Yesterday I laid out what I like about Toca Boca apps as a whole. Let’s now talk about specific apps. I’ll have to split this post in two or more further sections, just because of the sheer quantity of apps to cover. I’ll focus today on the apps that have more traditional game-like elements.
These are apps have specific goals you are meant to accomplish. Toca Doctor has your child pretend that they are coming to the aid of various ailments by solving easy puzzles. Biggie loved this app when he was 3 or 4-years-old, and it helped him figure out the swiping and dragging coordination these touchscreen devices demand.
Robot Lab requires better timing and coordination. You start off customizing a robot avatar — a very simple, straightforward process with deliberately limited choices — and then you send that avatar through a basic maze to reach a target destination. Tricky for a toddler, should be fairly easy for a kindergartner.
Toca Store requires more advanced logic and reasoning. You choose to populate your store with items from a catalog and then arbitrarily price each item a simple number. You then pretend to purchase items by putting them in a shopping bag and then putting coins in a cash register. This could be a great way to introduce the most basic conception of money through role-playing and pretend.
Toca Home is like a more difficult version of Toca Doctor and Toca Pet Doctor. You are presented with a house populated by different characters on different floors. Each floor requires some household task. If your child begins to find Toca Pet Doctor easy, Toca Home will tide them over another year.
And then Toca Train will tide them over again after Toca Home. The conceit here is that you manage a train and can try to perform tasks at different stops and stations. Again, a little more tricky than Toca Home, but also, more importantly, a little more open-ended. A younger child might not figure out the tasks right away, but he or she will enjoy the scenic rides anyway. An older child might find the tasks not too much of a challenge but could still enjoy playing with a virtual train set. Ideal, I think, for the Thomas-the-Train-obsessed set.
Worth a special mention is Toca Kitchen and Toca Monster Kitchen, which are variations of the same software, one that’s even more exploratory in nature than Toca Train. Here you choose an “eater” — people or animals in Kitchen and friendly beasts in Monsters — and you place on their plates food items from a pantry/fridge. Your chosen character may have specific tastes, however, and may vary in their reactions to your meal. You can manipulate the ingredients by chopping, frying, boiling, pureeing, or microwaving them, which may make the food more palatable to your eater. Appeasing your character is only a game if you choose to make it one, and most kids I’ve seen try this app just want to try and see what they can “cook.”
This leads us to another category of Toca Boca apps, which we’ll discuss tomorrow: apps to create and customize.