What parents need to know
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
- substance properties
Thinking & Reasoning
Engagement, Approach, Support
Toca Lab's interesting element characters, fascinating lab devices and tools, and funny experiment results combine to make a highly engaging science-app experience.
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.
No formal directions or lessons and very little data. The chart acts as a progress record for kids' play with the elements.
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?
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.