Toca Pet Doctor

App review by
Dana Anderson, Common Sense Media
Toca Pet Doctor App Poster Image
Kids cure and feed animals in cute, empathy-promoting app.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn basic thinking and reasoning skills, as well as the emotional skill of empathy, through play on Toca Pet Doctor. Kids treat 15 ill animals, feed them, and then watch as they happily drift off to sleep. Kids apply ointment, brush teeth, and feed animals flies, vegetables, and more. Some actions require matching a shape to an outline or present opportunities to count objects. Kids use fine motor skills to slowly wind bandages, swipe, and tap to complete the tasks. The very simple play activities on Toca Pet Doctor allow even the youngest app users to feel empowered to help the animals.

Ease of Play

There are no instructions, but the app clearly guides kids visually through the animals' expressions and noises, the available medical props for each animal, and the food choices. For kids who need verbal instructions, parents may need to offer a bit of first-time play support. Still, this is one of the easiest, if not the easiest, Toca Boca free-play apps for the youngest users, age 2 to 4. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

A small icon in the corner of the main screen promotes another Toca Boca app. If that icon is tapped, it takes kids to the App Store. Parents can disable this in their device settings by toggling Toca News to "Off." There are no in-app purchases.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Toca Pet Doctor is a free-play app for animal-loving kids that empowers them to care for 15 sick or injured animals and nurse them back to health. Kids can help Tarzan the upside-down turtle, Blob the snail, Brie the mouse, and other adorably animated animals by applying simple human-based cures -- such as bandages and toothbrushes -- through swiping, holding, and tapping. Then kids can feed the animals, who promptly fall fast asleep, happy and well. Kids can wake up the animals if they want to care for them again. 

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What's it about?

In TOCA PET DOCTOR, kids choose an animal in a waiting room full of 15 sick animals by tapping on it. Then they notice visual clues to see what's bothering the animal and what items they can use or actions they can do to help (usually by swiping, holding, or tapping an object). Kids then watch and listen as the animal gets better and move onto the screen where they can feed it before the animal blissfully falls asleep. Tap the arrow to return to the room and choose another patient.

Is it any good?

Toca Pet Doctor begins with a waiting room full of sick animals where cuteness is the most widespread epidemic. From the little guinea pig who has stuff stuck in her teeth (that kids can help by brushing) to the worm who has tied himself into a knot (for kids to undo), this is one highly adorable app. Very young app users likely will catch on quickly to the simple actions required to interact with the animals, medical supplies, and food to help the critters feel better. Like other Toca Boca apps, this app offers complete free play -- there are no rules, points, or items to win.

Since the animals' illnesses and injuries are presented in such a bright, sweet way, and kids are empowered to be the medical helpers for the animals, this app may even help kids feel more comfortable about getting medical assistance themselves when a boo-boo or bellyache needs attention. Kids use cures such as bandages, ointments, and casts, which they may see or experience in real life. The app also reinforces the message that eating healthy helps those who are sick feel better. Toca Pet Doctor is feel-good fun for little ones.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Ask your kids how they think each animal may be feeling when they're sick or hurt and how the animal seems to feel after being helped. This may help your kids express the emotions they experience during illness or injury and help develop empathic vocabulary.

  • Since there are no verbal instructions (only visual clues), if your kid is having trouble deciding what to do with an animal, ask her what she sees and how it might be used. 

  • Count the food as your kid is giving it to the animals ("Let's feed the cat some fish. One, two, three, four, five fish. He ate all five fish!").

  • Use specific vocabulary related to the animal's body parts ("That's her beak") or colors you see ("The orange frog's spots are green").

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