Over the weekend, my family drove to a cabin in the woods for a short getaway. On the two-hour-long drive there and back, something magical happened: My 4-year-old daughter, Ella, didn’t need our attention, nor did she once ask, “Are we there yet?” And no, she wasn’t glued to a screen. She was completely engrossed in a new storytelling toy called Toniebox that just landed in the U.S. from Europe.
Tonies, the company behind this product, was founded in 2016 by two German fathers, Patric Faßbender and Marcus Stahl. “We loved listening to stories on tape or CD when we were young, but by the time our kids were born, none of these technologies existed anymore,” Faßbender says.
Instead, kids tend to listen to stories on tablets or smartphones that are packed with other apps that could distract young eyes. Or they might use smart speakers, but these often get the commands wrong, especially when a child is speaking. (Case in point: My daughter recently asked Alexa to play Cinderella and the device responded with an explicit rap song.) The Tonies dads couldn’t find a simple way for a child to play stories on their own, without parental supervision or the possibility of serious malfunction.
Faßbender and Stahl spent three years building a deliberately low-tech device. It’s a soft, indestructible five-inch cube speaker, along with little figurines that magnetically attach to the top of the box to start playing songs and stories. A child can also listen through headphones, which makes it ideal for car trips or plane rides.
Source: Fast Company