Parents' Guide to

Pocket Plants

By Erin Brereton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 4+

Plant sim has exercise feature but poor instructions.

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This plant growing simulation fosters interest in the environment along with exercise, although players will have to deal with unclear instructions and wait times for their garden success. Players still go through the same cycle of unlocking things to advance and moving through different scenes, but in this instance, they're installing plants to help clean up and improve the environment. As an interesting twist, they can connect the app to a fitness tracker, and the steps they take each day will help them progress in the game by providing them with extra gems or plants. The drawbacks to Pocket Plants are the usual suspects: Users can make in-app purchases, but they're not forced to. There's some waiting required on occasion, which kids may not like -- and the tutorial, while detailed, moves too quickly. Plus, once it's over, it's not easy to find again if kids have questions. (Actually, the answers to any questions aren't easy to find. The app's developers would benefit from adding more explanatory information.)

That said, the app's intent and, for the most part, its execution are commendable. Kids are given tasks to complete, which can help foster a sense of responsibility and goal-setting; they combine plants to create new ones, as the scientific community does, and throughout the experience, the idea that the environment is a place to actively pay attention to and protect is reinforced. Parents may still have concerns about screen time -- certainly, the frequency with which plants become available makes that a risk -- but at least they'll know that when kids are playing Pocket Plants, they're getting a bit more substance than they would playing an app that simply encourages them to collect items or attack other characters.

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