This “Digital Playroom” Is the Only Screen Time App I Feel Totally Fine Letting My Kids Use

published May 26, 2023
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young girl at home playing with tablet or ipad wearing yellow headphones
Credit: Johner Images/Getty Images/Johner RF

Finding screen time options for my kids that I feel good about is really difficult. In our home, we use screen time when we need it. For example, my 4-year-old daughter gets screen time while my husband and I are rocking her one-year-old twin brothers to sleep. 

Many shows and apps are addictive and overstimulating, though, especially for younger kids. We are very intentional about the content our kids consume on screens. That’s why I was so excited to discover Pok Pok Playroom, an app that’s designed for kids to play with it in the same way they play with a room full of toys. There are no rules or games, so it’s not possible for kids to play the wrong way. They also don’t need to be able to read or follow directions on the open-ended app, which means even very young kids can enjoy the playroom. It’s officially for ages 2 to 7, but even my one-year-old twins enjoy exploring the different playrooms in the app. 

Pok Pok is one of only two kids’ apps my husband and I currently pay for (shout out to the other one: Homer!). We pay the annual rate of $45.99. Read below to learn more about what Pok Pok Playroom is like and how my kids play with it. I also spoke to two of the app’s founders to learn a little more.

What Is Pok Pok and How Does It Work?

Pok Pok is an Apple Design Award-winning app, and it’s designed for open-ended Montessori-inspired play. When kids open the app, they see a screen full of toys to choose from. The current lineup consists of the following toys:

  • Radio
  • Islands
  • Connect the dots
  • Marble machine
  • Shops
  • Sequencer
  • Blocks
  • Forest
  • House
  • Silly blocks
  • Town
  • Drawing 
  • Busy board
  • Musical blobs
  • Busy book

Once they choose a toy, they simply explore and play. In many of the toys, tapping objects causes them to move, change, or make noise. There seems to be a neverending world of things to play with, from shaking a tree to making a coconut fall to seeing what happens when you alter the marble run course. I even find myself playing with the toys sometimes!

The app is also regularly updated with brand-new toys as well as toys and themes that match current seasons or holidays. The app’s main toys are continually updated and expanded as well. “For example, our Town toy started as a small village two years ago, but has grown into a large, diverse, and inclusive eco-friendly city with the help of one of our advisors, an NYC Urban Planner,” says one of the app’s founders, Melissa Cash. 

When kids choose a toy, it simply opens on the screen for them, and they’re free to play and explore however they want. When they’re ready to go back to the home screen, they tap the home button, which has four dots on it. 

“Pok Pok is a collection of open-ended digital toys designed to spark imagination, creativity, and learning. We liken it to a playroom floor filled with toys, only digital,” says Esther Huybreghts, another of the app’s creators. That being said, they hope all kids play with the app differently in whatever way works for them. 

Recently, my 4-year-old daughter was drawing pictures in the connect the dots toy, and one of her favorites is the house toy that’s like one big doll house. My one-year-old twins have been learning a lot about cause and effect by using the drawing toy and the musical blobs toy. 

How Much Does Pok Pok Playroom Cost?

Currently, the app is only available on Apple devices, but they hope to make it available on other devices soon. After a seven-day free trial, Pok Pok Playroom costs $6.99 per month or $45.99 for an annual subscription. 

Credit: Pok Pok Playroom

Why I Love Pok Pok 

First and foremost, I like that my kids like to play with the app. It’s often my daughter’s first choice when she’s allowed to play on my phone. 

One of the first things I liked about the app is that it’s much calmer than many other kids’ apps I’ve seen. The sounds aren’t too loud or jarring, and there aren’t any flashing lights or fast-moving images. I also like that kids of any age can play the app without help from an adult at all. This is exactly what we need when we’re looking for something for my daughter to do while we tend to her little brothers. “Open-ended play means that the play has no goal to work towards, no winning or losing, no levels to beat, etc. There are also no instructions. Similar to playing with a toy car or a doll, there is no “right way to play” or a “finished” state — you simply play,” says Huybreghts. 

The app is also beautifully designed, the toys in the app are handcrafted, and the people in the app are designed to represent as many races, cultures, genders, family constructs, body types, and abilities as possible. The app has already sparked conversations with my daughter about walkers, wheelchairs, and people with disabilities.

If you struggle to find apps and screen time options that you feel comfortable letting your kids consume, I have a feeling you’ll find a winner with Pok Pok. When we first downloaded the app, I thought we’d check out the free trial for a few days and then move on, but it quickly became a favorite in our household. 

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