Kids all home sick? Rainy day? Need some kind of tidying-up incentive? Toca Boca to the rescue. I’ve been downloading Toca Boca games for my children as they earn them by good behaviour, extra jobs around the house, and as the odd treat for sick children. We don’t have all of them, but it is only a matter of time until we do get them. I’ve invited some guest reviewers, my children, to give their opinions. [Comments in square brackets – like these – are mine.] Before they do, let me just a few things that I find great about these Apps:
- The Apps are intuitive and easy to use. You don’t need to be able to read or speak any particular language, so every the activities are accessible for everyone.
- Even though they have no spoken or written language, the Toca Boca Apps give rise to a lot of oral language opportunities. To take advantage of these opportunities, play the Apps with your child, and encourage siblings and friends to play with them too.
- The Apps focus on everyday experiences, such as housework, meals and haircuts. They are familiar to children, and yet still manage to offer little surprises. They may be good for helping to prepare children for such things as trips to the hair dresser.
- It is easy to make the links between the App and activities in the real world.
- The graphics are just beautiful.
- Although designed for young children, the characters still appeal to my older pre-teen children and may be helpful for older children with special needs developing language and turn-taking skills. Some, such as the kitchen, hair cut and housework apps, might relate to social situations that the child is learning to deal with.
- The price for each app is more than reasonable. You’d be amazed at how motivated my children will be if I hold up one of these apps as a carrot.
- No in-app purchases. There is some discreet advertising (in the form of icons promoting other Toca Boca Apps) that appears on the home screen, but you can turn that off.
Most of the Apps are universal, although one or two are only available for iPad, and Toca Doctor has two versions: one for iPad and one for iPhone. We don’t have Toca Train, Helicopter Taxi, and Birthday Party Playtime (basically a birthday version of the Tea Party app below) but we will probably get them soon. I’ve also previously reviewed Paint My Wings, which is another beautiful Toca Boca app.
Over to you, kids:
(By Miss T – 9) Toca Tea Party is my favourite. You can play with toys or friends, and at the end you get to wash all the dishes. There are candles you can light and you can choose the tablecloth, plates, drinks and food that you like. If you spill a drink, you can clean it up with a tissue and you can fill up your drinks when you finish. You can decide to drink coffee, tea or cordial/juice. There are lots of cakes to choose from and you can pick three different ones. Maybe they could put in more plates so more people could play. Right now you can only have three. [Price: $1.99, iPad only]
(Master M – 8) You can make all kinds of robots. You can choose different bodies to make coffee machine robots, a rainbow robot, a robot with a timer body or a trash can one. There is a TV head and a lightbulb head, but it is glass and I can’t believe it sticks on to the magnet [at the end of the maze], because it is glass, not metal, and glass doesn’t get attracted to magnets – only metal does! It’s CRAZY!!!! There are also lots of feet like rocket feet, spring feet or hose feet. You fly your robots around to collect the stars. If you don’t get all the stars, that’s OK. If you don’t know where to go to the magnet, you just follow the white arrows and you’ll find it. Sometimes there are secret passages near the big magnet. You fall down a big hole and if you land on a block, it turns into lots of blocks. I would like to choose from all of the bodies, because they only do three parts at a time and you don’t always get the part that you want. I want to be able to choose my own background too. [Price $1.99, Universal]
(Miss A – 9) I LOVE Toca House. You have different levels and rooms of the house, like the front door, kitchen, living room, laundry, bathroom and the yard. There are people and monsters that live in the house and they have some chores to do. Sometimes you can give one of them a bath. In the bath you have to quickly cover the monster in soap, and rinse him with water. Some other jobs are sorting the mail, mowing, ironing, washing the clothes, washing the dishes, hanging up pictures, putting the groceries away, sorting flowers and leaves, and hanging up the laundry. My favourite chore would have to be washing the dishes because you can break the dishes when you are angry at someone (like when they are touching the iPad and it is YOUR turn) and it is a lot quicker than in real life. [Price$1.99, Universal]
(Master B – 6) Toca Store is a 2-player game. Someone is the shopkeeper and someone is buying things. They are the customer. The shopkeeper decides what to sell in the shop. You might sell lollies, candy, fruit, vegetables, or toys. The only toys are dolls, a teddy bear and a dinosaur. Oh, and there are bubbles and a robot too and there are lots of other things to sell too. [34 different items to choose from, and 5 different items can be on sale at any one time.] I like to sell ice creams most of all and there are three different flavours. The shop keeper decides how much each thing costs to buy. The customer choose s what they want and they put it on the counter. The shopkeeper presses the buttons for how much it costs. The customer pays the shopkeeper with money from the purse. When you push the trolley button, the customer can put the shopping in their shopping bag. I would like it if there were credit cards. [Mum: Noooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!] I would like to be able to sell snow boards, paint and video games in my shop. [Price $1.99, Universal]
(Master A – “I’m nearly 5”) The dog is my favourite character to do his hair, but there are others you can pick. There are three people and three animals, or in the Christmas one you can choose Santa or a Christmas Tree. They are REALLY funny. There is a hair dryer and scissors to cut hair. You can put stuff in the hair to make it grow really long and then you can wash it and it goes down. The growing stuff is called hair goo. Hair can change colour too. If you cut too much off, you can grow it back with special stuff. My favourite thing is shampoo. I like shaving Santa’s eyebrows and hair in the Christmas one and I can turn him into a punk. [Price: $1.99, Universal]
[At this point, Master A decided he was more interested in doing some drawing, so I’ll let you in on the other options within the game: after you choose a character, you can wash, rinse, towel-dry or blow-dry hair, colour hair, cut and shave hair, comb and add hair accessories. Selecting the camera will take a photo of your creation and save it to your photo reel. You can turn the camera feature off using the setting App if you find your reel filling up too fast. The free Christmas version has just two characters and you can’t wash and dry their hair, but most of the other options are present. You can take photos and they are placed in a Christmas-themed frame in your photo roll. The free version gives you a good idea of what the paid App is like.]
(By Miss T) I like Toca Kitchen and Toca Kitchen Monsters. You pick someone (two animals, and two people, or two monsters in the monster kitchen) from the faces and then you pick some food from the fridge for them to eat. The fridge is on the left and it is orange. Then you can choose whatever you want to do to the food from the right. You can chop it, blend it, boil it, fry it, and microwave it. You can put salt and pepper on it too. Not everyone likes the same food. Only the cow likes the hay. The Cow eats mainly everything, except steak or sausage. Everyone only eats the fish when it is cooked, except for the cat. That cat will eat the fish raw (ewwwwwww) or cooked. I don’t have a favourite food or cooking thing because I just like to cook all the food, all the ways.
[Mum’s notes: Vegetarians can choose the Vegetarian option in both Apps from the Settings App>General>Apps. This removes the meat options from the screen. The free version, Toca Kitchen Monsters, has only two characters to choose from and a few less foods, but is great fun and gives you an idea of what the Toca Kitchen App is like. We had a wonderful time playing with it, but I still ended up buying it as a reward for one of my children who did some outstanding helping around the house.]
(Miss A) Toca Doctor is GREAT because you get to study a human body. There are these circles on the body and you have to tap on them (if they are not yellow, because yellow means you’ve already done them) and you get to fix the problem. Some of the things are putting cotton wool into a drippy nose, fixing a broken leg, putting bandaids on, pulling prickles out of hands and feet, brushing teeth, removing nits (ewwwww) removing germs from the mouth and moving food through the maze so the person can poo. My favourite bit is brushing teeth because it makes sounds after you’ve done it. You get to put all the tools back in their place and then you can restart with the next patient. Some people who would like this app: A doctor who is not working, a retired nurse, sick kids and people having coffee breaks at work. When you are finished all the jobs there is a nurse’s kit and you tap on it.
Price: $1.99 iPad only. Try the free Lite version first.
What We’d Like to see next
My children love the Toca Boca Apps and have a few suggestions, if any of the Toca Boca team are reading this. Miss A would like a café where you cook and serve customers. Master M would like a construction site. Masters B and A would love to see Toca Dentist, where you can make the chairs go up and down and back, clean teeth, fill holes, play with the toys in the waiting room, and get a new toothbrush. Miss T would like to do something like Toca Robot Lab, except she’d like to design her own mazes. A school and a clothes shop where you make the clothes and add accessories has also been suggested by the girls.
Although my children have suggestions, as mentioned above, there really is little else I’d change about these Apps. Possibly the only thing I’d do is remove the live links to social networking and the internet from the Parent Information sections of each App. I’m pretty sure most of us can find our way to Facebook groups and websites if you just give us an address to type in ourselves. The way around it, if you have concerns, is to always make sure you log out of social media sites and turn off your Internet access or Safari before you hand your device to the kids. You can turn off Toca News, which is live-links to Apps promoted in the iTunes store. Based on the quality of the Toca Boca Apps I already have, I’d be fairly confident in recommending any of their apps I don’t have. If you would like more information about the Apps, or if you’d like to watch some videos of the Apps in action, visit the Toca Boca website.
- iOS App Review: Toca Boca sets a standard for iOS kid apps (macworld.com)
- Paint my Wings by Toca Boca (onsarahsipad.wordpress.com)
- Toca Boca (tocaboca.com)