Toca Lab

 
(i)

 

Learning(i)

Budding chemists freeze, spin, and explode 118 elements.

What parents need to know

Ease of play

Toca Lab's free play with the chemistry-lab tool and blob-esque elements is very easy to navigate; kids simply swipe, tap, slide, and hold to make stuff happen. Big red arrows and blue home buttons point the way forward or back to the main page. What's not so easy is understanding what's happening and why.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

There's a small "Play Now!" icon on the corner of the main page that, when tapped, leads to an ad for another Toca Boca app. Once a player taps on the next page, which features the promoted app, there's a kid-protected area that requests a year of birth for age verification before it moves to the App Store and the option to buy.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Toca Boca's privacy policy can be found on its website. No personal information, such as name or email address, is required. Anonymous analytics are collected, and users can opt out of that collection.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Toca Lab is a free-play app that introduces young kids to the general concept of the periodic table of elements and lets them experiment in a virtual chemistry lab. Using lab equipment such as a centrifuge, a Bunsen burner, an oscilloscope, test tubes, and cooling agents by simply swiping, tapping, or holding, kids can alter the 118 elements. The little blob-like representations of the elements have facial expressions that change as they're altered. The more kids experiment, the more elements they can choose from as they appear on the periodic table. (There's a complete periodic table of elements with the elements' Toca-inspired characters, symbols, and real scientific names on the Toca Boca blog). Toca Lab empowers kids to play around with chemistry -- with no safety goggles or complex equations required at this early, free-play stage.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Science

  • chemistry
  • energy
  • motion
  • substance properties

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • decision-making

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Toca Lab's interesting element characters, fascinating lab devices and tools, and funny experiment results combine to make a highly engaging science-app experience.

Learning Approach

Kids learn through the creative free-play experience. Each of the 118 elements has its own look and personality. Although the periodic table used is correct, the developer acknowledges that not all that happens in experiments is accurate.

Support

No formal directions or lessons and very little data. The chart acts as a progress record for kids' play with the elements.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Science

  • chemistry
  • energy
  • motion
  • substance properties

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • decision-making

Kids can learn the basics about the periodic table of elements, chemistry-lab equipment, and experiments on Toca Lab. They also can learn -- in very simple, visual ways -- how elements change states and a little about energy, motion, and substance properties. Toca Lab helps kids learn some basic starter science and chemistry lessons through fun free play.

This Learning Rating review was written by Dana Villamagna

What's it about?

Enter TOCA LAB and choose a lab tool. Swipe, slide, tap, or hold to set the equipment or experiment into motion. Listen, and watch the element change during the experiment. When the arrow at the top of the screen turns green, you know the element has changed as much as possible, and you can tap the home icon to return to the lab and experiment with a different tool (or just throw the blobs up on the lab ceiling or gather pieces together). As the periodic table fills with 118 elements, choose others to use in experiments.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

There's a lot to be said about getting kids excited about science, and Toca Lab's colorful free-play experiments can absolutely do that. As kids explore the basics about the periodic table of elements in an imaginative way, they learn the traits or "personalities" of each element. This app also empowers kids to use the mysterious tools of science found in a chemistry lab (virtually, of course), including serious equipment, such as a Bunsen burner, a centrifuge, and an oscilloscope. Many kids will love watching the cute elements react as they vibrate, spin, heat up, and more during the experiments and then change states. Watching more elements appear on the periodic table also can be motivating.

That said, for parents, teachers, or hard-core science buffs looking to provide kids with detailed, scientifically accurate information, this app doesn't entirely satisfy. The developer notes: "While the periodic table in Toca Lab is accurate, the way new elements are created is not." Specifics aside, Toca Lab can be a fun way to introduce young kids to the general concept of elements, chemistry experiments, and lab equipment in a kid-friendly, non-technical way.

Families can talk about...

  • Talk with your kids about substance properties of everyday things they're familiar with, such as water.

  • Print a copy of the Toca Lab periodic table of the elements from the Toca Boca blog so you can give kids the full names of the elements, rather than only their abbreviations.

App details

Devices:iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
Price:$.99-$2.99
Release date:December 12, 2013
Category:Entertainment
Size:87.90 MB
Publisher:Toca Boca
Version:1.0.1
Minimum software requirements:iOS 5.0 or later; Android 4.0.3 and up

This review of Toca Lab was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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