Toca Builders is a construction toy app, and has been described as Minecraft for younger children or virtual Lego. For younger children, it’s all about experimenting, discovering and playing, while older children can also get to grips with building something more complex if they want to.
This app has just received one of the highest accolades in our house – it is being played For Real Life. Mr Tall and Little Miss Chatterbox have been running around the house shouting “I’m the smasher!” or “I’m the runner!” and pretending to build walls, break doors and paint the furniture. Luckily, with emphasis on the word pretend. It’s rare that something achieves this honour – The Tales of Peter Rabbit on CBeebies is their other current For Real Life game – so well done Toca Boca!
I have seen lots of tweets on my Twitter feed recently about the increasing segregation of girls’ and boys’ toys, an issue highlighted by the Let Toys be Toys campaign. More specifically this week there has been discussion about whether we need specific girl-friendly construction toys like the new Goldiblox toys or not. What I like about Toca Builders is that it is very gender neutral – the robot characters are carefully designed and there is a full range of block colours to choose from: blue, pink and everything in between. The founder of Goldiblox, Debbie Sterling, has talked about drawing girls into construction play using stories and books, and I love this quote about using stories from Mårten Brüggemann, Play Designer at Toca Boca:
One thing you may notice when playing Toca Builders with your child is that apart from the main theme of building worlds, it’s as much fun to play around in the created worlds, making up little stories. We believe that a Toca Builders play session should be as much, or even more, about the entire process of building and playing through creation, as it is to achieve specific construction goals.
There are six characters (and guess what – one of them is pink.) Cooper the Ball paints the ground, Blox the Hammer lays and smashes blocks, Connie the Crane lifts and moves blocks, Vex the Jumper can jump and build high, Jum-Jum the Painter shoots paint at any surface and Stretch the Tall places blocks in mid-air. I did worry that the controls might be tricky, as they are more complicated than those in other Toca Boca games. However I was surprised to see it only took a short time for both children to work them out, even Little Miss Chatterbox who is 3 1/2. Granted, it will take a little while for them to have the dexterity and patience to make something complex, but for now they are very happy to experiment.
I noted down a lot of what my children said when playing, which I think gives a good flavour of why it’s a great app.
On our favourite characters…
“The smasher because it can smash” – Mr Tall
“We like splatters because they are very brilliant at splatting.” – Little Miss Chatterbox
On what you can build…
“I’m making a moon fence – it’s for keeping the moon safe when it crash lands” – Little Miss Chatterbox
“I’m making an aeroplane” – Mr Tall
On learning how everything works…
“You make him go up them you run forward and he jumps off!” – Little Miss Chatterbox
“We’ve just found something out, you can jump on to blocks. You can jump off them too.” – Mr Tall
“What happens if… we try to smash a robot?” – Mr Tall
On why it is so much fun…
“This one’s coooool – wow! Hey, make it go over there, that would be cool!” – Mr Tall
If you need convincing further of Toca Builders’ coolness, I’ll leave you with this preview video from Toca Boca. Happy building!
Toca Builders by Toca Boca, compatible with iPhone and iPad. Available from http://tocaboca.com/download/toca-builders priced at £1.49/$1.99 at time of writing.