Review of Toca Town by Toca Boca, by AnnMarie Hurtado
We’ve known for a long time that Toca Boca apps are great for encouraging open-ended play for preschoolers. With Toca Town, it’s as if the geniuses behind all those apps put their heads together and created an app where all those worlds meet. The result: endless possibilities.
In Toca Town, preschool and kindergarten children who are starting to learn about community helpers can touch and interact with community helpers in a wide variety of settings. They can choose and purchase groceries from the store, visit the police station and pose the inmate for silly mug shots, have a picnic in the park, stop by a restaurant for some spaghetti, or even help the chef to cook it. Then they can stop by their house to watch TV or have dinner. Leaving one place and entering another is very intuitive; inside every room there’s a door icon at the top that will let the child enter and the home screen shows all the places they can tap to explore, bouncing to the music. Children can also fill each scene with as many characters as they like, by tapping the yellow sign at the bottom right that brings up all of the people. Anything that is in a character’s hand when you leave them in one place, can be brought with them to another place this way. So your character can pick up some money from home, go to the grocery store with the dollar bill in her hand, and buy something.
As with other Toca Boca apps, objects interact with other objects and other places. A character who is tapped while sitting on the toilet will make funny toilet sounds. An item placed on the gift wrapping shelf at the store will magically acquire pretty paper and a bow. Put a guitar in a character’s hand, and he will start to play it. Want that character to leave the restaurant and visit the park? Just go to the park, and select that character—he’ll still have his guitar with him.
I like the wide range of possibilities with this app and the fact that it has a variety of settings that children love to play—police stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and homes. The app allows for a lot of creativity, discussion, and imagination.
Toca Town by Toca Boca, $2.99, iOS, Google Play and Amazon
AnnMarie Hurtado is a youth services librarian with Pasadena Public Library.
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