Our kids thrive on music and stories, but for a long time we didn’t have any devices that we felt were safe for them to use on their own. Then we found the Yoto Player which has proven to be the perfect audio player for our kids.
The Yoto player has every feature we need and excludes the things we don’t want. It has no camera, no microphone, and no ads. The Yoto Player’s simple pixelated screen adds just the right amount of functionality.
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What We Wanted in an Audio Player for Our Kids
- Durability – Daily usage from four kids really takes a toll.
- Goldilocks size – It must be just the right size – not too small and not too big.
- No LCD screen – It needs to mesmerize the ears not the eyes.
- No microphone – Our kids don’t need an AI-driven personal assistant hanging on to their every word.
- Parental controls – Age-appropriate boundaries are a good thing.
Audio Players That Didn’t Meet Our Needs
- MP3 Players – Granted the MP3 players our kids used were old, but they didn’t hold up for long. Our kids also lost them constantly due to their small size.
- Tablets – Our kids aren’t allowed to have screens in their rooms, which is where they listen to music and audio books the most.
- Smart Speakers – I’m not a fan of smart speakers like an Amazon Alexa that listen in on our homes.
- CD Players – This old school option might have worked but for a few faults. First, nearly every CD player comes with a radio, which means that parental controls are not an option short of removing the antenna. Second, kids are prone to scratching and losing CDs. Third, most CD players are too bulky.
Why the Yoto Is the Ideal Audio Player for Kids
Designed specifically for kids, the Yoto Player is durable. Ours kids have used our Yoto Player for months, and it still looks like new. Note that we did buy the Adventure Jacket, a silicon carry-coat that adds protection and a carry handle. The screen protectors were not in stock at that time, but the screen on our Yoto Player still looks like new.
The Yoto Cards that kids use to control the audio player are similar in shape, size, and thickness to credit cards. They would be difficult to damage by accident.
The Yoto Player is just the right size for little hands. It’s not so small that it’s easily lost. Neither is it so big that it’s hard to carry around.
Although the Yoto Cards are small, our kids have yet to lose any of these. Fortunately, you can still play the card on the Yoto Player via the Yoto App. You can also assign a missing Yoto Card to a Make Your Own card if needed.
No LCD Screen
The Yoto Player does have a screen, but it is purposely minimal and pixelated. The screen shows the time, track number, or an image associated with the current audio playback. It helps kids navigate the audio tracks on their Yoto Cards without being a distraction.
The Yoto Player really doesn’t need a microphone. However, the Yoto App does include a record feature so that you can add personal tracks to Make Your Own Cards on the Yoto.
Parents are in full control of the Yoto Player, but kids use the buttons and Yoto Cards to access the audio content they want to listen to. Parental controls are only accessible via the Yoto App.
Controls that Adjust for Night Mode vs. Day Mode
- Morning/Bedtime – You can use the Yoto Player for sleep training. The sun image lets your kids know it’s okay to get out of bed. The moon image means it’s still nighttime.
- Morning Light/Night Light – Select the color of light that is displayed when the Yoto is flipped onto its screen. You can also choose to turn the light off completely.
- Display Brightness – Select auto adjust or manually control the brightness.
- Volume Limit – You can set two different volume limits – one for daytime use and one for nighttime use.
- Right Button Shortcuts (First Press and Second Press)
- Do Nothing – If you’d rather not allow the Yoto Daily podcast or the Yoto Radio stations in your home, simply change these shortcut settings for day and night modes to Do Nothing.
- Yoto Daily – Our kids really enjoy this podcast. Perhaps this is the reason my daughter can only recite Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky in a British accent. Check out samples of Yoto Daily.
- Yoto Radio – A radio station with songs curated for children. View the last 10 tracks played on Yoto Radio. You can also preview this station in the free Yoto App.
- Yoto Sleep Radio – Check out the last 10 tracks played on Yoto Sleep Radio or preview it in the Yoto App.
Other Parental Controls
The Yoto Player has several advanced parental controls in addition to the display, volume, and button controls.
- Battery Saver – Disable battery saver or choose how many seconds or minutes to wait before automatically turning off the display.
- Auto Power-Off – Disable auto power-off or choose how many minutes or hours to wait before powering off the display when not on the charging dock.
- Bluetooth Pairing – Enable or disable Bluetooth pairing.
- Headphone Volume Limit – Enable or disable a child-safe headphone audio limit. This is a toggle option rather than setting a specific limit.
- 24-Hour Clock – Toggle between a 12-hour clock and a 24-hour clock.
- Automatic Time Zone – A simple toggle between enabled or disabled.
Our Kids’ Favorite Yoto Features
I asked our kids what they like most about the Yoto Player. Their favorite features are the Make Your Own Cards and the Bluetooth connection.
Make Your Own Yoto Cards
Although Yoto sells audio books, music, and podcast cards for the Yoto Player, one of the best features is being able to customize your own Yoto Cards. When we purchased the Yoto Player, we also bought enough Make Your Own cards so that each of our children could have their own card. We then customized the cards and preloaded them before wrapping the Yoto Player up for Christmas.
Audio Files & Recordings
You can add your own MP3s or AAC/M4A audio files to a Yoto Card. We also used the Yoto App to record a special poem written by our children’s grandfather and then assigned it to each child’s playlist.
Other uses for the Make Your Own Cards include replacing a lost Yoto Card by assigning the content from that card to the new card. It’s also possible to assign radio stations and podcasts in the Yoto App to these cards. Additionally, you can add other non-Yoto radio stations and podcast episodes so long as you have the direct stream URL.
Using the Yoto as a Bluetooth Speaker
Our local library has a great selection of audio books available through the Hoopla app. We often use the Yoto Player as a Bluetooth speaker by connecting it to our tablet. The kids enjoy listening to books like The Wingfeather Saga before falling asleep. Because the Yoto Store doesn’t have every book available on Yoto Cards, the Bluetooth connection greatly expands the usefulness of the Yoto Player.
The Yoto Cards are a great way for kids to control the Yoto Player. They offer an intuitive way to switch between books, music, podcasts, etc. The cards themselves do not contain any audio content. Instead, they contain a link to the content stored on Yoto servers. That content is downloaded to the Yoto Player the first time the card is inserted. Thus, loading a new Yoto Card in the Yoto Player requires a Wi-Fi connection and a little patience.
The Yoto App
The Yoto App, which is available on iOS and Android, is the well-designed control hub for your Yoto Player(s). You can enjoy some features of the Yoto App without even buying a Yoto Player. I downloaded the Yoto App before purchase of the player to check out the features and content options.
Using the App to Setup the Yoto Player
The only way to setup a new Yoto Player is with the Yoto App. Setting up the player is pretty simple. Just make sure you have the Yoto App installed and a good Wi-Fi connection.
Using the App as a Remote Control for the Yoto Player
From the Yoto App, you can not only see what your kids are listening to and the volume level they are using, but you can change them too. The Yoto App has access to all purchased cards, small samples of cards you may not own, and a selection of curated podcasts and radio stations.
Controlling the Yoto Player from the Yoto App is especially useful if you have younger children. For example, you can change from a physical story card they began listening to at bedtime to the Yoto Sleep Radio station and set a customized sleep timer.
Even with parental controls and using the Yoto App as a remote control, your kids can still change what they are listening to on the Yoto Player. This is a great feature of the Yoto Player. It allows your kids to have choices and feel like they have control of the Yoto Player, but you set the boundaries for what they can listen to.
Additional Content in the Yoto App
The Discover page in the Yoto App includes a small selection of Yoto Cards that you can sample for free. These can be played directly from the app or linked to a Make Your Own card.
The Podcasts page includes several podcasts either produced or curated by Yoto. You can even add any podcast that has an RSS link. I tried this out with the Arts of Language podcast from IEW, one of our favorite homeschooling resources. You can purchase Yoto Cards for some podcasts like Story Shed or link them to a Make Your Own card.
The Yoto App offers a selection of radio stations across multiple languages. These can also be linked to Make Your Own cards.
In addition to Yoto Sleep Radio, you can choose from several sleep sounds to help your children (or you) sleep at night.
- Noises for sleep (white noise, pink noise, brown noise, rainy car ride, vacuum cleaner, noisy fan, hairdryer, train journey, washing machine)
- Natural sounds (waves, rain, streams, fields, etc.)
- Musical sounds (Soundscape Underscores and Binaural Beats)
Our Initial Yoto Purchase
We bought our Yoto Player directly from the Yoto Store as a Christmas gift to our children in 2021. In addition to the Yoto Store, you can buy the Yoto Player, Yoto Cards, and accessories from other retailers including Amazon and Target. Yoto offers a two-year product guarantee.
The Yoto Player comes with a magnetic charging dock, a welcome card, and a setup guide. The welcome card includes audio instructions for using the Yoto Player. Once you are familiar with your Yoto Player, you can overwrite this card with your own audio tracks just like a Make Your Own card.
We also bought the Yoto Starter Pack of cards, a yellow Yoto Adventure Jacket, and a five-pack of Make Your Own cards (not pictured). Had they been in stock at the time, we would have purchased screen protectors and a card holder. Thankfully, the screen of the Yoto Player has held up just fine so far.
By bundling the Starter Pack of Yoto Cards with the Yoto Player, we saved $15 and got to try out a variety of cards. The Yoto Adventure Jacket was also discounted $5 when we bundled.
The Yoto Starter Pack of Cards
Our Yoto Starter Pack came with the following seven cards.
1. My First 100 Words
This card teaches children 100 different words in five different languages. By showing an image of each word on the screen, children can learn what the words mean as they hear them. Our kids haven’t used this card much yet, but I could see returning to it in the future if they take up French, German, Spanish, or Italian.
2. Crackling Fire
I thought that the Crackling Fire Yoto Card would be a dud, but our children love falling asleep to it.
3. Story Shed Podcast
Our kids enjoy listening to this podcast in addition to Yoto Daily. These are also available in the Yoto App. Having the physical card means that the kids can listen to this podcast any time they want.
4. Robin Hood: A Musical Adventure
Our kids have listened to the one-hour musical retelling of Robin Hood countless times.
5. Hotel Flamingo
Our kids also adore this animal-packed story. It has yet to grow old even after so many retellings.
6. Songs from the Playground
The first song (“Down Down Baby” – track 2) of this upbeat, jazzy mix brought back memories of the Tom Hanks movie “Big” that was popular in my youth. Although my kids quickly gravitated to their personalized Make Your Own cards, this Yoto Card is a great addition to our library of cards. These are playground songs that adults can actually enjoy too. My daughter takes pleasure in getting “Pizza Pizza Daddy-O” stuck in my head.
7. Make Your Own Card
The Starter Pack includes one Make Your Own card. These cards are great for adding customized playlists of your own MP3s to the Yoto. Each of our children has one of these personalized cards. We also created one card with audio recordings from their poetry memorization program.
The Yoto Club is a monthly subscription service and discount program. We joined in October 2022 to increase our Yoto card library. As Yoto Club members, we receive two card credits each month. In addition, we also get 10% off and free shipping on purchases from the Yoto Store.
We highly recommend the Yoto Player for your family. It has more than exceeded our expectations. As a parent, I’m thankful to have an audio player that is so versatile, easy to use, and safe for our family.
We may purchase an additional player in the future so that there is one in every kid’s room. For now, they take turns with the Yoto Player. On family nights, they enjoy a slumber party and listen to their favorite Yoto Cards or the next installment of their latest Hoopla audio book.