactile, it made the perfect addition of our two-year-old tester’s bedroom, although we did have to put it out of her reach to stop her from cuddling it in bed.
The idea behind Planet Buddies is to help raise awareness for endangered and threatened animals across the world and a percentage of each product bought goes to either The Marine Conservation Society or World Land Trust. We were pleased to see that the packaging was made from 100 per cent recyclable cardboard, using soy-based inks, and with no single-use plastic at all.
The speaker itself has a four-hour playtime battery life and gives plenty of warning that the battery is running low, through a series of beeps. It’s easy enough to synch with Bluetooth and you can even synch it with your mobile phone to make and receive hands-free calls – something which is more useful for older kids and teens with phones than for our younger testers.
The sounds quality is really decent for such a diddy speaker (3w output power, FYI) but we found it most useful at a quiet level to play lullabies through our phone to help our toddler drift off to sleep.
Melhor: For older children
The cool, modern styling of the Yoto Player instantly grabbed our attention, but there’s a lot more to this little box than just good looks. The audio player puts kids in control, with hundreds of stories and songs available on Yoto cards that you simply slot into the top of the box to play.
Set up was a breeze – you just need to download the Yoto app, pop the Welcome card into the Yoto Player and follow the prompts to connect with your wifi. The app is actually a really fantastic feature for parents, where you can control everything from day volume and night volume to the brightness of the screen display. There’s a built-in rechargeable battery, giving around 8 hours of playtime once charged.
There’s hundreds of audio stories and songs to buy, including Roald Dahl and Julia Donaldson classics, that come in credit-card sized cards, which you then slot into the player. These will download onto the device when connected to the internet, so if anything ever happens to your cards you can play the stories via the app – also handy for when you’re on holiday.
Our five-year old tester loved choosing their own stories and had no issues operating it on their own – it’s a simple case of twisting the two knobs at the top for volume and skipping chapters. They also really loved the light-up pixel display, that displayed pictures related to the stories playing in a soft, unobtrusive glow. It also showed the time when not in use, alongside a sun during the day and a moon at night (you can set the timings for this in the app). This one can also be used as a nightlight (you just place it on its front), a Bluetooth speaker, with headphones or to listen to the Yoto radio station, which plays kid-friendly pop songs all day.
Melhor: Educational audio player
Whatever level of learning your child is at, we think the Timio has got you covered. The lightweight, portable audio player – complete with carry handle – comes with a selection of picture discs that you place on the front of the device to begin.
There are lots of ways you can use the player. Existem 25 discs to choose from (some are included in the starter pack and others can be bought separately), covering everything from emergency vehicles to body parts. Toddlers can boost their vocabulary by pressing the picture and listening to the word, older kids have the option of answering quizzes, as well as listening to stories or music, but it’s the multi-language function that really impressed us.
Switch between eight different languages, including French, Spanish and Chinese, then press the pictures again to hear the word in that language. Our eight-year-old loved trying this out and impressed us with some of the new words they picked up. Having the space and time to learn independently was a hit, and our tester said it felt more like a game than actually being taught, which is always a win!
The starter set also comes with a carry case for your discs, which proved very useful for keeping everything together when travelling.
Hey Duggee spin and groove with DJ duggee
Melhor: For little DJs
This Hey Duggee player got a big “A-Woof!” from our youngest tester. sim, it’s very plastic, sim, it’s very bright, but what toddler doesn’t want that in their life?
Featuring Duggee, the Squirrels and the legendary “Stick”, this audio player lets you play at being DJ. There are four different songs, which you can personalise with squirrel-club phrases and Duggee woofs, as well as the chance to scratch the record by moving “Stick” around. The mouse control slides up and down, changing the speed of the music, which our two-year-old thought was hilarious. Everything is designed with little hands in mind and they had no problem working out what did what.
Our five-year-old had a little play around with this, but decided it was too “babyish” and instead took to carrying it around on his shoulder like an Eighties boom box. sim, it is a little on the pricey side for what it is, but for Hey Duggeee fans we think it’s worth every penny.
O veredito: Kids’ audio players
O Toniebox is quickly gaining cult status, and it’s not hard to see why. Intuitive, durable and with bags of kid-appeal, it’s an excellent audio player that ticks all our boxes. If you’re looking for something to help older children with their homework, we think the Amazon echo dot kids is a total lifesaver.
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