As much as we love our kids, there are times when we’ll do anything for a fleeting break from their endless questions. Enter TIMIO, a nifty little audio player filled to the brim with fun and educational content. In this TIMIO review, I’ll be having a look at the following:
- What TIMIO is and who it’s for
- The items you’ll find in the TIMIO package (plus a detailed breakdown of content on each of the 20 discs)
- The things I love about the TIMIO player (a lot)
- What I think could be improved (not much)
- Where you can buy TIMIO
Let’s dive in…
What is TIMIO?
From the proverbial horse’s mouth, “TIMIO is an educational audio and music player designed for children 2–6 years old.”
I’d say that’s pretty spot on.
We got TIMIO for our youngest daughter when she turned 3. She’s three-and-a-half now and loves TIMIO to this day. Her older brother’s five-and-a-half, and he rarely shows interest.
TIMIO has no screen, so the only visuals are the beautiful drawings on the discs themselves. Score 10 points for screen-free playtime!
TIMIO uses interchangeable discs to play the different content. Each disc has 12 pictures around the edge, arranged like numbers on a clockface:
There are 12 LED lights around TIMIO’s dial, aligning with pictures on each disc. When your child touches a picture, TIMIO lights the corresponding LED light and plays the matching sound, story, or song.
The discs come in two flavors:
- Entertainment discs
- Educational discs
These discs contain longer audio pieces like nursery rhymes, lullabies, or entire fairy tales.
Perfect for when you’re putting the kids to bed or just want them to sit back and relax with a good story.
The educational discs help children learn about the world through pictures and matching sounds. Everything from colors and shapes to animals and fruit.
These discs usually say the name of the item on the picture, followed by the appropriate sound (if any). (Press on a lion, and TIMIO will say the word “lion,” followed by a lion’s roar. Press on an apple, and you’ll hear the word “apple,” followed by nothing, because apples don’t roar.)
The learning discs have an added functionality: interactive “search & find” games.
Here’s how that works:
If you don’t press any buttons for about 3 seconds, TIMIO will automatically prompt you to find a specific object on the dial. Like so:
If the child guesses incorrectly, TIMIO will say “try again.”
After the second wrong guess, TIMIO will say “oh oh” and helpfully light up the right answer by flashing the LED light next to it.
One more wrong guess, and TIMIO will simply give up on you, wishing you luck next time.
(Great job mimicking impatient parents, TIMIO!)
Content in 6 (or 8) languages
The content of each disc exists in multiple languages, so children (and you) can use TIMIO to learn a few foreign language basics.
I have the original model, which came with these 6 languages:
- Chinese (Mandarin)
In the second version of TIMIO, you’ll find two extra languages:
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
The story behind TIMIO
TIMIO is the brainchild of Basile Fattal, a Netherlands-based inventor. The player was funded by a fully-backed Kickstarter project and started shipping in 2019.
If you’re curious, check out this interview with Basile for more.
What’s in the box?
No TIMIO review would be complete without looking at the actual contents. So let’s have a peek.
Your TIMIO will arrive in a box similar to this one (unless they update the packaging, in which case…it won’t):
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- The TIMIO player itself (surprise!)
- 20 content discs
- Carry pouch for the discs
- User manual
That’s it. It’s a clean package that’s rich in content.
Let’s look at each of the items in more detail.
The TIMIO player
The TIMIO player itself is a solid-built device with no flimsy protrusions that can snap off. It’s very sturdy and should survive the knocks and bumps of regular use.
Don’t go too crazy, though. We’re still talking plastic here.
There are three touch-sensitive buttons on the front dial: Two on each side for changing the volume and one at the top for cycling through the 6 available languages.
The newer model also has a “?” button at the bottom that lets you switch off the guessing game, if you so choose.
There’s a standard 3.5mm jack at the top of TIMIO for plugging in headphones. This lets the kids listen to TIMIO discs without disturbing others. Helpful if you’re traveling in public transport or—more realistically—just need a damn moment of silence at home.
At the back, there’s a battery compartment (you’ll need 3 AA batteries) and a physical on/off switch.
Don’t worry, TIMIO also has an auto-off function that switches the power off after 10 minutes of inactivity.
The carry pouch
It’s…you know…a pouch.
It’s made of thick, great-quality fabric and has room to store all 20 discs at once. Here’s how it looks with all the discs stacked and packed inside:
Considering the amount of content you’ll be bringing along, this is quite a small travel package.
Let’s look in detail at the 20 discs included with TIMIO, as this is where the real magic lies.
The discs have little numbers from 1 to 20 on them. The above picture is brought to you by OCD; I’ve arranged the discs in order, from top-left to bottom-right. You’re welcome.
Now let’s go through the disc content. For each disc, I start counting at the 12 o’clock mark.
Disc 1: Nursery rhymes (volume 1)
Contains many classic nursery rhymes you’ll be painfully familiar with.
- “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”
- “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”
- “Miss Polly Had a Dolly”
- “The Wheels on the Bus”
- “Happy Birthday to You”
- “Five Little Ducks”
- “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
- “Rain, Rain, Go Away!”
- “Are You Sleeping (Brother John)?”
- “Hush Little Baby”
- “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
- “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”
Disc 2: Nursery rhymes (volume 2)
Even more nursery rhymes that’ll burrow themselves deep into your brain.
- “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
- “Five Little Monkeys”
- “Little Goldfish”
- “Two Little Dicky Birds”
- “The Animal Fair”
- “Three Little Kittens”
- “This Old Man”
- “Five Little Speckled Frogs”
- “Baa Baa Black Sheep”
- “Ring Around the Rosie”
- “The ABC Song”
- “Hickory Dickory Dock”
Disc 3: Fairy tales
Challenge yourself to find any that Disney hasn’t already done.
- Sleeping Beauty
- Aladdin (and the Magic Lamp)
- Snow White
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- Three Little Pigs
- Puss in Boots
- Hansel and Gretel
- Little Red Riding Hood
Disc 4: Bedtime stories
These short stories focus on everyday activities like playing, using the potty, or going to sleep (parents’ all-time favorite).
- “Going to the Playground”
- “Getting Tickled”
- “Playing with a Friend”
- “Playing with Lucy (Dog)”
- “Going to the Potty”
- “My Family”
- “Going to Bed”
- “Helping Grandma”
- “At the Farm”
- “Taking the Bus”
- “Painting with Mommy”
Disc 5: Lullabies and sounds
Melodies and sounds for putting the youngest to sleep. No words.
- “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
- “All the Pretty Horses”
- “Over the Rainbow”
- “Ninna Lullaby”
- “Rock-a-Bye Baby”
- Sound of waves
- “Danny Boy”
- White noise
- “Brahms Lullaby”
- “Twinkle Twinkle (Little Star)”
- “Hush Little Baby”
- Sound of rain
Disc 6: Christmas songs
You can’t escape the sounds of Christmas. At least there’s zero Michael Bublé here.
- “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
- “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
- “Silent Night”
- “O Holy Night”
- “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”
- “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”
- “Frosty the Snowman”
- “Jingle Bells”
- “Feliz Navidad”
- “Here Comes Santa Claus”
- “Deck the Halls”
- “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Disc 7: Alphabet A-L
In case you want to re-learn the alphabet in the process…
- A (apple)
- B (ball)
- C (cat)
- D (dog)
- E (elephant)
- F (fish)
- G (gorilla)
- H (hat)
- I (igloo)
- J (juice)
- K (kangaroo)
- L (lion)
Disc 8: Alphabet M-Z
#12 will surprise you!
- M (monkey)
- N (no)
- O (octopus)
- P (pig)
- Q (question)
- R (rabbit)
- S (sun)
- T (tree)
- U (umbrella)
- V (violin)
- W (whale)
- XYZ (xylophone, yo-yo, zoo) – yeah, they squeezed them all into one spot!
Disc 9: Numbers 1-12
Typing this hurts my perfectionist brain so much, but they follow the clock here, so…
Disc 10: Shapes
I didn’t even know there were that many of them.
Disc 11: Colors
Enough to draw a rainbow and then some.
Disc 12: Time
Not much different from the numbers, but with “o’clock” added.
- 12 o’clock
- 1 o’clock
- 2 o’clock
- 3 o’clock
- 4 o’clock
- 5 o’clock
- 6 o’clock
- 7 o’clock
- 8 o’clock
- 9 o’clock
- 10 o’clock
- 11 o’clock
Disc 13: Farm animals
Ideal for making “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” last forever.
Disc 14: Wild animals
Take a virtual trip to the zoo…
Disc 15: Sea creatures
…or into the ocean.
- Sea turtle
Disc 16: Vehicles
This one was popular with our son.
- Fire truck
- Race car
- Garbage truck
- Police car
Disc 17: Body parts
It’s not as disturbing as the disc looks.
Disc 18: Fruits
Disc 19: Vegetables
Nutritious. (And yes, tomato is technically both a fruit and a vegetable.)
- Bell pepper
Disc 20: Music
This one includes a few musical instruments and a full octave of notes. (The newer model replaces the notes with even more instruments.)
- Do (octave lower)
The user manual
I won’t bore you with the details here. It’s—well—a user manual. (Plus I seem to have misplaced mine.) You can also find the manual in digital form:
What I like about TIMIO
Honestly, pretty much everything. The TIMIO player does exactly what it says on the tin. It delivers lots of fantastic content that’s easy for the kids to enjoy on their own.
A few highlights:
TIMIO is a breeze to operate
The process of exchanging the discs is essentially error-proof. Each disc has a magnet inside, so it simply slides on to the TIMIO dial in just the right way. Similarly, taking the disc off requires only a gentle tug. Our daughter was switching the discs on her own in no time.
It helps that there’s no “wrong” way to place a disc onto TIMIO. It’ll work as expected no matter which direction it’s facing.
For instance, this is correct:
…and so is this:
You get the picture.
The touch-sensitive areas on the discs respond perfectly to each press. Your little ones will quickly be able to start enjoying their new TIMIO on their own.
The extra features are just right
First off, the 3.5mm jack is a welcome addition. It sees a lot of use in our house. Our daughter tends to wake up early, and TIMIO’s saved many a morning by letting her listen to the discs without waking up her older brother.
Secondly, the player’s handle doubles as a stand to keep your TIMIO upright:
You can use the handle to carry your TIMIO in different ways or prop it up as a display.
Finally, the extra languages effectively multiply the amount of available content by 6 (or 8 with the new model). Even if you’re not looking to learn a new language, it’s fun to compare the names of objects and creatures across the languages.
The attention to detail is delightful
It’s clear that TIMIO is a labor of love. The overall design is both elegant and practical.
Every disc has its own visual theme and is beautifully illustrated.
To top it all off, I discovered a hidden, unadvertised subtlety that shows just how much went into crafting the final product: For the music discs, each song’s instrumentals change depending on the selected language. They didn’t just record new vocals, but went through the trouble of making the songs unique.
Here’s how “Itsy Bitsy Spider” sounds in English:
And here’s the same song in Chinese (Mandarin):
All of this adds up to a terrific audio player that’s easy to use while offering an impressive amount of fun and educational content.
What TIMIO could do better
Since I’m aiming for a legitimate TIMIO review and not just a fawning fanboy article, I had to find something to complain about.
Here are a couple of nitpicks:
Can’t change language or volume on the fly
Because the volume and language buttons are on the TIMIO dial itself, they’re fully covered by the discs. Changing the language or volume requires taking the disc off, pressing the buttons, and then putting the disc back:
When you first place a disc, there’s a short startup delay before you can listen to it. In combination, this prevents you from doing something like cycling through the languages fast and comparing the animal names in each language more easily. The same goes for changing the volume. For that reason, I sort of wish the volume/language buttons were placed outside of the disc area.
The guessing games can get a bit intrusive
The guessing game kicks in after just 3 seconds of inactivity. This often doesn’t leave much time for the child to carefully explore the available options on the disc before they’re asked to find a random item. There’s also no way to stop the game other than finding the object in question or failing to do so three times in a row.
To their credit, the TIMIO team have already solved this annoyance in the latest version of the player. It now has a “?” button on the dial that lets you disable the guessing game altogether.
Educational discs could have more content
Each story or song on the entertainment discs often goes on for minutes. This makes me wish that the educational discs would also have more content in addition to the name and sound of the item. For instance, it would be cool if pressing the lion would have the narrator share a few basic lion facts afterwards.
(EDIT 26-20-2020) Update from Basil Fattal: “We’ll try to add more content for the educational discs in the future.”
No “loop” option for entertainment discs
Because the entertainment discs are primarily intended for passive listening rather than active learning, it’d be great if there was a way to make them automatically cycle through all of the available songs or stories. As it stands, one still has to actively pick the next song or story after the first one ends. This is especially obvious in the case of the lullaby discs. Not being able to play the lullabies continuously means you can’t use them as a sleeping aid quite as effectively.
(EDIT 26-20-2020) Update from Basil Fattal: “The loop functionality has been also added to the latest version of TIMIO. Hold any of the images for 3 seconds and TIMIO will play all the songs or stories.”
But honestly, all of the above are ultimately minor complaints. They aren’t nearly enough to detract from the overall quality of the product.
TIMIO Review: The verdict
As you’ve probably gathered, I’m a big fan of the TIMIO player.
It delivers 100% on its promise of screen-free, child-friendly entertainment. TIMIO is robust, easy for the kids to master, and a pure joy to use.
The few quibbles I have with the player are mostly subjective. Besides, I fully expect the TIMIO team to iterate further on the player in the future.
TIMIO is a great addition to your repertoire of keep-them-busy-without-making-me-feel-guilty toys.
Where to get your TIMIO
If this review convinced you to buy TIMIO, here’s where to get one:
US & Canada
If you’re in the US or Canada, you can grab your TIMIO in their dedicated US & Canada store.
All other countries
If you’re anywhere else, TIMIO’s European store ships the player globally.
Can you buy TIMIO on Amazon?
This is a bit of a mystery. In the US, TIMIO does seem to have a placeholder page on Amazon, but it lists the player as “Currently unavailable” with no indication of whether that will change. If TIMIO starts selling on Amazon in the US at a later stage, I’ll be sure to update this review.
But you can buy TIMIO on Amazon in the following countries: