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Pros: Kids will love the gameplay, and the graphics are stylish, clever, and appealing.
Cons: Without context and further explanation, kids' learning about health is likely to be superficial.
Bottom Line: It's a cute starting point for off-screen human body exploration and learning how doctors treat ailments.
With some scaffolding, teachers can use Toca Doctor as a silly and fun introduction to the human body. Kids can explore the games while teachers explain what each game represents. Opportunities abound for class discussions about what a patient's symptoms might point toward.
Teachers could also lead discussion about kids' own experiences with different ailments, as well as doctor visits. Games like the one about brushing teeth can spark discussion about self-care and prevention. Teachers may also want to encourage kids to think about their developing socioemotional skills. Have kids consider how it feels to be a caregiver or to make someone feel better. Ask them if they've ever helped take care of a parent, sibling, or friend who was hurt or ill.
Kids jump right in as Toca Doctor assigns ailments to four parts of a patient's body. To access the game, kids tap one of the ailments, solve a puzzle to heal the patient, and return to pick another ailment. After kids solve four puzzles, the doctor hands out four more, and so on, until kids have cycled through all 18 games. Upon finishing, kids get a bonus puzzle (matching items in a doctor's bag) and then start all over again.
Games and puzzles involve a number of different tasks. For example, kids might place parts of the ear structure where they belong, or drag little bubbles out of a digestive tract (after which they'll hear a fart or burp). In other games, kids clean wounds and put on a bandage, set a broken bone, or pop little bugs (lice in the patient's hair).
Toca Doctor's appealing graphics, fun music, and engaging games are sure to appeal to young kids. While some games require a bit of trial-and-error, play is, for the most part, easy and straightforward. Without any kind of timer, super-duper challenge, or over-the-top soundtrack, kids are encouraged to relax, explore, and discover at their own pace. The games can be a nice introduction to exploring the human body, visiting a doctor, or playing the role of a caregiver.
However, since the games lack context and explanation, any meaningful learning is left up to teachers. Also, it would be nice for kids to see some connection between a patient's actions and his/her ailments (How did the patient get a scrape? What caused this bellyache?). A few games are abstract enough that kids may have trouble understanding their meaning, as in the case of the gears-in-the-brain puzzle. Teachers will need to play with kids to bring these games beyond the realm of fun and into learning territory.