Yoto Player Is a Kid-Approved Screen-Free Internet Radio

Yoto Player
Yoto cards go in the top of the Yoto Player, and a pixelated image is displayed on the front to match. TYLER HAYES
Editors Choice

Yoto Player is an internet-connected speaker for kids. It's part radio, podcast player and story reader all rolled into one. Best of all, it forgoes a screen so kids can give their eyes a rest. From a parent's perspective, it looks like a winner. Electronic devices aimed at kids aren't always beloved by their target audiences, however. To test it out, I set up the Yoto Player with my 8-year-old daughter and then gave her free rein to see what she thought.

She immediately took to the audiobook Hotel Flamingo and has been listening to it regularly since receiving it. Yoto Player has a playful design, but nothing about its aesthetics or functions talks down to kids. It's a device someone of any age can appreciate, but geared toward kids with its audio content.

In my daughter's own words:

"I like it because it has the pictures on the front, and it has good music on the radio."

Yoto Player can keep kids entertained on their own, but it also offers adults and kids a way to enjoy time together, as well. Minus a few considerations, mainly around price, Yoto Player delivers a wholesome, engaging experience without staring at a screen.

TL;DR

Pros:

  • Fun, clever design
  • Decent amount of free content
  • Bluetooth connectivity and a headphone jack

Cons:

  • Extra Yoto cards can add up in price
  • Make Your Own cards can be a little tricky to implement

Buy at Amazon.

What Is the Yoto Player?

Yoto Player
When connected to power and not playing audio, the Yoto Player will display the time and local weather conditions. TYLER HAYES

At its heart, the Yoto Player is a kid-friendly speaker. It's hard to narrow the device down to a single use. Even though there isn't a traditional screen, the front will light up to display the time and weather conditions as a clock. Rotate the device onto its face and the rear lights up to be a night-light. It works on its own, but it can also be a Bluetooth speaker for an iPad or phone. Yoto Player is extremely versatile without necessarily compromising on any of its uses.

After a Yoto Player gets set up, likely using a parent's phone, it doesn't need the phone to operate it. That means parents shouldn't be constantly asked to start a story on it or turn the music on. In my opinion, Yoto Player perfectly blends the physical world, with its cards that get inserted into the top, with the digital context it lives in. For example, once a card is inserted into the player, it shows up in the companion mobile app. If a card is lost in the future, it can still be listened to.

Inside the companion app, parents have control over limiting daytime and nighttime volumes. Physical buttons can be customized to do select things. Night-light colors can also be chosen to personalize the experience.

Yoto Player
The Yoto Player can tilt to multiple angles. On the bottom is a place to set a kid-friendly charger that consists of no ports to plug in. TYLER HAYES

The audio quality is fine. The spoken word is plenty audible and the main concern here. While Yoto Player is primarily a speaker, its audio quality is also secondary to its content. It's not sold for its high fidelity; dazzling audio isn't expected. My daughter never once mentioned that anything sounded bad.

Audio Content: Books, Radio and Podcasts

Yoto Player
An example of some of the Yoto cards my daughter and I listened to. TYLER HAYES

If the audio content is king, then what kinds of content does Yoto offer? I received the starter pack of cards, which included audiobooks like Hotel Flamingo, crackling fire sounds and a blank Make Your Own card, along with a few other stories and activity cards. I also received the new The One and Only Shrek audiobook card, which contains five stories.

My daughter tried all the cards right away. With a strong internet connection, the Yoto Player will start playing a card within a few seconds. When a card is pulled out, the audio pauses and will resume at the same spot when it's inserted again. When stories are being played, the orange player buttons can be used to skip forward or backward.

She loved Hotel Flamingo and listened to it each day for the first three days. She also liked the Shrek stories and has listened to them more than once. She is a big fan of the crackling fire sounds, too. Yoto Player displays a pixelated image on the front that matches the content being played.

The music radio station can be started at any time from an orange button. The music styles it plays vary quite a bit, so enjoyment could be hit or miss. There's also a daily radio program, Yoto Daily, that, as a parent, I found interesting. One day the host did a trivia contest, and my daughter and I both learned that a herd of giraffes is called a tower. The next day the host shared information about the Netherlands. There are daily birthday shoutouts for kids around the world. It's neat and can be listened to on demand for that day.

In the Yoto app, you can find about a dozen free radio programs and an equal number of free podcasts geared toward kids. If you have a Make Your Own card, this free content can be linked to a card, so kids can play it at any time.

This part of linking content to your own cards is straightforward. But there is the ability to upload audio or any available stream on the internet and link it to a card. This takes a little bit more work and creativity to find the content.

Yoto Player
When laid upside down, the Yoto Player turns into a night-light automatically. TYLER HAYES

Should You Buy a Yoto Player?

The Yoto Player and its audio content generally work best for kids in elementary school. It's great for kids learning to read or kids who are continually curious. It's also great for kids and parents to connect over stories and podcasts. Even beyond the targeted age range, the Yoto Player has the ability to continue to be useful as an all-purpose Bluetooth speaker and clock.

There is enough free content to satisfy most young listeners, but the potential ongoing cost of new Yoto cards could be the player's biggest downside for parents on a budget. If the $100 player plus the cost of a few cards are within reach, then this kid-friendly speaker is absolutely worth its price for the screen-free mind-stimulating time it can provide.

Buy at Amazon for $99.99.

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