Swedish company Toca Boca has lots of apps for children of varying ages on the iTunes and Google app stores. The company has released everything from cooking apps to musical apps to block-building apps. One thing that makes Toca Boca apps stand out from the rest is their simplicity. The apps for preschoolers are especially easy to learn and control. They also include some subtle educational elements. Toca Pet Doctor was the first one that grabbed my daughter’s attention. It’s still one of the apps she plays on a regular basis.
Toca Pet Doctor
In Pet Doctor, you serve as the veterinarian to 15 different animals suffering from various ailments. Some of the animals have external ailments. For example, the canary has a big bump on his head. The rabbit has a number of scrapes that need bandaging. The dog has fleas. The cat has a nasty cut on his ear. Other animals have internal ailments. One example is the pigeon who has a broken wing. The lizard has mistakenly swallowed some flies. The mouse has gas in his stomach. The rest of animals aren’t really sick; they just need a little help. For example, the turtle is stuck on his back. The snake needs some help hatching out of his egg. The hamster needs help brushing his teeth. The most amusing animal is the worm, who has managed to tie himself in a knot.
The pets are scattered throughout an animal hospital. You can move from one end of the hospital to the other. One of things I found disappointing is that you can’t interact with anything in the environment; you can only interact with the animals. The background has books, flowers, and lamps, but tapping them doesn’t do anything. This makes it very clear what you’re supposed to do in the game, but doesn’t encourage you to explore anything.
Once you tap on an animal, a curtain (like those in an emergency room) closes. When it opens again, you can see the animal and its ailment up close. Taking care of the animals involves tapping, swiping, and dragging your finger across the screen. While most interactions are fairly simple, some of the treatments involve matching shapes. After you’ve taken care of whatever was wrong with the animal, the curtain closes again. When it opens, the animal is ready for a meal. You feed the animal a variety of foods by dragging them to the animal’s mouth. Once you’ve fed them everything, they will go to sleep, allowing you to move on to the next animal.
Once you’ve seen to all of the animals, the lights will go dim and the game will prompt you to do the whole thing over again.
Toca Pet Doctor is $2.99 on its own. The game is also included in bundles with other Toca Boca apps that start at $3.99 for four apps.
Toca Pet Doctor’s Educational Aspects
On the whole, Toca Pet Doctor is more fun than educational. However, the shape matching is an early math skill. The game also helps with fine motor skills. Some of the animals eat flies, and you have to catch them as they fly around in order to feed them to the animal. Some purely educational apps do this in a straightforward and boring way. Toca Pet Doctor works them into fun gameplay, which is the best way to get preschoolers to actually learn things.