Everything I Know About Apps, I’ve Learned from My Kids

For Father’s Day, we often reflect on what we’ve learned from our dads. Toca Dad Emil Ovemar reflects on what he’s learned from his kids.

Emil Ovemar, Executive Producer and Co-Founder, Toca Boca

Becoming a dad is the coolest thing that ever happened to me. I’ve always loved to play, but playing with your own kids takes it to a new level. When I started Toca Boca my son Abbe was 5 and my daughter Annie was 3. As Toca Boca started to grow and I realized that millions of kids play with our products all over the world, I felt like we’re doing something important. To be able to give kids playthings they enjoy and that they play with together with friends, siblings, parents and families is what makes me happy and why I always want to make the next Toca Boca toy better than the previous one.

Abbe and Annie were a big influence on the philosophy of Toca Boca and the products we made. In fact, everything I know about apps, I’ve learned from my kids. And what they’ve taught me has helped Toca Boca become one of the most successful app publishers for kids. Here’s what I’ve learned from Abbe and Annie:

  • 1. Bugs are features

I’ve always looked at bugs as a problem with the software you’ve developed — when the software breaks, that’s a problem. But my kids taught me that bugs can actually be features. It doesn’t crash. It’s just something interesting that happens and something you can play with, like ripping a toy apart and looking at the inside, understanding how it works and then finding a new way to play with it.


Here’s Annie playing Toca Store. She realized if you swipe really, really quickly with your finger across the wallet, you sort of get extra coins, and you can buy more stuff in this virtual store (not in-app purchase, just safe pixels that you purchase in the store).

  • 2. Technology is something that you play with

For me, and a lot of grown-ups, technology is something that helps you be more efficient when communicating or getting things done, or just be a more productive person. But now I realize that technology is actually just another object. It’s just something you play with just like any toy, or a banana, or a piece of paper. It’s just there for you to use and to play with.

Abbe came up with two ways of playing with technology that illustrate this point.

FaceTime hide-and-seek

Abbe realized that he could play FaceTime hide-and-seek. The person hiding can call the other one and you can see it’s just a regular hide-and-seek but you can see the face of the person you’re playing with.  So you get a hint of where they could be, and you can see the excitement in the other person’s face.

LEGO cinema


Here’s a Lego cinema that Abbe came up with just using his iPod Touch and integrating the technology in his regular play.

  • 3. Screens are not actually screens

My kids never use the word screens. It’s just something you play with. Screens are defined by the software or whatever you do with it.

Toca Tea Party


In this picture you can see Annie playing Toca Tea Party, which is just a regular tea party, and the screen sort of disappears. It’s all about the social interaction with the plush toys that you put around them.

Toca Kitchen


Here you can see Abbe playing Toca Kitchen. He’s cooking a tomato for me, and then he pretends to pick it up from the screen and put it on a plate. Then he gives it to me and says, “Be careful, it’s very hot.” So the screen disappears — It’s not at all about the screen.

To be able to combine work and playing with your kids is amazing and these four years since we started Toca Boca have been so much fun. So thanks Abbe and Annie for helping me and Toca Boca become a successful company.

Emil is co-founder of Toca Boca and producer of all Toca Boca apps. More important, he’s father to 10-year-old Abbe and 7-year-old Annie (who, by the way, appears on the icon for Toca Hair Salon Me). He loves to play, collects toys and finds most of his inspiration in Japan.

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