Duckie Deck Cleans Up – Apps to help kids learn about hygiene

26 Nov

Duckie Deck specialises in apps for the very young that combine education and fun.  This week I’m reviewing several of their apps over a series of posts.  The two apps I’m reviewing today deal with personal hygiene skills involved with brushing teeth and going to the toilet.

ddggDuckie Deck Gotta Go

Features: Gotta Go  takes children through the process of using the toilet. First they feed a friendly monster assorted foods. After a short time, the monster stops eating. Tap the nappy (diaper) to take it off. Our little friend jumps on to the toilet with a big grin. Tap his tummy and he will grunt as a rather colourful deposit drops into the transparent toilet below. Toilet paper appears and you tap and drag it through to help the monster wipe. Pull the chain to flush and then guide what must be the cutest poo ever through a simple pipe maze, then finish with a high 5 to your monster friend. (Honestly, it is difficult to describe this app without laughing, and Mr 3 is enjoying it very much.)

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Things We Love: The monster loves going to the toilet. He has a great attitude and is really proud of himself, so hopefully this attitude might rub off on some of our more reluctant toilet-trainees. Duckie Deck Gotta Go is a great way of reinforcing the steps being taught in toilet training and it provides good opportunities for discussion. It does not cover the hand washing aspect, which would have been great, but since the hand washing has always been the easiest part of the process, I don’t have a problem with its not being included (although maybe they should wash before the High 5?).  Lastly, you have to love the app icon:  blue happy poo anyone?
Verdict: If you have a little person who is learning to use the toilet or potty, this app might be a great one for introducing the concept in a fun, non-threatening way.

Duckie Deck Gotta Go - Duckie Deck Development

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $3.79
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99) and the Hygiene Essentials Bundle (3 apps for $4.99)

ddwtDuckie Deck With Teeth

Features:  Duckie Deck With Teeth is very simple to use: tap on a mouth to add teeth (that come in different shapes, then feed different foods to the mouth. As the food is eaten, the teeth become progressively dirtier. At any time you can grab the toothbrush and clean the teeth. The activity then starts again.

What we Love: Most of the food is very healthy, such as vegetables, fruit and a salad sandwich;  the one “sometimes food” is a biscuit (cookie). The toothbrush is available at any time, and children have to spend a bit of time cleaning the teeth.  The teeth get really dirty in a kind of gross way, which adds to the appeal.  Brushing those teeth and making them clean gives Mr 3 a sense of satisfaction.  If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can hold it up in front of your face and pretend it is your mouth (which is hilarious for small fry, I can assure you.)

Verdict: Duckie Deck With Teeth is a great app for exploring the healthy habit of teeth cleaning. Playing this activity with your child can help them learn vocabulary involved, and gives an opportunity to discuss why we need to clean up our teeth, and how long we need to brush our teeth for before we are finished.

Duckie Deck With Teeth - Duckie Deck Development

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $2.49
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99) and the Hygiene Essentials Bundle (3 apps for $4.99)

Duckie Deck Hungry Clipper (Not reviewed)

Duckie Deck has a third hygiene app, Duckie Deck Hungry Clipper, that deals with hand hygiene, encouraging children to keep nails trim and tidy with the hungry nail clipper.  I don’t have that app to review, but here is a link to the YouTube trailer.

Duckie Deck Hungry Clipper - Duckie Deck Development

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $3.79
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99) and the Hygiene Essentials Bundle (3 apps for $4.99)

Duckie Deck Play Apps – Games to play with friends

25 Nov Choose one of the activities by tapping a hand.

Yesterday I reviewed three Duckie Deck creativity apps.  Today I’m having a look at two more of their apps, each with six different play activities.  Both games are aimed at the early childhood age group, but could be suitable for older children with special needs.  Look for more reviews in the coming days.

Duckie Deck collection app iconDuckie Deck Collection

Features: There are 6 activities in Duckie Deck Collection:

  • Food -Pick fruits or vegetables then tap on the items to eat them. There are many different fruits and vegetables, so children can play for some time without a repeat of the same food. This is a fun way to introduce some healthy food options. You could have fun counting aloud as the food is picked or eaten.
  • Feed the Animals – Feed animals with a choice of three food options, only one of which the animal wants. If you present the animal with the wrong food it will shake its head. Feed it the correct food and it chews nicely and smiles. Along with the animals there is also a flower and the Zoo Keeper to feed.
  • Lightbulb game – This is a peekaboo game where children see a silhouette then tap on the light to reveal a friendly animated monster. Tap on the light again to repeat the game with a different monster.
  • Magic Hat – Tap on the magic hat to reveal a funny animated character or item.
  • Mix Up – this is a version of those fun games where you change heads, bodies and legs to make an animal match (or mismatch.) Mr 3 enjoys making crazy animals and doesn’t always want to match up the correct body parts, but if you manage to align 3 matching body parts, the game quickly randomises them again.
  • Clean up – Children drag cleaning items around the screen to mop, sweep, or vacuum the floor to remove grime and mess. This activity doesn’t have as much variety as the others and Mr 3 kept accidentally tapping the Back button as he moved around the screen.

You can see the app in action in the YouTube trailer below:

What we Love – there is lots of variety and little repetition in the activities, so children can play for a long time before they get “bored.” The app is very easy and intuitive to navigate, and Mr 3 needed no help to get around.

Verdict – There is a lot of variety in most of the activities. I particularly like Food and Feed the Animals, and I think these could be a great way to introduce some concepts of health and natural science.  The games are great for a single child to play but are even better when you play with a friend or adult.  In fact, your child will get a lot more out of these activities if they play with you and get to explore the concepts and language associated with them more deeply.

Duckie Deck Collection - Duckie Deck Development

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $2.49
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99) and the Cuddly Creatures Bundle (5 apps for $9.99)

 

DDSDuckie Deck Sharing

Features: There are 6 different activities in this app.  These include:

  • Toy Joy (Rocket ship) – you and three friends each have a different toy to play with, including a rocket, xylophone, drawing tool and an animal noise toy. Play with your toy then tap another child’s toy to swap. As they swap with you, each child makes a sound that would translate to “yes, okay!”
  • Win Win – A simple memory game that can be played one or more children. There are 12 cards in each game, and there are several themes to keep things interesting. Great for turn taking.
  • Pie in the sky (Birthday cake) – Take turns to decorate a cake then share it between 3.
  • Gimme Gimmie (Doughnut) – Three friends are sitting on a couch and there are three items you can give to each. Each child has a thought bubble with two items they would like. Try to give each child one of their preferences. This activity has some logical thinking skills involved.
  • Food (apple) – Four children sit at a table with empty plates. A random piece of food appears and is quartered. You have to give each child a piece. You can put more than one piece on a single plate, but the child that misses out will be sad. Once everyone has an equal share, the children cheer, eat their food, and a new item appears.
  • Scribble Dribble (Pencils)- Guided picture drawing where children choose from a selection of items and are guided through the drawing process with dotted lines, then colour the picture. You don’t need to be too accurate when tracing the lines. Mr 3 discovered that a simple swipe just touching a line is enough to complete a section, so children with fine motor issues might find this easier to do than other similar activities/apps.

The slideshow below shows some of the activities.

 

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What we Love:  Although all the activities can be played by a single child, they are well set up for collaborative efforts between children. Some of the activities, for example Toy Joy or Gimmie Gimmie, could be used to explore social skill issues of sharing and preferences. The parent information section has valuable information about how these activities can be used to help children learn about sharing. There are some interactive environmental elements in some of the scenes that add a bit more fun to the activities.
Verdict: This is a beautiful app and the six activities have been well-planned with their objectives in mind. There is a lot of variety so children don’t get tired of the same old thing.  Again, these activities can be used by a child on their own, but they will gain much more from the experience by sharing with an adult or other child/ren.

Duckie Deck Sharing - Duckie Deck Development

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $3.79
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99)

 

 

 

Duckie Deck Creativity Apps – Bird Houses, Trash Toys and Sandwich Chef

24 Nov Duckie Deck Bird Houses

Duckie Deck has a range of entertaining educational  apps for children aged 2-5. I’ve owned most of them for a while and have put them through their paces with my children, and I’ve been meaning to write about them for at least a year.  Initially I was going to review the lot in one hit, but I’m going to break it into several posts over a few days. Today I’m starting with some of their creativity apps, including their latest app, Duckie Deck Bird Houses.  Look for reviews of other of their apps in coming days.

 

Duckie Deck Bird Houses App IconDuckie Deck Bird Houses

Features:  Create the bird house of your dreams.  Select a tree to build on, choose from a variety of house styles and materials, then decorate with paint and accessories before your little birdie moves in.

What we Love: The variety of design options means that children can create a different house every time. The graphics are delightful, with lots of different colours and textures and a real textured “collage” feel.  There are some quirky accessories to add to the house that add opportunities for discussion and story making.

Verdict: The app is really easy to use, with lots of variety and fun little quirks that will make Duckie Deck Bird Houses very popular with young children.

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Duckie Deck Bird Houses - Duckie Deck Development

Universal - Requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $2.49

 

Duckie Deck Trash Toys app iconDuckie Deck Trash Toys

Features: Children make toys out of virtual recyclables, such as containers, bags, CDs and more. Choose an item, paint it, then add more recyclables to create facial features and body parts.
What we Love: Unlike similar apps where two fingers are used to change orientation of an object or to resize, Duckie Deck Trash Toys uses one finger only. Tap and hold in the middle of an item to move it, then tap on an edge and drag to rotate. This is so much easier for Mr 3 to handle than similar apps. There are no resizing options, but this didn’t seem to worry Mr 3.Duckie Deck trash toys creation
Verdict: This is a great creativity app for young children who haven’t mastered the art of multi-touch commands. I can think of at least one similar app with a few more bells and whistles, but that one is a little more sophisticated and is better suited to slightly older children. Duckie Deck Trash Toys certainly nails the needs of the very young user and might also be fun for older children with special needs. Images of your creations can be saved and used in other apps (such as story making apps) or printed. Sometimes playing with this app might lead to some real-life creativity with the contents of your household recycle bin.

Duckie Deck Trash Toys - Duckie Deck Development

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $3.79
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99) and the Inspirations for Real World Play Bundle (4 apps for $7.49)

 

Duckie Deck Sandwich ChefDuckie Deck Sandwich Chef

Features: Children pick a novelty sandwich (from ten options) then recreate the sandwich step by step. These are no ordinary sandwiches: children might create a clock, whale, boat, or clown sandwich, to name a few. They spread the butter on the bread then create the sandwich using healthy foods.

Sandwich chef choices

Lots of sandwich designs to choose from

What we Love: Each ingredient is presented as it is required, and targets appear on the sandwich to guide the child to correct placement. This is great for very young children as it helps to avoid confusion. Children don’t have to be super-accurate with placement either, as the items “snap” into place when they are near the target.
Verdict. The young children I’ve shown Duckie Deck Trash Toys to all love it. Mr 3 would be a little happier if there was a train option (although there is a clock and a car, so he is happy). We think it might be fun to have a free-play option where you get to design your own sandwich, but that might be better in a separate app, perhaps in a similar format to Duckie Deck Trash Toys. It is great that kids get to see all the different healthy food options, but we’d love to hear some of the names spoken aloud. Still, I see that as my job as I supervise Mr 3 as he plays. Not having any speech means that the app is suitable for all languages.

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Duckie Deck Sandwich Chef  - Duckie Deck DevelopmentPrice: $2.49
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99) and the Inspirations for Real World Play Bundle (4 apps for $7.49)

9 Letters

20 Nov

9 Letters App iconI am a big fan of word puzzles and usually have one or two on my iPad to do in those times where I’m doing that universal Mum thing:  waiting for my children to finish school or whatever activity they are doing.  I love word games and puzzles because they help keep my brain active, and my favourite are anagram games, particularly the 9 letter puzzles, so I was very excited to hear PKCLsoft was developing 9 Letters, and even more delighted when I was given a copy to review.  PKCLsoft is an independent Australian developer and a member of MOMs with apps.

 

How It Works

9 Letters is exactly what the name suggests: a game with 9 letters that you use to make as many words as you can.  The rules are simple:

  • Each letter can only be used once (although if the same letter appears more than once, you can use it as many times as it appears)
  • Words must be a minimum of 3 letters long.
  • Longer words score more points

In the top left of the screen is a pop out table with the total number of words you have found, plus a table indicating how many words of each length can be found.  In the example below, for instance, I have found 14 of 19 three-letter words, 3 of 9 six-letter words, and neither of the single eight or nine letter words.  You can tap on the table to hide or reveal it.  A running score is kept as you play.

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Options

There are several options to make the game easier, harder or more accessible, which can be turned on or off in settings.  These include:

  • Target mode – the central letter must be used in every word (usually a standard rule in similar games but optional here).  When target mode is on, the central letter is darkened.
  • Hint every ten words
  • Highlight valid words (a word appears green if it is valid)
  • automatic detection of ‘s’ endings (if you type a word and there is an available s to pluralise it, both words will be added to the list.)
  • apply time limit for each word
  • Sound effects and music can be turned on or off.
  • An alternative font is available
  • Display lower case letters

You can see how the game works in this YouTube video.

Apart from the free hints every 10 words, prompts occasionally appear to offer you the chance to buy a 7 letter word or a hint via your iTunes account.  I haven’t bothered with these but enthusiasts may.  Of course, your iTunes password is required to make a purchase, and you can prevent unauthorised in-App purchases (IAPs) but turning this option off in your device settings.

Things I love

The game is as fast or as slow as you want - If you turn the timer off, you can sit with a word as long as you like. Personally, I like the challenge of working against a timer, and I usually am playing during a quick break so that works better for me.

The huge variety of 9 letter words – I have several of these games and I enjoy them all, but for most I keep coming across the same letter combos all the time.   I’ve played 9 Letters for nearly a fortnight at every available opportunity (because I love to be thorough when putting apps through their paces for reviews….. and because it is addictive!) and not once have I come across a repeated word.

New vocabulary – While I recognise most of the 9 letter word solutions, some of the words are unfamiliar to me. I’m enjoying learning new words such as  empyreans and multiplet.  I’m pleased to hear that a future update will allow you to get definitions of words.  Lots of smaller words are unfamiliar, so if you put together what you think are nonsense words, sometimes you come up with a winner.

Handoff Feature – 9 Letters supports Handoff, Apple’s new continuity feature, so you can start a game on your iPhone but then transfer the same game to your iPad later.  You can see how it work’s in PKCLsoft’s demo YouTube video below.

 

Wish List

Definitions – This one is already in the pipeline, and I can’t wait to be able to link quickly to definitions of words.  I’m hoping this will not only apply to the larger words but some of the smaller words too.

Colour choices – The colour scheme is high contrast which is great, but I’d love the option to change it to my favourite colour – blue.  Not a biggie, but it would be nice.

Difficulty options – I’d love to be able to make the game harder (or not) by having an option to have a 4-letter minimum word length.  The 3-letter minimum is great, as most other games start at 4, but it would be fun.  Also, perhaps the option to reject the plural s, so that book would count, but books wouldn’t, (unless the central letter was an s).

Verdict

I love this game and it has become my “go-to” game when I’m having a break.  I’m enjoying the variety of words, the challenge level and learning new words.  Being able to turn off the target letters and time limits will make the game a little more user-friendly for some who might like to play word games but find most a bit difficult.  Scrabble and Boggle lovers will be sure to love it.

Secret Santa season is coming up and if you have a friend of family member who is in to word games, you could gift them a copy and I’m sure it would be much appreciated.  9 Letters is only in its first version and it is already wonderful, so I look forward to the future updates.
9 Letters - pkclSoft
Publisher: pkclSoft
Price:  $1.29 (Australia – 99 cents USA) until 26th November 2014, then $2.49.
iPad and iPhone (requires iOS 7.0 or later)

 

 

Appp Media’s New Math app: Understanding Math – Times Tables

13 Nov

understanding mathappp media have just released a new Mathematics app for multiplication and division, and I was fortunate to be given a copy to review.  The full name of the app is Understanding Math – Times Tables: Learn to fluently multiply and divide within 100, but that is a bit of a mouthful so I’m sure you won’t mind if I abbreviate it to Understanding Math – Times Tables for this review.

I have literally hundreds of Mathematic apps, and most of the multiplication and division apps are drill and practice, which is great for developing speed and accuracy, but Understanding Math: Times Tables offers something new.  The drill and practice element is there, but it is the understanding part that is a new and welcome feature.   The activities in Understanding Math – Times Tables are based  on Jerome Bruner’s  Three Modes of Representation learning theory and they explore the concepts of division and multiplication using different visual representations.

Each activity has been linked to the Common Core Standards for Mathematics.

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Where are my Apps? – Backing up alternative to iCloud

4 Sep

I know many of my readers use iCloud to backup their devices.  This is great and convenient for lots of reasons, but there are limitations when it comes to your iTunes purchases.  Recently a friend of mine accidentally deleted Snappycam from her children’s device but then found she could not reinstall it as it was no longer in the App Store.  Since then I’ve received a few enquiries about this kind of thing, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

Why isn’t my app in the App Store?

Apple can remove apps from the App Store at any time.  In Snappycam’s case, Apple bought the company (and hopefully will incorporate this in a future iOS) but there are other reasons apps disappear, including (but not limited to):

  • Copyright disputes with other developers
  • To comply with legal rulings
  • Lack of compatibility to the latest iOS
  • Violation of Apple’s contracts
  • The developer company has ceased trading
  • The app is really, really offensive (and no, I won’t give examples, but I’m pretty sure Google can show you some)
  • The developer company no longer wishes to support that app (for various reasons)

But I OWN that app!

When it comes to iTunes, once you purchase an app it is yours for life…. in theory.  In reality, you can only download it/reinstall it while it is still available in the store.  iCloud will back up your app data (e.g. documents you make with the apps) and your purchase history, but when it comes to apps, you can only download your apps AS LONG AS THEY ARE IN THE APP STORE.  Once removed, this form of backup is no longer available.

So what to do?

The best insurance is to download the apps to a computer or hard drive.  Once you have downloaded your apps, even if they disappear from the store, you can connect your device to the computer and reinstall them.  There are two things you can do.

  • Back up your device to your computer

I always back up my device and iTunes purchases to my computer, which in turn backs up on an external drive.  You can also back up to iCloud, but I’d still recommend connecting to your computer regularly.  If you have bandwidth and data issues, it is worth mentioning that backing up this way is possible without WiFi/internet access, so could be more economical for some.

  • Automatically back up your app purchases on your computer. (Your device doesn’t need to be connected for this.)
    1. Open iTunes on your computer and select iTunes> Preferences> Store>
    2. Check Always check for available downloads
    3. Then, under Automatic Downloads, check Apps (and Music, if you’d also like to back up your music purchases.)
    4. With these options set, open iTunes on your computer (while connected to the internet) regularly, and it will automatically download any purchases.

Limitations

Using these strategies has meant I’ve been able to hold on to some great apps that are no longer available.  But there are limitations.  Once an app has been pulled from the App Store, there will be no more support and no more updates.  When Apple releases a new iOS, for example, your old apps may no longer be compatible.  This won’t be a problem if you have an older device, such as the original iPad, but it is something to keep in mind if your device is newer.

Extra insurance

An external hard drive dedicated to backing up your computer is a great investment.  If you back up regularly, your data will be safe even you have a major computer disaster.  Documents and apps aside, just think of all the media (particularly personal photos and videos) we have stored on our computers these days, and imagine what would happen if your computer drive had a break down.  Backing up is a safety measure that we should all get in the habit of doing.  (As extra insurance, about once a year I copy our family photos and videos on to DVDs or flash drives and give them to the grandparents, so they can enjoy them and we’ll always have an offsite backup if a really big disaster strikes).   There are lots of different drives on the market with lots of different sizes  price points, so talk to your local suppliers and find one (or several) that work for you.

 

 

Recycling Workshop by Jump App

23 Jun

Recycling Workshop, the latest app from Jump App, is full of colour and creativity.   A great companion to its sibling apps, Puppet Workshop and Imagination Box, it is a simple to use, child-directed creativity app. Your children will be able to make endless characters using recycled containers as a base and a range of recycled items as facial features and limbs.

Using the app

My children and I found the app very easy to use.  The steps are simple:

  • Choose a base from a variety of generic containers of different colours.
  • Choose features from the different menus and drag them on to your character. Scroll up and down each menu to see the many different options for each category. Some items are drawn, but many are common items you may find around the home, e.g. Buttons for eyes, plastic cutlery or straws for arms, or a twisted chenille stick for a mouth. You are not limited to making “human” characters as there are props for animal features.
  • Choose a background from several colours or even from your photos.
  • Use the simple controls to resize, flip, and rotate each item to your preference. You can also undo actions.
  • Simple drawing tools let you draw on the character or background, although you can’t draw over the features.
  • Save a photo of your character

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Little Lamb in Amsterdam

16 Jun

littlelambiconLittle Lamb in Amsterdam, by Joshua and Donna Wilson, is two stories in one: a simple story of a little lamb on her cycling adventures, and a fact book full of historical, geographical and cultural information about the Netherlands. Little Lamb has an adventurous spirit and sets off on a cycling tour of the Netherlands, finishing in Amsterdam. Along the way she sees different things including windmills, tulips and wild flowers, canals, clogs and more.

Each page is filled with a colourful, interactive illustration and a line or two of text telling the story. Tap the bottom of the screen to show extra information. Find out about the different things windmills grind when little Lamb cycles past them. If you ever wondered why the Netherlands teams wear orange, you will find that fact on the page where Little Lamb celebrates their National day. Extra information is sometimes revealed In the animations; we are treated to some works of Dutch masters such as Vermeer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt when Little Lamb visits the Museums and Galleries, and see boats passing under bridges on the canals. Sometimes Little Lamb is hidden, and finding her becomes a fun hide and seek activity. Continue reading

My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles – Updated and better than ever

13 Jun

My First App Vol 1 VehiclesThe My First App series from appp media is a great favourite with the younger children in our home.  I reviewed the first app in the series, My First app Vehicles, early last year.  As of yesterday, the app has been updated with a new Spot the Difference activity, a new animation, and new sounds and animations.  I’m reposting the original review today with the updates marked.

 

Puzzles are an important part of early learning.  They help children develop spacial awareness, problem-solving skills and more.  There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of puzzle apps in the AppStore, so it can be difficult to choose one.  My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles  is a great puzzle app from appp media, the people behind Professor Kim – What’s Missing Here.  MFA Vehicles offers some traditional puzzles but with some great twists that make it supportive and high interest for a range of ability levels.  Thanks to Kristin Heitmann of appp media for providing me with this app for the review.

Features

  • Attractive collage-style graphics – 16 different illustrations are used, although there are only 8 used per activity.
  • Four activities:  Puzzle, Matching Halves and Tilt Game and the new Spot the Difference game
  • Background music (Here we go ’round the mulberry bush) can be turned off.
  • Settings for children of different ability levels.

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Toca Town

3 Jun tocatownmain

tocatownYou may have seen virtual play house apps before where children can drag characters around different scenes and have them interact with different items. Toca Town does all of this with not just a room or a house, but a whole town. Along with different buildings, rooms and environments to explore, a bit of Toca Boca Magic has been added to create some wonderful surprises.

  • Settings include a grocery store, restaurant (with commercial kitchen), two different types of home with multiple rooms, a park and a police station.
  • Characters – When you enter most locations, you will find one or two characters, but you can add more characters to the scene. If you have other Toca Boca apps, you will have fun recognising some of the characters you have met in previous apps.
  • Explore – Open cupboards and fridges to see what is inside: you can take things out and put them away. Characters can eat and drink any of the food, and carry or wear any if the items you find.  Change the lighting by switching lights on or off, or opening curtains and blinds.

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