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

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Open play encourages empathy, critical thinking, imagination, wonder

Subjects & skills

  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades 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.
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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 Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

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 Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

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 Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

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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