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Screens have been essential for survival during this pandemic period, but that doesn’t mean parents are happy with the status quo. There’s been a concurrent scramble to find screen-free alternatives that appeal to the kids.
are a palatable – albeit expensive – screen-free toy alternative. Combining education and entertainment, audio readers like Lunii’s My Fabulous Storyteller are designed for kids to operate independently, so they can listen to stories whenever they like, at home or on the go.
The Lunii has lots to recommend it, especially for parents who not only want their kids to be readers and listeners, but storytellers, too. It encourages children to help choose the characters and their adventures, igniting little imaginations and helping kids understand the building blocks of a story: character, setting, plot, conflict. It also features stories in a selection of languages; learning new languages can help kids with problem solving and critical thinking skills (and also assuage any parents worried that learning French via remote schooling isn’t quite sufficient?).
We’ve been testing out the Lunii speaker for several months and have plenty to say about it. Here’s what we – and most importantly, our kids – think of it.
Lunii’s My Fabulous Storyteller: An Overview
Lunii is a French children’s brand that launched the screen-free My Fabulous Storyteller in France before bringing it to the UK and the US. Initially founded in 2014 by Maëlle Chassard, Igor Krinbarg, Eric Le Bot and Thomas Krinbarg, the initial idea for the Lunii came from Chassard’s dissertation on the power of imagination.
It’s designed for kids aged 3-11, and it doesn’t require WiFi to work – just charge it in your computer or a plug and it’s ready to go.
The speaker is volume-limited to 85dB and comes in an appealing bright green shade with yellow controls. Turn the knob at the side to switch on and adjust the volume; buttons at the front include a home button, pause, an OK button to select your characters and stories, and a large dial for choosing new stories or story options.
While there are various speakers on the market, what sets the Lunii apart is that kids aren’t just listening to stories; they’re active co-creators. The Lunii speaker uses technology to bring storytelling traditions to a new, young audience, creating connection while fostering independence in children.
Kids can create a personalized story experience and listen to a new adventure each time they turn on the speaker. They are given a choice of characters, locations, objects and people to meet. We’ve witnessed firsthand how this cultivates a child’s curiosity and gets them invested in the stories. According to Lunii’s GM in North America, Thibault Decker, the Lunii is currently being tested in schools as a teaching tool, showing children the components required to create a good story.
There is also an option to purchase well-known stories, featuring the Peanuts gang or Roger Hargreaves’ Mr. Men and Little Miss characters, for example, at an extra cost, in the online shop. The Lunii has meditations, songs (especially in French) and, for older kids, autobiography-style adventures, such as the life of Andy Warhol.
Another element that makes Lunii’s My Fabulous Storyteller stand out is the range of languages available. You’ll find stories in English (both U.S. and UK), French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Russian, Flemish and German. You can mix-and-match from a selection of languages, so the Lunii is a language tutor and a storyteller in one.
Most of the Lunii albums include several stories within them, so there are over 20,000+ possible stories – yes, you read that correctly – for kids to listen to across 200+ albums of stories across all languages. 41 of the albums are in English. The Lunii player can hold over 100 hours’ of content.
When fully charged, it should play for up to eight hours before needing a recharge.
What’s in the box?
The Lunii speaker ($79.99) includes over three hours of audio stories (48 stories in total), which are pre-loaded onto the device and known as The Fantastic Stories of Suzanne and Ben.
Kids can choose one of the two protagonists before selecting a location for their adventure, like a castle, a forest, the sea or the home. They also choose someone for the character to encounter (a pirate, a witch, a ghost, etc) and an object like a broom, keys, or a tap, which acts as a plot device. Each story lasts a few minutes.
The Lunii also includes a micro USB cable for charging and transferring stories over, but we like that you can play it right away without downloading an app or connecting it to WiFi.
The front of the Lunii player device lights up with an icon representing each new character or setting option.
There are other freebies available when you purchase the Lunii, though these require downloading the app to your mobile or computer. It’s worth it for the additional two albums of bedtime stories (that’s 12 more stories), which will add another few hours of content to your player. The bedtime stories are also adventure-based and give kids ‘choose your own adventure’ style options.
All of these stories – including the original Ben and Suzanne adventures – can be downloaded in the other languages available for free. No wonder Lunii appeals to bilingual kids, as well as those whose parents are keen to introduce their children to new languages, or who want their kids to get extra practice in whatever language they’re learning.
There’s no limit on the number of stories you can download to the app – you can mix and match between different languages, too – and the device can hold over 100 albums at a time.
Another fantastic feature of the Lunii is the option to record stories, songs or whatever you like – all for free, using . Each recording can be up to eight minutes long, and you can either play these on the app or upload them to the Lunii device (just connect the power cord to the Lunii and your computer and drop the files, just as you would when downloading additional stories).
Better yet, relatives and friends near and far can use My Lunii Studio to communicate with kids, recording songs, stories, special messages and surprise greetings for loved ones from wherever they are, which parents can later upload to the Lunii device. This has been a hugely popular feature during the pandemic, especially for families who couldn’t see grandparents or had relatives deployed abroad.
We had great fun making up our own versions of some stories like The Three Little Pigs (starring our family members; the pigs’ houses were made of marshmallows and chocolate), choosing a pig icon for the story and coming up with the title ourselves. Unsurprisingly, the kids love replaying our collaborative storytelling and story-creating efforts on repeat.
If you need more stories, there are hundreds of titles available to purchase from the , with content that runs the gamut from Earth Rangers, a podcast on animal conservation and STEM to The Luminaries, a series inspired by traditional African stories. Parents may be disappointed to find fewer recognizable authors and titles than they’d like.
What about accessories?
You can purchase Lunii Octave headphones ($34.90) to match the Lunii player. These are volume-limited, come in the same eye-catching green and yellow color combination as the speaker and have a double jack – you can daisy chain up to five sets of ears to one device, so these can be used to connect siblings and friends. The Lunii Experience Pack ($114.80) includes the Lunii storyteller and the headphones.
You can also get discounts on albums in the Luniistore if you purchase a few at a time: buy three and get 20% off; get five or more and knock off 30%.
Look out for new content coming out for both older kids and younger Lunii users, like new sounds-focused albums, designed for kids from just a few months old. Storytelling contests are also coming soon.
Lunii’s My Fabulous Storyteller: Our kids’ verdict
It’s not an exaggeration to say that our five-year-old treats the Lunii like an extra appendage: she’s obsessed. And that’s the first point in the Lunii’s favor: it’s so lightweight and easy to transport that a child can bring it from room to room, into school (it was brought in for show and tell by said child, which shows how prized it is) and it can easily be taken on vacation, from car trips to flights.
There are older and younger children in the house and it hasn’t had the same level of appeal for them, however we were impressed that our youngest, who’s only three, is able to work the Lunii by herself, switching between stories and selecting characters.
What did intrigue all four kids, including the tween, however? Recording our own content and uploading it to our Lunii player. Every child wanted a turn to make a story, choose a graphic and perform. The fact that it was free meant that everyone could have a go, or several.
From a parental perspective, the Lunii is super straightforward: You don’t even need to find your WiFi code to get going, and the speaker comes with three hours of pre-loaded content. Considering how much hassle most “independent learning” toys actually involve to set up, we can’t overstate how lovely this is.
While the five-year-old loves creating the stories and listening to them, they aren’t quite so appealing to adult ears. Some of the stories may get lost in translation, too, with clunky phrasing (a result of being translated). In the Lunii store, collections like Pandaroo (whose description makes perfect sense in French, as Pandaroux) come across as confusing in English. However, a bonus is that you can listen to an excerpt from each story online before downloading it – and some stories include downloadable activities, too. We also like that in addition to foreign languages, you can choose between American and British English for different accents to bring the stories to life.
One of the highlights of watching our children engage with the Lunii is how it educates and empowers kids: We’ve noticed a lot more creative writing since the Lunii came into our lives. It’s also enhancing young vocabularies: Our five-year-old asked what the word “transparent” meant after hearing it in a story. Finally, audio readers like this one can serve to calm little ones before bed. Using the Lunii means that bedtime stories can continue long after a parent has left the room.