About two years ago, my middle son found a little red and white ball in the 25 cent box at a garage sale. The ball had a button on it, and a strange-looking little animal toy inside. It was instantly his new favorite toy, and after a few days of playing I realized that my boys had already figured out what it was: a Pokeball. They had never seen the show, or played with the toys, and yet all of the sudden they knew all about this phenomenon that had all started when we were kids. How? I have no idea. I am now convinced that boys are somehow born with knowledge of superheroes, construction equipment, and now, Pokémon.
After their first Pokeball, the boys started searching for Pokémon toys and accessories (yes, accessories) at every single garage sale we visited (which, at that time, was quite a few). It was so exciting to find the little creatures, and even more exciting that they cost 50 cents or a dollar, which we soon found out was not the case at the store. Oh, and did I mention at the store they discovered the true heart of the Pokémon craze? The trading cards.
Fast forward a few months. A friend invites us over for a family-friendly get together, and my boys are thrilled to see that another friend has brought her 9 year old son along for the party. At two years older than my oldest, he is by far the “coolest kid ever”, if you ask my boys. They were so excited to show him their little stacks of Pokémon cards, and he seemed excited to look at them. In fact, he asked his mom to run him home to get his binder full of cards to show them his collection, too.
Minds. Blown. “What’s a binder, mommy? Can we get one? Look at how many cards he has!”
My friends, since that day, it has been full-on Pokémon explosion in our household. Toys, books, clothes, and oh-so-many trading cards.
Their grandma finds a ginormous Ziploc full of the cards at the garage sale. She wins favorite grandma.
Their mom (aka yours truly) buys them binders and sleeve protectors for their collections. I’m their favorite for the day.
Their aunt makes them their own Pokémon binders (WITH Pokémon fabric covers!) for Christmas, and she wins herself the title of “favorite” for quite some time.
More cards. More Pokeballs.
Book fair at school. It’s like they have radar; especially my middle one. He goes straight past the historical fiction and the educational workbooks and picks up a giant (and not garage-sale priced) Pokémon guidebook. Yes, guidebook. Aforementioned grandma buys him the book, and he is smitten. This book, by the way, (at the risk of sacrilege), has become the holy bible of my little boys’ playtime. They look at all the different Pokémon, which powers they have, what level they are, what type they are, you name it. And yes, they have it all memorized.
Fast forward to a few months ago. My three older ones are playing in the yard with our two neighbor boys. The little neighbor boy has a few Pokémon cards in his hand. “Oh, you guys like Pokémon?” my kids squeal in delight. “Well,” their mom replies, “they just started liking them, so they don’t know much about it yet.”
The rest is history.
Within days, my boys had filled them in on every single Pokémon (seriously, there are a lot), and these days they are staging full on battles in our front yards. Elaborate battle plans, numbers discussions (each Pokémon has a number of strength), and even referees. It is both hilarious and very, very serious at the same time.
And so, last week, when my newsfeed started filling up with the words “Pokémon Go”, I had two separate responses. Oh my gosh, my boys will be in heaven! Followed by, oh my gosh, I will never see my phone again. For that reason, we were a little late to the game. After a couple days, and the neighbor boys coming over to show us the game on their mom’s phone (oh yes, she is no longer in the dark when it comes to Pokémon…in fact, we saw her out hunting for them today on her lunch break at work, sans kids!), I knew it was time. I went to the app store, and hesitantly pushed “install”.
Friends, we had the best afternoon searching for those funny-looking little creatures. The kids and I were on a walk, so we turned it on and started finding them, which kept us off track and made the walk a lot longer than usual. As I watched my middle son (the biggest Pokémon fan in the house) run around and not complain about walking so far (yes, he’s also that kid), I was just so happy. They had so much fun taking turns with the phone, catching the Pokémon and gathering up new Pokeballs at the Pokestops (yes, I know how silly I sound when I type these sentences).
We came home from our hunt, rested a bit (seriously, you get caught up and don’t even realize how much you’re walking!), and when Daddy walked in the door he was bombarded. Daddy, we found 5 Pokémon on our walk! And some more Pokeballs! Hurry up and eat dinner so we can go find more!” And so we did. In fact, we hopped in the car and drove downtown to broaden our search.
I have to admit, it was actually fun, and the game truly can be so good for the kids. It really does encourage exercise and getting out of the house (in fact, some of the Pokémon eggs won’t even hatch until you’ve reached a certain amount of steps). And if you wanted to, you could really incorporate some educational materials into the game itself, as the Pokestops are all local landmarks and important places in your town. Maybe you could even drive to the next town over to search for them, and you could learn all about their town, too!
I realize there have also been some negative articles about the game. Truth is, I am very cautious and I do understand the risks. As always, we need to be very careful with any online games, and I would recommend always being with your children (especially if they are as young as mine) while they are on the app. Play during daytime hours, in public spaces, and do not play while driving or riding bikes. We truly do plan to make this game a family affair, and we are excited to see our collection grow! As they say, “gotta catch ’em all!”
So, how about you? Have you tried it? Will you? Let us know what you think!