The latest Toca Boca app, Toca Pet Doctor, lets your child be the veterinarian. It is aimed at ages 2-4 and the activities are well thought out for children of that age. They are entertaining and challenging without being frustratingly difficult.
Playing the Game
15 animals are in the waiting room, all with different ailments. You can swipe left and right to explore the scene and find them all. Tap an animal to start treatment. You might be putting eye drops into the spider’s eyes (he has a few!), bandaging a bump on the bird’s head, or helping an egg to hatch (can you guess what is inside?) After each animal has been treated, you get to feed them with an assortment of foods. Froggy gets butterflies, Mouse gets a cracker and there are no prizes for guessing rabbit’s treat. We can’t decide if the green reptile is a lizard, a dinosaur or a dragon, but it is a favourite with the boys. You can tell which animals have been seen as they fall into a contented sleep after they have been fed, although you can wake them up and re-treat them.
Apart from the obvious pointing, tapping and dragging, other skills involved in treatment are matching shapes and simple mazes. The app has no instructions, so children need to work out what to do themselves, which involves a little logical thinking sometimes. My 6 y.o. had no problems working out what to do, but it took Mr 2 a little longer and he found some of the activities a little challenging, but I like that about the app. He can do the activities but it takes a little effort, yet he is motivated to keep trying by the fun he is having. The lack of verbal or text instructions makes this app suitable for children of different languages and for children with a hearing impairment.
The graphics in Toca Pet Doctor are a departure from styles used in other Toca Boca apps. They are more “cartoon style” than the collage style (Toca House, Toca Tailor) or 3D style (Toca Builders, Toca Cars). Even though they are not in the intended age group, my older children couldn’t resist playing with the app and although they enjoyed it, they all commented that the didn’t like the new graphics as much as the other Toca Boca apps. To be fair, Mr 6 and Mr 2 had no issues at all, and they are more the target audience for the app. Mr 8 also liked the graphics although he prefers the other styles.
You can see the app in action in this YouTube trailer.
Like all Toca Boca Apps, there is a parent section accessed by keying in certain information. Only accessible while online, this section has information about how the app might be used, a link to support and a link to subscribe to the newsletter. This link can be turned off, as can the Toca News and the background music via the app’s preferences in your device’s settings. In short, this is a safe app for children and you can lock down the few external links in the app.
From the Expert
Mr 6 – You help the animals by doing puzzles like with the dragon you get flies out of its mouth by pulling them. You feed it watermelon and birdseed, and leaves. With the spider you put eye drops on its eight eyes and you have to feed it flies but it is only one fly and that is all it eats. My favourite animal is the mouse. You have to pop bubbles inside its stomach and you have to feed it crackers. What I love most about the game is taking care of the pets. All of the pets you have to take care of. I would recommend it to my friends.
My older children tried the app, as they always do. (Like me, they are Toca Boca tragics) but they were not so taken with the app. They didn’t like the cartoon graphics, and they wanted to do more in the app, finding it “a bit easy.” Despite this, they all enjoyed playing with the app with their little brothers, which is how I prefer the iPad to be used as it gives the younger children more opportunities for language development with an older sibling or parent discussing what is happening on the screen.
My children all (except for Mr 2) expressed a wish to be able to do more with each animal. There is currently only one activity plus feeding for each animal, and they would like to be able to tap on an animal a second time and cure a different ailment. While I am putting this as a wish, the target age group will probably not mind only having the one ailment per animal. Mr 2 certainly is very happy with the status quo.
Toca Pet Doctor is perfectly pitched to the preschool age group with puzzles and activities that have just the right amount of challenge. The fun activities give lots of opportunity for discussion about how to look after pets and about animals in general.
Publisher: Toca Boca
Universal: Suitable for iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Requires iOS 5.0 or above.
iTunes Link: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/toca-pet-doctor/id808108897?mt=8&uo=4
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