Our family love listening to music and stories, and so getting a kids’ mp3 player for them to use was really important to us. We wanted the kids to have some independence about what and how they listened to audio.
But we are very fussy about how!
So, we did a whole lot of research into what’s available. We looked at EVERYTHING, and in the process found some amazing devices, at a whole range of prices.
Read on to find out what we think are the best MP3 players for kids that are available right now!
While this article is completely independent and unsponsored, it contains affiliate links to Amazon. This means I receive a small amount (without adding to the price you pay) if you click through and buy. You can find out more on my ‘about affiliate links’ page.
Want the list and nothing but the list? Click here to go to the quick list of our favourite MP3 players for kids.
Our number one on the list has to be the Horbert MP3 player. Made of certified and sustainable European wood, Horbert is German designed and crafted for kids. And it is a wonderfully solid and beautiful piece of kit. For me, it’s kids’ audio device perfection!
I’m going to confess up front that our kids both have one of these. And yes, they are the most expensive of the devices on our list at £211. Admittedly this is an awful lot of money for a kids’ mp3 player!
Bought six years apart to avoid taking out a second mortgage, we loved our son’s Horbert MP3 player so much that we recently splashed out and bought his sister one too. As we therefore know (and love!) Horbert so well, I’ve written a separate review just about this wonderful wooden MP3 player. If you are interested in why it’s our number one, you can read all about Horbert here!
2. Yoto Player
A new entry on our list for 2020 – and only just barely pipped to number one spot by Horbert, as this is one awesome device.
The Yoto Player has many of the same features as other devices on our list, and a few more besides. But what gets the Yoto (almost) top spot is the beautifully simple design, clever internet connectivity, ultra-cool pixel display and a really carefully thought-out library of audio. We liked this one so much, it got its own full review, which you can read here.
To play audio on the Yoto Player, you simply insert a card into the top slot. These can be bought already linked to audio (a dazzling array of books, music, activities, podcasts, and even sound effects), or you can get blank ones and load up your own recordings. The Yoto can also be used as a bluetooth speaker, stream live radio (oh yes) and podcasts, has a night light and a clock feature, and has a digital back-up of your library on its app, so you’ll always be able to recover lost content.
The Yoto Player comes second to Horbert only because there is a much lower limit (500mb) on the amount of audio that the cards can store. As the children get older, longer books and whole series are what they’re listening to. However the Yoto Player has far more features than Horbert, and is a better option if you are looking to play music or have the option of listening to podcasts as well as audio books. And the price is a real steal!
Another German-made device that we rate highly is the Badoo Music Box. Made from bamboo rather than wood, like Horbert it has all the environmental credentials you’d expect from a German kids’ product. The handle is made of food-grade silicone. You get four different colour handles with your Badoo that can be swapped around so that children can personalise this kids’ mp3 player to their taste.
The Badoo offers some of the same features as Horbert. However at a much cheaper price – a Badoo will cost you just under £100. And despite it’s cheaper price, the Badoo actually has features that Horbert lacks. The Badoo has a built-in microphone, for example, and can connect wirelessly via bluetooth to other devices. This is something that the Horbert manufacturers are planning on introducing soon.
Like Horbert, the Badoo has a coin-screw panel that hides away the battery, memory card section, and a volume limiting switch. In Horbert’s case, you use SD cards, while the Badoo takes a USB stick. The Badoo can also be operated via mains power as well as having back-up batteries, which is a plus. But the downside is batteries last nowhere near as long as Horbert’s, giving you roughly six hours playing time.
I love the look of the Badoo, and the additional features make it another great alternative to Horbert. It is slightly bulkier, and the controls not quite as simple (or beautiful). But the added functionality and beautiful bamboo finish makes it a definite contender.
Jooki is a little different from most of the other kids mp3 player on the list. Rather than buttons, children use Jooki characters (little figurines that come with Jooki) to choose what playlist to listen too. Parents have to set these up via the Jooki app first. Jooki, is in partnership with Spotify, so you can stream music and playlists from Spotify when connected by wifi. You cannot stream from Apple Music, Amazon Play or Google Play Music though.
Jooki connects via wifi or bluetooth for added flexibility. Wifi can be turned off, but Jooki’s internal memory is very small. You’ll therefore need to install a micro SD card if you want to upload more than a few songs. And while Jooki can handle lots of formats, it can’t play Audible‘s .aa format files. So if you want to play Audible audio books rather than music, you’ll need to convert these first. (See my Horbert review for how to do this).
I love the idea of the figurines (there are also flat tokens which work the same way) to choose a playlist. Once the playlist is set, all the kids have to do to play it is place the figure or token onto Jooki. For younger children, especially, this is incredibly simple and lots of fun. And the linking with Spotify is genius. There are a few extra characters and tokens you can buy, but not to the extent of the Toniebox (below). For me, that’s a good thing!
Jooki was created with some help from Kickstarter by a Belgium start-up company. Their tech credentials are clear in the clever software that accompanies the device. The software element is probably the best of all of the devices on our list. So Jooki is definitely a fun one. However I can’t help but wonder whether the novelty of the figurines would wear thin as kids get older. For this reason we’ve put it at number four in our list!
5. The Toniebox
The Toniebox was created by a – you’ve guessed it – German company. It works in a very similar way to Jooki, using figurines to trigger playback. A padded cube covered in ‘sustainable fabric’ (whatever that means), it comes in a variety of fun colours. Unusually for a German kids’ audio player, it has a headphone socket. This is a bit of a controversial feature that many of the others avoid given recent findings around kids hearing and headphones.
The Toniebox and has a vague cat-thing going on. The speaker holes are in the shape of a cat’s head, and it has two ears on top. Those ears are used to control the volume, which is a lovely touch. Squeezing the large ear turns the sound up, while the small one turns it down. To change tracks, you pat the side of the box. I love the simplicity and child-friendly nature of these controls. Anything more complicated (like making playlists and controlling maximum volume) is handled via the app. And like the Jooki, Toniebox uses wifi to connect and download your content.
Tonies – Collectable characters
The Toniebox is a very cute device, however I must admit I’m a little put off the Toniebox figurines. These are called Tonies, and they work a little like the figurine-based video games such as Disney Infinity. You can buy different blank or licensed Tonie characters like the Gruffalo or Disney’s The Lion King. Licensed Tonies contain the associated audio book that will then play when the character is placed on the Toniebox.
Length varies, but none of the licensed audios are especially long – the Gruffalo is only 17 minutes, for example. Blank Creative Tonie characters allow you to load up to 90 minutes of your own content. So at £14.99 each, (£11.99 for the Creative Tonies) these are a very expensive way of getting not-very-much content. Especially when you’d still need to buy audio books or music to put on the Creative Tonies. It’s a personal choice – for me the important thing is the audio content, not the novelty of the toys.
Not German this time, but Italian! The Ocarina is the smallest of the kids mp3 players on our list. It is covered in food grade rubber that is both tactile and practical; a nice alternative to wood. The rubber coating means it looks much brighter too. It comes in four vibrant colours (red, green, orange and blue) that are perfect for kids. The handy circular handle allows it to be easily carried, but also mean it can be hung up easily too.
Unlike most of the other devices, the Ocarina has a built-in 4gb memory. It also needs to be plugged in via a USB cable to transfer content. With less capacity, it make it a little less versatile than the other kids MP3 players on this list. So for me, the Ocarina is the best option if what you are looking for is something ultra-light and portable.
Bear in mind that the capacity might make it more suitable for younger kids. Older ones might find the lack of room restrictive. The Ocarina does have a microphone, and unlike most others in our list, it also has a headphone socket.
We got an Alilo Honey Bunny kids mp3 player for my daughter prior to getting a Horbert. Alilo has an internal memory card and a microphone, so can both record sound and play music or stories. You load your own audio via a mini usb cable from a computer. Capacity is 4gb, like the Ocarina, so not huge and definitely suited for shorter stories and songs.
Alilo’s ears are made of a chewable (seriously), bendy silicone. But these ears also have a hidden feature – they light up with softly changing colours. The ear lights can be turned on or of independently to the audio, which is really handy. Alilo can therefore also be used as a night light without the sound. A downside, though, is that you’ll be charging it up during the day as the cable for charging goes underneath. The on/off switch (which is also volume control) is Alilo’s fluffy bunny tail – too cute for words!
Although our daughter loved her Alilo, I found the controls a little more awkward and overly complicated to use. The microphone function was great, for example, but was rather temperamental and would randomly stop working. But as a lower budget option, Alilo is great. And the strong resemblance to Miffy certainly helped sell it in this house!
Alilo Big Bunny
Alilo Honey Bunny does have a big sibling – Alilo Big Bunny. This is basically the same device but it has an LCD screen, slightly rearranged buttons and a remote control. Oh, and Big Bunny’s entire head lights up, not just the ears. These extra features will cost you around £25 extra.
So there you have it – the very best MP3 players for kids that are available at the moment. All of these are suitable for very young children, and have enough appeal to last them a good few years. Which one is your favourite?
Quick list of the best kids’ MP3 players!
For those in a hurry, here’s the list of what we found, with (affiliate) links to each kids mp3 player on Amazon.