There’s two schools of thought when it comes to Nintendo’s latest smash Pokémon Go. People either love it or hate it and although I’ve been thoroughly entertained by the game so far, I understand both sides. But this isn’t about why Pokémon Go is dumb or awesome. Today we’re going to talk about how to turn it into an educational tool for pre-schoolers.
For the sake of those who don’t know what all this Pokémon Go stuff is about, here’s a quick primer.
Like other Pokémon games before, you’re a Pokémon trainer and the objective is to collect and document as many Pocket Monsters (Pokémon) as you can. In addition to collecting, you can train your Pokémon to get stronger and evolve into more powerful creatures. You can even battle other Pokémon at specified “gyms” for in-game currency and special items.
What makes Pokémon Go such a big deal is that the super nerds at Nintendo and Google took a technology called Augmented Reality and blended it with the game. What happens is that you can capture a creature that looks like it’s sitting on a park bench or in the middle of an intersection. The world is turned into a massive hunting ground with historical monuments and other points of interest serving as places to re-up on equipment (pokestops). Since you have to physically travel to destinations in order to play, in falls right into Nintendo’s plan to get gamers off their butts and moving. Michelle Obama should be oh so proud.
Another great thing about Pokémon Go is that it can also be a game where a pre-schooler can see photos of Pokestops and look for them. I’ve spent over an hour with my own kid doing this and he was more excited than me. Once you get to the chosen Pokestop, let the little one retrieve the items and count the Pokéballs that are released. Along the way, Pokémon creatures will randomly appear where your mini-gamer can swipe-to-toss Pokéballs and attempt to catch them. To a kid, seeing a Pokémon appear in front of a tree they were just looking at is pure wizardry. Sure, to some adults this can be tedious, but to a toddler, it’s mind-blowing.
If you really want to get teachy with it, ask your child about the different shapes and colors. When Liam was a little younger, he got into Pokémon because he loved Pikachu. He learned that Pikachu was yellow, Squirtle was blue and green, Pokéballs are round, etc.
With a little imagination, Pokémon Go can be more than the latest time waster. It’s an opportunity to get our kid’s brains working productively while they play. It costs nothing but your willingness to look like every other Pokémon Go zombie wandering the streets.
Larry Hester is a Brooklyn-born writer who’s written for Vibe, BET.com, The Source, Complex and more. He now resides in Newark, New Jersey with his wife and son. He welcomes any parenting advice or encouragement. Check him out on Facebook and Twitter @almostcooldad.