Toca Nature

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Toca Nature App Poster Image
Create and interact with mesmerizing natural landscape.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about natural habitats and animal behavior. Much of what kids learn here comes through observation: what happens when there are a lot of oak trees? A few? How about birch? Or deep lakes or tall mountains? As they experiment with which animals will eat which of five foods, kids also learn a bit about animal diets. Most of all, kids will be inspired by the magic of nature, watching bears ramble about and birds flitter through the trees. In its own warm, quiet way, Toca Nature lets kids discover their own understanding of nature's wonders as they explore and experiment.

Ease of Play

Kids need to explore -- touch, tap, drag, observe -- to discover. Navigation is very sensitive to even the slightest finger dragging. Kids, especially younger ones may have trouble with precision.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

There is a small icon that takes users to ads for other Toca apps. Actual purchase is protected by a parent lock.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that like all Toca Boca apps, Toca Nature is totally open-ended, allowing for pure creative exploration. Kids can build natural elements -- trees, lakes, and mountains -- and observe what happens as animals move in and food sources abound. Interaction is slow and calm, just like a peaceful walk in a tranquil forest; kids will need to some patience to quietly observe everything that happens. Unlike a real forest, this one is entirely non-violent: usually omnivorous bears and foxes are content with mushrooms and berries and ignore the cute little bunny rabbits that are hopping around. Note: The tap and drag navigation is very sensitive and can sometimes be a bit awkward; kids, especially younger ones, might need help, or just a bit of practice.

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What's it about?

With a bird's-eye view of an expanse of land surrounded by sky, a globe to turn to adjust viewing position, and a set of tools to build, destroy, and zoom in, kids can construct their own natural landscape. Tap and drag to build mountain ranges; build them tall enough and you'll see snow on top, build enough and wolves will move in. Dig holes for lakes, beavers, and fish, or plant five types of trees, each with its own resident animal. Zoom in to watch what the animals do, take a walk among the trees, and collect food for the animals. If you allow access to your device's camera roll, kids can take and save pictures of what they find in their forest.

Is it any good?

Just like a quiet walk in the woods, TOCA NATURE is calm, slow, and mesmerizing; even the background music contributes to the magical, ethereal feeling. An app can never replace real walks through real forests (the developers themselves openly admit this), but this one does a great job of bringing the wonder of nature to an interactive screen. With an "if you build it, they will come" approach, kids do, then wait and observe. The possibilities in this forest are limited, though: build, collect food, watch animals eat and move around, stop. And, some internal inconsistencies are mildly bothersome. For example, kids can feed some animals, but not others; or they can throw fish to a wolf in the mountains far from any water source. There's also the issue of feeding wild animals in the first place – definitely not okay to do in a real forest. A re-set button would also be a nice addition so that kids can control when to start over. But overall, Toca Nature is a wonderful walk through the woods.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about earth conservation and what kids observe as they build, destroy, change, and re-build their forest.

  • Read the letter from the developer in the parents' section for inspiration for great discussion ideas and learning extensions.

  • Go take a walk in nature: even a city park can provide great opportunities for observation and exploration.

App details

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For kids who love nature

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