Imaginations soar in open-ended virtual adventure


Recommended for ages 4 and older

Quality: 4 out of 5

Learning: 3 out of 5

Ease of play: 4 out of 5

Violence and scariness: 0 out of 5

Sexy stuff: 0 out of 5

Language: 0 out of 5

Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 0 out of 5

Consumerism: 1 out of 5 (Are products/advertisements embedded? Is the title part of a broader marketing initiative/empire? Is the intent to sell things to kids?)


Language and reading



Tech skills


Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Fire phone, Kindle Fire

Price: $2.99

Release date: June 20, 2016

Category: Education

Size: 227.00 MB

Publisher: Toca Boca

Minimum software requirements: iOS 7.0 or later; Android 4.1 and up

Parents need to know that Toca Life: Vacation joins the Toca Life suite of apps that provide a platform for open-ended imaginary play as kids explore a digital dollhouse. Here, the locations are all vacation oriented: an airport/airplane, hotel, beach, and sightseeing in the town. There are no rules, no time limits, and no guidelines. Kids can record two-minute chunks of their own voice as they move things around on the screen. To do this, the app asks permission to use your device’s microphone and to access the camera roll. A letter to parents explains the various aspects of the game and offers some ideas for parent-kid interaction. The developer’s privacy policy details how your information is collected and shared.


Grab your bags and head to the airport to fly off to fun and relaxation with Toca Life: Vacation. Four locations let kids free play and imagine: airport/airplane, hotel, beach, and town. Choose from many characters to move around and interact with countless items. Some unique features here include riding in the hotel’s elevator, sitting in the pilot’s seat of the plane, putting things through the x-ray machine at airport security, or shopping for souvenirs. There’s also a storage area where kids can collect and store items they don’t need.


Despite the limitations of digital based imaginative play, there are plenty of things to inspire kids in this role-play vacationer’s paradise. It has some fun interactive elements, and once kids get started, they have complete freedom to do whatever they please. Of course, unlike more traditional open-ended imaginary play, in this digital version kids are guided and limited by what the programmers have written into the app. For instance, it may be frustrating that characters don’t interact with objects; it would be nice to see them kick a ball or push the food cart down the aisle on the airplane. Occasionally, it’s also difficult to manipulate the tiny pieces and getting them to go where you want, especially for kids with less fine motor control. However, the video recording feature adds a nice empowerment opportunity for kids to document and share their fantastical stories.


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