In Praise of Pokemon

February 9, 2011

I never thought I'd be singing the praises of Pokemon, much less writing a post about it, but this is a post that has been percolating in my head for quite awhile. Those baffling little cards entered our lives nearly two years ago and continue to be a source of near daily entertainment, discourse, and serious study for Noah. He researches and reads anything related to this alternate universe. In many ways, I credit those early Pokemon readers and the cards for igniting his desire to read to himself. Forget "Hooked on Phonics", just buy packs of Pokemon cards.

In addition to the "academic" benefits of Pokemon, there are the creative aspects. Noah and his friends act out elaborate sessions of "pretend" that center around catching and training various Pokemon. They have even created their own language and character names. To be honest, it is kind of an annoying language, but I have to give them credit for persistence and endurance.

And then there are the drawings. Not too long after Noah got into Pokemon, he also started becoming a bit resistant to drawing. He got upset and frustrated when drawings didn't turn out the way he wanted. Trying to re-engage him in drawing, I began carrying around a small bag with blank index cards and colored pencils. Whenever we were waiting in restaurants, I'd whip out the bag and we'd all start drawing our own Pokemon characters. The freedom to create crazy looking characters with funny names proved to be just the thing for getting Noah to ease up a bit on his anxieties about drawing perfectly. During those early days of Pokemon, Noah was happy to add these homemade cards to his collection. I would laminate them with clear contact paper and he'd proudly stick them in his binder. These days things are different. These days he has been studying the cards and books more carefully and he has begun to fill up a blank sketch book with his renditions of actual Pokemon characters.

Moving onto the social and cultural benefits of Pokemon: it shocks me that travel books don't have Pokemon cards listed as a must-have item for international adventures. Seriously, these little cards have led to more big smiles and intense cross cultural interactions than I ever would have imagined. They are small, cheap, light weight, and cut across gender, age, and language barriers faster than anything else their size. I highly recommend them for travelers of all ages. Really, I do and I promise that I am not getting any money from Pokemon to promote their products (although maybe I should?).

But the most heartwarming aspect of Pokemon, is what it has done for Noah and Camille. Last summer, I hungrily gobbled up Nurture Shock. One of the most riveting chapters for me, was the one focused on sibling relationships. Two things stuck with me. One is in regards to sibling books and I hope to write more about that soon. The other core message was that siblings who learn to play together despite age differences tend to have better long term relationships. And here's the tie into Pokemon, in the past year or so, Noah and Camille have begun to play more together. I know that part of this is a result of getting older. I think another part of it is all of our recent traveling and chunks of time when it is just the two of them without other kids their respective ages. And the other piece of it is Pokemon. Pokemon appeals to both of them right now. Camille isn't quite as obsessed as Noah, but she certainly has her favorites and she can hold her own in a detailed discussion or an intense session of Pokemon pretend play. I never would have guessed that creatures with names like Jigglypuff and Hoothoot would have the power to solidify sibling bonds, but apparently they do.


It seems very fitting to publish this post on Noah's 8th birthday. My sweet monkey boy who was too embarrassed to wear his number 8 shirt this morning, but was all too happy to bring pink cupcakes (his favorite) to his class. I have a feeling that being 8 will bring with it further tugs between little boy and big boy status. Thank you for introducing us to the world of Pokemon and may we all survive the Pokemon sleep-over party that will be happening this weekend. Happy Birthday, Nofa (that's his name in Pokemon-ese)!
The Andres said...

Do you have a copy of Nurture Shock? Sounds like an interesting read.

se7en said...

Oh Happy Birthday - Hope you have a fun year filled with lots of new adventures and exploring!!!

Emily said...

Happy Birthday to Noah!!!

Great post, Lucia. I found it very interesting. Rowan, who is about two years behind Noah, is right now in that phase of not drawing anymore because he gets too frustrated by his imperfect drawings. I tried getting him to do it with pencil, and then use markers, but that doesn't even work. All the more strange to me because this time last year he suddenly couldn't get enough of drawing!

Am going to look for the book you mentioned--they only have it on audio at the library, darn it!

Before reading this post I have to admit that if (when?) my kids got into Pokemon I'd be pretty resistant. But not now! Thanks so much! :D

Jessica said...

Great post! I guess Star Wars is our Pokemon for now. ;)

T.L. Holmes Williams said...

Yes, Happy Birthday to Nofa!! :)
Gotta love kids and the crazy things they bring to our lives we would have never imagined otherwise!

Manny said...

Happy Birthday to the little man. Has it been 8 years already? I remember the trip from Okinawa when he was, what, 6 months old? We owe you a phone call, will try soon during one of the upcoming weekends.

Heather said...

Who would have thought? I enjoyed reading your thoughts (as always).

Laurie said...

Happy Birthday, Noah! :)

loveinthesuburbs.com said...

I get it. I really do. My son went through a similar fascination.
Happy birthday to your darling son!

Dana said...

Happy Birthday to Noah! I can't relate to the Pokemon experience or the sibling issues or evening the reluctance to draw, but, I do know that much peace and goodwill is spread with kind offers to strangers and their children when traveling or even just while out and about in our little town. I think it's the complete surprise of the act of kindness that people enjoy most. Don't you.
Thanks for the index card idea, btw.
D

Dana said...

Just coincidentally ran across this . . .http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-10-01/why-dumb-toys-make-kids-smarter/2/


d

Stacy said...

I hear voices from countless child development workshops saying "follow their interests..."

Lovely drawing.

I'm amazed at the staying power of Pokemon because my now 16-year old daughter once had a fish named Pikachu.

Cami said...

I relate to this post SO much. I used to hate it that my kids were SO in love with video games and cartoons like that, that it even came into their creative play. But I don't mind it now. I mean, weren't we all doing the same thing back in the day? We play what we know. So what if my boys play some version of their own online virtual world when they are NOT online. I mean, the biggest problem is that I have to solve problems like, "Mom, Jeffy unfriended me on my pretend world!" But I like it that my boys know how to play together in a way no one else does. The other day I tried to remind them to play with their Toy Story toys too, and Ethan just said, "I know, I'll make them some of my guys." So, you know what, it's all ok. And it's true, it REALLY helps make friends if they know some pop culture stuff.

Latest Instagrams

© Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish. Design by FCD.