This Toniebox review is based on my experience of trialling this product with my two-year old toddler.
We bought the Toniebox as a gift for her first birthday, hoping that it would be something that would see her through a good chunk of her childhood. We wanted something that she would both ‘grow with’ and ‘grow into’ and (I’m pleased to report) the Toniebox has offered precisely this.
As we suspected, how we use our TonieBox has changed dramatically over the last year or so. Initially, we used the box for Olive’s bedtime routine – playing lullaby Tonies as we put her to sleep. As she’s gotten older, however, Olive has started to play with the Toniebox independently, using it throughout the day to listen to music or her favourite Julia Donaldson story.
Below is my Toniebox review focused on using it with a toddler (1 – 2 year old). Coming with a hefty price tag, here are my honest thoughts on whether the TonieBox is really worth the money.
(Alternatively, if you are interested in buying a Yoto player, you can check out our review here).
Toddler and Toniebox Review
What is the Toniebox?
The German produced Toniebox soared in popularity during lockdown, when parents were desperately seeking non-screen alternatives to amuse their kids. A squishy, five-inch child-proof cube that’s an audio speaker-cum-storyteller, the Toniebox saw a 500% increase in sales during the first month of the pandemic.
Designed to be easy and safe to use without parental supervision, the Toniebox can play music, tell stories and offers educational elements, dependent on the Tonie you choose to play. Although you do need to charge the box, it’s entirely portable and is designed for kids to cart around the house, travel with and even tuck into their bed at night if they so wish.
Importantly, and unlike many children’s storytelling or music toys on the market, the Toniebox has no flashing colours or lights.
A welcome relief for all parents.
How Does the Toniebox Work?
The Toniebox is an audiobox that plays the stories related to the beautifully painted figurines that sit on top of the box.
When the Tonie is set up for the first time, the chosen content is downloaded once from the cloud via WiFi and stored digitally in the Toniebox. Thanks to a clever chip in each Tonie, the Toniebox always knows what content is to be played when the figure is placed on it.
When a Tonie is removed, the Toniebox stops playing and when it’s put back on again, the audio automatically restarts at the same place – with no fiddly switches or buttons for your little person to grapple with.
The Toniebox has two rubber ears that you can press and bend to adjust the volume. You can also tap (or in a toddler’s case, hit) either side of the box to move between chapters. To fast forward or rewind, you simply tilt the box forward or back; a far cry from my childhood days of sticking a cassette tape in the player and beginning the long fast-forward process.
In order to set up your Toniebox, you’ll need to download the Mytonies app. This is also where you can personalise your Creative Tonies (those that you can customise with your own recordings) and control the sound and LED light on your Toniebox.
I would highly recommend checking in with this app fairly often, as they update it regularly with new content.
What Types of Tonie Can You Get?
There are two types of Tonie to buy: the Content Tonie or the Creative Tonie.
Content Tonies are pre-loaded themed Tonies that you can buy ready to play. Including Disney, Julia Donaldson classics, Beethoven classics, Terrible Tudors and Pixar characters, there are a huge variety on offer here in the UK, alone.
The Content Tonies do vary in style and duration and this is something that’ll I’ll touch upon in my ‘Pros and Cons’ list further down in this Toniebox review.
Creative Tonies are figurines that you can fill with your own bespoke 90-minute recordings.
There are plenty of free downloadable stories to add to your Creative Tonie or, if you’re like my husband, you can add your own pre-recorded song to it.
This is a really nice touch and means that when my husband is away, I can play his guitar lullaby to Olive. Alternatively, if I’m travelling, I can record a bedtime story on the Creative Tonie for Olive to listen to.
The Tonies team are also releasing Creative Tonies in partnerships with other brands. For example, the newly launched ‘Calm Tonie’ that you can use with the app to play your kids guided meditations, breathwork and calming stories (perhaps not that suitable for a livewire toddler, though).
One my favourite aspects of the Toniebox (yes, my favourite part, not my toddler’s) is the huge range of accessories you can buy to go with the box.
From headphones, specialised Toniebox shelving, through to specific Toniebox holders that have cute little spaces for each Tonie Character, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the best Toniebox accessories.
This means an unlimited, ever-evolving present list for friends or relatives, who are relentlessly asking what to buy your child for their birthday or Christmas.
- Original Design►Designed for Toniebox, rubber bands at the sideway carry up to 6 Tonies characters, backside mesh pocket to carry charging dock or Tonies figures
- Charge in the Bag►Thanks to the opening on the bottom of the bag, children can charge for the Toniebox without removing it from the bag
- Tote Bag►Children friendly size handle, soft and lightweight carrying case for Toniebox
- Gift Ideas►Birthday Christmas Easter birthday gift for boys and girls
- Notice►Toniebox and other decorative Tonies characters are not included
What’s in the Toniebox Starter Pack?
The Toniebox Starter Set varies in price dependent on the accessories you want to purchase with it.
The cheapest Tonie Starter Set is £79.95 and includes the Toniebox and one Creative-Tonie, as well as the charging dock.
If you’re looking to save money on Character Tonies, you can buy starter pack bundles that saves 20% on a TonieBox, a Creative Tonie and three Character Tonies.
- 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
- Parents love it: No complicated assembly and no over-stimulating flashing screens that are so common on kids toys today. Just simple, screen-free playback
- Delivery details: The Starter Set has got all you need to get started: the Toniebox, a Creative-Tonie, a charging station, a UK plug and an easy to understand instruction manual
How Easy is it to Set Up the Toniebox?
Setting up the Toniebox is a little time consuming and does require setting up an account through the Mytonies app and accessing WIFI. This is important as it allows you to upload personalised content to your Creative Tonie.
You can share your account details with family and friends, so they can also upload their own content if you wish, i.e. a bedtime story from the grandparents.
Toniebox Review: Pros
1. No Flashing Lights
As a parent, one of the biggest draws of the Toniebox is the fact that it’s free of gimmicky flashing lights and sounds that often come with kids’ toys.
Can you call a child’s toy understated? Well, now you can – and the Toniebox is certainly that.
After a long day caring for a toddler, the Toniebox is a calming addition to Olive’s bedtime routine and I genuinely look forward to putting it on at night.
The Toniebox has been designed to be thrown around and moved from room to room by a child. Squishy, waterproof and shock proof, this little box is impressively durable; exactly the type of product you want for a toddler or small child.
I wouldn’t say it’s an easy item to put in a nappy bag or travel bag, but it’s definitely a great addition to a long car journey or on a plane (if you have the space in your hand luggage).
3. Huge Variety of Content Tonies
I’ve been impressed by just how much variety there is when it comes to the Content Tonies. I was initially worried that we might be stuck with the same five set of songs and stories for the next 8 years, but there are a huge array to choose from.
In fact, I’ve become so invested in the Tonies, I even have a few on pre-order. Indeed, maybe this Toniebox review should come with a word of warning that collecting Tonies can become highly addictive – for both adults and children.
- 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
- Parents love it: No complicated assembly and no over-stimulating flashing screens that are so common on kids toys today. Just simple, screen-free playback of fun-filled adventures
- Tonie bundle: This Julia Donaldson bundle includes 4 Tonie figurines: Gruffalo, Zog, Highway Rat, and Stick Man. Approx. 85 mins run time. Requires Toniebox to use (sold separately)
4. Aesthetically Appealing Characters and Collectables
One of Olive’s favourite things about her Toniebox is the Tonies themselves. Incredibly cute and well-made, the Tonies also act as decorative figurines in Olive’s room. Far from another garish toy to try and pack away at the end of the day, they sit pride of place on her bedside table.
5. Grows with Your Kid
As I mentioned in the opening of my Toniebox review, we bought Olive the box for her first birthday. Although I was aware that she wouldn’t be interacting with it like a 3-8 year old might, I still saw it as a lovely gift she could grow into.
Indeed, rather than gathering dust in the corner of her room like some toys, we use her Toniebox every night as part of her bedtime routine. Now that Olive is two, she is using her Toniebox more independently and will change the Tonies around herself, as well as play with the characters.
She doesn’t yet have the attention span to sit through a whole story, but she loves listening to her Disney music and putting on her bedtime lullabies.
6. Super Versatile
As a story-telling, music playing and educational device, the Toniebox can have a variety of uses throughout childhood. From simple lullabies at night to educational stories about space and time, the Toniebox certainly earns its price tag when it comes to versatility.
7. What is the Battery Life of a Toniebox?
The Toniebox has an impressive 7-hour battery life, which means it’s a great travel companion. I only charge the TonieBox once a week and most of the time it’s dotted around Olive’s room or in the car.
If you’re worried about battery life, you can buy a USB Toniebox charger, so it’s easier to charge on the go, rather than finding a plug socket.
8. Can You Use a Toniebox Without WiFi?
In short, yes.
Another brilliant feature of the Toniebox is the fact it doesn’t require a WIFI connection to work – unlike a smart speaker. As long as you have the Tonie to pop on top, the box will work – making it an ideal travel companion.
You will just need to make sure the Tonie has already been downloaded into the Tonie chip before leaving the house/WIFI.
Toniebox Review: Cons
1. Toniebox is Expensive
In this Toniebox review, I can’t not mention that the Toniebox and accompanying Tonies are expensive.
Although you could certainly see the Toniebox as a long-term investment, the continual updating of new Content Tonies is an expensive habit at £14.99 a pop (there are even a few limited edition Tonies priced at an eye-watering £29.99).
Having said that, we rarely buy new ones and instead ask for them for Olive’s birthday or Christmas. As she’s only two, she has no idea she could have more and so for now, the spend is under control. I do fear, however, that as she grows older, her demands for new Tonies may well increase.
2. Can Be Clunky
Although the Toniebox has been designed to be used by children, it’s still surprisingly clunky. I’ve found the ears to be quite sticky when it comes to turning the sound up and down, and unless you tap the box in a very precise place, it will rarely jump through the chapters.
In this Toniebox review, I’d say this is one of my biggest disappointments of the product and I certainly would have expected an easier, glitch-free user-experience for the price.
3. Varied Listen Time
In terms of duration, the Content Tonies can vary wildly, from 16 to 140 minutes in length.
On average, Disney Tonies only last a measly 22 minutes, whereas a recent sleepy Tonie I bought – Lullaby Melodies with Sleepy Sheep – lasts a whopping 140 minutes.
Furthermore, the listen time of Tonies and their price don’t seem to correlate in price. For example, the 140 minutes Sleepy Sheep Tonie and the 31 minutes Frozen Tonie are both priced at £14.99 – something I don’t think is particularly fair.
4. Easily Lost (Toddler Applicable)
One of the biggest cons of the pretty Tonie characters is that they’re incredibly easy to lose.
This is particularly the case when you’ve got younger kids, who enjoy playing with Tonies like they would a toy. You cannot store the Content Tonies in the cloud, like you can with the Creative Tonies that you download or record yourself, and this means if you lose one, you’ve lost £14.99 or more.
Fortunately, Olive’s Tonies sit on a metal table, meaning the magnetic bottom of the Tonies nicely stick to it. After an hour of searching for her favourite bedtime Tonie a few weeks ago, I therefore fortunately found it stuck to the underside of the table.
5. Hard to Make the Most of the Creative Tonies
As I mentioned above, we have added a few things to the Creative Tonie, including a song sung by my husband – but it’s quite a time consuming process. You need to upload your content onto the cloud and download it back onto the Tonie.
Although it’s a lovely idea, I don’t think we’ve made the most out of the Creative Tonie and that’s simply because neither of us can be bothered to add anything else.
6. Toniebox Doesn’t Support Wireless Headphones
One con of the Toniebox is that it can’t be paired with wireless headphones.
Although you can plug in headphones, your child will be limited in movement when listening. This means Olive won’t be able to use them until she’s much older and can understand the concept of sitting still and not getting herself in a tangled mess.
7. Quality of Character Tonies do Vary
We have amassed quite the collection of Content Tonies since buying the Toniebox just over a year ago, and one thing I’ve noticed is that the quality of the Tonies do vary.
For example, and this may just be a question of taste, I’ve found some of the lullaby Tonies to really grate on me, with the singing voices being not as high quality as you might expect.
The same goes for the narrated stories – although some are incredible, I’ve found other Content Tonies to be quite dull with the narrators voice lacking in charisma.
Toniebox Review: Is it Really Worth the Price?
To neatly conclude this Toniebox review, I would say that this clever and durable audiobox is worth the investment.
Olive’s Toniebox is used everyday in our household, either as part of her bedtime routine or (increasingly) during the day when Olive wants to listen to music or a story. Furthermore, despite buying the box for Olive when she was only one, I still feel like we’ve had plenty of use from it, and this will only continue as she grows older and her attention span expands.
Although the Tonies themselves are a pricey £14.99 each, we find these are a brilliant option for family and friends to buy as a gift for Olive. With a never ending list of Tonies to add to Olive’s collection, these make for the ideal gift from a loved one.
My biggest tip?
Make sure you get your money’s worth from the box by incorporating it into your child’s routine from the get-go. From waking up to music, to a lunchtime story or lullabies at night, make sure you get plenty of use out of this clever little box.
- 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 love to take the Toniebox on journeys. The battery of the portable speaker ensures up to 7 hours runtime. The box is padded, robust, and has no sharp edges
- Parents love it: No complicated assembly and no over-stimulating flashing screens that are so common on kids toys today. Just simple, screen-free playback of fun-filled rhyming stories
- Tonie bundle: This starter bundle includes 1 x Toniebox speaker, 1 x creative-Tonie with 60 mins of preloaded content, and 3 classic Julia Donaldson Tonies: The Gruffalo, Zog, and The Highway Rat!