A Dozen Reasons to Play Pokemon Go with Your Child

A Dozen Reasons to Play Pokemon Go with your Child

By Jodi Ann Mullen

Partly observing and partly eves-dropping, I notice a lot of adults talking about how “stupid” Pokemon Go is. They sound annoyed, bitter even, and they acknowledge that they “just don’t get it.” Listening to their comments, I can tell these things: (1) they don’t get it, (2) they probably haven’t played it, and (3) they haven’t played it with their child or a child they love. I’m a mom and a credentialed play therapist, and I want to make a case for playing Pokemon Go with your child.

  1. Connection- This is the most important reason because this is about the foundation of your relationship. If you are both playing, there is a common ground to connect you and your child. The connection goes beyond playing time because you and your child can discuss the game and aspects of it even when you’re not playing it. Additionally, as a mental health counselor and play therapist, I can tell you that when there is not the level of eye contact typical in parent-child interaction, children talk more and about a broader variety of topics. New connections develop and solid aspects of connection grow stronger.
  2. Expertise- In most cases, your child will be the Pokemon Go expert, and if she isn’t, let her be. This will allow your child to feel a sense of pride because of her knowledge. Additionally, it gives her an opportunity to have the feeling of power that comes with being an expert, especially in relation to you.
  3. Movement- In order to play the game, you’ve got to move. My son, after we started playing, regularly asked me to go with him on walks and bike rides. So yes, we are engaged with the game on our phone but we are also outside and using our bodies.
  4. Community- Since my son and I have started playing we have been out in our community quite a bit. We are learning about our community and walking or visiting areas that we have taken for granted. For instance, we visited a historical fort that’s located in our town.
  5. Sense of Community- When my son and I are out in our community playing Pokemon Go, we can identify the telltale signs of other people playing. This has turned into exchanging pleasantries and even having conversations that would typically not take place. We had a lovely conversation with a woman in her 60s who steered us in the direction of the some spawning Pokemon.
  6. Disappointment and Frustration- A part of the game your child is going to have to deal with is the game “glitching,” as my son says, and not working correctly. You will experience disappointment while playing, and that’s excellent! It provides opportunities for you to model for your child and teach her self-discipline to cope with disappointment and deal prosocially with frustration.
  7. Teamwork- You and your child can work as a team in battling as well as be a part of a larger virtual team. The teamwork component provides a sense of belonging as well as pride.
  8. Strategy- There are strategies to Pokemon Go like most games. You and your child can learn about strategies and develop them as a part of how the two of you play the game. This aspect of the game encourages divergent thinking and problem solving – good stuff for child and adult brains!
  9. Problem Solving- Problem solving is incorporated in the game but it goes beyond that as you and your child get curious. My son was curious why my counseling office wasn’t a Pokestop. He researched it and found out how I can apply to make that happen. When there are problems or challenges with the game, he and I get online and try and find the answers. He is learning different styles of problem solving as well as what his resources are.
  10. The Great Outdoors- While we are out hitting up Pokestops, hatching eggs, catching Pokemon and battling at gyms, my son and I are able to appreciate the natural world as we are also engaged in the virtual one. We have encountered wildlife, flowers we haven’t seen before, and views of the river and lake by our house that we were taking for granted as we were rushing around. A great thing about the game is that it doesn’t require 100% of your attention so there is time to literally stop and smell the roses, or in our case peonies and lavender.
  11. Discovery- As a play therapist, one thing I have learned from children is that curiosity is the cornerstone of conversation between children and adults. As you and your child are playing the game, curiosity emerges about the game, of course, but also about each other, your surroundings, and thoughts that have been on your respective minds. Those 20-minute walks to collect Pokeballs turn into conversations about bullies at school, foods they would like to try, and why you have freckles but they don’t.
  12. FUN- Playing this game is fun. If it wasn’t, your child wouldn’t want to play. Children learn so much through play that doesn’t need to be taught directly. Create some fun moments and memories with your child. Have fun with the game and most importantly with him or her.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t convinced you or maybe you have played but you just find those little virtual creatures irritating. If your child benefits from even just one of the dozen ways I discussed, not only because of Pokemon Go but because you played with him or her, is it worth it?

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