Toca Boca Games: The freedom of playing, learning, and not making mess

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In order to talk about Toca Boca Games I need to relay this.  There is a story in my family, that in legend, goes something like this. When I was 8 or 9 I was given a chemistry set. Remember those? It was a dream come true for me. My visions of what such a thing could be came from the science fiction of the 50’s and 60’s and my favorite detective stories. They were equal parts mad scientist, Flash Gordon, and Sherlock Holmes, all characters I aspired to be at one point or another. My visions were of mixing and matching just the right chemicals to create a gas that would disable my enemies, or using my microscope and the chemicals to solve some great crime. I actually knew nothing about chemistry and less about the reality of what these things could do when exposed to my young mind. This set came with everything you should never give a kid: random chemicals, fire, instructions on how to make small explosions, and how make liquids hot and gassy. I suppose it was everything I had ever hoped for and at the time, felt I had made it. I didn’t need anything else. My guess is that now you couldn’t buy such a kit. I have no doubt that they still exist but I am sure the people who manufacture these things are more careful about what they put in them now. Different time and all.

I stood at my kitchen sink, or, my parents kitchen sink, mixing and matching chemicals with wild abandon. At this point I had long given up on the instructions and just mixed one thing with another to see what the reaction would be. The kit had come with a nice set of beakers and a Bunsen burner that I used to make my experiments real, or that’s what I told myself. Really, what does that even mean? Make them real. Part of the issue was that none of it was real. I mixed things together based on whatever was floating through my imagination. I could be pretending I was a scientist who was saving the world or Indiana Jones, either way, anything I did with that set was plot based. So, that day, the day that lives in infamy in my family, or at least to my father as he’s the one who brings it up the most, I was standing at the sink mixing and matching in my beakers when I decided to light the Bunsen burner. At this point I had created some sort of purple liquid that was somewhere between water and Jell-O in consistency. Why wouldn’t I try boiling it to see what happens? As I held it over the burner something distracted me. Most likely one of my brothers had come in and started talking about going to the school across the street to ride our bikes. Plans were being made, plots were being hatched, and I had totally forgotten about the beaker. Forgotten for just long enough to make it pop. When I heard the pop I didn’t turn around right away. As a matter a fact I wasn’t even sure what it was for a moment. When I turned back to look at my beaker I was shocked to find that the bottom was blackened and the glass…empty. It was amazing. My first real mystery and I had created it. Now I would have to find out what I had made, reproduce it step by step, watch and carefully notate what happened and if it ended up in gas form or maybe even opened a door to another dimension that- “Josh, what the… What did you do to the ceiling?” It was a sentence like this from my father that burst my creative bubble and sent waves of disappointment through me. I looked up and sure enough, there was a giant purple stain covering the white paint right above me. That stain lived on the ceiling of my parent’s house for many years after that. I don’t think it was until they got ready to sell it that someone finally painted over it.

It is with that story that I want to introduce you, or maybe you already know them, to Toca Boca games, games where kids can do some of the same things I did with my chemistry set with no risk to life or limb. (Really I’m surprised I was never hurt). With eye popping color and fun characters in each game your kids can move from working in a hair salon, being a tailor, driving a train, cooking in a kitchen, being a doctor, or controlling your very own lab. There are, at last count 38 apps on the Toca Boca website so if your kids decide they want to try another there is almost always something new. In the lab you can mix chemicals, create reactions, and even add new elements to a periodic table. It is all drag and drop and gives kids the ability to have full control of everything in the game.

There is Toca Boca Kitchen with or without monsters. In each one you go into the refrigerator and pick your ingredients, then you can either cook them or try to feed them raw to a person, or monster, you are cooking for. Depending on the character they will either like it or not. The reaction can be anything from spitting it out, to just not taking it, to making a yummy noise and eating it up. All you have to do is drag it to the face and let them open their mouth. There is even a cat on one that you can feel raw fish too, or you can cook it, whatever works. That’s the great things about these games. You can do whatever you want. They are a great way for kids to have control of a world that allows them to make what they like, experiment with things that work, or things that don’t.  It’s a great way for them to exercise their minds in a creative and logical way. Also, it is really hard for them to make a mess with these, so your ceiling will be safe.

 

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