What is a Toniebox? Find out with our guide to all things Tonies

Not sure what a Toniebox is or how it works? Here's everything you need to know before you buy one for your child

Spliced image showing two different child playing with their Tonieboxes and Tonies
(Image credit: tonies)

With more than five million sold worldwide, what is a Toniebox, how does it work, and why do Tonies make great toys for kids? Here's everything you need to know.

While you might already been up to speed on this year's top toys, Tonies are a newer breed of toy that claims to have 'changed the way young children play and learn independently with its child-safe, wireless and screen-free approach'.

GoodtoKnow's child development expert, Dr Amanda Gummer, says: "Audio devices such as Tonies, with their engaging audio content and interactive storytelling offer a unique blend of both entertainment and education which makes them an ideal choice for stimulating young minds and enhancing language development." As such, we have included Tonies in our guide to the best toys for six year olds, although they are suitable outside of this age range too - they're perfect for children between three and 10.

If you want to dip your toes in the water, you can get a Tonies starter bundle which gives you everything you need, or you might want to weigh up Yoto versus Tonies, or read our Toniebox review, to see which audio player is right for your child.

What is a Toniebox?

A Toniebox is a wireless, child-friendly audio device, that promises to help kids play and learn independently. The Toniebox has no hard corners and is covered in a layer of foam, so it's soft and a bit squidgy. As well as being safe for kids to operate, it's also robust enough to withstand the most eager of tiny hands.

To play stories and songs on the Toniebox, you will need to buy Tonies - these are hand-painted, magnetic characters that sit on top of the Toniebox. More than 72 million Tonie figures have been sold so far, and there are more than 700 Tonies available, including The Gruffalo, and recognisable characters from the world of Disney, Roald Dahl and more. The stories and songs included on each Tonie are themed to that particular character, and have running times of anywhere from about 15 minutes to an hour.

Tonies can also be downloaded on to the Tonie box, so it can be listened to when away from a WiFi connection. An adult will need to complete the initial set-up, but then it's really easy for little hands to operate. Just pop the chosen Tonie on top and it will start playing automatically, the volume can be adjusted by squeezing the grey ears on the top of the box, and tracks can be skipped by tapping the sides. Easy peasy!

Each Toniebox comes with a 'Creative Tonie' which offers 90 minutes of recordable space so you can record your own stories for your kids to listen to, and there's an easy to use app, which comes with more than 10 hours of free songs and stories.

Benefits of a Toniebox

Tonies offer a range of benefits to children from encouraging independent play (which let's face it, is also a benefit for parents) to supporting their creativity.

Offering a screen-free alternative for children who might be more used to listening to or watching stories on a smartphone or TV, Tonies can support a child's language development through storytelling, which encourages them to develop their spoken language skills and use their imagination.

The robust design of the Toniebox doesn't feature any sharp edges, and offers easy operation for kids. When a Tonie is placed on top, the audio starts automatically, and the volume can be adjusted by squeezing the 'ears' of the audio player. This gives children a sense of autonomy, allowing them to play with it unaided.

There is a large range of Tonies to choose from, to suit a variety of ages. They're interactive and as well as fostering spoken language development, Tonies can also include fun-facts that relate to the stories, meaning kids aren't just playing with a Toniebox, they're learning too.

The Toniebox itself is also available in a variety of bright colours, which kids will love. Child development expert Dr Amanda Gummer adds: "I love the Toniebox’s ability to captivate children's imaginations with engaging storytelling. Each Tonie character contains carefully curated stories, songs, and educational content can foster a love of learning."

Two kids at home playing with a red Toniebox and creative Tonie figure

(Image credit: tonies)

How much does a Toniebox cost?

For a Toniebox, you can expect to pay around £80, but you might find that certain colours are cheaper than others, although not by much. When buying a Toniebox for the first time, you might decide to buy a bundle instead, which includes the Toniebox and a selection of popular Tonies. You can buy ready-made bundles from the likes of Very, Amazon and Smyths. If you want to create your own bundle, then you can head to the Tonies website and use their Bundler tool. You can choose the colour of your Toniebox, and then pick a bundle to include either three, five or seven Tonies.

Once you have your Toniebox, then individual Tonies cost around £15, or you can buy Tonie bundles that offer better value for money. For example, this four character set of Disney characters costs £46.99 at Amazon, but if you bought the characters individually, at £14.99 each, it would cost £59.96, which is almost £13 more expensive. So you're essentially getting one Tonie for free when you buy them as a bundle. Similarly, this Julia Donaldson character bundle, containing three Tonie figures (Stickman, Highway Rat and the Gruffalo's Child) costs £39.99 on Amazon, which works out as about £5 cheaper than buying them individually.

What age is appropriate for a Toniebox?

Tonieboxes are aimed at children between ages three and 10, but the Tonies you choose may be more age-specific. Between the ages of three and five, stories can have a big impact on your child's language development, and studies have shown that involving children in storytelling can also help boost their memory, encourage a interest in learning, reading and writing as well as fostering cognitive skills.

By the age of six, when children may be becoming more independent, and potentially more interested in screens, Tonies are a great way to encourage them to enjoy some scree-free time. According to the Tonies Steps of Storytelling guide: "At this age, children can become a little reluctant to read together with their parents or independently, particularly if they are becoming increasingly keen on gadgets with screens or other games.

"Audio players, such as the Toniebox, can also be hugely helpful in helping reluctant readers, exposing them to a variety of words as part of their daily routine. Even repeating the same Tonie over and over can help them to understand the story more and to remember new vocabulary. Making this a fixed part of their day, such as before bedtime, can also be a great way to bond with your child and relax them."

How do you play with a Toniebox?

As the Toniebox is so easy to play with, children may play with it as and when they feel like it, but it can be helpful to create a bit of routine around when it's used and how. For example, by incorporating some Tonie-time before bed can help to relax your child and get them ready for sleep, and even help them sleep better.

The fact that it's wireless, also means that the Toniebox is perfect to take in the car to keep little ones entertained on long car journeys. You can even buy Tonies headphones, like these from Amazon, so your little one can enjoy their own stories and songs, while you can enjoy something different. But to be sure you can play the Tonies without WiFi connectivity, you'll need to make sure they're downloaded onto the Tonibox - here's how.

Do you have to be connected to WiFi to listen to a Toniebox?

Once a Tonie is fully downloaded onto your Toniebox, you can listen to it without being connected to the WiFi, which is great if you plan on taking it with you on long car journeys to keep the kids entertained.

However, you will need to be connected to WiFi in order to set up your Toniebox in the first place, and in order to download a Tonie on to it.

Can you listen to Tonies in the car?

Yes you can listen to Tonies in the car - once the Tonie characters you want are downloaded on to the Toniebox, you can listen to them without needing to be connected to the WiFi, perfect for when you are on the move. You might choose to invest in some Tonie's headphones for your little one, so you can listen to something else through the car speakers if you want to.

How long do Tonies play for?

How long a Tonie plays for will depend on the specific character, but could be anywhere from just over 15 minutes to just under an hour. This might sound short, but considering they are designed for kids with shorter attention spans, this is actually the perfect length. You can always check the track list and running time of the Tonie before you buy to make sure it's suitable for your and your child's needs.

When it comes to the Toniebox itself, once fully charged it should play for about seven hours before it needs charging again.

Do you need a Toniebox carrycase?

If you want to take the Toniebox and Tonies on the go, or simply want to keep things tidy at home, then it might be worth picking up one of these storage bag options.

Alternatively, you could opt to display the Toniebox and Tonies on the wall and make a real feature out them. You can buy specific shelving units that are perfect for a budding Tonies collection, such as this wooden version from Amazon.

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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.