To appease the masses, I’ve found an app for both Android and Apple users! Actually, I originally wrote this review after finding it on Google Play and didn’t realize until later that it was also available on iTunes! I was very excited that all of my readers could benefit from this one. Also, I had mentioned to a few of you that I found some Android apps similar to the Toca Boca ones on iDevices–Dr. Panda’s Hospital is definitely one of those. While this app is based on an animal hospital, the game’s set-up is quite similar to Toca Doctor. Here are my thoughts on it:
What It Is: An app for “playing vet” and healing hurt/sick animals by TribePlay.
Price: $1.99 (there is also a free “light” version)
OS: Android, Apple (review based on Android version)
How It Works: The app is set up as a multi-story animal hospital where the user is the vet. A helicopter drops off the injured/sick animals, and the user gets them off the elevator in the waiting room (up to four animals in the hospital at one time). From there, the user selects the animals to go upstairs to hospital rooms, where they can be healed in various ways. For example, the user may need to give a shot to an animal and then place a bandaid on it. Or the user might take an X-ray of the animal and fix it’s broken bones. There are quite a number of these things–putting ointment on infections, taking blood pressure, giving eye drops, etc. Also, there are random little bit of extra interactions: there is trash on the floors of the hospital for the user to pick up and put in the trashcans; touching the smiley faces changes the types of beds the animals are in, touching the radio turns on music, touching the spray bottle waters the flowers, etc.
Therapy Applications: This app is perfect for younger children (EI through early elementary). There are some typical ways to use it: following directions/sequencing activities (“First get the elephant off the elevator, next put him in his room, and last fix his boo-boo.”), wh-questions (“Where is the elephant?”), articulation/phonology (great for working on fricatives–think fix, elephant, feel, four, sick, sad, trash…you get the idea), and vocabulary (particularly animal- and health-related). However, I think a unique way to use the app is to build the pragmatic skill of empathy, which involves so many other skills like theory of mind, reasoning, and problem-solving. Animals seem to be a great way for children to begin learning about empathy–they’re not quite as complicated as humans but still experience excitement, pain, etc. Also, their feelings are usually more obvious and don’t hold subtle nuances or underlying meanings, so it’s a great place for a child with pragmatic difficulties to start. The therapist and child can focus on how the animal feels right now, how the child would feel if that scenario were to happen to him/her, if the animal enjoys feeling like that, etc. The nice thing about using this app is that there are times when the animal appears hurt/sick/sad and times where the animal appears healed/happy, so therapy doesn’t have to just focus on the “negative” emotions. (It seems to me that too often when we talk to children about feelings, it’s because we are trying to get them to see how their actions made someone else feel badly, whereas it’s equally important that they see how their actions can make someone feel good, too.)
Pros: 1. Price! Cheap and more than worth it.
2. Ease of use. It’s easy to do what is expected. There aren’t visual cues/directions in the app; however, this is actually quite useful because you as the therapist can decide what level of prompting and “hints” the child needs to succeed.
3. Versatility. So many speech/language/cognitive objectives! And for a relatively wide age range!
4. The app itself is a built-in reinforcer. In other words, there’s no need to provide reinforcement to the child for using this app–they want to use it! It’s bright and colorful and has a variety of activities to engage the child.
5. I love all the random little extras like picking up the trash and watering the flowers. They’re silly and keep the kids interested.
Cons: Seriously, I’ve got nothing. This app is great.
The Take-Away: This app is awesome for using in therapy with younger children. I love that the developers have made it available for both Apple and Android users. I think it is particularly wonderful for Android users who do not have many high-quality options like this.
My Questions for You: If you have this app, do you use it on an Android or Apple device? Any pros/cons/possible objectives I missed?