Radio plays for children: Tonies, Spotify and alternatives

Tonies, Spotify or CD players. There are numerous ways in which children and young people can get radio plays. We present the concepts.

The three ???, Bibi Blocksberg, Dragon coconut, The little ghost or The robber Hotzenplotz – Even in times of Netflix and Disney + (guide), radio plays are an integral part of many children's rooms. Where cassettes used to rule, digital media have long been established. In this guide we show the different ways in which radio plays can be listened to.

If you are looking for other ways to have fun with your children, we recommend our articles on e-readers for children, test: Amazon Fire Tablet for children, Nerf guns in check, cameras for children, Lego Hidden Sight, racing games in comparison or our overview of robots and educational toys for children.

For everyone who can no longer listen to the CDs at home, first the most important information: You can get digital radio plays for direct download for example at This is particularly worthwhile for new productions or for special audio books.

Another legal and free source is the ARD audio library. There, the public radio stations collect a large number of radio plays and programs for children. They are available for listening and the majority can simply be downloaded as MP3 – here are the eleven episodes of the Pumuckl on the side of Bayern 2. The daily new, two-hour podcast of the Show with the mouse. In general, it is worthwhile to search the pages of the ARD audio library. A lot of good content and programs are unfortunately somewhat hidden.

A creative tonie on the toniebox.

The Tonies and the associated Toniebox are an interesting concept that is marketed quite aggressively through toy stores, electronics stores or drug stores. The idea: The loudspeaker is connected to an online service via WLAN. If you now place a figure called Tonie on the device, the box downloads the related story in the background and plays it as long as the figure is magnetically adhering to the surface. If you take the figure down, the playback pauses. In addition, you can control the volume via the two ears or jump one chapter further by tapping the box on the side. After the first download, the stories are saved permanently on the box. The company is silent about the capacity, but there is information of 8 GB or around 400 hours on the web. If they are full, the box automatically deletes the content that has not been played for a long time. There is also a battery in the device that lasts for around seven hours.

The setup of a new box is comparatively simple. You plug it in, start the app on your smartphone and then be guided through the setup. To do this, you first need a “household” account with the manufacturer of the system. Then you connect to the open WLAN of the box and then land on an integrated web server. Here you only have to enter the access data for your own WLAN, then the box restarts and logs on to the network. The setup is uncomplicated and understandable even for little technical users. Disadvantage: The Toniebox only supports 2.4 GHz WLAN. However, this may be due to the point that the range is more important than the throughput. Once the stories are loaded, bandwidth is hardly necessary.

New stories come into the Toniebox in two ways: Either you buy a Tonie with a fixed history. Who about the Tonie Little ghost buys, gets this story. There is no DRM, so Tonies can be exchanged or used. This can be worthwhile, because the prices are comparatively high. In the official web store, individual stories cost almost 15 euros, in Price comparisons can be found from around ten euros.

The second option is the creative tonies. Ultimately, these are placeholders for content that is stored in the Tonie cloud belonging to the offer. Each of these empty tonies brings 90 minutes of space. They have to be activated beforehand via the Toniebox and then appear in the app. The creative tones are firmly linked to the system and can be used via the control center, if a bit cumbersome. In the test we from Thalia “Frozen 2”, Downloaded the zip file, unzipped it and pushed the individual MP3s into the Tonie cloud. You can then check, rename and save the chapters. A short time later, the creative Tonie was ready to use – to download the story again when it was first placed on the Toniebox. Nevertheless, one can save money with one or more creative tones, especially in combination with the free radio play sources of radio mentioned above. Each box comes with such a creative tonie.

Conclusion: The Toniebox is clearly designed for uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends of the family. The stories are take-away items that you can bring along with the children – albeit expensive ones. But there is little to complain about in terms of quality. The Toniebox looks stable and should survive most children's rooms. The figures are lovingly created and painted. Yes, you have to trust that the provider's cloud service stays online – but at the same time you get a lot of convenience. Once set up, children can choose which stories to listen to. This works wonderfully even with smaller children. A common way is to upload stories from legal sources to the Tonie cloud and transfer them to a creative Tonie. Technically savvy parents can instead use a soldering iron and a Rasbperry Pi to build their own variant. There are solid instructions for this on the web, such as here as Playback device with buttons or here a one Variant with NFC tags.

Whether Amazon Prime Music, Deezer, Apple Music or Spotify, almost every provider has radio plays in their portfolio. So if you already have a streaming subscription anyway, you should check it for new content for children. In fact, the services tend to dwindle when it comes to radio plays for adults (Audible is probably the top dog there), but for children, pretty much every franchise opens up more or less completely. In other words, it is worth looking for something. An important tip for everyone who also wants to listen to music via the account: Most providers do not allow multiple streams to be run simultaneously under one account. In addition, the content that is heard usually flows into the listener's recommendations. So if you don't want to give your automatic playlists with content like "Witch Lilly" after the corona isolation, you should create a separate account. The author writes here from experience.

Spotify and Co have a lot of content for children – here, for example, in a Sonos system.

There are three major approaches to reproduce the content: Spotify Connect / Apple Airplay, multiroom speakers or (old) smartphones and notebooks.

With Spotify Connect and Apple Airplay, streaming content can be sent from the smartphone to a compatible speaker in the network via the WLAN. This also works with radio plays without any problems.We explain more about this topic in the guide: Spotify Connect.

An alternative to this are the multiroom speakers such as Sonos and Co. These bring their own apps to which a large part of the services can be docked and then streamed to the end devices. Both approaches have the advantage that the children do not "binge-listen" uncontrollably, but at least occasionally come over to get new stories. With the multi-room solutions, you should consider that you probably need a premium account with the respective provider. Spotify Connect and Airplay, on the other hand, should also work with free accounts (with all the disadvantages such as advertising and low bit rate). We have put together more on the subject of multiroom in the article "Guide to Multiroom Systems: Sound in Every Room".

Older children can be given a smartphone with Bluetooth headphones (theme world) and Spotify installed on it. Of course, this also works with a tablet or a notebook – school children probably have them anyway in the current situation.

Radio plays, streaming services and networked speakers go together pretty well.

Conclusion: Anyone who already has a streaming setup can get new content quickly and comparatively cheaply. The providers of numerous radio plays for children, all you need is the right device. In practice, multiroom setups, Spotify Connect and Airplay have proven their worth. As a parent, you still have rough control over what the child is doing – and they really hear radio plays instead of playing on their cell phones.

Tired of speakers? Then the handle to the good old MP3 player helps. With the advent of smartphones, it looks as if they have died out. But that is deceptive, rather they have split up into two areas: inexpensive devices and high-end audio players (advice). For the children, the former probably do it. For around 20 euros you get reasonable devices with 8 GB of memory, if you are looking for a color display, you should take around 30 euros in your hand. The devices receive content via USB or micro SD card. However, streaming is not possible. The iPod Touch is of course the exception. For this, you pay for as much as for a reasonable mid-range smartphone with Android (leaderboard: Android 10 smartphones up to 250 euros).

In addition to the MP3 player, you should invest in reasonable headphones. There are special children's headphones for smaller children, whose maximum volume is reduced. Even more important (for the children), the manufacturers pack stickers in the package with which the devices can be embellished.

Conclusion: MP3 players are especially good when the children want to withdraw and have their peace. The effort to record them is a bit higher, but they are interesting in terms of price and above all work without the Internet. They are also suitable for the next long car trip or vacation trip. However, it is important to have a good pair of headphones, the included ones are usually unusable.

For the sake of completeness: If you discover a pool of CDs yourself or in the parents' cellar, you only need a suitable player. Here you should make sure to choose a player that is reasonable for the children to use. Most models have deliberately few, large buttons and are also built so that they can fall down. Compared to digital media, of course, CDs have the disadvantage that they scratch easily. In the editorial office, the camps are divided: some have children who handle CDs with care and swear by this relatively inexpensive method of providing the children with content. The other half failed in the experiment, hardly a CD is still in the original jewel case.

Conclusion: The classic CD player is far from over. Here you can get both devices and content for very interesting prices. The children have a choice of what they can hear now and a haptic experience. However, care is required so that the CDs do not scratch.

Speaking from practice: At home there is a colorful mixture of Toniebox, streaming and CD player. The children prefer streaming mainly because of the large catalog. There is hardly any other system where you can quickly see an episode Ninjago on The three ??? Kids and then continue to Bibi Blocksberg can change.

The Toniebox is an interesting concept, even if you have to spend a lot of money in your hand. But if you have friends and relatives who like to bring along souvenirs of the genre "Toys for children who don't live with me" (ie flutes, drums or flashing plastic manure), you can probably change the polarity to Tonies.

As already mentioned several times in the text, it is really worthwhile to rummage through the public audio library. The selection of excellently produced stories is huge, they are free or you have paid for them anyway. Then you also have enough food for the MP3 player, for example for long journeys.

CDs are unbeatable in terms of price-performance, especially if you can rummage in flea markets again after the corona crisis. There is a risk that you will quickly catch scratches and the CDs will no longer work. It is worth taking a look at the heise online archive, more precisely in the article "Workshop CD and DVD blanks – what to do with the silver discs and what better not (3Sat)”From 2009. It brings a clip from the old c’t program to 3Sat.