Stuff We Love
How the Yoto Mini Saved My Kid's Bedtime
The Yoto Mini is my desert island toy. It's an intuitive audio player that gives my kid the agency to explore stories and music independently, and it comes with some surprisingly delightful features. Here's how to know if the Yoto Mini (or the larger Yoto Player) is a good fit for your family.
- Written By
- Katie Covington
In a new series, "Stuff We Love," parents of Maisonette review the kids' products we've bought ourselves and love for our families, from toys to gear.
Maybe you can picture it: You tuck your kid into bed, kiss them goodnight, turn off the light, and…walk out the door. Perhaps you hear a faint "I love you, mommy" as you walk out. And that's it! Well, that's what bedtime is like with my three-year-old now. It feels like I deserve a parenting award, but his Yoto Mini audio player is doing all the hard work. And when he wakes up in the middle of the night, listening to a quiet story helps him fall asleep without needing Bedtime Routine 2.0.
I still have to do some parenting. Before we can start our toothbrushing, book-reading, and pajama routine, my son needs to belt out a few cowboy tunes and take all the books off his bookshelf. But, once he's in bed, his Yoto takes it from there. And lately, our previously early riser often needs a nudge in the morning if he's engrossed in a story.
Whenever I tell friends about our Yoto, it seems too good to be true; I invariably get skeptical looks, so here's how and why it works for us.
How the Yoto Works
There are two knobs on the side; the right-hand knob controls what track the Yoto plays, and the left-hand knob controls how loud. Slide a card into the slot on top of the player and select a chapter or song by turning or pressing the right-hand knob. Each track has an icon that appears on the pixel screen, so if my son wants to listen to Wheels on the Bus on repeat, he turns the knob to find the bus image and presses it to play. No reading is required, and the icons are cute without being distracting. Pull the card out, place it back in any orientation, and the Yoto picks up where it left off. As someone who grew up with a Walkman, it's a similar but superior experience.
Yoto Mini Vs. Yoto Player
We love the Yoto Mini because it's small enough to carry around the house or bring in the car. It has a silicone jacket carrier with a wrist strap that makes it easy to tote from bed to breakfast. My son isn't into headphones yet, but some parents swear by the Mini for travel.
The Yoto Player is better if you want a longer battery life (20 hours vs. 10) or plan to use it as an OK-to-wake nightlight and clock or white noise machine. The Mini and the Player use the same cards, and the content works across both platforms, so you can switch if one fits your needs better as your kid grows.
To unlock the magic of the Yoto, you'll need stories and music your kid cares about, and it's taken some trial and error to find what works for us. The content available from Yoto is a mix of stories for preschoolers to elementary school ages–everything from Star Wars and Frozen stories to classics like Frog and Toad and Eric Carl to collections like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. On the music front, there are nursery rhymes, folk, classical, and traditional music from around the world, as well as songbooks from under-the-radar kids but award-winning children's musicians.
Yoto makes original content for the platform, including activities like baking, mindfulness, and draw-alongs.
What works for us is the balance of independence within the closed content system. My son can use his Yoto Mini when and where he wants without help from us while choosing from a library of content we feel good about, as there aren't ads or suggested content we haven't vetted.
The Power of Audiobooks
I was worried that audiobooks would make reading less appealing, but there seem to be benefits for early literacy skills. My son loves the drama in the storytelling that my bedtime stories don't always deliver. He'll act out hungry caterpillars munching on leaves or roaring dragons and chimes in at silly-sounding words.
I can't talk about Yoto without mentioning our family's most-loved UK import–author Julia Donaldson. Our son was into her classic The Gruffalo, so we bought the Gruffalo and Friends Collection that includes Zog, Room on the Broom, and The Snail on the Whale. Many of the stories are read by Dame Imelda Staunton (as in the most recent Queen in The Crown), who has unfortunately ruined all adult audiobooks for me.
Blank Yoto Cards
Our physical cards also live in the Yoto app, so if we lose one, it's simple to make a new one using a blank card or even listen on the phone. If your kid loves the way Daddy reads a story, can't get enough WoW in the World, or needs a few rounds of Baby Beluga to wind down at night, blank cards are the answer.
My mom sent over a voice memo of "Going On A Bear Hunt," and it was surprisingly easy to create a card for it on the Yoto site. Each card holds up to 100 tracks and one hour of content, which you can reuse as much as you'd like. For example, you could use four cards to listen to Kate Winslet read Matilda for a plane ride, then swap it out for a card of nothing but "We Don't Talk About Bruno."
Yoto Radio & Podcast
The Yoto has some surprises that don't require using cards. Press the right-hand button once to tune into Yoto Radio, a mix of children's and retro tunes during the day, then turns into a low-key vibe for bedtime. Pressing twice will play the Yoto Daily podcast, where a lovely British guy delivers the day's activity, like draw-a-longs or Friday jokes.
The Yoto App
Along with holding all our family's content, the app has a white noise library, timers for brushing teeth, featured stories, podcasts, music, meditations, and activities to try. Grownups set the timing of Day and Night Mode along with the maximum brightness and volume for each in the app, so nobody is blaring Raffi at 5 AM.
Whenever a colleague mentions a rough bedtime routine or an exceptionally early riser, I Slack them a link to the Yoto Player. As a rule, I try to avoid telling people how to parent, but I want everyone to have a good night's sleep, so for the Yoto, I'll meddle. My son is still awake at 6 AM, but he's busy–going on a bear hunt, roaring like a dragon, or on the bus going all over town.