Yoto Player is both a children’s audio player and an online platform of carefully curated content. If you’ve seen any of my other posts on MP3 players for children, you’ll know I’m a big fan of screen-free audio time for kids, and have tested out many of them before finally settling on our family favourite.
So when the lovely people behind Yoto asked us to take a look at their device, I was a little hesitant. Would this be more of the same? I wasn’t sure if Yoto Player would be any different from any of the many other kids’ audio devices we’d looked at. Because really, what more could it offer?
Well, it turns out the answer to that is ‘a lot!’ Read on to find out more.
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Hip to be square…
At first glance, the Yoto Player looks a lot like many of the other, rather boxy kids audio devices on the market. But the current iteration is saved from boring squareness by smooth curves that add retro charm and two round, orange control knobs that angle out like cute little ears (my daughter’s description!) on either side.
The back is also angled so that the Yoto Player’s ‘face’ (its pixel screen) can be tilted up towards them when children are playing with it, which is a really nice touch.
The whole thing is not too big or heavy, either. So it’s easy for even little children to pick up. The front face is about 11cm square, and it’s about the same cubed. There is no handle, but as the Yoto Player is best used while connected to wifi (card content will download for offline play once inserted), it’s more an ‘around the house’ device anyway.
To charge the internal battery, the Yoto Player comes with a circular magnetic charger. Hold the Yoto over it, and the charger will jump into place. There are no exposed holes (other than the tiny headphone jack) so nothing little fingers can to get into.
Setting up Yoto Player
In order to start using the Yoto player, you first need to connect it to your wifi. This is a simple process that the app walks you through. And the pixel screen helpfully displays access codes and connection symbols to let you know when you’ve done everything right.
Within the app are various parental controls, such as that volume limiting function, and setting how long the pixel screen displays images before switching off (a battery-saving function). You can also turn on Bluetooth connectivity here.
Once switched on in the app, holding down the left ‘ear’ knob for a few seconds will enable Bluetooth pairing. This turns the Yoto Player into a wireless speaker. The sound quality is really nice too.
Everything about the Yoto Player design is smooth, and tactile, and minimalist. One of the orange knobs controls volume (you can set a limit on maximum volume within the associated app). Turn and press the other one to choose and select different tracks, and also to access the free daily podcast and Yoto kids’ radio station. Other than these, there is just a discrete little on/off button at the back.
To play audio, children simply insert one of the cards into the slot at the top. This is helpfully large and smooth with angled edges to guide the card, so putting them in is extremely easy to do. It doesn’t even matter which way round the cards go – back to front, upside down, all ways work!
My child testers were ten, eight, six and three, and they were all able to confidently use the Yoto Player within minutes – the older kids in seconds – as everything is so simple and intuitively designed.
Yoto Player extra features
When you turn Yoto Player on (after the initial set-up), the device makes a wake-up sound and the pixel screen displays a smiling face. And then it quickly transforms to a digital clock with either a sun (during daytime) or moon image (at night).
We absolutely LOVE this feature, which is a great little extra to have. Everyone who saw it did ask, however, if it was possible to use it as an alarm clock, which it currently isn’t. But Yoto do have a suggestion box page for ideas, so maybe this function will get added at some point.
Combined with the night light feature (I’ll get to that in a minute!), the clock display makes the Yoto Player a very useful addition to bedtime routines. You can choose the time at which the display switches from sun to moon, so you can set it to change at your child’s bedtime.
And you can turn Yoto Player into a nightlight! To do this, you simply tip it forward onto it’s pixel face. This way up, Yoto is the shape of a house. A narrow band of LEDs around the ‘roof’ will then automatically light up. The lights are just bright enough to give a warm glow, without being too bright for sleep. And you can even chose the colour of these LEDs within the app.
By the way, cards will still play while Yoto is this way up, so the two functions can be combined. You don’t have to chose between nightlight and player.
Yoto Player audio content
All the additional features on the Yoto Player are fun and useful. But there are two more things that really sets it apart from the crowd for me. And those things are the quality and range of audio content available, plus the ability to create your own audio cards, either of pre-recorded content or (I was so excited by this!) even podcasts and live radio streams.
The Yoto Player library of pre-recorded available content isn’t huge, though you can put anything on the blank cards. But what it does have has clearly been carefully chose to appeal to their target age ranges (three to around ten years old), and offer a number of unusual options too.
Prices range from £4.99 for shorter picture book stories, to £8.99 for longer books. If anything, this is on the cheap side for audio recordings, especially as you get a digital back-up version too.
Yoto Player stories
As far as stories goes, Yoto Player cards include family favourite authors such as Julia Donaldson (of the Gruffalo), Judith Kerr (author of the Mog books), Roald Dahl, and Enid Blyton (enough said). In addition, there are some excellent recordings of children’s classics, such as Tom’s Midnight Garden, Tales from Arabian Knights, and The Secret Garden. There are also young readers’ chapter books, such as the Jonny Duddle Jolley-Rogers series.
Each story starts playing as soon as you pop a card into the Yoto Player. Take it out, and the story will stop. But it will continue right from where you left off as soon as the card is put back in.
We loved that each chapter or track has its own pixel image. So children can identify where they are on a particular card by the unique picture that appears. So if you ever wondered what Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker look like as dot matrix pixels, Yoto Player can show you!
Yoto Player music
Yoto has great stereo speakers, and music sound better on this than on many of the other devices we’ve tried. It’s therefore fabulous for music (did I mention you can use it as a Bluetooth speaker?). There are several ways of listening to content via the Yoto Player.
There are, of course, pre-recorded music cards available. Nursery rhymes and classical music as usual, but also a couple of albums by a fabulous group of musicians, Mrs H and the Singalong Band. Their folksy, upbeat and irresistibly happy, ‘real’ music was a great hit with my youngest. She very quickly memorised her favourites and was singing along happily.
What I really love about Yoto’s musical offerings, though, is the Yoto Radio. Alongside a daily podcast of stories and chat, Yoto Player offers a free radio stream of family-friendly pop songs and catchy dance tunes. Some I even knew (I caught my oldest humming along to Rick Astley, for example). Helpfully, the music becomes more mellow at night, though.
The kids quickly learned that pressing the right ear once tuned into the podcast. Twice turned the Yoto Player into a radio, and they loved the mix of music on offer.
There is another way to play radio on the Yoto Player, and this is where that blank card you get with it comes in handy. You can create playlists of podcast episodes or live streaming radio stations in the Yoto app, and then link them to a blank card. Hey presto, your Yoto is a radio!
The Yoto app makes the process easy by having some radio stations (all the BBC ones, for example), already set up, ready to add to playlists. But as long as you have the live stream URL, you can add any station you like.
So you can set up a blank card to have a playlist of different radio stations. Once the card is in the Yoto Player, you can flick easily between them. So while the kids were out, I got to listen to my personal favourite radio station, BBC Radio Six, via the Yoto Player too. Of course, as soon as the kids were home, my new radio card was swiftly ejected. But it was nice while it lasted!
As well as streaming radio, Yoto will also stream podcasts. A free podcast called Yoto daily is available by pressing the right button. This is a short daily posting of jokes, riddles and factoids for children. It’s very much like listening to a between-programme kids TV presenter (think Phillip Schofield in the BBC broom cupboard, minus the annoying gopher…). There are even birthday call-outs. It’s a fun little extra that gives the Yoto Player a bit more personality.
Yoto Podcast Cards
You can also buy cards that will automatically tune in to the latest episodes of a couple of children’s podcasts. There is ‘The Story Shed‘ – original stories for children, designed to encourage discussion. This is narrated by Jake Harris, who also narrates the Yoto daily podcast. After each story is a chat about the story with Jake’s ‘Little Helpers’, to inspire further discussion at home.
There is also ‘The Week Junior Show’ – a fabulous kids’ news podcast. In this one, the team from the This Week Junior children’s current affairs magazine discuss stories from the latest issue. We’re big fans of The Week Junior anyway, so the podcast was a great discovery. The magazine is perfect for helping children access and understand the news of the day in a child-friendly way, and the podcast compliments it perfectly.
You can obviously listen to both podcasts for free on any mobile device or computer, so you don’t need to buy a card. However the cards are only £1.99 each, and make it really easy for kids to tune in. They’ll also update with the latest episode as they appear.
Alternatively, just as with radio streams, you can create your own playlist of podcast episodes and link it to a blank card. The downside of that, though, is that you can only link to individual episodes. So to keep your home-made card up to date, you will need to add each new podcast episode after it has been published.
Make your own cards
Blank cards are available in sets of five or ten (you get one with your Yoto Player). They hold up to 500mb and work out at under £2 each, which we felt was a pretty reasonable price. You can use these to create cards for any audio you like. So you can add favourite stories to your collection, record your own audio, or set up a podcasts and live radio playlists.
A digital copy of any pre-recorded cards you buy (a ‘virtual card’) will appear instantly in your Yoto App library. This means you can play the audio before you’ve even received the card. It also means you can play it via other mobile devices too (in your car, for example). And should you ever lose a card (inevitable in our house!), you can make a copy by linking the digital content to a new blank card.
As well as stories, music, and make your own blank cards, Yoto has two other kinds of audio available. There are a few activity cards for younger children on things like phonics and times tables. And there is even one that contains recordings of NASA astronauts.
There is only a very small selection of activity cards available at the moment. But I thought they were a great idea with lots of education and entertainment potential. I can’t think of another children’s audio device that offers anything like this, so hopefully more activities, across more age ranges and subjects, will be released soon.
The last type of card are the sound effects. We love, love love these! There are cards with animal sounds and vehicle sounds. There is a card with soothing sounds to help kids sleep (including the hum of a distant vacuum cleaner!). And there are nature sounds with the sounds of storms, rainforests, birdsong, and footsteps in the snow. Our favourite, however, is the crackling fire.
The nature, sleep, and fire cards have images and lighting effects to accompany the audio, too. This turns the Yoto Player into a great imaginative play accessory, and it’s really good fun!
Yoto Player Review – buy or not?
When we got our Yoto Player, I have to admit we had low expectations. Many children’s audio devices seem a little gimmicky and often favour novelty over function. Or, they are just to complicated and fiddly to use. We thought the Yoto Player would be in the first camp, with maybe a foot in the second.
I am so happy to say we were completely wrong. Every single one of us was seduced by the Yoto Player and are now fully smitten with its charms. The Yoto Player is not only a fun and beautiful bit of design, it’s also extremely versatile and a breeze to use.
The ability to stream podcast and radio (and bluetooth connectivity) make it just as appealing and useful for us grown-ups. And then having content options like sound effects and activities alongside stories and music is just genius. With the fabulous pixel screen and night light, and all the free content besides, the Yoto Player is a difficult option to beat.
As for pricing, I think this is very reasonable. The device itself is only £79.99, while content is very competitively priced (rare is the cheap audio these days!). And you can always use it to play your own content or stream free audio. The companion app is also stylish, easy to use and full of helpful info.
In fact, I can’t think of one negative to say about the Yoto Player! So if you are looking for an audio device for your family, this should definitely be top of your list.
Yoto sent us a Yoto Player and set of audio cards for this review. However, we were under no obligation to give it a good one… So everything in this Yoto Player review is our honest, unvarnished opinion. We really do think it’s that great!
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Children’s Audio Player Reviews
We’re big fans of audio here at Rhubarb and Wren, and so we’ve looked at dozens of different options for children-friendly audio players. Check out our list of the best children’s audio players we found – and see how high we put the Yoto Player!