Is there value in this activity? Or is it a commercial waste of time? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 07-17-2013, 10:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My two boys, 6 and 8, have been having a great summer. A little bit of daycamp, outside play time, open-ended play at home, with the full variety of activities, from a little tv in the morning, to reading, to snap circuits, board games, making crafts, pretend play together, swim lessons, outside time. All fine. 

 

The last few days and weeks though they have been increasingly into Pokemon.  Started with my younger son liking some simpler Pokemon guides and some books last year, and then they got some cards somehow, then they bought some cards recently... now they study them, quiz each other, pretend play battles, trade with the neighbor friend, look them up on the computer, tell me all about how tall each one is, play card games with them (not the real game, but "war" card game using them, etc. It's been constant for a few days and I'm wondering if this is worth their brain power.... or if I have been slacking on getting them some better books about real-life things they could be using all this learning energy on!  Or is there some value to this that I am not seeing? Is wasting time ok in the summer? Is a total waste of a passing obsession ok? (Can you tell I'm a little bit tired of hearing about Pokemon?)  I know that some kids are into all the baseball cards and statistics or whatever, but at least that is somewhat real.

 

Any reading or math involved is stuff they've long ago mastered. (I am really not one to push academics or anything, it is naturally their drive to read and do whatever they do.)  Not sure what creativity there is in it. They are just spending so much time on this. Younger ds just announced he's going to make a pokemon book now - maybe just being inspired by it is enough of a value? 

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#2 of 11 Old 07-17-2013, 10:46 AM
 
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I think the organizational skills and management are pretty impressive.  There's also some memory work and strategy involved, and it often leads to other creative things like story telling and as you said, making books.  A lot of drawing.  It sounds like they are doing it together, so there's team work and bonding and connecting with other kids.  I don't think it was DESIGNED to be anything more than commercial, but kids seem to get a lot out of it.  And they just enjoy it.  It's ok for something to just be fun.  If I were supposed to be learning and doing something "of value" every single second of the day, I'd be tired and miserable.  It's ok to just do something for fun.
 

"Better books" about "real life things" are great, but there has to be some room for something that's just pure enjoyment.

 

I was a gifted kid, I have a gifted kid.  Gifted kids need fun hobbies just as much as anyone else, and how is learning energy "wasted?"  There's no race, there's no certain amount of extra ground that has to be covered or you never get the chance. 

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#3 of 11 Old 07-17-2013, 10:46 AM
 
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As a long-time unschooler having watched four kids grow up through the ages of yours, and seen a lot of odd obsessions come and go, I'm firmly of the opinion that if something is engaging to a child, he's learning something from it, even if you don't see it at the time. If possibilities for learning are depleted, the child will either lose interest or (as with your ds's comment about making a Pokemon book) take the interest in a new direction. 

 

I'd be willing to bet that with some sensitive observation and some time (hindsight is great for this, I promise) you'll see all sorts of amazing things your kids are learning from Pokemon: memorization strategies, word roots, developing an understanding of probability, facility with story-telling, strategic planning, data analysis skills and economic principles, and so on.

 

I was told by a wise educator friend early on in my parenting: if something is engaging a child, you can trust that he's learning from it. I trusted this wisdom, and in my experience (in the absence of addiction and/or other mental health problems) I've never seen it disproved. It's summer anyway. I'd let Pokémon rule.

 

Miranda


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#4 of 11 Old 07-18-2013, 05:39 AM
 
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Originally Posted by reezley View Post

... now they study them, quiz each other, pretend play battles, trade with the neighbor friend, look them up on the computer, tell me all about how tall each one is, play card games with them (not the real game, but "war" card game using them, etc.

 

DS went through a fairly intense Pokemon phase about 15 years ago.  It came after his  3 to 4 year dinosaur phase, so I had a lot of opportunity to compare the 2 obsessions. I recall that Pokemon had an involved classification system that required a lot of cognitive skills in memorization, organization, categorization and so on. The kids have to learn the different categories and classes of the different kinds of Pokemon. It's a little like learning species, genus, family etc. for the Animal, Plant etc. kingdoms. The Pokemon can evolve to new levels and there are benefits and disadvantages to that. The kids know the different skills and vulnerabilities of all of their Pokemon and have to develop strategies for using them.

 

I guess ask yourself if he was obsessed with dinosaurs and spent all his time learning about different dinosaur species, would you feel the same way? What if it were chess? In some ways, Pokemon combines these 2 more familiar childhood obsessions into one big one. 

 

I would keep a careful eye on things like how much money he spends on Pokemon (maybe help him with some budgeting) and make sure that any card trading is fair. That's the kind of stuff that can get out of hand. A little parental guidance can go a long way.

 

It's funny for me to read that Pokemon is still a thing after all these years! In case you are concerned for your own sake, if you are like me you will eventually forget the name of whatever critter Charmander evolves into and those brain cells will be freed up for other important things again. winky.gif  

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#5 of 11 Old 07-18-2013, 07:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Reading these responses I'm feeling much more relaxed about this obsession. I am trying to see the worthwhile parts, the organizing, word roots, etc., and that they are actually getting along very well, which is a good skill to be working on. Trading the cards they are really needing to exercise patience and assertiveness, only trading if they have come to an agreement, and not just feeling bullied into anything by the other.  And it's a much safer activity than acting out spinning Ninjago battles in the living room!  By the way, younger ds finished quite a few pages of his own Pokemon guide book, writing out all the stats to several different characters, all organized and in pretty nice lowercase handwriting.  A nice enough project and he's proud of it.  :) 

 

I do feel like it's a bit of a wasted opportunity, in that if they are going to be memorizing a whole lot of information about "genus" and "species", or the types and evolutions of the characters, that they ought to be memorizing real-life dinosaurs or animals or whatever.  They have been very into science and animals too, and continue to pursue their "real" interests as well.  I guess I shouldn't worry, and why not have just pure fun anyway. 

 

As for MY brain space... I'm not letting too much of the information too far into my brain!  I'm trying to listen politely though while they tell me about Pokemon types anyway.  Feeling better about it all - Thanks, experienced moms!

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#6 of 11 Old 07-18-2013, 07:55 AM
 
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One thing that I felt was a waste of time (at least the amounts of time that got spent on it) was Magic The Gathering, which led into other RPGs. (it was just a gateway RPG).

 

But for a summer class my DD is taking (that she is behind in) she needed to learn about WWI in a pretty good amount of detail yesterday. As I was helping her through the material, which I thought she had no background for, she could relate so much of it to things she has learned through gaming. She knew the terms, understood strategy and diplomacy, could quickly grasp the importance of the Balkans, etc.

 

Its like all those hours she has been playing with her friends had created the prefect space in her brain to learn 20th century world history, once she had a need to know it.

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but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#7 of 11 Old 07-18-2013, 09:34 AM
 
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I do feel like it's a bit of a wasted opportunity, in that if they are going to be memorizing a whole lot of information about "genus" and "species", or the types and evolutions of the characters, that they ought to be memorizing real-life dinosaurs or animals or whatever.  They have been very into science and animals too, and continue to pursue their "real" interests as well.  I guess I shouldn't worry, and why not have just pure fun anyway. 

 

 

Oh, yes, I understand. I think you're wise to realize that they can pursue both at their own pace. One doesn't preclude the other. Parents have to guard against their own prejudices and valuing some interests over their children's individual preferences. I always tried to remind myself that my children don't have to be my mirror image. They are entitled to their own likes and dislikes and to decide what they value and where they will place their energy. I wonder about those families where the children seem to be miniature versions of the adults in the family and they all march-step along doing the same activities and playing the same sports and musical instruments and hobbies. At the very least, it seems boring. At worst, it's stifling. I guess it makes for a cohesive family unit. I wonder about the children's senses of their own separate identities. 

 

My kids can't understand why I pursue some of my hobbies. I'm sure they think that I could be doing something more worthwhile with my time too. 

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#8 of 11 Old 07-18-2013, 01:06 PM
 
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Ah, I miss the pokemon days... The story line even has nice morals. It promotes teamwork. The battles are more akin to martial arts competitions than just fighting. Even the bad guys can be good at times. It doesn't have the simplistic black and white, good guys are always good and bad guys are always bad stuff.


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#9 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 12:06 PM
 
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I went to a gifted high school back in my home country and a good third of my high school class was obsessed with RPG (Magic, D&D, etc). I myself, didn't get it. But I recognize that it takes a fair amount of brain power and brain exercise to keep track of all the fantasy things that just happen in your head and make an actual game of it, playable with others, no less. I definitely think it's great exercise for brain expansion and would not consider it a waste of time.

 

On an interesting note, I recall a classmate of mine who would play basketball games in his head during lectures. By the end of a class, he'd have completed a game in his head, all the NBA players stats for the game written on paper. That was his version of doodling, I guess.

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#10 of 11 Old 07-22-2013, 01:41 AM
 
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Just enjoy that they are doing it together and aren't figthing! And that they are even engaging the neighbourhood kids. DS1 now takes his grandparents trainspotting and I cannot imagine anyone but a doting grandparent going along with this. Maybe I'm unfair and there are loads of closet trainspotters in his class, but it's a long shot. But hey, it's summer, it's outside, he takes his scooter, they can take DS2 in the stroller...this too shall pass.


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#11 of 11 Old 07-22-2013, 07:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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All such good advice and anecdotes! Thank you. I should definitely first of all just be glad they're getting along a lot of the time that they are doing Pokemon things! I have never been into "fantasy" games or superheroes, so I don't understand it, but they sure seem to get something out of it. And it's true that when one or both is tired of it, they switch to something else.  I guess I was worried for a few days there that it seemed like it was ALL day. They have moved on to a bunch of other fun things, mixed in with the omnipresent (meaning, strewn on the living room rug) pokemon cards.  And this week they both have camp.  (Ahhh.)

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