By Jemima Morrow | Published: 10th August 2021
This month we sat down with Pinky Laing, PR and Partnerships Manager of Tonies in the UK and Ireland. Tonies is an innovative organisation whose children’s audio product, Toniebox and its accompanying Tonies, is taking over the world of children’s audio. Tonies was set up by two fathers, Patric Faßbender and Marcus Stahl, who noticed a gap in the market. They realised that there wasn’t an audio system especially for children, something safe, wifi free, advert free and fully controlled by parents/guardians that allowed children to have an independent audio storytelling experience. So they set about creating a product to do just that...
Can you give an overview of Tonies, what is your product and how does it work?
Our product is an audio player for children aged 3+ that make Tonieboxes and Tonie figurines. The Toniebox is a screen free, cable free, soft and squishy, wipeable speaker and the outer shell is made from sustainable fabric. The Toniebox is charged and able to play audio for seven hours. The audio content is played via placing a Tonie on top of the box, this is a hand painted figurine with an NFC chip inside it that stores the audio content! The figurine attaches to the box via a magnet and once placed on top plays the installed audio, it can take the form of stories, music and educational content. The Toniebox is able to take hundreds of Tonies and each different Tonie comes with different content.
What is the educational benefit for children who use your product? You’ve recently worked with the National Literacy Trust to create a report, what were your findings?
Our extensive research has shown us that the earlier children are exposed to audio, the larger their range of vocabulary becomes. If a child starts school aged 5 and has a wide vocabulary, it has been shown that they are more likely to be successful in later life. Developing a wider vocabulary can be significantly advanced by storytelling, whether this comes from being read to or being exposed to audio storytelling. What’s more, using a Toniebox encourages children to be independent in their listening and parents/guardians are safe in the knowledge that their children are listening to safe content that is controlled and audited by themselves.
Our work with the National Literacy Trust has reiterated our understanding of the importance of audio for children. They produced a report for us which highlights the link between the acquisition of words and listening to audio content, such as stories. We’re currently working together to create both downloadable and audio lesson plans which can be used by teachers who utilise Tonieboxes and Tonies.
That brings us onto the new page launching on your website, Tonies For Teachers. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Tonies for Teachers came about because of the vast amount of educators who were contacting us. They recognised that Tonieboxes could be an essential classroom aid for them. The average British classroom has 30 students and the fact that Tonieboxes can act like another pair of hands in the classroom is very helpful to teachers. They can be used to help split children up into smaller groups and can prove especially beneficial to reluctant readers and SEND children, who may need some extra support and to go at a pace that suits their needs. We believe that Tonieboxes are so much more than a technological toy, we believe that they are put to brilliant use as an educational tool.
It’s as a result of this that we are launching Tonies for Teachers. In September 2021 our page will launch, giving educators the opportunity to redeem a code which will give them 25% off starter sets and also supply them with an educational content package. At Tonies we’re passionate about helping children with the acquisition of vocabulary and the fact that we’re able to contribute towards this from inside the classroom is hugely rewarding for us.
To what extent are you considering equality, diversity and inclusion in your story telling?
This is incredibly important to us. At Tonies UK we want to represent all children in Britain and in many classrooms around Britain we’re seeing up to 20 languages present, showing just how diverse we are as a nation. We are focused on being as diverse and inclusive in our storytelling as possible, featuring voices of all different ages, genders and from a large variety of cultures. One story that stuck with me was in speaking to a mother who was isolating at home during the COVID-19 lockdowns with her child. She explained to us that because there was no male figure in the household, her child wasn’t exposed to any male voices. She expressed how important it was for her 3 year old to hear a variety of voices, which was easily achievable by listening to audio content via their Toniebox.
Can you tell us about the charity work that Tonies is involved with?
Tonies is very actively involved in charity work because giving back is essential to our brand. Last year we donated 100 Tonieboxes and 570 Tonies to Starlight, which is a children’s hospice, as well as donating £60,000 to the NHS Key Workers Support Fund.
One wonderful initiative that we were involved in last year was working with high profile celebrities including Keira Knightley, Olivia Colman and Tom Hardy who read stories which we produced and added to Creative-Tonies and sent to children in Great Ormond Street Hospital, alongside 50 Tonieboxes.
We regularly support children‘s homes, hospices, hospitals and children's charities to try and offer a little light respite in difficult times. Children are at the core of everything we do and everything we create.
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