A Mom’s Guide to Pokémon Cards (and How to Play As A Family!)

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Do you have Pokémon obsessed kids? My six-year-old thinks about these cards and characters morning, noon and night. He’s constantly talking about trading his friends or buying new booster packs to get the best GX cards. This lingo has left my head spinning and searching the internet to try and understand the world of Pokémon.

My first conclusion is that the trading card game is complicated. Luckily, most young kids are more interested in collecting and trading the cards than they are playing the actual game. Here’s what I have learned!

What is Pokémon?  

Pokémon, which is short for ‘Pocket Monsters’, is a Japanese franchise that started in the 80’s. It includes video games, TV shows and a trading card game. Pokémon are various creatures, think Pikachu, that are divided into types such as flying or electric and each have their own powers. These Pokémon are controlled by their owners, which are called trainers. The goal for the trainer (your kid) is to ‘catch them all’, and there more than 800 Pokémon.

What are all of these cards?

There are three different kinds of Pokémon cards, you will find in what are called booster packs. They include Character, Energy and Trainer cards.

Character cards are the actual Pokémon. Each card includes a name, a type and the amount of health points. There are 18 different types. The card will also list how evolved the Pokémon is, ranging from basic to stage 1 and stage 2. If it is a Legendary Pokémon, it often doesn’t evolve and those are pretty popular.

Energy cards are what power Pokémon during battles. They are broken into different categories of Basic Energy and Special Energy. These cards are attached to a Pokémon during the card game to power attacks.

Trainer cards are used to assist in Pokémon battles, each trainer card has its own rules and functions for the game.

Why are GX and EX so popular?

The main cards my son is interested in collecting right now are GX and EX Pokémon cards. These cards are more powerful than traditional cards, plus they are often shiny or have a hologram. The challenge is you are not guaranteed these kinds of cards when you buy a booster pack, which includes 10 cards. You can search for specific GX and EX cards to buy online, but FYI they can get pricey.

Did you get a rare Pokémon card?

Some cards are more valuable than others. You can tell the rarity of the card by looking at the bottom right hand corner. If you see a circle that means it’s a common card, while a diamond means it’s an uncommon card. A star means it’s a rare card, and a star H or three stars means it’s an extra rare card. 

Lessons learned thanks to Pokémon

While it took some effort on my part to get a basic handle my son’s obsession, I have been impressed with what these cards are teaching him. First, his reading is improving and he’s able to recognize and pronounce some complicated names. We have a handbook that lists the phonetic pronunciations for many of the Pokémon, which helps. Plus it’s helped him understand the importance of math, as he’s calculating the health and damage numbers on each card. But my favorite lesson is that of negotiating a deal. I love hearing how he and his friends determine their trades. I haven’t always thought things were fair, for either side, but the kids have always been happy. And thankfully the other moms also agree, this is part of the process and how they learn when the stakes aren’t very high.

How to play the card game

Like I mentioned, the Pokémon card game is complicated. If you want to learn, you can find all sorts of videos online or ask a teenager! For the younger kids who aren’t quite ready for the official game, my family has created our own version. We create a deck that will give each person seven cards. We take our cards and all flip over one at a time together, the person with the Pokémon card that has the highest number in the top right hand corner wins that round. When we are out of plays, we count who won the most cards to determine the winner. It’s far from the real thing, but my son could play for hours and it’s been a great way to get engaged in something he loves!   

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