The world of kids’ audio has come a long way since the days of sitting on the floor with a Fisher-Price record player. Today it's hard to find such easy entertainment that kids can use independently and securely, while also giving them a break from their screens.
Enter kids' music players and kids' audio players. In recent years we've been flooded with options for these screen-free entertainment options. From Toniebox to Yoto Player—all seem to have their strengths, making for a daunting choice when you're trying to pick the best one for your kid. That's why we decided to dig deep and heavily test all of the top-selling kids' music players and audio players to determine which one is truly best and why.
It was a hard choice. Almost all of the players we tried had their own strengths but, the robust book library and dynamic usability of the Yoto Player(available at Amazon) made it our favorite choice and won it the Best Overall slot.
For our Best Value winner, we picked the Yoto Mini(available on Amazon) based on its ability to perfectly blend portability and affordability.
This is a rare list, however, where there is something for everyone. Depending on your child, you may find one of our other recommendations that may better suit their needs. Read on for what we liked—and didn't like—about each.
Here are the best kids’ audio players we tested, ranked in order:
Yoto Player Mini
Amazon Echo Dot Kids' Edition
Size: 4.3 x 4.3 x 4 inches Battery life: Up to 10 hours Weight: 2.44 lbs Best for ages: 3 to 12
Our absolute favorite kids’ audio player, the Yoto Player is a multi-tasking kid’s music player, podcast player, mini-radio, and storybook reader that is bursting with kid-friendly features. It—and the Yoto Player Mini—also stood out as being the two best grow-with-them options for audio players that kids would truly use from ages 3 to 12.
This futuristic-looking audio player was up against some seriously stiff competition. What set it apart as our must-have choice, however, was that it seems to do everything—and it does it well—and that it has the best selection of content of all the audio players we tested.
Designed for kids ages 3 to 12, the Yoto Player works with preloaded content cards that you can purchase separately. Once you play the cards while connected to Wi-Fi they are forever loaded into your Yoto, so you can access them even when you are far from the internet. If you lose the cards, never fear! They are also loaded onto your Yoto app, so you can play them via Bluetooth.
The Yoto Player also delivers a lot of usefulness beyond its content card-reading function. When connected to Wi-Fi you can access a curated list of popular kid-friendly podcasts, many of which your child may already be a fan of. There are also Yoto-only offerings, like the Yoto Daily Podcast, evening meditations, and Yoto Radio. Also available through the app is a monthly rotation of free stories that you can download to blank Yoto cards, load onto your device, and own forever.
We also loved that the Yoto Player functions as a Bluetooth speaker that you can connect to your phone to play any kid-friendly content you may have on it. What’s more, the Yoto Player also has a nightlight function, as well as a big, bold digital clock face that transforms into a pixel display screen that displays images while stories play, which elevates it from a static speaker to a mini entertainment system for kids.
Our one complaint with the Yoto Player and the Yoto Player Mini are confusing controls. They aren't marked in any way, so they take a dip into the online directions and a bit of trial and error. I found them to be annoying the first month of owning the Yoto, but six months in I'm feeling like a pro.
Size: 1.57 x 2.76 x 2.76 inches Battery life: Up to 20 hours Weight: 9.9 ounces Best for ages: 3 to 12
The Yoto Player and the Yoto Player Mini scored exactly the same in our testing. But, when a kids’ audio player is $30 to $40 less than the competition, yet is still bursting with all of the same well-thought-out features of the original, you’ve got a serious value on your hands.
The Yoto Player Mini literally fits in your pocket and its cute, transistor radio-reminiscent design makes it a fun, retro-looking player for a new generation. Our older testers loved the look of the Yoto Player Mini. The 20-hour battery life made it a great choice for long drives and trips, and the diminutive size made it perfect portable entertainment for kids that want a little bit of independence—and who want to listen to their own content while being held captive with their family members.
Like the original Yoto Player, this mini version delivers a lot of usefulness beyond its content card-reading function. It connects to all of the same Yoto-only content that the Yoto Player does, and it also functions as a Bluetooth speaker and a mini clock, just like the original Yoto Player. Where it differs is that it fits in a jacket pocket, has an unbelievable 20-hour battery life, and it’s about $30 cheaper than the original.
This is our favorite best-value choice, but we'd also recommend it for slightly older kids, who you want to keep off screens but want to give independent entertainment options to—particularly when traveling.
Size: 8.62 x 6.69 x 6.54 inches Battery life: Up to 7 hours Weight: 2.07 lbs Best for ages: 3 to 8
The snuggliest of all the speakers we tried, Storypod is a soft, pillow of a speaker, with rounded and cushiony edges. It plays stories, games, trivia, and more by way of cuddly “Crafties,” which are knit figurines that include a preprogrammed content chip. Like the Yoto, once content is loaded onto Storypod it can be played again without WiFi, so this is another great choice for long car rides and is a perfect foil for the “are we there yet" whines. Unlike with the Yoto, however, if a Crafty gets lost its content can't be replayed or reloaded—so keep track of those toys. The only way to access that content again is by purchasing a new Crafty.
What sets this speaker apart is not only the cuddly, perfect-for-bedtime feel and aesthetic, but the highly interactive content Storypod offers. There are certainly plenty of options for passive listeners, but for kids who want to dive in and be a more engaged part of the listening process, there are loads of knowledge-building Crafties with interactive quizzes and games. For kids who might not have the attention span to listen to long passages from books, this speaker will keep them engaged and entertained.
This is also a terrific audio player for early readers. Their quiz card sets and read-a-long books are reminiscent of the read-along book and record sets we had in the 80s and would be a great way to help establish pre-reading skills and encourage reluctant readers.
Size: 7.5 x 5 x 2 inches Battery life: Up to 8 hours Weight: 15.7 ounces Best for ages: 3 to 11
If you’re missing the days of the mixtape and want to expose your kid to that kind of magic, you’re going to like the Jooki. It was our favorite choice for listening to music and for budding audiophiles.
Primarily a kids' music player, this device is a sturdy little beast and truly feels indestructible. Unlike all of the other kids' music players and kids' audio players tested, the Jooki does not have any pre-loaded content. Instead, it allows you to create and upload either Spotify or MP3 playlists to “tokens” or figurines. The figurines are geared towards little kids, while the tokens are great for older kids. We like that the tokens are compact and portable and resemble keychain tiles.
The only real issue we had with the Jooki is we missed having some options for pre-loaded content, but the ease of being able to create and load playlists so easily was fun for our testers and made it great for older kids who want to take a bit of ownership in creating the content they listen to.
Spotify partnership makes for excellent music content
Size: 4.7 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches Battery life: Up to 7 hours Weight: 21 ounces Best for ages: 3 to 8
Colorful, cute, and easy to use, the Toniebox is a great choice for kids who love a tactile experience. A vibrant, squeezable, cloth-covered cube, Toniebox is fun to hold and fun to control for smaller kids. Volume is lowered or raised by squeezing rubbery ears on the top of the unit while tapping the sides of the Toniebox allows listeners to rewind or skip ahead.
We have very few complaints about the Toniebox, but the large charging port was not only bulky, it has a peg sticking out that made it tougher to pack for travel than most. The other thing that we didn’t love is—like the Storypod's Crafties—if you lose one of the Tonies, you’ve lost the content of that Tonie until you repurchase it.
Because the Tonies are so beautifully crafted and attractive to kids, we experienced little testers taking them for outings around the playroom. We can see this being a problem: It’s hard to keep your hands off of them, so we recommend storing them on a high shelf.
Size: 6.5 x 1.5 x 3.5 inches Battery life: Up to 6 hours Weight: 11.7 ounces Best for ages: 3 to 10
The Lunii is an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure device, dressed up to look like a retro radio. The Lunii is the only device we tried that has contained content, meaning there are no content cards, figurines, or pieces to lose—everything is either online waiting to be downloaded on the device or already stored within it. Given that the Lunii is super lightweight and portable, this is a great option for road trips and long flights.
We appreciated that this audio player was the only one we tested that was ready to go with zero setup required. The Lunii doesn’t require Wi-Fi to work and the chunky yellow buttons and dials were easy to figure out in seconds. All it took was a quick charge before our son was on the couch with a huge smile on his face as he experimented with being the co-creator of different storylines.
Unfortunately, an outdated USB-style attachment made us scramble for an old laptop to try to download fresh stories. We also found the desktop app a bit slow and glitchy. Neither of those are dealbreakers for us, but they are things to be aware of.
Size: 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.5 inches Battery life: Plug-in only Weight: 12 ounces Best for ages: 3 to teen
Does your kid ask "why" about all things, all of the time? If so the Amazon Echo Dot+ Kids’ Edition may be the right audio player for your kid. Alexa is a treasure trove of information. Between parental controls and the kid-friendly Alexa skills and audio offerings, Amazon’s kid-friendly smart speaker constantly gets high marks from reviewers.
Unfortunately, for my family, it was a whole world of frustration. We spent a week trying to figure out how to add audiobooks that my son was actually interested in to his Alexa bookshelf, only to have Alexa repeatedly respond that she couldn’t find the title even after we purchased it. We eventually gave up. A cursory view of complaints online confirms this frustration is not unique, and there is no easy explanation on Amazon to help users experiencing similar frustrations.
Additionally, there seems to be a reliance on tablets and other display devices for setup and usage. Since the point is screen-free time, our family just wasn’t into this one. We don’t feel comfortable with having a live microphone in our kids’ space. It can be turned off, but it doesn’t change the fact that we hate leaving our kid alone with big brother listening in.
The appeal of these portable speakers is simplicity. Were they easy to use? Could children figure them out without the aid of an adult? The easier one of these gadgets was for kids to use on their own, the higher they ranked in our testing.
We solicited the expertise of our 7-year-old and a few of his friends, ranging from ages 3 to 8. They tested the players for ease of use and for user experience and gave us their unbiased and unfiltered feedback.
To round things out, we also consulted parents. An informal poll told us that parents wanted an audio player that, first and foremost, kids could use themselves with minimal adult assistance and supervision. If there is anything we learned in our research, it's that parents are desperate for technology that they feel is safe and that doesn’t require a ton of setup, supervision, safety features, or troubleshooting.
Hi, I’m Janelle Randazza, and I’m a parenting writer at Reviewed, where I've reviewed everything from water guns to kids' bikes.
A child of the 80s, I searched far and wide for a modern upgrade on the portable tape deck I had as a kid, as a screen-free way to give my son independent access to media. These screen-free audio players have been a long time coming. I was excited to try them out and finally find the perfect player for my kid.
Beyond the initial setup, kids needed to be able to work these music players and story-telling devices on their own. Once the adults got things up and running, we gave the audio players to the kids and observed how easy it was for them to use them and work through each of their features.
Durability also ranked high. Since these players are going to get a lot of use, they needed to withstand drops, spills, and all sorts of hard knocks that little kids can put them through. To test that, we dropped each off of our dining table at a height of 2 feet and 7 inches. Because we also have a real 7-year-old at our disposal, each player got a few extra unintended drops in real-life situations as well. We then monitored for cracks and played the devices immediately after to determine durability.
The content was also important. No matter how cute or durable an audio player may be, there needed to be easy access to a variety of interesting content that keeps kids engaged. We not only perused each company's website to see what they had to offer, we requested and ordered comparable-level content to ensure that there was a level playing field when determining the children's interest levels.
Finally, we scored based on ease of portability, both around the house and for those long drives and plane rides when we are desperate for ways to keep our kids entertained. Each of these audio players was car-tested for battery life and for remote content offerings on car rides of varying lengths.
What You Should Know About Buying a Kids' Audio Player
Kids audiobook players vs kids music players
In truth, many of the audio players we tested are dual-purpose, but some do one job better than others. If your kid is a bibliophile, you’re going to want the Yoto for its illustrious literary catalog that just keeps growing. If you have an audiophile, the Jooki is basically a traveling jukebox that downloads kids’ Spotify playlists as seamlessly as you could hope for. If you have a kiddo who loves trivia and is just learning to read, the Storypod may be your best bet.
Check for battery life
An 8-hour charge may sound great, but—for my family—it's about a 12-hour ordeal to travel to visit family. Since our kid will either listen (or forget to turn off his device) during this travel time, we need a device with over 10 hours of battery life. Nothing is worse than an audio player dying mid-way through a story. Trust us on this one.
Consider the content selection
One of the things that made it tough to pick a winner was that content selection is really subjective. For my family, we wanted content that skewed a bit older and had more long-form stories to keep our son entertained. We recommend you visit each product website and search for content by age. If this is a device you only want to entertain your child until they are reading on their own, your selection may differ.
However, know that kids who love to read love being read to, so finding a kids' audio player that will still keep your 10-year-old reader engaged is a good investment in their lifelong love of reading.
Kids will likely enjoy these audio players for much longer than you anticipate, so we do recommend checking the content available for their upper age range.
Are you going to travel with it?
A large part of our testing was with travel and portability in mind. When our kid is at home, books and Legos can always keep him occupied. When we are on the road is when we really need some good screen-free entertainment. If your main focus is to find something to occupy a young child when they wake in the middle of the night, you may want to consider a figurine-based audio reader. Those of us who like to travel light, however, will have different preferences.
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