If you have seen people walking around staring at their phones more than usual, it might be because of Pokemon Go. This new app makes you a virtual Pokemon trainer able to “catch” all kinds of Pokemon in your own neighborhood using your phone’s GPS ( with the bonus of getting kids off of the couch and walking around outdoors)! When they were little, my boys collected all the cards and
forced invited me to watch Ash Ketchum and friends wrangle Pokemon. But this app isn’t just popular with kids, even adults are using it!
My brain started thinking about how to use this fun app with a social twist. If you are using this in a social language group, you can map out a whole month’s worth of therapy lessons using Pokemon Go! There are rules to playing the virtual game, both spoken and hidden, so that’s a great place to start. Safety is a big one with this app- you wouldn’t believe how many people walk into the street or get injured from falling or walking into things in their pursuit of a prized Pokemon! This is a great opportunity to talk about expected and unexpected behaviors too. I have heard news reports about people trying to play the game in places like the Holocaust memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Boundaries anyone?
Once your group discusses the rules, then you can divide and conquer into teams. There are three teams (you can read about their descriptions HERE) that are part of the game, Team Mystic, Team Instinct and Team Valor, but you could let the kids pick their own names. This is an opportunity to work on the goal of negotiating with others when working in groups. Once you pick the team, no changes are allowed, so be prepared to be flexible!
Self regulation is a big skill set in this game, as it’s easy to get overly excited or super frustrated when that elusive Charizard (or any of the 151 Pokemon characters in the game) escapes your grasp. Working in a group or with a partner on your team requires a LOT of self-control, executive function and future thinking (planning what you are going to do ahead of time). One of the social language lessons could include deciding what strategies you can use in the moment for keeping your cool ( Zones of Regulation GO!). You might even want to align each color of the Zones with a specific Pokemon to help you remember your strategies (for example: Blaziken would be a great icon for the Red Zone). To extend this idea further, have your kids make up their own Pokemon characters or trainer names that would describe themselves, including their strengths and skills sets. This can lead to a discussion about how we want others to see us and both positive and negative character traits.
The game also tailors which Pokemon you can find by the time of day and where you are looking for them. For example, if you are out in the evening, you will find more ghost or fairy Pokemon. If you are near the beach, you will find more water Pokemon. This is a fun way to work on inferencing, categorizing and compare/contrast skills with your kids!
Have you played Pokemon Go yet (be honest)? How could you use it in social language therapy? Share here!