Honest Yoto Player review
In 2023, the girls and I fell in love with the Yoto, available via Amazon, Target and Maisonette. (Use code “NEW10” to get it on sale here.) If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a screen-free audio player that gives me all the listening-to-my-Discman-on-the-bus-in-the-90s vibes. (Okay, technically it has a tiny screen, but its only real purpose is to indicate things like volume or what chapter/song the child is on.) Now it’s time for a comprehensive, honest Yoto Player review!
How Yoto works
In short, when you insert a card into either the original Yoto or Mini, an audio book or music album—or whatever other content link to it—is played.
A more detailed explanation: All your audio content lives in a cloud, and the cards act as “keys.” When inserted into the player on wifi, the cards signal to the player to download their content onto the device. Once it’s fully downloaded onto the device, the Yoto can play the cards without a wifi connection.
In addition to audiobooks and music albums, kids can also listen to Yoto’s collection of free podcasts and radio stations as well as access timers, sleep sounds and alarms.
Today I’m going to share a Yoto Player review about how we use our Yotos, how we create our own (free!) content, and why the Yotos have impacted our lives so positively.
What Yoto does that a tablet can’t
I’ll preface this section by saying that I don’t think tablets are the devil. We own them. And they’re a godsend for travel. At home, we also use them for academics—namely apps like Seesaw, Khan Academy Kids (and the normal version), GoMath, Libby, LingoKids, Duolingo ABC, books from Amazon Kids+, and Simply Piano—and they’ve been incredible learning tools. But unless highly monitored, our tablets can turn our lovely children into miniature zombies with addiction problems. A discussion for another time for sure, but what I want to emphasize in this Yoto Player review is that it actually helps kids develop good habits.
When I first proposed the idea of the Yotos, my husband was like, “I don’t get it. The tablets can do all of these things. Why do we need more devices?” And to be fair, he was right. The tablets can do everything that the Yotos can do. But the Yotos are distraction-free.
Remember growing up, and listening to your DiscMan on the school bus? Or maybe it was a simple iPod, depending on how much younger you are than I am. But I loved getting lost in the lyrics, and I loved how much thinking that encouraged. I also really enjoyed physically touching my music collection, taking the CDs out of my booklet, and sliding them into the DiscMan. There was an element of ownership, and I was proud. The Yoto gives my children that same feeling. It’s a little bit of old-timey magic in a very modern world.
The Yoto gives my children that same feeling. It’s a little bit of old-timey magic in a very modern world.
When my girls (ages 3.5 and 7 at the time of writing this) pick up their Yotos, they are choosing to focus on one activity, whether it’s listening to an audio book, podcast or radio station; practicing a new skill; or jamming out to an album or mix tape. The temptation to click over to YouTube Kids, FaceTime or a game is totally deleted from the equation.
And let’s be serious. The temptation is real! Most adults don’t have the self discipline required to combat it. Have you ever tried to read an e-book on your phone or iPad? Even if you put turn on the “do not disturb” setting, it’s tough. So many other apps begging for your attention. This is part of the reason Kindles are so successful. Distraction-free reading.
Samesies with Yoto.
Btw: Yotos are great for kids who suffer from motion sickness! Emma does, and her Yoto has been such a lifesaver.
The magic of Make-Your-Own Yoto cards
One of my favorite parts of this Yoto Player review! Before you go out and drop hundreds on pre-made Yoto cards, stop, collaborate and listen. My #1 tip is to invest in a couple of packs of the Make-Your-Own (MYO) cards.
Yoto offers a lot of pre-made cards, which are great. (And we do own some!) But we’ve found MYO offers much more flexibility.
But if you purchase a pre-made Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, for instance, it will remain Diary of a Wimpy Kid forever. For some families, this is ideal. Small children often enjoy listening to the same stories over and over again, and then they can be passed down to younger siblings. But for other families in different situations, not so much!
For families without anyone to pass down the cards to, or for families with older children, it may make more sense to purchase the Diary of a Wimpy Kid from an mp3-supported audiobook site like Libro.fm, which supports a local bookstore of their choosing. Then can put the book on a MYO card, delete the content once their child is done with it, and repurpose it by connecting it to a new audiobook, music album, or podcast/radio station RSS feed.
It should also be noted that if you lose the pre-made version of a book, it’s gone for good. But if you misplace a MYO card, the content still lives in your app… and therefore you can put it onto a replacement card!
Content for MYO Cards
- Record yourself. At bedtime, record yourself reading books to your child, which you do every night anyway! Then put the books on the Make-Your-Own (MYO) cards. You’ll be amazed by how quickly your collection grows.
- Ask family and friends to record themselves. Your child will delight in hearing Grandma read a story!
- Mp3 songs/albums (that you own) onto cards. The world has fallen in love with Spotify, which is a phenomenal service. But having zillions of songs at their fingertips can be overwhelming to young listeners. Owning the music in physical form has worked much better for them; they save up for, fall in love with, and learn the stories behind the albums—just as older generations did in the past.
- Holiday-themed stories:
- Public domain audiobooks: Yoto has some, as does LibriVox.
- Yoto Creators: How fun is THIS? Anyone can become a Yoto Creator! Share your work with the community, or download and listen to others’ work.
- Podcasts: You can access these in both Yoto Space as well as directly in the app. You can also turn any RSS feed into a podcast to put on a MYO card.
- Radio stations:
- Yoto Daily: Learn more about it here.
- Write your own story and record it: This is such an awesome activity to do with kids; you could spend an entire weekend drafting and recording their own tales! Explore these resources to get started.
- Create a “positive affirmations” MYO card: Record your child reading theirs, or record yourself reading them for younger kids. I also created “Things I love about Lucy” and “Things I love about Emma” cards. They’ve been great tools to use when we’re experiencing big emotions.
- Audiobook companies: See below!
Recommended audiobook companies
(Note: There are definitely some workaround conversion programs for audiobooks you already own from Audible or those you’re borrowing Overdrive/Libby. But I can’t speak to them or their legality. Simple—and legal—is always best, in my opinion!)
Here are two companies that allow you to legally put your content on MYO cards:
- Libro.fm: This is our favorite! You don’t have to sign up for a membership; you can simply buy à la carte if memberships give you anxiety like they do for me. You choose your local bookstore to support. The interface is SO easy. On our first try, Emma and I had a book downloaded from Libro.fm and uploaded to a Make-Your-Own card in less than five minutes. I bet we could do it within three now!
- Downpour: We haven’t used this company, but it allows for mp3 downloads as well.
Pre-made Yoto cards you can purchase
I’m also all about supporting Yoto, as it’s an incredible company! Buying pre-made cards are also a great option when family and friends ask for gift ideas. We love Yoto Originals. Yoto cards are available to purchase via a lot of major retailers, which is very nice. Linking some great options above.
How to get the content onto the Make-Your-Own (MYO) cards in 5 easy steps
You can do this on the Yoto website or app. Here are the steps:
- Log in, go to “My Playlists” and click “add playlist.”
- Name card, add audio, and upload artwork. (I simply use Google Images to find the book/album covers!)
- Click “create.”
- In the app, click “link to card,” and physically tap your card to your phone.
- Insert the card into the Yoto while you’re connected to wifi for a couple of seconds. This signals to the Yoto to download the new content so you can access it away from home/wifi.
How to print your own book/album cover stickers
- Buy Avery labels. We use the ones linked in here!
- Google the label number.
- Open up the template on Avery’s website.
- Drag and drop the book/album covers—I find them on Google Images—into the template.
- Print on your laser or inkjet printer.
How Yoto has helped to develop healthy habits in our children
In our household at least, the Yoto fosters good behavior and healthy habits. Here’s what we’ve witnessed:
- Development of new interests and hobbies
- Discovery of new authors
- Renewed passion for reading
- Longer teeth-brushing times with the Yoto teeth-brushing timers
- Easier wake-ups and bedtimes
- Longer attention spans (They’ll work on LEGO and craft projects for so long while listening to their Yotos!)
- Exercise (The number of dance parties we’ve had would astonish you…)
- Less complaining (Cleaning your room is a lot easier when you’re listening to your Yoto!)
- Happier travel
Because they aren’t addictive, and as parents, we have no problem letting our children use them whenever they want. They don’t beg for them, they don’t throw tantrums over them, and they don’t become zombies when they have them on.
Yes, my daughter sleeps with a diamond ring stuffie.
How Yoto makes bedtime easier for us
This is one of the most important parts of my Yoto Player review.
For years, bedtime was the most challenging part of the day, largely due to one adorable child believing to she was a vampire. Typically, after we were done reading stories, she would try everything she could to delay closing her eyes, and it resulted in her not getting enough sleep. (Which impacted every part of her life!)
We’ve tried so many different approaches that I seriously think I could create a course at this point. But the single-most helpful tool (for us) has been the introduction of the Yoto.
Of course, every child is different. And what works for us might not work for others. But now, after we’re done reading stories together, she no longer feels like a bandaid is being ripped off. There are rarely tears because she now actually looks forward to listening to new stories and podcasts as she drifts off to sleep.
At first, we worried about dependency issues. But after a few talks, we realized that her daddy also drifts off to sleep with an audiobook every night. Does he need it? No. But it helps, especially when he’s struggling with a racing mind.
In the end, we decided that more sleep for our toddler outweighed the possibility of developing a dependency. We also felt that falling in love with audiobooks wasn’t too bad of a risk. ;)
And thanks to Yoto, everyone in our household is getting more sleep!
I should add that the Yoto has also made mornings easier. Yes, the alarms and timers are super, but there are rarely tears or disagreements while getting ready anymore because a favorite audiobook, music album, podcast or radio station is playing. (I highly recommend positive affirmations.) It sets the tone for a great day!
Note: Yoto doesn’t recommend using headphones while sleeping for obvious reasons. Because my girls share a room and are ages 4.5 and 7, we do use them… but we try to stick to wireless ones for safety reasons.
How to convert the Yoto into a crossbody
Okay. This is huge, and not every Yoto Player review covers it. I found this Yoto Mini adapter on Etsy, and ran it through the silicone protective case, called the “Adventure Jacket.” This allows you to attach a super affordable crossbody strap. (Not sure whether our particular one is still available, but there are tons of cute options to choose from!)
You can also use a neck lanyard—which doesn’t require an adapter—for both Yoto Players! I’ve linked some here.
The crossbody functionality is amazing for both travel and our normal adventures in the city. We’ve brought our Yoto players in the car, on planes, on the subway, to the beach, to restaurants—you name it. And because of the crossbody straps, it’s no longer a “Mom, can you hold this?” kind of thing. ;)
I’ve yet to do this, but I also intend on printing out an “if you find me” label. We’re very careful with our Yotos but hey, just in case!
How to store Yoto cards
This card case is a must-have. I looked at some others, but this one’s inserts are obviously the exact size of the cards, so they don’t accidentally fall out. A little pricey for what it is, but worth it. We have one for books, podcasts and radio stations and another for music.
The headphones we use
Yoto has their own headphones, but my girls didn’t love the orange color, haha. But we already owned these these WONDERFUL Kids’ Belkin headphones, anyway. They work both wirelessly and wired. (Love that flexibility.) There’s also an earbud version which my older daughter prefers, as they “look cooler.”
Toniebox is the competitor brand, and I don’t think you can write a Yoto Player review without comparing the two. Here’s why we chose Yoto:
- Instead of cards, Toniebox uses figurine character toys called “Tonies” that are harder to store/transport and easily lost. Considering how frequently we lose Shopkins, I figured that we would lose Tonies as well.
- Yoto cards are more affordable than Tonie characters. A single Creative Tonie Character costs $9.99-$12.99, whereas you can get a set of FIVE Make-Your-Own Yoto cards for $14.99.
- Yoto cards hold way more content. Creative Tonies allow for 1.5 hours of content whereas Yoto MYO cards allow for SIX!
- The mature design of the Yoto grows with the user. The Toniebox clearly looks like something a very young child would play with; the Yoto is designed for ages—even teens and adults! (But don’t worry. The Yoto allows you to personalize the player for younger users with Adventure Jackets and crossbody straps with the use of this adapter.)
- The Yoto has a radio feature.
- The Yoto can also be used as a bluetooth speaker.
The main differences between the two machines are:
- SIZE: The original is about 4″x4″x4″, and the Mini is around 1.5″x3″x3″. While both can be taken on the go, the Mini makes travel easier. (Think back to our younger years. iPod vs. iPod Mini!)
- BATTERY LIFE: 24 hrs per charge for the original and 14 hrs per charge for the Mini.
- NIGHTLIGHT: Only the original has one.
- ROOM TEMPERATURE MONITORING: Only the original has this feature.
- PRICE: The original is $119 and the Mini is $69.99. (Use code “NEW10” to get the original for $107 here.)
We chose the Mini because of how often we take them with us around Chicago. The girls also share a room, and usually want to listen to different audiobooks, podcasts, radio stations and albums when going to sleep. The Yoto Mini players work great for this. (they simply use wireless headphones for safety!)
NOTE: If you can’t find the Yoto Mini in stock right now, it will be restocked in early 2024. (Most likely January!) In the meantime, the full-sized player is essentially the same machine, just with extra battery life and a handy dandy nightlight. :)
The Larkin Family can’t recommend Yoto more, and we now can’t imagine life without our little audio players. We hope this Yoto Player review is helpful!