StoryPhones: Keeping your toddlers entertained - and off the screens

Review: These headphones play stories via swappable discs, and a tie-in with Disney brings Frozen and Toy Story into the mix

Storyphones headphones on  a chair with a pile of books
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Price: €100
Where To Buy: Harvey Norman

Digital entertainment presents a conundrum for parents. While we all should appreciate the logic in restricting screen time, it is hard to avoid it completely, whether that entertainment comes in the form of tablets, video games or going online. And for many people it’s not realistic to cut digital devices out completely; sometimes it is a choice between screen time and your sanity, and if you really need to sell it, there are educational benefits to some of the apps aimed at children.

So Onanoff’s StoryPhones might provide a middle ground for parents. They are bluetooth headphones with a twist – they play stories directly on the headphones through the use of swappable discs that attach to the earcup, called Story Shields. These are themed – Toy Story, for example, or Frozen – which means you can dispense with the smartphone and screen for your child, while still giving them some independence and control over their own entertainment.

In general, StoryPhones tick a lot of boxes. They are multifunctional, offering both wired and bluetooth connections, so you can use them as regular headphones when the included stories no longer hold their attention.

The story discs attach to one ear cup. The first time you attach the disc – and you are in wifi range – the stories will download to the headphones. Even if the disc is removed, the download will continue as long as you are in wifi range. Swapping the discs is simple; they pop on and off, held tightly on to the ear cup by magnets.


Each disc has around 30 to 35 minutes of content split into different chapters; you can control the audio with the controls on the other ear cup, and increase or lower the volume.

Pop the disc off and the StoryPhones will work as normal bluetooth headphones. As long as the disc is attached, the bluetooth function is dormant, so you can’t connect to them.

Speaking of volume, the headphones do well on this front. No parent wants to damage their child’s hearing in toddlerhood. Volume can be limited, with several options suitable for protecting a toddler’s hearing, for example, and a slightly louder limit for an older child.

The “screen free” part has one caveat: you do need access to a smartphone to set them up through the parent app, and wifi to add new discs for the first time. You can easily hook them up to a new wifi network if needed, using the parent app.

But this is not a product you want to try to set up for the first time on a plane, for example, so make sure that you are prepared and ready to go before you leave the house.


The StoryPhones hit all the right points: good content, screen-free time and volume limitations that will protect young ears. The controls are easy to work, too – a little too easy, if you want them to sit and listen to the stories – and the earphones themselves are comfortable enough to wear.

They are also quite durable, and survived several rounds of toddler-powered bashing without any ill effects.

The variety of discs available is good, and the tie-in with Disney puts some recognisable names into the mix. There is another disc, PlayShield, that allows you to record your own content, so you can have parents or grandparents reading stories for children.

Another option is the ZenShield, which is exactly as it sounds: relaxing sounds and stories to help relaxation and sleep, such as rainfall or waves.

We found them particularly handy for travelling, or night-time listening.


You need access to your wifi network to download stories for the first time, though it is easy to swap to a new network if needed.

Discs aren’t that expensive but they can add up, and they can be easily lost. Without those small discs, you can’t access the stories you have paid for.

Everything else:

The headphones can be bought as part of a bundle, with additional story discs that can be purchased for €10-€15. The PlayShield allows you to customise not only audio but also the look of the shield.

The verdict

A nice alternative to on-screen entertainment, although you will need your own smartphone to keep control over the StoryPhones.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist