Last month, trailer for the two new Pokémon games came out, and I was SO excited I actually made a high pitch EEEEP! noise when I saw them.
For one thing, I'm a total geek and I've been playing the games for 20 years. For another, I introduced my daughter to the world of Pokémon when she was four and she's been hooked ever since.
We started by watching the show together, which was a total flashback for me because I hadn't watched the anime in years. Actually, it was a bit of a trip to binge watch some of the episodes on Netflix and Shomi because when I was little (oh here we go...) I could only watch Pokémon on Saturday mornings, or maybe during the week after school. Ah, the things our children will never experience. ;)
Gretchen loves the shows, she reads the novels and manga, plays the trading card game, and when she got her own Nintendo 2DS, she started playing the video games on her own.
So, why do I love that my daughter is hooked on a TV show and video game?
Usually this is the sort of thing that you try to hide, right? "Limiting screen time" and all that jazz? But actually, I LOVE that my daughter loves Pokémon, and it goes beyond the fact that it's a bonding experience for us.
Pokémon is a workout for her memory.
When I was Gretchen's age, there were 150 Pokémon. Now there are 722 and Gretchen knows most of them by sight. She can tell me their stages of evolution, their different types, abilities, moves, and more. She knows the storyline, the gyms, and which types are strong and weak against others.
She memorizes lines from the movies and books, she knows their backstories their trainers, and their nicknames. Her knowledge of Pokémon eventually surpassed my own and now she teaches ME.
Pokémon tests her math and deduction skills.
If you've never played the trading card game, it's basically a card version of a Pokémon battle that you'd play in the video game. Cards representing Pokémon and their moves are used in conjunction with energy cards and special ability cards to play out a battle with your opponent.
During the game, different moves do different amounts of damage which need to be recorded. Gretchen has to use her math skills to add up damage against different strengths and weaknesses of each Pokémon and their type, which can get super complicated, and she needs to look ahead at the other player's cards and moves so she knows what strategy to choose. I'm always so freakin' impressed when I see her working out how many damage counters to put on or take away from her cards or her opponents.
Pokémon teaches strong lessons about friendship and kindness.
If you take a look at any of the episodes, manga, or movies, you see one message. Friendship. The protagonist, Ash Ketchum, has a deep friendship with his travelling companions and his Pokémon. When it comes time to battle, they WANT to help him win and are never made to do anything they don't want to do -- unlike some of his competitors who force their Pokémon to train harder than they can handle and are cruel them. In a stark contrast, Ash treats his own Pokémon with respect and love.
The show teaches kids how to stand up for friends, how to treat people with kindness, how differences make us who we are, and how the world is just a better place when you're good to one another, to animals, and nature.
Pokémon has bolstered her love of reading.
Whether she's reading the trading cards or the game rules, diving into one of her novels, or getting lost in a manga adventure, Gretchen loves reading about Pokémon. She has books all about each region that the Pokémon trainers explore, the creature that can be found their, and all of their stats and information.
She reads while playing the video games as there's a large amount of dialogue that happens during the battles and while adventuring through each city in the game. Gretchen, by nature, is a HUGE reader, but if you have a child who is struggling with the interest to read, they might just find themselves LOVING reading without even knowing it.
Pokémon reinforces her love of animals.
Gretchen has always been an animal lover, just like her mama. When we're watching Pokémon together, she is constantly commenting on how to take care of the creature, why it's important to feed them certain things, and their general wellbeing. I can remember Gretchen once asking me about whether I thought the Pokémon were comfortable inside their Poké Balls (the little balls that their trainers carry them inside). I loved how thoughtful this question was since she was so interested in knowing that they were safe and happy.
(According to Bulbapedia -- the Pokémon version of Wikipedia -- the inside of a Poké Ball is made to mimic an environment that will make the Pokémon comfortable. Gretchen was immediately relieved to hear this news.)
Pokémon has buoyed her creativity.
Sometimes Gretchen will disappear off to her room without saying a word, and later, when I check in to see what she's up to, she'll emerge with drawings and stories about her favourite Pokémon. She'll draw images from her many books or she'll write out their names. She'll draw pictures from looking at her trading cards and then tell me all about them.
I love seeing how hard she works on these creations. The look of pride when she's completed something she's proud of melts my heart.
Pokémon has helped to teach her the value of a dollar.
Since Gretchen's been playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game, we've had lots of opportunities to talk about money. A pack of cards costs about $5 at the games shop (which happens to be right beside our house). She now uses that as a measurement to help her to think about what money is worth. When she asks for something, like a toy or movie, we talk about the price and she has something tangible to compare. She saves her money (from birthdays, grandma, or doing extra chores around the house) and decides when she's ready to spend it.
Sometimes, when we're shopping, she'll look at prices on shelves and tell me how expensive or cheap something is, compared to that $5 pack of cards. It's been a neat process to see how she thinks about money in relation to something that holds value for her.
Its's easy to pass off Pokémon as a silly franchise, but it's more than that for us -- it's more than that for a lot of people. And it's not exclusive to these adorable pocket monsters.
(This could easily have turned into a post where I rant about reality that many kids give up their interests because they feel they aren't "cool enough" to be discovered by their peers. The truth is, I hid my inner geek for years because I didn't think I could fit in. I wish someone had told me to ignore all that crap. So I'll just say this: No matter what your kids love -- Pokémon, piano, soapstone carving -- I hope they never turn away from their passions in order to "fit in". I hope they follow their hearts, in the cheesiest way possible, because it's what makes them tick.)
I know how positive Pokémon has been in Gretchen's life, and I can see how thrilled she is, immersed in that world. Her imagination is free to create incredible stories around the characters she knows and loves. I'm so pumped that this has become a part of her childhood.
Her geek mama is proud.
Gotta catch 'em all.