The Toniebox promises screen free eBooks for children 3 years+ with its intuitive interchangeable figurine system and growing library of kids classics, but does it deliver on those promises?
Disclaimer: For the purposes of this article we were sent the products seen in this review for free. No payment has been given for review, and all opinions (positive and negative) are entirely my own.
What is a Toniebox?
The Toniebox concept is simple. A Wi-fi enabled speaker, with a built in RF reader on the top that detects when a compatible Tonie is popped on top. Once initially configured, putting a figure onto the pad automatically downloads the relevant files to the Toniebox. This means no faffing around when it comes to playtime; your little one can get on with playing with their new toy without waiting for long setups (unless you have a slow internet connection). The box itself has a good weight to it, with soft padding on all faces.
It feels quality, and tough enough to survive the inevitable tumbles that come with being a kid’s device. The beauty comes in the lack of screens; it’s a back to basics concept that strays from the norm of tablet-based entertainment that kid’s toys these days have started following. The audio quality is fantastic, with a surprising level of bass, and no distortion at higher volumes. The Toniebox can be played at quite a loud level (ideal for in the garden) but there’s also a headphone jack for quieter story time.
What is a Tonie?
A Tonie is a hand painted figurine, containing a RF chip that allows it to communicate with the Toniebox. When placed on top of the box, its content is downloaded via Wi-Fi. Once this initial download is complete, the box can be played anywhere, as it’s saved to the device’s internal memory. The Tonies currently on offer include books by Julia Donaldson, figures dedicated to nursery rhymes, and Disney themed sets. Each figurine feels tough, and the hand-painted detailing is gorgeous. The baby has got her teething chops around them a couple of time and hasn’t managed to cause damage, so that’s a big thumbs up from me.
There are also “Creative Tonies”, one of which is included in the starter set. Each creative Tonie is configured by you via the easy to use web interface and allows you to upload 90 minutes of audio content of your choice. This could be music, audio books you already own, or even recordings of yourself reading your little one’s favourite stories (ideal if Mummy or Daddy is away on business for an evening, or if they’re spending a night at the grandparents).
How does it work?
The Toniebox come with everything you need to get started; the Toniebox itself, a charging dock, Creative Tonie Figurine and brief setup instructions. Before giving the device to my little boy (aged 3), I decided to go through the setup process fully so that he could dive straight in when he got his hands on it. The process was super-straightforward to follow, as the website guided you through step-by-step. Once configured to my Wi-Fi network, it was as simple as placing the Tonies on the top of the device so it could download the content.
I decided to load our Creative Tonie with Disney music and audio books of my little man’s current favourites (which led to the Jungle Book being on repeat…. But I have only myself to blame). Even adding your own content was as easy as dragging and dropping the tracks into the web browser window (I was using my Windows PC). For purposes of review we also receive 2 additional Tonies; Zog by Julia Donaldson and a Squirrel chock full of Birthday Party themed songs.
Changing tracks is easily achieved by tapping the sides of the device. Tilting causes it to fast forward or rewind (which can be disabled if you have a little one who is too hands on with the device), and pressing the ears increases or decreases the volume. My 3-year-old got the hang of it so quickly after being shown, and in no time at all was skipping to his favourite tracks.
What did My 3-Year-Old think of the Tonie Box?
As mentioned, it really didn’t take him long to get used to how everything worked. Even his 10-month sister has been able to put the figure in the right place to get the music playing. What has been especially lovely is how he has grabbed the books relating to the audio books he’s listening to off the shelf to follow along with. Every day after nursery he has bee-lined straight for the Toniebox, which makes a change to the usual requests for the Kindle or Cbeebies. When asked for comment or thoughts on the toy, he responded “I LIKEEEEEEE ITTTTT”, so I think it’s a hit with him!
How much is the Tonie Box?
For me, price is the biggest negative of the system. The starter set is £79.99, with each additional Tonie retailing at £15. Extra creative Tonies can be purchased at a slightly lower price of 11.99 (available in a range of designs to make them easily distinguishable from one-another). To me, £15 is way too high for 30 minutes of content. You can easily purchase the Julia Donaldson collection of audiobooks online for £8-£10, which gives you all the stories at a much cheaper price. My little boy loves following along to the pictures in the books, so buying the CD tracks and board poops, popping them onto a creative Tonie and following along still works out cheaper than buying each Tonie story individually.
Tonie Box Conclusion
Overall, my impression of the system is positive, although it is marred by the high cost of the figurines. Were they available at a much lower price point or included a version of the book the kids to read along to, it would be more palatable and increase the chances of me buying more stories for my kids as treats.
What are your thoughts on the Toniebox? Have you bought something similar for your little ones? Let us know in the comments below.