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Go With the Poke-flow
A Poke-mom speaks out on Pokemon
by Robin Supak

Pokemon is not going away any time soon. The more we disapprove, the cooler it is to them. We can treat it like a blight, or we can ride the tide with grace and clever understanding. Why not take advantage of the obsession? Why not help them learn from it, instead of fighting it? This is not yo-yos, Beanie Babies, or baseball cards. It’s a complicated, interactive, well-marketed, portable multimedia experience for children. There has never been anything like it before, but its success dictates that there will be a lot more of it in the future. We might as well seek to demystify Pokemon and try to see how it can work for all of us.

Pokemon Favorites...
[get the cards...] Pokemon Cards from Dragonscroll or Amazon
[play the games...] Pokemon Jr. Adventure or Pokemon board game
[stay organized...] Pokemon Collector's 3-Ring Album
[do the math!] Pokemon Collector's Value Guide

Some adults, in a desperate effort to find something redeeming about all of this, have recognized the obvious advantages. Children learn the important skill of negotiation, and of course it encourages reading, but Pokemon is potentially valuable in so many other ways.

I decided to take Pokemon seriously as a learning tool early last summer. It had been simply another expense and annoyance until my four-year-old son said, "See, Mom? Charmander evolves into Charmeleon, and he’s better, then his final evolution is Charizard. That’s the best." He not only knew the verb and noun form of a sophisticated word (evolve) I’d never heard him utter, he also understood the fundamental concept of micro-evolution.

Here are some other lessons I’ve witnessed kids learn through Pokemon:

Socialization: Our children are interacting more with one another than a machine, for a change. Since Pokemon hit the scene, kids talk and play outside more. They watch TV and play video games a lot less. Naturally, the adjustment from facing controllable and predictable machines to dealing with humans is a traumatic one. Kids tend to fight more until they get used to it, but eventually they do, and end up being much more enjoyable people as a result.

Click to buy the Pokemon Board Game!

Time Management: This is a perfect chance to show kids there is a time and place for things. Our challenge is to help them achieve a balance. We can help them learn that no matter how passionate they are about something (as long as it isn’t out and out harmful), it’s good, but it’s only good until you let it interfere with what you must get done. Taking control teaches them to put Pokemon into perspective and use their day wisely. Don’t let them take their cards to school. If necessary, frisk them on their way out the door everyday until they can be trusted. Lock up or hide their cards until they’ve earned them. Pokemon cards and trading time are excellent incentives to get children to do their chores and school work, and do them well. If they don’t leave enough time in their day, they don’t get to play.

Japanese Neo Pack
(for sale in Japan only
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Click here to see the big pictures of this Pokemon Card Neo Japanese pack - use the big Pokemon pictures as wallpaper or print them!  Plus: click here for Pokemon sounds!
Click here to see big Pokemon pictures!

Material Responsibility: Kids learn to protect their assets from both damage (scratches and greasy, creasing hands) and theft, or "jacking," which is a slight-of -hand move. Also, forgetting your cards somewhere in public usually means you’ll never see them again.

Parental Responsibility: Trainers must take detailed care of their Pokemon or they will not evolve. Although some Pokemon, if combined with certain elemental stones, will evolve no matter how much they are neglected.

Ethics: They learn what can happen when you mix business with pleasure, and who they can trust. A child’s true colors come out when they play Pokemon. Kids willing to lie, steal, cheat, or become violent, as well as fourth-graders that go to school with their pockets stuffed with wads of money obviously have problems that go well beyond Pokemon. If their parents didn’t know before, they should be thanking Pokemon, because they know now.

Charizard
by Rusty Lee Hatton
Charizard by Rusty Lee Hatton - click to see big Pokemon pictures and download pokemon sound clips!
Click here to see big Pokemon pictures!

Art: The geometric forms of Pokemon characters lend themselves to imitation.   Younger children can draw them crudely, older kids in more detail. Everyone tries, and they really concentrate. It’s difficult to blow-up little pictures freehand, yet I have seen very impressive efforts by kids I had never before seen pick up a pencil of their own volition (see How to Draw Pokemon, by Ron Zalme).

Memorization: They know every rule and character nuance by heart. This is good exercise for their minds, and it proves that, with motivation, kids are capable of sorting and retaining great amounts of intricate information.

Word Origin Comprehension: The character "Graveler" is made of rocks. "Drowzee" is the hypnotic Pokemon. Get it? They don’t, so take the opportunity to explain it to them. They’ll love it, and they’ll remember.

Physical Science: One night my 10-year-old daughter was explaining fire, water, and electric energies. Water puts out fire, of course, and doesn’t get along with electric energies. "Right, just like you better not put a plugged- in radio or blow dryer in water, or the electricity in the water will kill you," I said. She agreed, so I went on: "But there is also such a thing as using the power of water to make electricity, like when we went to the Hoover Dam, remember that? It’s called ‘hydroelectricity’."
"You mean like Blastoise and Ditto have hydro-pump power?"
"Yes. Yes, exactly like that."

Math: To the principal of a Wisconsin elementary school that said: "The excitement, the intensity of it . . . I wish they’d be that focused on mathematics," I say take a closer look! Creative teachers and parents everywhere have realized that hands-on experience using real or fake money gives children a better understanding in math. Pokemon cards are a form of currency, but we don’t have to allow them in schools in order to use them as a verbal illustration. Talking about them is enough to grab their attention!

As a helpful addition, math is intrinsic to the Pokemon game: Foremost, kids are very diligent about keeping their cards in numerical order. Also, power and strength are measured in HP’s (hit points); they must know greater than and less than by multiples of five. The same is true of damages. Perhaps that isn’t difficult for older kids, but there are more challenging problems as well. Let me quote from Pokemon Comic #1, "The Electric Tale of Pikachu," by Toshihiro Ono: "Every year, several thousand people attempt to become Pokemon Trainers (1000 applicants) . . . but only about 20% pass the test to become pros (200 pros) . . . and after that, only 5% are able to stay active in the league for more than six seasons (that makes 10) . . . "

Pokemon is very complicated and often inane to us, but kids truly love it. The enthusiasm is already there. Why waste time fighting this powerful force, when we could harness it, direct it, and use it to relate to them? Once you validate their needs, they listen. We can simply tolerate it, or we can get our money’s worth, and more. If we familiarize ourselves with what is important to them, kids can be guided through life lessons that need to be learned anyway; lessons that neither Pokemon nor money can buy. When parents and educators take the time and energy to listen, it’s possible to understand. Instead of being intimidated, we would be fluent, and able to communicate. If we don’t, aren’t we really saying it would be easier if they’d all just slip back into a video coma?

 

Click here to go to the Pokemon store at Amazon.

©Robin Supak, 1999-2005
robin@supak.com

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