For a while now Toca Boca has been releasing apps for kids that just make learning and playing fun. It’s because they realize how kids play. Don’t put any limits on the creativity. And don’t try to up-sell parents with in-app purchases, pop-up ads, or banner ads. They’ve hit homerun after homerun.
With Toca Boca Nature, they’ve even outdone themselves.
Like many Toca Boca apps Nature is simple enough to just open and play for kids. That’s what I really love about these apps. But with Nature, it’s when you dig deeper, dive into the more interesting aspects, that its real potential comes to life.
The app starts with a floating piece of land. From here you use the “tools” to shape your land. Want to add mountains, a lake, a river, a tree or forest, go for it. Need to cut something down, use the axe. To use these tools, instead of tapping endlessly, users select and then drag with a finger. The longer you drag, the deeper and bigger the lake, the higher and bigger the mountain, the thicker and fuller the forest.
Click To Enlarge
In addition to these tools for creating “nature”, there is a magnifying glass, which is used to zoom in on anything you’ve created in the app. The best part of using the magnifying glass is zooming in on the animals. Oh, how did they get there? Well, as you build your personal world of nature, animals will start to appear and inhabit it. Animals are specific to the type of place they’d be found…so the foxes live in the forest, and the fish in the pond. There are beavers, bears, rabbits, woodpeckers, deer, and wolves available as well, rounding out this amazing world of wildlife and nature. So why would zooming in on them be so great? Because it allows kids to learn what foods each animals likes, and by feeding it to them they grow, so it’s important to pick the right foods and feed them the right foods as well. It also gives kids an up-close look at the animals, and mine found that great fun.
Toca Boca Nature is amazingly simple, and amazingly delightful for kids. My two daughters have loved it. This isn’t the Discovery Nature or Wild Planet, where animals attack and eat each other, it isn’t trying to teach the “life cycle”.  This is a more calm nature, one that’s quiet and beautiful, and just right for kids to play in.
Improvements
With all that praise, I have to say there are two things Toca Boca could improve. The first, is the default setting for “Parents”. There is a parent section and in it parents can turn off the access to camera roll, news, and other things not needed for kids. It’s one of the things that’s great about Toca Boca, their apps are for kids…and there isn’t a bunch of fluff in the way. That said, this parents section feels like an oversight. The fact that I can disable it, which is great…tells me that it should be disabled by default, with all the options “off”, and if as the parent I want to enable them, I can do so in settings. Otherwise, all the ad-free, no in-app purchase “stance” they take feels a little off. I give Toca Boca a pass with this, as I don’t think they’re trying to be gimmicky or grabby. I think it is just a simple oversight, and I’d like to see it corrected.
The second issue is with saving. Most of Toca Boca’s apps don’t need to “save”. Nature is one of the few that does. I’ve read that the app saves your creation so long as you don’t close it from the multitasking tray. That’s not necessarily true, or appears not to be in my testing. It seems restarts and power-offs also make kids start over. Sometimes it’s not a big deal, sometimes it is. I’d recommend letting kids save 3 “landscapes” at a time. If they want to save another, it replaces the oldest one. Simple and easy.
I do recommend this app, the two issues I had are mostly minor, and Nature is easily one of the best iPad apps my kids have used in a long time.

Toca Boca Nature – iTunes – [Link]