Toniebox review - is it worth the money? We put it through its paces to find out

We tested the red Toniebox starter set, with the help of a four-year-old, to see if it's worth buying - here's how we got on

Toniebox review
(Image credit: Future)
GoodtoKnow Verdict

The Toniebox is, frankly, fantastic. It's perfect for little hands to get to grips with and it's design is really engaging - and there's not a screen in sight. My four-year-old nephew loved looking at the Tonie audio characters and was really excited when the spotted a character he recognised from books he's used to reading or TV shows he watched. He was also fascinated by one of the more educational Tonies, and fell asleep listening to it at bedtime. Better still, it encourages independent play and learning, and the fact that there are so many Tonies to choose from for a variety of ages, means that it can grow along with your little one.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Quick and easy to set up

  • +

    Tumble-proof and portable

  • +

    Visually engaging despite being screen-free

  • +

    Minimal lights make it perfect for bedtime

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Expensive

  • -

    Need to think about storage as your collection grows

  • -

    Tapping through chapters takes some finesse

  • -

    Only works with wired headphones

  • -

    Sound only comes out of one side

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We put the Toniebox and various Tonies through their paces to see if they are worth the price tag, and to gauge just how easy they are for kids to operate.

If you're new to the world of Tonies, then you might be wondering what a Toniebox is and how it works. Essentially, it's a wireless, screen-free audio player that is designed to be operated by children. It's got no sharp edges and features padded sides, so it can withstand the most enthusiastic of operators. It comes in a variety of eye catching colours that kids will adore too.

Audio is played via magnetic figurines called Tonies, which sit on top of the Toniebox. If you're curious, these are the most popular Tonies ever, but there are more than 700 to choose from, including Tonies for preschoolers and more educational Tonies.

But with a price tag of £79.95 for the Toniebox itself, and £14.99 per Tonie, it's not cheap - but is it worth the money? Read our review to find out.

Setting up the Toniebox

The Toniebox arrived well packaged (it's all recyclable too, which is a big tick in the plus column) with everything you need for a successful set up. You get the Toniebox in the colour of your choice, a charger, instructions and a Creative Tonie that can be used to upload up to 90 minutes of your own audio.

The set up process took less than 10 minutes and the instructions are really easy to follow. In fact the instructions are surprisingly minimal, which made me nervous initially, but where the paper instructions leave off, the app instructions took over. You will need to register a new free account on the website or on the mytonies app, which is available in the App Store and on Google Play.

You will also need access to your emails to complete the registration process, and you will need to be connected to WiFi and have your WiFi password to hand. If you are buying this for a child in your family, it's a wise move to set it up first so that your child can hit the ground running.

What you get when you buy a Toniebox - including the audio player, Creative Tonie, charger and instruction manual

What you get when you buy a Toniebox - including the audio player, Creative Tonie, charger and instruction manual

(Image credit: Future)

Toniebox Design

I'm testing the bright red Toniebox because I'm a good aunty and red is my nephew's favourite colour. It's a rounded cube shape (not a sharp edge in sight), and it's got a layer of foam padding around all of the sides, so it feels really sturdy. The audio comes out of a speaker on one side of the cube, not all, and so it feels pretty intuitive as to how you should hold it to hear the audio in the best way. There is also a headphone socket on the top where you can attached wired headphones.

Design of the Toniebox

(Image credit: Future)

The Toniebox has two different sized 'ears' on the top, next to the magnetic panel where the Tonies are attached. The only lights on the Toniebox appear on this top panel, which is great if you are planning on incorporating this toy into a child's bedtime routine - no one needs a flashing light show just before bed!

It also has a circular dip on the bottom, which is where the charger fits - this is a cool feature and it keeps it sturdy even when it's charging.

What age is best for a Toniebox?

The Toniebox is aimed at children aged three and over. My nephew has just turned four and came to mine to take part in my 'storytime experiment' (also known as testing the Toniebox).

Initially, he was more excited about the Tonie audio characters I have, including Highway Rat and a Dinosaur, both of which were super recognisable to him. But when I showed him what happened when we put the figurine on the top of the Toniebox, that was even more exciting. By the time he went to bed, he was confidently turning on the Toniebox, swapping over Tonies and adjusting the volume.

For more advanced actions, like rewinding or fast-forwarding, or skipping chapters, a child of that age will need to be shown, but I have no doubt they will pick it up quickly, tiny sponges that they are.

How easy is a Toniebox to use?

Once you've completed the initial set up, and you've got a Tonie to play with, then Toniebox is really easy to use - and you'd want it to be, especially when one of it's main selling points is that it can be operated by a child.

To turn the Toniebox on, you pinch one of it's ears, and then you'll hear the start up music, then you just pop your chosen Tonie on the top, and it starts playing automatically. If you take the Tonie off, stopping play, and put it back on, it will start again from where it left off, but if you play a different Tonie in between, or the Toniebox turns off, the Tonie will start back at the beginning.

To stop the audio, all you need to do is remove the Tonie audio character. There's no need to switch the box off - it turns off automatically after 10 minutes. It'll also turn off 10 minutes after the end of a Tonie's audio tracks, so there's no need to worry about it running all night. By tilting the Toniebox to one side, you can fast-forward or rewind the audio track (and you can use the mytonies app to select whether you tilt it left to fast-forward or right, which I thought was a very cool feature).

To adjust the volume, you pinch the bigger of the Toniebox's ears to turn it up, and the smaller ear to turn it down. I really liked that the maximum volume was limited, and you can even reduce this further in the mytonies app.

You can also tap the sides of the Toniebox in order to skip to the next or previous chapter of the audio, but it does feel like you have to tap it in a very specific place, with a specific force in order to skip - it took me a couple of goes to successfully skip in the direction I wanted to.

For a child's opinion, I roped in my nephew, Max, who has just turned four. And it was a resounding thumbs up from him. He loved having a really good look at the audio characters and was excited about the ones he recognised. For Max, he was most engrossed in the stories when he was away from other distractions, so it was perfect for him when it came to bedtime. He was really happy to listen to it independently too.

Some Tonies encourage interaction by asking questions of the listener, and you might find your child is more likely to interact if you join in too - this was definitely the case with Max, and might be because of his age.

While the Tonie is great for independent play, it doesn't have to replace the personal interaction and story time that you might already have in place before your child goes to sleep. But it's a great additional to resource to help them hone their listening skills, learn new things and bring on their language development. And you can absolutely listen to it together if you want to enjoy some quiet time with your little one.

Another thing that's great about this Toniebox is that it's portable. Once it's set up, and the audio files from the Tonie figures are downloaded on to it (this happens automatically when you place the Tonie on the Toniebox when you are connected to WiFi. You will see a flashing blue light underneath the Tonie as it downloads, and once complete, the light will go green), then you no longer need to have a WiFi signal in order to listen to the audio.

Four year old placing a Tonie character on top of the Toniebox

My four year old nephew getting to grips with the Nat Geo Kids Dinosaur Tonie

(Image credit: Future)

Recording your own audio using the Creative Tonie

A really cool feature of the Toniebox is the ability to record up to 90 minutes of your own audio using the Creative Tonie, that comes with the box as standard. You can record your audio using the mytonies app and assign it to your Creative Tonie - it look me a couple of attempts to figure out how to assign my recording to the Creative Tonie, and a little while longer to figure out how to get it to actually play through the Toniebox. But once you've done it once, it's easy to replicate.

This process definitely required grown up input, but I know more than one child who would love to record themselves and hear their own voices back!

This functionality can also be really helpful if you are having to spend some time away from your child - being able to leave a recording of your voice, reading a bedtime story or repeating the phrases you say before your child goes to sleep, for example, could help to settle your child at bedtime, even if you are not there.

What's the Toniebox battery life like?

When fully charged, the Toniebox battery lasts for up to seven hours, but how long it actually lasts will depend how you use it and at what volume. Seven hours might not seem very impressive, especially when we are used to our grown up devices like smartphones and tablets lasting much longer. However for younger children with shorter attention spans, this is probably less of an issue.

When Max played with it, he played with it multiple times during the day, listened to it at bedtime, and then listened to some more stories the next morning before it needed a charge.

Which is better - Toniebox or Yoto?

Tonies aren't the only screen-free audio device out there - there's also the Yoto, which works in a similar way, but instead of figurines, the Yoto works with card-style audio files.

Both devices are portable and kid-friendly and are similar prices. The Yoto boasts an impressive 24-hour battery life, while the Toniebox battery will last up to 7 hours. You can also get a Yoto player than comes with additional features, like a built-in room thermometer, night light and an ok-to-wake clock.

But ultimately it comes down to what you need and potentially, which one your child has spotted. If you need a room thermometer, nightlight and clock, then it's worth buying the Yoto, but if this would be doubling up on what you already have, then you might choose the Yoto.

I personally love the Tonie audio characters - they are so intricate, instantly recognisable, and add a bit of visual flair to the screen-free experience. I also think seeing the characters helps to spark the imagination. But for our Family Editor, Stephanie Lowe, the Yoto might just have the edge - you can read her Yoto vs Tonies comparison to find out more.

Is the Toniebox worth the money?

I think the Toniebox is absolutely worth the money - within minutes, it had my four-year-old nephew entranced, and it was brilliant come bedtime. Even if you just by the box and have the Creative Tonie, you can record your own stories (then delete and record more, if you go over the 90-minute limit). You can also find a load of free audio files in the mytonies app, which you can load on to the Creative Tonie.

When it comes to the audio characters, it could easily become expensive to build up a collection of Tonies, but at the £15 mark, it's a perfect price point for gifting, so you can always let friends and family know if there are some Tonies your little one is looking to add to their stash.

You could save a bit of money initially by buying your Toniebox as part of a starter bundle, which will give you the box and a selection of Tonies, for less than buying them all separately.

Want to read more toy reviews to see what's worth spending your money on? Check out our Magic Mixies Pixlings review, or our Beast Lab Shark Beast Creator review.

Sarah Handley
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.