Toca Life: Vacation

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Toca Life: Vacation App Poster Image
Imaginations roam on staycation with virtual role-play.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about imagination, creativity, and pretend play as they explore and create stories using the different characters and scenes to practice role-playing and try on different identities. They'll stretch their imaginations and feel totally in charge as they explore and manipulate everything on the screen, and the record function allows them to build narratives.

Ease of Play

It's mostly easy to tap into different locations and drag items around, except for the very tiny items.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Small icon on the home screen advertises other apps from the same developer; users must enter their year of birth to proceed to a purchase page. Icon can be turned off in the settings menu.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Toca Life: Vacation joins the Toca Life suite of apps that provide a platform for open-ended imaginary play as kids explore a digital dollhouse. Here, the locations are all vacation-oriented: an airport/airplane, a hotel, a beach, and sightseeing in the town. There are no rules, no time limits, and no guidelines. Kids can record two-minute chunks of their own voice as they move things around on the screen. To do this, the app asks permission to use your device's microphone and to access the camera roll. A letter to parents explains the various aspects of the game and offers some ideas for parent-kid interaction. The developer's privacy policy details how your information is collected and shared.

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What's it about?

Grab your bags and head to the airport to fly off to fun and relaxation with TOCA LIFE: VACATION. Four locations let kids free-play and imagine: airport/airplane, hotel, beach, and town. Choose from many characters to move around and interact with countless items. Some unique features here include riding in the hotel's elevator, sitting in the pilot's seat of the plane, putting things through the X-ray machine at airport security, or shopping for souvenirs. There's also a storage area where kids can collect and store items they don't need.

Is it any good?

Despite the limitations of digital-based imaginative play, there are plenty of things to inspire kids in this role-play vacationer's paradise. It has some fun interactive elements, such as the elevator that takes kids to different areas of the hotel, where they discover something unique on each floor. Locations start out with certain characters and items placed in certain ways, but once kids get started, they have complete freedom to do whatever they please. Of course, unlike more traditional open-ended imaginary play, in this digital version kids are guided and limited by what the programmers have written into the app. For instance, it may be frustrating that characters don't interact with objects; it would be nice to see them kick a ball or push the food cart down the aisle on the airplane. Occasionally, it's also difficult to manipulate the tiny pieces and getting them to go where you want, especially for kids with less fine motor control. However, the video-recording feature adds a nice empowerment opportunity for kids to document and share their fantastical stories.

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 your own family vacations. Remember together highlights of past vacations. Involve them in thinking about what to do and where to go when you're on vacation. Discuss where they might like to go on future vacations.

App details

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For kids who love toddler and preschool apps

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