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The Toniebox: The Screen-Free Toy For Kids That Will Transform Your Child’s Playtime

Today’s kids are growing up with technology as their go-to for entertainment which is NOT a good thing. The Toniebox allows children to have an engaging, relaxing, inspirational, screen-free alternative.

Why Are Screen-Free Toys So Important?

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It’s important to stress that I'm not saying that ALL tech toys for kids are necessarily bad, but there tends to be an over-reliance on screens to distract kids and keep them “busy,” which isn't a great approach. Now more than ever, kids need unplugged play.

Kids who play with more unplugged toys tend to do better in school, have more creativity, show fewer signs of aggression, and are more likely to be confident. As a mom, I think that’s worth paying attention to.

A recent study found that the average American child spends between 4 and 6 hours a day in front of a screen. While screens can have educational benefits, they can also damage development when used too much. That's why screen-free toys are so important.

Open-ended toys like the Toniebox help kids to develop in several ways. They can encourage imagination and creativity, help with problem-solving skills, and improve fine motor skills. And, they're a great way to get kids moving and active.

The Toniebox: A New Kind of Unplugged Toy

As a former educator for more than ten years in the public school system, I can tell you the last thing kids need more of is screens.

I've dedicated myself to helping other parents understand the importance of letting children play–and talk extensively about the need for children to have time and space away from adults. This toy checks the boxes for us.

What is a Toniebox?

The Toniebox is a screen-free digital listening experience that features stories, songs, and more. There are so many benefits to screen-free toys.

Screen-free toys help promote imagination and creativity and encourage active play. And since they don't require an internet connection (except during set-up/to add content), they're always ready to go.

How does the Toniebox work?

A magnet connects the Tonie character to the Toniebox. It will play back the song, story, or other pre-recorded content you've loaded when it's in the correct position. The players' controls are straightforward, and the box is durable (and padded), so even the littlest ones can play with it safely and independently (age 3+).

Each Tonie character is different. You'll find audio content preloaded with each figure. Each Creative Tonie can store up to 90 minutes of content across 99 chapters or tracks. Unfortunately, finding the exact right song or chapter can prove difficult because there is no screen. However, for some kids, that's part of the fun.

What I love about the Creative Tonie is that you can record your own bedtime story or even have grandparents record various stories for the kids to listen to with a personal touch.

Can you use headphones with the Toniebox?

Quite honestly, one of my first questions about this toy was, “can you use headphones?” Yes, you can. And it is the perfect toy to be used in the car, which makes it great for road trips and travel.

The Toniebox is equipped with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, so it's compatible with any headset with a 3.5 mm plug — including the official Tonie Headphones. Bluetooth headphones are not supported.

Technically, you aren't totally “unplugged” if you use the headphones, but there's no screen, and it doesn't have to be connected to wi-fi to work.

Why We Love the Toniebox

If you've read my other posts, you know I don't play with my kids all that often. (Yes, we read together, do puzzles, hike, cook…)

Because my kids don't have access to screen time (beyond the occasional coding app and a few curated TV shows), they don't miss the screens from the iPad or other toys many kids have 24/7 access to these days. I have always embraced the idea of allowing children to be without my constant input. I like that the Toniebox aligns with my parenting philosophies.

Did you know that listening to audiobooks helps improve literary skills and vocabulary? Add that to our list of reasons to love the Toniebox!

Our kids love the Toniebox because they can do it themselves. They don't need an adult to help them, so it makes the process an independent one (and we, as parents love that too!).

They also love that they can hear the stories of their favorite characters and switch things up as much as they want.

Here are a few key features of the TonieBox

Toniebox features

Toniebox vs. Amazon Alexa

At first, I thought the two portable music players were similar, but after we tried them out, we learned that there are some major differences.

  • Amazon Alexa needs wi-fi and power to work; the Toniebox has a 7-hour battery life and only needs wi-fi for the initial setup.
  • Because Alexa is connected to the internet, even with child safety settings, they can wander into unknown lands with the Echo. With the Toniebox, only the pre-selected content is played. You do need a Wi-Fi connection to set it up if you’re listening to a brand new Tonie or loading new content on a Creative Tonie for the first time, but other than that, you’re good to go.

While I'm not a helicopter parent by any stretch of the imagination, I do want my kids to be safe – while giving them a chance to develop the skills needed to be independent. That is why the Toniebox wins in our house.

The Bottom Line

Should you get a Toniebox? If your kids love music and stories, or your family spends a lot of time in the car, I'd say it's a definite yes.

As parents, we all need our downtime or time to get things done around the house. It's become the norm to stick kids in front of a screen as the default, and I think we REALLY need to move away from that.

The TonieBox is JUST as easy to use as the default when we need a break. Plug them in with some headphones and do what you have to know that your child truly is engaged in something that's promoting so many amazing skills.

This wouldn't be a complete review without some “cons” added to all of the pros above. So far, though, the only downside is if you lose the Tonies. If they're lost, so is the content. Being organized is an important life skill we are always working on, but it isn't always perfect. Be sure to have a special box or carrier for your Toniebox and Tonies so you don't have to worry about losing any of the pieces.

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