Two Spanish, sing-song words encompass a foolproof solution for the traveling, exasperated parent: Toca Boca. The popular Swedish gaming application is not just a reliable silencer of agitated toddlers, but a celebration of the magic in every-day life.
The focus is just fun and letting kids be kids, according to co-founder Emil Ovemar who led us through Toca Boca’s colorful offices dotted with huge cardboard cut-outs and smiling faces of its iconic characters. At a time when kids grow up far faster than they should, Toca Boca’s creators are betting on prolonging the simple joys of childhood and learning through play. Children are encouraged to engage in interactive play that parents can feel good about Through a visual smorgasbord of never-too-perfect looking creatures— like my favorite “Bo”, a large hairy creature with a floral wreath adoring his jovial head— and simple activities like washing tea cups in a sink overflowing with suds or blow-drying the locks of a pink-haired girl with cat whiskers.
A part of the Bonnier Group, the concept was developed as a “digital toy” and launched in September 2010. The target age was originally 3-6, but today older siblings and even parents enjoy the meditative sensibilities produced by swiping away crumbs on a table meant for a bright tea set, concocting a pink polka-dot pair of pants via Toca Tailor or curling the unruly hair of a sanguine creature in Toca Hair Salon 2.
Today, it’s a wild success with a presence in most Swedish households and nearly 40% of its dissemination in the United States. In 2012, the game surpassed 22 million downloads and today vies with companies like Disney for top 3 status among most popular games. A strong collaboration with Apple and a prescient understanding of the times has propelled Toca Boca’s success. With most parents looking for an alternative to the violent, aggressive games that have been dominating the decade and a new generation of hands-on parents looking to cater to their child’s emotional development not only through ABC’s and 123’s. By emphasizing the simple things parents and kids do together like grocery shopping or setting the table, Toca Boca has hit a nerve.
New statistics demonstrating that Ipad play does not destroy the brains of your little ones (and in fact may enhance them!) and the focus of President Obama and many American law-makers on early childhood education may also add to the long-term social trends that will lead to the sustained success of games like Toca Boca.
Personally, my Ipad is replete with so many Toca Boca games that I’m even contemplating something I vowed to never do: purchase our nearly 4-year-old daughter her own Ipad. I strongly believe in allowing children to play with whatever inspires them. If boys prefer ironing and arranging tea cups and girls enjoy strumming electric guitars and arranging train tracks (as our daughter does), so much the better for us all! The gender neutral nature of Toca Boca games is something that has always appealed to me. There are no pink Princesses with perfect blonde hair or loud, crashing cars; all the games focus on tasks that appeal to us all and characters who we can relate to.
Thank you Emil and the Toca Boca team for inviting me to your headquarters! We look forward to what creative games will be unveiled next!