Pokemon Go is a new app that launched for Android and iOS platforms about a week ago. Chances are, you’ve heard about it, or you’re living under a rock nowhere near a Pokestop. I was hesitant to download the app for my almost-8-year-old. I’m not a fan of games on my phone, I don’t like fighting my kids for possession of my device, and we already have enough electronic distractions in this household. But, after hearing what my friends who were playing the game had to say, I jumped in. And I’m so glad I did!
We have something to talk about.
When my son has questions about the Xbox, or wants to tell me about his favorite Minecraft video, I’ve got nothing. That has changed with Pokemon Go. I downloaded the app, then called him over. He read the professor’s lines to me, and we started the game together. When either of us has questions about parts of the game, we look them up together. I’m not struggling to catch up – in fact, I’m ahead of him on the learning curve, because I look up articles after he’s gone to bed so that I can know new things to teach him tomorrow. We can talk about our favorite Pokestops, when to use the Lure we just got, how close we are to leveling up, and what characters we want to collect enough candy for so that we can make them evolve. I’m speaking my son’s language!
Pokemon Go is our new incentive.
“Get jammies on and brush your teeth… if you’re done by 7:15 I’ll let you use the incense to bring Pokemon to the house until bedtime.”
“Keep that up and there is no more Pokemon for the day.”
“Do a great job, and we’ll head to the park this afternoon.”
“Come to the grocery store with me, there are two Pokestops at the library behind it.”
I don’t know how long it will still be exciting for him to play Pokemon Go, but as long as it lasts, I’m using the game, and the various aspects, to
bribe my son reward good behavior. And it costs me nothing but cell phone battery. #Momwin.
We’re getting out of the house, and going FUN places.
Last week we went to the park for a picnic. A stranger walking by our house as I was trying to pack the basket while getting the kids ready would have thought that I was about to lead them on a death march to the dentist by way of getting some vaccinations. They couldn’t have been less enthused. Now my son is excited about heading to the park (where there are 6 Pokestops), and is even willing to walk there.
One of the first things I noticed was that the Pokestops are connected to landmarks. The more landmarks in a given area, the easier it is to collect the items you need to play the game. We’re still fairly new to this city, but this gives us a reason to explore fun new places. The map in the game only lets you see about 3 blocks from where you’re standing, so you need to go places to see what there is to see. Also, the places we go aren’t just rocks in the ground – they are parks, libraries, and museums… and are fun for my non-Pokemon playing son, too!
He is willing to walk places.
Willing and excited. In Pokemon Go, one of the items you collect are eggs. Put an egg in an incubator and it will hatch when you walk the specified distance. In the last two days my phone has logged almost 10k of walking! And while walking, we might run into some fun new Pokemon to catch!
I’m teaching him about cell phone safety.
When he learns to drive (which he thinks will be in 8 years or so, but I’m hoping will take much longer than that), he’s going to need to understand cell phone safety. I’m starting to instill that in him now. When we walk into a parking lot, or into a street, his arm has to extend straight down so that it is by his leg. It stays there until we’re on a sidewalk or otherwise safe situation. Even if it vibrates to tell him there is a Pokemon close by. While still young, he’s learning there is a time and place for phones, and a time to NOT have your phone out.
He’s learning basic orienteering.
Pokemon Go is augmented reality – a fantasy world placed on top of our actual world. When he looks at the map in Pokemon Go, he is seeing real places and real streets. He learns to turn the phone in the correct orientation, and walk that direction. It is fairly rudimentary, but learning basic map skills is important – even when Google maps can give you turn-by-turn directions!
The social aspect.
There is absolutely a social aspect to the game. Meet up with other players, swap battle stories, and learn tips about the game. After level 5, players pick a team (Go Team Instinct!), which gives players something to talk about, if they’ve don’t have any more stories of favorite characters and where they found them. This is such an amazing learning opportunity around appropriate conversations to have (and not have) with new people. So is learning how to open a conversation with another person you’ve never met before.
It is mostly non-violent.
As a mom, I have to add this to my list of great things about the game. Pokemon Go isn’t about running around slaying beasts. In the game you catch and collect the creatures. While there are battles that can take place after level 5, it isn’t warfare. More like a boxing match. And unlike some games where characters simply “regenerate”, your characters take damage that last beyond the battle, that needs to be repaired.
He is tethered to me.
Normally, in a public place, my head is on a swivel. Constantly checking to find one son, then the other. They’re often completely oblivious to how far they’ve managed to wander off. Pokemon GO is an app that, because it uses GPS positioning, eats up a phone’s battery life like a mom eating Halloween candy after her kids have gone to bed. To combat this, Pokemon GO users add an external battery to extend their battery life. We do this, but put the external battery in my backpack. My son holds the phone as we walk around. The phone is connected to the cord, the cord is connected to the battery, and the battery is in my backpack… keeping him tethered to me with the charging cable serving as a very intentional leash. We were hanging out in a public place for two hours, and I always knew exactly where he was!
Pokemon Go has him doing math and reading.
Each time we get a new Pokemon, he sounds out and reads their name. This is excellent practice, especially on Pokemon with unusual names. We talk about why a Pokemon’s name might be pronounced a certain way … is Horsea pronounced Horse-sea, or is it Horse-a? We also do math. If we need 7000 points to level up, and we’re at 3500 – how many more XP do we need? If a Pokemon takes 50 Pokecandy, we have 35, and each new character gives us 3… but we get one extra for trading it in, how many more do we need? He’s entering 3rd grade next year, and these word problems are perfect for him!
I’m sure I’ll find other reasons to love this game as it evolves, please leave me your thoughts in the comments below!