Yoto Player review
In a nutshell
A worthwhile investment for young children with a voracious appetite for stories and music. Building a library comes at a cost, but the Yoto will grow with them and last for years, and the additional features mean this also performs well as a sleep-training clock, radio, nightlight and white noise machine.
What we tested
- Play value
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Educational value
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Ease of use
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Worth the money
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Easy to operate for children
- Wide, expandable library
- Loads of additional features
- Customisable cards
- Child-led learning and development
- App updates improve features over time
- Expensive to keep buying new cards
- Requires parent app and Wi-Fi
- Small cards get lost easily
- Doesn't have the "wow" factor of its main rival
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The Yoto Player is a Wi-Fi enabled children's audio player that is designed to encourage imagination, independence, creativity, and learning. The little cube is essentially a very clever smart speaker, which children can prompt to play stories, songs and games using a library of cards that slot into the top. A pixel-based display on the front shows simple images that accompany the cards, and also allows the player to operate as a clock. It has a built-in nightlight and various other features designed to aid with a bedtime routine.
MFM editor Gemma and her son have used the Yoto Player over a period of 18 months, during which time he celebrated his third birthday. The Yoto Player 3rd Generation was also tested by journalist Cher Whelan and her two children, pictured below, as well as by members of our community during the MadeForMums Toy Awards 2023.
What were your first impressions of the Yoto Player?
I was very intrigued by the concept of an audio player for kids, particularly one that reads stories, but I also wasn't sure whether it would be helpful in our house. Story time (particularly at bedtime) is sacred in our family and I didn't want to hand that job over to a machine. However, I wasn't prepared for how much of a hit the Yoto would be. We use it as an addition to our bedtime books, rather than a replacement. Although he was a bit too young to listen to full stories when he first got it as a 2 year old, it quickly became one of his favourite things and we have used just about every feature it offers.
What age is the Yoto player best suited to?
Yoto has content suitable for ages 0 to 9+ so there's no "perfect" time to get one, but I would say that ours has really come into its own as my son has inched towards 4. When he was younger, he liked the songs and we found features like the sleep trainer clock handy, but in terms of really enjoying the storytelling aspect of the cards, this required the slightly longer attention span he's developed as a preschooler.
I can tell this is going to continue to be a favourite for years to come, but obviously once a child can read books quickly, they'll probably use the player less, so I'd suggest investing when they're a toddler or pre-schooler to get the most use out of it over the coming years.
How easy was the Yoto Player to set up?
It's pretty straightforward to set up provided you have a standard Wi-Fi router. A quick start guide will take you through the steps to connect it to the internet, download the app to your phone, and get everything connected. I've done this a few times when we've visited family / been on holiday (he won't let us travel without it) and it usually takes just a few minutes. The welcome card explains more about the features once you've got it online.
How easy is it to use once it's connected?
The player has a really simple set of controls: a button on the side to turn it on or off and two buttons on the top to skip back or forwards. These can also be twisted to control the volume and brightness. These buttons also give your child access to Yoto Radio, which plays kid-friendly music, and Yoto Daily, which features games, quizzes, jokes and more. Both of these are ad- and subscription-free services. There's a schedule for the show available online, and I promise you that the host, Jake, will feel like part of the family before long!
To play a story, song or game from a card, you simply slot the card in at the top and it'll automatically start to play. The buttons can then be used to skip between chapters and visuals.
How does the app work?
Although most basic functionality can be done by your child using just the player and cards, the app gives parents more control over extra functions and safety / security settings. You can set volume and brightness limits (for day and night), the colours of the nightlight, the sleep/wake training clock function (and alarms) and set button shortcuts.
You can also use the app to manage the library and access extra free sounds like the library of white noise. The Yoto player is periodically updated with new features through app and product updates: the alarm clock, for example, is a relatively new addition.
What do you do if you lose a Yoto card?
The first time the card is inserted into the player, your Yoto player will download all the associated info from the cloud – the card doesn't contain a file, it's just a prompt to download it and play it. Provided the download is complete, if you lose a card you can still play the story/song/activity from the app.
How does the sleep training clock on the Yoto work?
When turned on its side so the screen is face down, the Yoto has a built-in nightlight that illuminates around the top edge. This can be programmed to change colour at set times, turning it into a training clock for toddlers. I have it set to go red at bedtime, and my son now knows that it turns green when it's time to get up.
As he's got older, if he wakes a bit early he's started to entertain himself by putting on Yoto Daily or using his Yoto cards to listen to stories until it's time to get up. It doesn't always work, but it's great when it does. The display will show a sunshine during the day and a moon at night, if you prefer not to use the nightlight.
Obviously, the success of this feature will be down to the personality of your child. My son's quite a good independent sleeper and thrives on routine so it's worked well for him. Others may be more strong-willed, need more support to settle to sleep, or have lower sleep needs, and no magic light is going to change that, but it's a great feature to have built in as a standalone sleep training clock can cost £20-£30.
What other features are there?
When plugged in but not in use the Yoto acts as a clock. It can also be turned into a white noise machine by using the app to access the free library of white noise. This can be played on a constant loop all night long if they player is left plugged in.
What kind of cards / stories can you get?
Yoto is best known for its story cards, and there's a huge library to choose from, including authors like Julia Donaldson, Beatrix Potter and Cressida Cowell, series like Thomas the Tank Engine and The Chronicles of Narnia, and famous brands like Disney, Marvel, Paw Patrol and Daniel Tiger. Yoto also creates a lot of its own fun content too, including nursery rhymes and playground stories. Some of these Yoto-created cards use the display on the Yoto in really clever ways, such as the world flag trivia game, and the first words language cards.
We also really love the create your own cards. Using the app you can add any media that you own onto a blank card to personalise it for your child. You could read their favourite story to them, upload MP3s you own to make a playlist of their favourite songs, or get people to record special messages for their birthday. My son – a surprisingly big fan of Avril Lavigne (??) – absolutely loves his music card, asking his dad to add "all your loudest songs" to it.
How much do the cards cost?
Most Yoto cards cost £7.99, and there are some value bundles that cost around £19.99 for 3-5 cards – I was super excited to see the Hotel Flamingo collection by my friend Alex Milway included alongside the Julia Donaldsons and Enid Blytons. You can also sign up for the Yoto Club subscription service if your kid is a Yoto fanatic. For a fee (£9.99 monthly or £99.99 annually) you'll get 2 new cards sent to your home every month. You get to choose the cards from an ever-changing selection chosen by the Yoto team, so you won't get any repeats and you can pick to suit your child's age and stage.
How long does the battery last?
From fully charged, a Yoto 3rd generation (the latest version) should last anything from 10 to 24+ hours depending on what kind of content your child is listening to (streaming vs downloaded, for example) and whether you've got battery saving mode on.
There's definitely enough life in one to use it on a long flight or car journey, for example. It has a headphone jack, so it can be used in public without subjecting everyone in earshot to The Gruffalo, and you can control the volume of the headphones using the app.
Does it have to be connected to Wi-Fi all the time?
In order to function fully, the Yoto does need to connect to Wi-Fi, and you'll need to be online to use the streaming content like Yoto Daily and the white noise sounds. However, once a story card is fully downloaded it can be played without being connected to the internet, so your child can use their Yoto cards on the go, too. We've taken it on a plane and it worked perfectly.
What's in the box?
- Yoto Player
- Welcome card
The above photo shows the older Yoto Player which has a slightly different charger to newer models. The Yoto Player 3rd generation comes with a standard USB-C charger that plugs into an optional dock (sold separately). Also pictured above is the Yoto card Starter Pack (£19.99) which is also sold separately.
Are there any accessories you can buy? Did you try any?
As well as the cards (obviously) there are a few Yoto accessories to consider. These are:
- Wireless headphones (£34.99)
- Adventure jacket (£24.99)
- Wireless charging dock (£29.99)
- Card case (£24.99)
- Card magnets (£6.99)
- Card pouch (£12.99)
The one I'd definitely recommend from the start is the adventure jacket, a flexible rubber cover that wraps around the Yoto, protecting it if it's dropped (it will be dropped) and doubling up as a handle. You can see the yellow version in some of the pictures above. The Yoto 3rd generation jackets come in a new set of colours, including blue, pink, pale green and orange.
How does Yoto compare to Tonies?
One of the most frequent questions we get asked by our community is "which is better: the Yoto player or the Toniebox". We're currently conducting a more detailed comparison, but at the heart of it I'd say, having tried both, that the Yoto has more in common with a tech gadget (with a screen and multiple "device" type features), while the Toniebox presents more like a toy (with soft fabric, kid-led operation and a speaker). Yoto uses cards to play stories and songs, while Tonies are little figurines – it's worth noting a Tonies figure will set you back around £14.99, while a Yoto card is about £7.99.
Both have a very similar library including lots of big names like Julia Donaldson, Disney, Paw Patrol and Paddington. Your choice will come down to your child's personality, overall cost, and how much you value the clock and sleep training features of the Yoto vs the initial "wow" factor of the figures that Tonies offers. Want a more detailed comparison? Check out our Yoto vs Tonies piece to help you find the best fit for your family.
Now you've tried it, what would you have wanted to know before buying the Yoto Player?
That certain features (like the sleep trainer) depend on the personality of your child and how interested they'll be in cooperating! Also, that this really is a product that grows with your child, so if they're not really into the stories at first, give them time, enjoy it as a very high-tech clock and nightlight for a few months and see if they start to get curious as they get older.
Is the Yoto player worth the money?
For my son, I definitely think it is. Now we've had this for some time, it truly is one of our most-used items and I often recommend it to others looking for a "big present" for a toddler or preschooler. It's much more than just an audiobook reader (which was my preconception). If you'll use the various features, it could even be quite cost-effective (a separate white noise machine, trainer clock and nightlight quickly add up). Parent tester Katy, who tested the Yoto 3rd generation for the MadeForMums Toy Awards agreed, saying, "The Yoto player has so many incredible features, and such good potential to suit a wide range of ages. I was surprised at just how much it can do and definitely think it is worth the money."
All this said, the cards are expensive and some of them are quite short (especially those with songs) so the ongoing cost of the cards does add up. Cheaper ways to add content to the player in future would definitely be a bonus, but for now we just ask for Yoto cards at Christmas and birthdays.
Where can I buy the Yoto Player?
A surprisingly versatile and expandable device that keeps kids away from traditional screens and encourages a love of books, stories and songs in all forms. We awarded the Yoto joint Gold in the MadeForMums Toy Awards 2023 in the category Best Tech Toy or Gadget. For parents, the additional features may be handy in the early years, adding to the overall value, and for kids the familiar characters and stories give it instant appeal. Frequent updates to the app and a growing library for Yoto Cards mean there's always something new to explore, but it is a big investment, and the cost continues as you add cards.
|Model||Yoto Player (3rd Generation)|
|Child age (approx)||From Birth|