Toca Robot Lab

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Toca Robot Lab App Poster Image
Build robots from recyclables and fly them around for fun.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn and practice creative expression as they hand-pick robot body parts. Kids may reflect on form and function (especially if parents play along and discuss): What can a robot with wheels for feet and a propeller arm do? What about one with a radio for a head? Kids will practice fine motor skills as they tap and drag their robot around to collect stars or push obstacles. Kids also can see how discarded household items can be transformed into new and fun creations. Toca Robot Lab not only offers the usual opportunities for creativity but also has an embedded lesson about reusing cast-off items that, with a parent's encouragement, could lead to offscreen maker magic.

Ease of Play

Play is super simple and self-explanatory. Kids need to have the fine motor skills to be able to tap and drag. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

Small icon on home screen takes users to ads for other Toca apps. Actual purchase is protected by a parent lock (with parent's year of birth).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, just like other Toca Boca apps, Toca Robot Lab is all about open-ended play and exploration. Kids construct their own robot from recycled materials and then fly it around a maze to collect stars. There's no right way to play, no rules, and no performance assessment. This is all about exploring, experimenting, imagining, and being creative.

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What's it about?

In TOCA ROBOT LAB, build a robot using recycled materials such as scrap metal and household "junk." Choose from three options for the body, the head, arms, and legs. Every round of play offers different options, so kids make a different robot every time. Fly the completed robot around a maze-like test lab to collect stars and push balls and blocks around. Kids can choose their own path or use arrows to direct them to the giant magnet that whisks the robot away. Kids get a robot lab "test report" and then can start over again with a new robot. 

Is it any good?

Toca Robot Lab gives kids a structure for experimenting with different ways to express themselves. Unlike a real-world play scene in which a kid constructs a toy, the app lets kids have access to things they may not have in real life. The downside is that interaction is limited to what's been programmed rather than what a child can imagine. Toca Robot Lab succeeds in that there are no rules, but there are limited choices for each body part and only one way to interact with completed robots, all of which have the exact same capabilities of movement and function regardless of how they're built. It would be nice to be able to move arms and legs or see robots roll if they have wheels, paint walls if they have paintbrush arms, and so on. This almost makes the robot construction seem futile.

The game might be more rewarding if kids could even take a picture of their robots. Within the test lab, however, kids may have to push items out of the way as they search for stars, and each obstacle moves a little differently, which adds a layer of interest and challenge, if only for toddlers. Relatively speaking, this is a shallower offering from Toca Boca, but kids will definitely love it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the robots kids create. What might this particular robot be able to do with a paintbrush for a hand and wheels for feet? 

  • Get inspired by the virtual recycled materials and build something with things you have in your house. A robot, art, sculptures, a playhouse, a cardboard-box boat, whatever -- just make sure to be creative!

  • Read the letter from the developer for some inspiration on discussion starters and ways to engage with your kids.

App details

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