A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
What's it about?
TOCA LIFE: SCHOOL offers five settings for free and imaginative play. Kids can visit a house, the school building, a playground, the cafeteria, or the youth club. Each of these places has places to explore; for example, the school building has a classroom, a hallway with lockers, and a bathroom. There are objects and props everywhere for kids to pick up and move around. Add, remove, and "interact" with 32 characters: Make them sleep, eat, play in a band, and so on, though they're more like paper dolls and don't perform many actions. The recording feature allows kids to make and narrate short movies as they interact with the features.
Is it any good?
There's certainly a lot to do, discover, explore, and imagine with this virtual school-themed dollhouse, but there are limitations and a few potentially eyebrow-raising elements. Kids are in control, it's easy to use, and some elements are really thoughtfully designed: The diverse range of characters lets kids pick from a wide variety of people, creatures, and animals, and props include wheelchairs. Though the recording feature is a nice addition, as it encourages kids to organize their play around a story, the weekly updates are not as impressive. At the time of this review, they were weirdly silly (for example, talking about how much a sloth "chills") in ways that won't always make sense to young kids. The chemistry class will likely be fun but also might be something the target age group won't relate to. There are also elements that some parents of the preschool set might not love: Some of the characters wear punk-style studded jewelry, there's graffiti in the youth club, and there are some mildly creepy elements such as a strange goblin head. The question remains whether the digital setting really is the best way for kids to engage in pretend play. Though there's an abundance of material here, which gives kids a wide set of possibilities, kids are still limited to what the game designers have programmed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the worlds kids create. Ask questions about whom different characters represent, what they're doing, and why.
Encourage offscreen pretend play with tea sets, dolls, stuffed animals, action figures, cardboard boxes, and more.
Read the letter from the developer for some insight into what the app has to offer and how to accompany your kids' play.
Talk to your kids about their own experiences at school. What do they do during school days? Who are their friends? What do they enjoy?
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
- Subjects: Language & Reading: storytelling
- Skills: Creativity: imagination
- Price: $2.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Release date: October 28, 2015
- Category: Education
- Size: 143.00 MB
- Publisher: Toca Boca
- Version: 1.0
- Minimum software requirements: iOS 6.0 or later
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.