FaceTime Hide-And-Seek, And Other Things My Kids Taught Me About Apps

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Emil Omevar is the co-founder of the app studio Toca Boca. He wrote this piece for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].

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Becoming a dad is the coolest thing that has 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 five and my daughter, Annie, was three. As Toca Boca started to grow and I realized millions of kids all over the world were playing with our products, I felt we were doing something important. To be able to give kids playthings they enjoy and that they play with friends, siblings and parents is what makes me happy, and why I strive to make the next Toca Boca toy better than the previous one.

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

Bugs Are Features
I’ve always looked at software bugs as a problem, and to be fair, when they cause crashes or breaks in software, they really are problematic. But my kids taught me that bugs can actually function as features. Much like ripping a toy apart and looking inside, understanding how bugs work and finding a new way to resolve, or “play” with it is key. Here’s Annie playing Toca Store. She realized if you swipe really quickly with your finger across the wallet, you get extra coins and you can buy more stuff in the virtual store. Don’t worry, moms and dads – it’s not an in-app purchase, just safe pixels that you purchase in the store!

Technology Is Something You Play With
For me, and a lot of grown-ups, technology is used to improve productivity and efficiency by streamlining communication and help get things done. Thanks to Abbe and Annie, now I realize technology is just another object, ripe for creativity, imagination and play. It’s like any other toy, or a banana or a piece of paper — the opportunities are endless! Abbe came up with a of playing with technology that illustrate this point: FaceTime Hide-And-Seek.

To play, the person hiding calls the seeker, so it’s just like regular hide-and-seek but you can see the face of the hider and seeker. That way, the seeker gets a hint of where the hider could be, and the whole time you can share the excitement on the screen.

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. In this picture you can see Annie getting lost in play while interacting with Toca Tea Party:

Toca Tea Party is just like a regular tea party, inspiring imagination and social interaction with the plush toys that you invite to the gathering. Although the game lives online, the screen sort of disappears, allowing children to focus on play, and play alone.

Here you can see Abbe playing Toca Kitchen. He’s in the midst of cooking a tomato for me. Once thoroughly cooked, he pretended to pick it up from the screen and put it on a plate. Before handing it over, he said, “Be careful, it’s very hot.” Thus, the screen disappears — it’s not at all about the screen.

To be able to combine work and play, especially with your own 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 for aiding Toca Boca in becoming a successful company.

Emil is co-founder of Toca Boca and producer of all Toca Boca apps. He regularly writes for Toca Magazine. More importantly, he’s a father to 10-year-old Abbe and 7-year-old Annie. He loves to play and collect toys and finds most of his inspiration in Japan.

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