If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know how passionate I am about children’s literature. So I was intrigued when the Toniebox came on the scene. This child-friendly, digital story player seemed like it could really fill a need for young children when it comes to listening to audiobooks. But was it as wonderful as everyone says it was? I decided to do my own review for discerning DoSayGive readers. Today I am sharing why I like AND dislike the Toniebox — and a little bit more about it — so you can determine if it’s a good fit for your family!
What it is:
Each Toniebox is a digital, screen-free listening experience designed just for young children, and they play different stories, songs, and more by switching out the Tonies (the little figurines you place on top). They are soft enough to cuddle with and sturdy enough for children to carry around (i.e. you don’t have to worry about them breaking it!). It holds a charge for seven hours so you can separate from the charging station if you are worried about cords and wires.
Who it is for:
Toniebox is designed for children three and older. It is heavily marketed to the preschool set, but is for all ages.
How does it work:
Place a Tonies figurine on the box to play music or a story. There are dozens of different Tonies to choose from. Once you purchase and connect, you can see and manage all the Tonies from an app on your phone.
How I use (and would use) the Toniebox:
When my older children dropped their nap, I transitioned them to “quiet time.” A little down time where they can rest, imagine, and learn to play quietly without me entertaining them. Audiobooks and music are a great addition to quiet time, but it was always a struggle to figure out how to get audio to play without giving them a device. Through the years, we used bluetooth speakers (controlled by me) in another room, old iPods, even old-fashioned CD players, but none of these solutions were ideal. So the Toniebox fills a need in that it’s safe and easy to use for quiet time.
It also is great for settling children into bed. The lullaby Tonies has some really sweet and soothing songs on it.
What I don’t like about the Toniebox:
Parents often assume that choosing books with familiar characters (Disney princesses, for example) will make their children like reading more. But this is a common pitfall when choosing children’s books, and can actually be quite limiting because these pop culture character stories and mass-produced books often lack the qualities of good literature — meaning richer language, beautiful illustrations, and actual storylines with a moral or virtue. Tonies plays into this by offering mostly pop culture “Tonies” — Despicable Me, Wild Kratts, Octonauts, and Paw Patrol, to name a few.
I’ve always had had the mindset that if I’m going to take the time to read to them, then I want to read really good stuff, not the same stuff they’ve maybe been watching for screen time. Just like I try to choose the best foods for my children’s bodies, I try to choose the best content for their hearts and minds to consume as well!
Unfortunately, most of the Tonies figurines are like this, although there are a few options that are worth sharing about (see below!).
Another issue I foresee with the Instagram popularity of the Toniebox is that I hope parents do not use it as a replacement for reading to their children. Reading aloud to children has so many benefits — the bonding time, enriching their imaginations, expanding their worldview and vocabulary, and illustrations can do so much to aid a child along in a story — and I can’t begin to tell you how many wonderful conversations have been had after reading a story about a different era or place. Bottom line, the Toniebox can be a great addition, not replacement, to reading with children.
Side note: all of these reasons (and so many more!) are exactly why we started our Classic Children’s Book Club. I hope you’ll join us this summer!
What I like about the Toniebox:
Learning to listen takes practice! And it’s definitely important for reading comprehension down the road. The Toniebox is a fun way to encourage listening to a story, and stories help keep the precious magic of childhood alive!
You can record your own voice on the Tonies. You could have grandparents’ record stories or Scripture for children.
The Toniebox also travels well! We brought it to our grandparents’ home over spring break and it helped ease the transition into an unfamiliar place.
Which Tonies figurines I like:
So often, mass market publishers will water down classic stories, removing much of the beautiful language and complicated syntax, and call them “abridged” or “updated.” (Side note: For generations, children have been perfectly capable of consuming the originals — and yours are, too!).
Would Toniebox be the same way? I was cautiously optimistic when I saw Tonie figurines like Peter Rabbit and Paddington Bear.
I bought the Peter Rabbit Tonies, which has four stories, and listened while following along with the original text. And it was exactly the same! One of the stories, The Story of Mr. Toad, is quite lengthy. For struggling readers, listening to the story while following along with the actual book could be quite helpful!
I am not sure if all the Tonies “classic” selections are like the Peter Rabbit. I did not get Winnie the Pooh because the sample audio does not sound like the original (seems more like the Disney version) but I might order just to see. We did try the Fairy Tales with Rapunzel and it was a little too scary for my four year old.
Another favorite: my girls love the Bedtime Tonies with sweet lullabies. There is a cute nursery rhymes Tonies, too.
How to use Toniebox to play better stories:
I wasn’t going to purchase a Toniebox until a long-time reader (thanks, Katie!) told me that I could add my own audiobooks to the Toniebox. Yes, that’s right! You can upload Mp3s and audio files to play the exact stories you want.
To do this, you have to purchase a Creative Tonies. Place on your Toniebox to connect to the app on your phone. Once it’s connected to the app, you can log in to your account on a computer and drag and drop audio files.
In other words, you can curate your own playlist or story list for your children! Not sure what quality audiobooks to add? Check out this post with some of our favorite stories and songs. You can search for the Mp3s of these collections to purchase online.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done such a detailed product review, but I thought the Toniebox is a great example of how technology can both solve a problem and beget another one. As parents, we are the ultimate editors of the content our children consume. That’s important in this day and age. So I hope this post is empowering in that way and encourages you to keep your children engaged and imaginations running wild. I am so happy that I figured out a way to make the Toniebox work for our family!
Let me know if this review was helpful and please be sure to share with your friends!