An Almanac For The 21st Century

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Toca Boca Games

Toca Boca Games

As I have mentioned before, I firmly believe every family should have an iPad, if only as a means of entertaining their child(ren). After 5 years as a nanny, I can safely say that the iPad is the greatest thing to happen to childcare. Ever. (Honorable mentions go to disposable diapers, the ExerSaucer, and strollers with cup holders.) I'm always looking for the next app that will keep kids busy and entertained. I've found all kinds of apps, but I never thought there would be a whole company that made crowd-pleasing, fun, educational games by the handful. But there is such a company, and that magic fun factory is called Toca Boca. The first Toca Boca app I downloaded was Toca Hair Salon. I found it on sale (though another great app, Apps Gone Free) and thought, "Well, that looks cool. And it's FREE!" I played it myself before giving it to any kids, and it was SO FUN. You choose a client, be it a young girl or a bear (yes, a bear) and then have free rein to go nuts on their hair. You can wash it, dry it, dye it, and shave it all off if you want to. You can then take pictures of your handiwork and save them to your iPad or iPhone. Here's what happened when I let a two year old practice her hairstyling moves:

The hairstyling app is fun, but we're just getting started. The next app I got was called Toca Kitchen Monsters. It's exactly what it sounds like: You make food and feed it to monsters. You can choose from all kinds of meats and veggies, then chop, blend, boil, and fry them however you please. My favorite part is that if you do some weird stuff to the food (i.e. boil a tomato) the monster will be all, "Ewww" and refuse to eat it. Here's a peek at the app in action:

But those apps are nothing compared to what's coming up. This one is my two year old neighbor's favorite of all the apps (my favorite is still to come). It's funny that she likes this game so much, because it's literally a game where you do household chores. It's called, appropriately enough, Toca House. You move between floors of the house and help the residents perform various chores, from sweeping the floor to loading the washing machine. You can rake leaves, sort mail, iron clothes, and hang pictures. There are actually a LOT of different things to do in this app. It's also easy to understand, and therefore easier for a smaller child to play independently.

It takes a little more dexterity to play my personal favorite Toca Boca game, Toca Tailor. In this game you make clothes for different models, and the opportunities for creativity are ENDLESS. When I was a kid I was obsessed with paper dolls, and if we had owned an iPad and had this app, I would have played it NONSTOP. Seriously, my parents would have had to pry it out of my hands to get me to eat dinner or take a bath. In fact, I'm still completely obsessed with this game. After I downloaded it I tried playing it for a bit, just to get a feel for it, and I sat there and played it for AN HOUR without even realizing it. Like Hair Salon, you can take pictures of your creations and save them to your device. Here are my fantastic fashions:

You can make so many alterations to the clothes - your options are truly endless. You can change the style and length of the sleeves, shirts, pants, and skirts, and change the fabrics of every element of your outfit. There's even an option to use a photo of your own as a fabric pattern. I didn't have too many good choices on my iPad, but I managed to make this gown from a picture of a stained glass window:

This game is easy to use in a basic sense, but if you want to get really creative and use all the fantastic tools in the game, it helps to be at least 6 (maybe even older, depending on dexterity levels). Really, I think this game is the greatest thing ever and I, at 25, could play it for hours on end. Of all the Toca Boca games, this is by far my favorite.

There are other games available from Toca Boca, but these are the only ones I've tried. They have a 4 for 4 success rate, though, so I'd say any of their games is a safe bet. If you've got kids to entertain this Thanksgiving (or even want to entertain yourself), download these apps NOW. Then you'll be ready to keep those kids busy while you drift off into a stuffing and mashed potatoes induced nap.

Toca Hair Salon: $2

Toca Kitchen Monsters: Free

Toca House: $1

Toca Tailor: $2

(All apps available through the iTunes app store, for both iPad and iPhone. Some, but not all, are universal apps)

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