Gotta Catch’em All, Trey!

Pokemon Go is a new app that has created lots of interest from young people to old all around the world! It has also captured the attention of one of the kids that attends playdates at Horse Boy Headquarters in Elgin, Texas which provided us with the perfect opportunity to work with him on social skills and academics in a way that would be intrinsically motivating.

As most of you know the main purpose of the Pokemon Go app is to find and to catch different types of Pokemons in real world locations (e.g. near someone’s house, at the supermarket, inside a building, etc.). As this app is set in the real world it was really easy to turn this video game into reality. In order to do so I spread a bunch of Pokemons around our playdate environment and in our woods with instructions nearby each one telling the little boy what he needed to do to ‘catch’ them. In order to ensure that he did not simply take the Pokemon’s without carrying out the instructions I placed most of them either out of reach or completely out of sight.

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The two goals that we were working on with this child were handwriting and social skills and so I tried to relate what he had to do to catch each Pokemon to these goals as well as to the type of Pokemon he was trying to catch. For example if he was trying to catch a rock Pokemon he had to fill in the name of the Pokemon (which we had written in big letters on a nearby piece of paper) with rocks. Likewise if he had to catch a water Pokemon he had to spray with water all the people that were protecting the Pokemon in order to get it. Of course we were very careful to make the instructions as stress-free and playful as possible and we were on hand at all times to help as much as was needed to ensure that this activity would be a positive experience for the child.

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The little boy loved exploring our environment and catching his ‘friends’ as he saw them and by the end of the session was actively looking for the clues and following the instructions with enthusiasm and confidence. At the end of the session he asked us to create the same game for him next time but with his favorite Pokemons which he showed us on his Pokemon cards. Of course we honored his request and are now planning to take the game to the next level by creating a Pokemon shop where he can find Pokeballs or buy Pokemon eggs (and work on money skills) and a Pokemon hospital where he can take care of his Pokemon.

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This is a really great game for any educator or parent to recreate if they are working with a child who likes Pokemon Go and it can be easily adapted to work on a variety of different goals. It is also a great way to get a child who has become fixated on video game outside and moving. In fact recreating a video game in the real world is a strategy that we have used many times before. For example when Rowan was obsessed with the app Temple Run we recreated it in our woods which provided the perfect opportunity to work on money skills with him as in the game the character has to collect coins and use them to upgrade and get to the next level.

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