App review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2014
Dr. Panda & Toto's Treehouse
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Dr. Panda & Toto's Treehouse

Open play encourages empathy, critical thinking, imagination, wonder

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
Pre-K–K This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Creativity, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking
Great for
SEL

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Pros: Toto's responses are fun and engaging, demonstrating various emotions.

Cons: Cause and effect isn't always clear, since kids don't have to give Toto what he wants or needs.

Bottom Line: Toto's Treehouse invites kids to play and explore -- just the way they learn best.

Dr. Panda & Toto's Treehouse isn't classic classroom curriculum, but it does encourage kids to explore, play, and empathize with Toto, seeing what he wants and needs and helping him get it. Teachers could use the app as a station activity for kids or as a fun reward activity. Toto could be a class mascot, in a way, and teachers could introduce writing prompts or encourage kids to make up stories about Toto and his life in the treehouse. The series of books about the turtle Franklin and his adventures could tie in nicely to discussions or writing prompts about Toto and his life in the treehouse.

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Toto the turtle hatches from his egg into a treehouse that would be the envy of any kid. He lives and plays in the treehouse as kids direct him. A pull-down shade shows all the spaces in the treehouse, and kids can move Toto around by pulling down the shade and tapping where they want Toto to go. A pull-up shelf holds toys and such necessities as shampoo and medicine. Thought bubbles pop up to show kids what Toto wants or needs, but they don’t have to do those things right away if they want Toto to do something else. 

Toto's treehouse is pretty much a preschooler's dream home. Toto doesn't walk downstairs, he slides. Kids are free to have Toto explore wherever they want in the treehouse, following his thought-bubble instructions or taking him where they want him to go. Of course, they'll see consequences if they don't meet Toto's needs, like flies buzzing around if they don’t bathe him. Play continues, regardless. The interactions are adorable -- tickling Toto with a feather, rocking him to sleep as he snores, and dancing to tunes are just a few of the delights. And if kids take a little break and don't touch the screen for a few seconds, Toto's methods of getting their attention will produce some giggles.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Toto is a fun friend and his treehouse so cool, kids will want to play and explore. They'll enjoy doing familiar tasks and will be delighted with the treehouse twist on those tasks.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Kids learn through play and exploration, encouraged by the game as they choose what Toto does. They'll learn a bit about cause and effect, too, such as when flies surround Toto because he needs a bath.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Non-readers or non-English speakers can navigate the treehouse using the symbols and thought bubbles. Adults may need to model pulling the shade down so kids will understand how to navigate to different parts of the house.


Common Sense reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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