Q&A with Play Designer for Toca Boo: Why Scaring Is Good to Explore

Parker Barry

If you’ve played with Toca Boo, you may have noticed that it is a bit darker and more mystical than many of our previous apps. Any child (or grown-up!) playing with this digital toy is in charge of spooking — which is timely at Halloween, but also a general topic that’s good to think about for young kids.

Some parents have asked us for advice on how they can guide their kids when playing with Toca Boo. Play Designer Chris Lindgren offers some more insights:

Why did we chose to do an app that is a bit scary? What was the inspiration?
Chris: In this project I wanted to explore a rather unusual mood in apps for children: spooky, a little scary, and full of tension — the mood that makes hide-and-scare games so exciting. I found inspiration in reading “Who Will Comfort Toffle?” with my own daughter and watching her become fascinated by the magical, melancholic atmosphere in Tove Jansson’s world of the Moomins. We mixed that inspiration with a lot of crazy humor to create the unique experience of Toca Boo.

Toca Boca Toca Boo

Photos by Liz Stanley for Say Yes.com. Assisted by Sarah Iveson.

Are spooky themes and melancholy OK for kids as young as 3?
Chris: In this age kids start to be able to symbolize the act of being scared and being excited, and often translate this into play such as hide and seek. Kids have a need to express both fear and melancholy; the important thing to know is that the child is in control and explores a role through play.

At the very start of the app you can see that the ghost really is a little girl who puts a sheet over her head. And talking about the people in the house as family members who love to play hide and seek might help ease some of the tension.

Toca Boo Toca Boca

What can parents do to make kids feel comfortable with the spooky theme?
Chris: Most kids we met during the production think the scaring and reactions are hilarious. At the same time, there’s a tension and darkness in the app that might challenge some. Preschool kids are sometimes afraid of imaginary things that aren’t always obvious to us grown-ups. Your child might not tell you if he or she is scared, but instead ask you to join in and play. With your help this can be a chance for your child to learn to manage emotions and become confident when taking on new challenges — useful things in everyday life.

To learn more about the idea behind Toca Boo, watch our Play Designers Chris and Willow discuss the process.

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