story time

Yoto Player review, including this collage of the yoto with hands using it in the background
Yoto / Romper

The Yoto Tells Stories, Plays Podcasts, & Keeps My Kids Happy Without A Screen

This is one wholesome little doodad.

Had To Share
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In this house we believe that television is our friend. I love TV, and I love that both my children also love TV because it means that we all get a few minutes to just sit still. Unfortunately, it also can mean absolutely tanked moods. Most parents have experienced the tearful, rageful fallout from a day of too much screen time. It’s just rarely worth it. However, our 5-year-old really does like to “just have a relaxing day” (as he puts it) sometimes, and honestly, same. I enjoy making him a little nest and letting him just snuggle up and chill out on a rainy day. But, neither he nor his 2-year-old sister can read yet, so they can’t curl up with a book, and as we’ve established, TV comes with a steep price. This is where the quiet, brilliant magic of our beloved Yoto Player comes in.

The Yoto is a screen-free audio player for kids that everyone in our household truly adores. It’s been a game-changer to have a self-directed quiet activity easily accessible to our busy, curious child. He loves to have something that’s so entirely his, and it makes our lives easier, too.


  • Price: $119.99 for the Yoto Player, $69.99 for the Yoto Mini.
  • Sizes: There are two size options: the original Yoto Player (4.3 x 4.3 x 4.1 inches) and the Yoto Mini (2.7 x 2.7 x 1.5 inches).
  • Who it’s for: Yoto says their products are for kids ages 3 and up, and they have over 1,000 story cards intended for kids up to age 12. I think the Yoto player might be pretty ideal for elementary aged kids, and particularly for kids who aren’t yet able to read to themselves. That said, I genuinely enjoy listening to many of the classic stories with my kid. You’re never too old to spend a day listening to The Wind In The Willows, right?
  • When to use: Sick days, lazy days, rainy days, road trips (you can get up to 24 hours of battery life on a full charge), bedtime, any time!

What is a Yoto Player?

As Yoto themselves describe, a Yoto Player is a “screen-free audio device.” It’s a cute little taupe speaker box thing, with two knobby red button-dial hybrid things and a colorful, cheerful, pixelated display (not really a screen). Using the Yoto Player, your kids can listen to all kinds of things. They can insert Yoto cards into the speaker to play stories short and long, stories you’ve recorded or read by people you adore. It plays Yoto radio (kid-friendly music) and Yoto Daily, which is a fun, short little daily podcast for kids featuring adorable birthday shout-outs and jokes that my 5-year-old really gets a kick out of.

How the Yoto Player works

Yoto is very obviously designed to be ultra-easy for little hands to use all on their own. Yoto

We set up our Yoto in about 10 minutes — the user experience is really all about simplicity, and that’s a huge piece of why we love it. It’s simple enough that an older kid could probably set up the Yoto on their own, but we did the initial set up for my 5-year-old. Now, though, he operates the Yoto totally on his own, which was one of the things I was really hoping the Yoto would be — entirely his. The two red buttons — which control volume and select what you’d like to listen to — are very intuitive to use, and you can’t really “mess up” the player, so my 5-year-old can click around and pretty quickly get the device playing what he wants to hear. All I really help our son with these days is tracking down his Yoto cards or getting it set up on the charging dock.

A few of other FAQs about Yoto players, because I know you’re dying to know:

  • Does the Yoto Player need Wi-Fi? You’ll need to connect to your internet to complete the initial set up, and when you get a new card — when you insert a card for the first time, it’ll download to your Yoto Player. Once it has downloaded, though, the Yoto should be able to play the story anytime, anywhere.
  • Can you use the Yoto Player as a Bluetooth speaker? Yes, you sure can.

Why we love our Yoto Player

Seriously, we all love the Yoto. There’s something inherently — intentionally, I think — soothing and gentle about this device. From the sweetly-muted pixel picture display, to the cheerful fun of Yoto Daily (hi, Jake!) our Yoto feels a little bit like a family pet at this point. On lazy days, when it’s not TV time but we’d all like to lounge around, Yoto is a welcome, calm activity we’re all grateful to have around. It has been known to keep my 5-year-old company during our bedtime routine with soothing lullabies or gentle stories, and has saved the day when I’ve had my hands full with my younger daughter. On sick days, when it’s clear that the kids are becoming TV zombies, but rest is still required and I’m trying to get work done, popping a card into the Yoto and breaking out some art supplies keeps the restful vibe flowing without the mood crash of too many hours of TV.

On road trips, my car sickness-prone kid can pop his headphones on and Yoto the day away while looking out the window (key!).

Yoto players work really well as OK-to-wake lights, night lights, and white noise machines, too. Yoto

Yoto vs. Yoto Mini

We have the full-on, regularly-sized Yoto Player, and for the relatively minor price difference, I say go for the full size. It has double the storage and a night light, which really seal the deal for me. I guess if you’re on the fence you could save some money and get the Yoto Mini, but really, you’re going to love it so just spring for the full-sized Yoto.

A few differences between the two:

  • Battery life: 24 hours “play per charge” for the full vs. 20 hours with the Mini.
  • Charging option: the full Yoto has a wireless charging option, while the Mini is just USB-C.
  • Headphones: Same for both! Wireless or wired, compatible with a 3.5 mm jack.
  • Room thermometer: This is a new feature of the 3rd generation Yoto Player, and is only available on the full-sized one.
  • Night light: Only available on the full-sized Yoto Player.
  • Storage: 32 GB for the full-sized Yoto player, and 16 GB for the Mini.

A moment of recognition for the Yoto app

I think all parents will know what I mean when I say this: my heart swelled when I realized that I could use the Yoto app to set a maximum volume for my child’s Yoto player. So simple, yet such a gift. The moment I realized that the Yoto Player could do this was the moment I knew that this genius little audio player was dreamt up by a fellow parent.

The best Yoto Cards we’ve tried so far

There are so many Yoto cards and we’re constantly adding new ones. Yes, you can play podcasts on your phone, but I think a lot of us (me) want to keep our phones out of chill time with our kids, and it kind of ruins the vibe if we’re fiddling around with our phones to put on a soothing story, right? Also, sometimes I need my phone at the same time I need my kid to be chilling out independently, and those moments are when the Yoto really shines. Plus, Yoto cards are ad-free and highly vetted. They’re just sweet stories that your kid can choose and play entirely on their own, anytime they want, no screens involved. Anyway, I’ve got my eye on so many — The Boxcar Children and these BrainBot ones are in my cart right now. Here are a few of our current favorites:

  • Robin Hood. My son was instantly captivated by this particular telling of the Robin Hood story, which is punctuated by sweet little songs and has a tone of calm, despite a few moments of adventure. He spent all Boxing Day listening to it on repeat, and later spent a very cozy sick day in bed with it.
  • The Wind in the Willows. I bought this card for me, to be completely frank, but my son enjoys it too.
  • Grandude stories. Much adventure, and Paul McCartney’s voice — a hit for all.

Pros & cons


  • A fabulous quiet time option that your kid can facilitate themselves. My kid loves that it’s entirely his. Unlike TV or being read to, this is a chill activity that he can do when he wants to just have a quiet moment and the grown ups are busy. He doesn’t even have to ask, he can just pop in a card and get comfy.
  • Ideal screen-free road trip companion, especially for kids that get a little car sick.
  • Compatible with wired and wireless headphones, so grownups don’t have to listen along if you don’t want to.
  • Lots of parental controls — like setting a max volume — and despite a smidge of Wi-Fi connection, it’s overall a super safe device.
  • It’s easier to turn the other screens off when you’ve got a somewhat comparable quiet activity to offer (and handing them a Yoto Player is a lot easier than setting up an elaborate craft or art project, which it a huge bonus.)


  • It’s not cheap. The Yoto and its various accessories — the cards and so on — are expensive (it used to be $99, but their new 3rd generation device is pricier). If your kid ends up not being super into it, that would be a bummer.
  • The cards add up fast. They do have sales, but overall, $7 per card is a lot, particularly if you’re not totally sure what stories your kid will like.

The final verdict

This brilliant screen-free audio player is not a life-or-death necessity, but it is gosh darn nice to have around. It makes life easier in a lot of little ways — from painlessly ratcheting down our screen time to making the bedtime juggle a little smoother — and I can tell that it’s going to do that for our kids for years to come. It’s easily worth the $119 and change — the cards and accessories add at least another $50 — to have this in our lives.


Buy your kid a Yoto instead of a tablet and never look back.

Had To Share highlights the products and finds that Romper editors and contributors love so much, we just had to share in the group chat.