My Daughter Called This New Independent Learning Toy Her “Favorite Gift Ever!”

published Jul 18, 2021
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Credit: Yoto

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Every time I saw an ad for the Yoto Player peppering my social media feed, I was totally fascinated. Bright, colorful, completely kid-controlled — what’s not to love? But I didn’t make the leap until a Cubby contributor mentioned how much his daughters enjoyed the player and our Editor in Chief mentioned that she was on the verge of buying it too. So, it went right on the birthday shopping list.

What exactly is a Yoto Player?

The Yoto Player is essentially a little audio player, made for kids to play stories, podcasts, radio, and music — a simple concept, but with a hugely innovative design. Each card holds a different story that kids can place inside the Yoto Player to play (the card stops and holds your spot once you remove it). It comes with an app, so you can sync your card purchases.

To be honest, we waffled on purchasing, because it was a bit of an investment (just shy of $100 for the player, plus $5-10 per card) for a toy we weren’t sure about. We ended up getting the player and six chapter book cards (Yoto cards range from music for newborns all the way into chapter books for tweens). Then we crossed our fingers, hoping this wouldn’t be one of those unfortunate ideas that end up at the bottom of the toy bin.

But then, to our surprise, our 5-year-old daughter called it her favorite gift ever.

Credit: Yoto

How does the Yoto Player work?

The first day amidst the sparkle of other birthday gifts, she didn’t pay any attention to her Yoto Player, even after we showed her how it worked. But somehow, on the second day around naptime, her curiosity was piqued. She inserted her card for “The Adventures of the Wishing Chair” and proceeded to sit for about two hours, listening intently to the story. I thought it was a fluke, but then that night, she begged to listen to a few chapters before bed too. Then the next day, she put her little card in while eating chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. And so on. At one point, as I was laying next to her, I ended up napping while she listened without making a peep. It felt like magic. 

The Yoto card library isn’t limitless, but it’s extensive, and certainly offers a diverse array of books and music for all ages. My favorite option? The Make Your Own cards that allow you to record yourself telling bedtime stories or reading books, or make playlists from music files. When my husband or I go on business trips, we’ll be sure to leave a little piece of ourselves in the Yoto player for my daughter. The Yoto store also has a handful of accessories like headphones and card carrying cases, and it comes with a charging port. And you can control the player from the app; there are tons of features we haven’t yet explored!

Credit: Yoto

Some minor cons: it’s not ready-to-go from the box, so be sure to take the 10-15 minutes to sync it to the family app first, before giving it to your child. I’ve found that a few books I’ve wanted (“Wishing Chair” sequels, looking at you) have gone out of stock when I’ve wanted to purchase. And because turning the unit on and off requires holding down a button for a few seconds, sometimes my daughter does need help initially. This isn’t a con, but a funny quirk — all our Yoto cards have been narrated in a British accent.  Our daughter has adopted a little accent of her own after some time with her Yoto Player, which is delightful.

For the most part, she’s able to play with it independently, and I feel great about how engaged she is with the storytelling. It’s been a lifesaver for bedtime, which is usually fairly contentious, and she’s genuinely excited about it above all her other gifts. It’s a way to foster her love of stories, while also buying us all a little quiet time to rest and recharge. Next up: investing in travel accessories so we can take Yoto on the go!

Buy it here: Yoto Player, $109.98 from Amazon