The easy, encouraging parent tutorial on how to play Pokémon with your kids! You can do this!

Pokémon Tutorial Feature Image

Picture you and your child one-on-one, blocking out the crazy world around you for some quality family time that you get credit for because you are playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game and that means in kid world that YOU CARE.*

If you totally focus and read through this tutorial you can learn how to play Pokémon in less than 15 minutes.

*If you want to know why I feel strongly enough about the Pokémon Trading Card Game to write an online tutorial, start with this post Why I Play Pokémon, but if you are already ready to learn keep reading!


Let’s check out the three types of cards:

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Next! About those Pokémon character cards.

Pokémon Types. Each Pokémon is affiliated with an element type such as Grass, Water, Metal, Fairy, Fire, Colorless, Lightning and more. You can see the Pokémon type on the card’s upper right hand corner.

Here’s what the symbols for the types really look like:

Pokemon Type Symbols

Pokémon evolutions. Pokémon can evolve from basic Pokémon into more experienced, stronger Pokemon. Evolving will change their name each time they move up a stage and they’ll get a new card. Pokémon start their journey as either Basic or Basic EX. The evolutionary stage of a Pokémon card is shown on the top left hand corner of the card.

Let’s see what an evolution really look like.

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More information about Pokémon that you will find right on their card.

Hit Points (HP).  A Pokémon’s hit points count how much stamina a Pokémon has going into battle. When there are no hit points left a Pokémon gets Knocked Out. A Knock Out can happen to an Active Pokémon who is battling, or even to a Pokémon waiting on the Bench. The Pokémon’s HP is shown in the upper right hand corner of the card.

Attacks. Your Pokémon card will tell you about that the attacks it can do. It will say how many energy cards are needed for that attack and what kind of damage it will do to your opponent’ s Pokémon.

Weakness and Resistance.  The Pokémon character card will also indicate at the bottom if your Pokémon has any particular weakness or resistance to other Pokémon types. For example, Grass type Pokémon often logically have a weakness to Fire type Pokémon. They may take double the damage from a Fire type Pokémon attack in battle. But a Grass type may also enjoy resistance to Water types and may take less damage from a Water type Pokémon’s attack.

Retreat Cost.  There are times when you will want to bring your Active Pokémon back onto the Bench. Maybe they are about to be Knocked Out or you want to introduce a different Pokémon into the battle. At the bottom of their card it will state how many energy cards attached to the Active Pokémon you will have to discard to retreat it to the bench. This is called the Retreat Cost. Some Pokémon have no Retreat Cost!

Let’s see what that really looks like on a Pikachu card.

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You really know your way around a Pokémon card now! Let’s move on to learning about Trainer cards.

Trainer cards. Trainer cards are used for strategy and there are three different kinds. You can see whether the Trainer card is Item, Supporter or Stadium in the top right hand corner of the Trainer card. You’ll find over time that kids get pretty excited about collecting Trainer cards, too.

Let’s check out the different types of Trainer cards:

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Keep going; you’re doing great. Your kids will be so excited!

You’ll need to know the 3 ways that you can win at the game of Pokémon…

Three ways to win

Let’s find out how to set up the game!

Start with a coin toss.

A coin is tossed at the beginning of the game and the winner decides if they want to go first or second. The player who goes first cannot attack on that turn.

Next, shuffle and deal. 

Shuffle your deck well. Your cards should never get mixed with an opponent’s cards (picture an invisible partition between players).

Both players will draw 7 cards into their hands for playing.

Then, check your hand for a Basic or Basic Ex Pokémon.

You must have a Basic Pokémon to start the game! If you don’t have a Basic Pokémon, reveal your hand to your opponent and shuffle your hand back into your deck. Redraw 7 new cards.

Now, do you have any Basic Pokémon? If not, repeat process until you draw a Basic Pokémon. For every time you shuffle your hand into your deck at the start of the game, your opponent draws an extra card.

Now, choose an Active Basic Pokémon. 

Next each player chooses an Active Basic Pokémon who will begin the battle. The Active Pokémon is placed face down in front of the bench.

Each player will also choose any other Basic Pokémon from their hand that they want to put on their bench (you can have up to 5 Pokémon on your bench).

Finally, both players need to deal 6 cards face down on their left. These are your prize cards.

Pokemon Game Setup

Now you are really going to start playing Pokémon!

So with all the cards set up for each player, both players will turn over their Active Pokémon and Bench Pokémon to start the game.

Here is what you do when it is your turn.

First, always draw a card. If there are no more cards to draw from your deck later in the game, your opponent automatically wins (this is one way of winning the game).

Then you can do a variety of moves in any order that you choose:

Pokémon TCG Parent Tutorial 5 Options During Your Turn

Final step, attack.

Attack if you can! Check to make sure that you have the required energy for the attack. Do you have enough energy cards and is it the right type energy card?  If so, announce your intended attack to your opponent.

Check your opponent’s defending Pokémon’s weakness and resistance numbers on their card. This will determine if more or less damage should be applied.  If your attack can affect Pokémon on the Bench, do not apply weakness or resistance to Benched Pokémon.

Snorlax with damage 2

Put damage counters on your opponent’s defending Pokémon (Benched or Active). Also apply any damage counters to your own Pokémon if you have damaged your own team in your attack.

Check to see if any Pokémon have been Knocked Out. This means that the attack damage is equal to or more than their HP.

Ending your turn. Once you have attacked your turn is over and there is no going back to any of the other turn options.

Applying Special Conditions between turns.

If any Active Pokémon have suffered from any Special Conditions, both players must check to see if any additional damage is occurring to their Pokémon between turns. This includes Pokémon that have been:

1. Poisoned   2. Burned   3. Asleep   4.Paralyzed.

Confused Pokémon get checked right before attacking during your turn to see if they are still confused for the attack.

Special Conditions

Removing Special Conditions.  

An Active Pokémon that gets moved to the Bench loses any Special Conditions (a possible reason to try to retreat it). Evolving a Pokémon also removes any Special Conditions from the previous stage. Some Trainer cards can remove Special Conditions (such as Pokémon Center Lady, a Supporter Trainer Card).

That’s all there is to it!  Just keep repeating those steps for each player.

So each player takes their turn back in forth until one player runs out of cards in their deck, or one player destroys all the opponents Pokémon in play, or one player has won all six prize cards! It can be a quick 5 minute game or it can last 20-30 minutes depending on the how the cards are stacked. If you are in a rush you can play for 3 prize cards instead of 6.

Final thoughts…

There is always some learning that you are going to do along the way.  Enjoy the process and watching your child do their own research because they really want to know the answers, too. Over the years, the kids become better readers, better strategists, more patient players and even better losers and winners. It’s a game like Chess that gets even more satisfying over time with improved skill.

It’s pretty awesome, when you start to notice your child thinking ahead several steps and producing card combinations that allow for more advantage than even you saw was potentially there. You want to be there along the way to see it all develop. Enjoy your kids while they still want to play with you in these magical worlds and maybe they’ll never stop inviting you along.

Getting started with your first cards

Pokémon decks are great rewards and presents for kids.  They love the collecting and sorting of the cards and trading cards with friends can be exhilarating and eventful!

I recommend to start with 2-3 Theme Decks (see below for suggestions) so that kids can practice at home with you! They will be thrilled that you are familiar with the rules, especially if they are still working it all out.

I don’t recommend buying any of the Championship decks that have been curated and tested at the international championship leagues until later on. It’s more fun and challenging to take some basic decks and mess around with them to make them their own.

First Pokémon Theme Decks that are big hits:

Note: The links below are Amazon Affiliate links and I make a small commission at no cost to you when you use them. If you like this Pokémon Parent Tutorial and feel that it has valuable teaching content, I would very much appreciate your support.

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ALL 3 Pokémon Sun & Moon English Theme Decks: Rowlet, Litten, & Popplio Three theme decks bundled for $30 with Amazon Prime Shipping included will more than get you started. With an excess of cards you can even start getting picky with your 60 card deck selection.  

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Pokémon XY Fates Collide Zygarde Theme Deck  This is a great deck with the complete evolutions of Snivy!

family, kids, travel games, things to do, how to play, parent TutorialPokémon Enchanted Echo Sylveon Theme Deck  A fun deck featuring Sylveon and Leafeon (two evolutions of Eevee).

For curious readers who want to know more:

Pokemon Essential Handbook Parent TutorialPokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook: The Need-to-Know Stats and Facts on Over 700 Pokémon – 2015, 432 pages. Great for endless research and a favorite in our house! The colorful handbook encourages reading, has pronunciation keys for Pokémon names and Pokémon height and weight measurements.

The spiral handbook handles the constant use better than the traditionally bound version.

For kids who like to organize their card stashfamily, kids, travel games, things to do, how to playUltra Pro Pokemon X & Y Collectors 2 inch 3-ring binder for holding page protectors. 

family, kids, travel games, things to do, how to playHard Case For Pokemon Trading Cards  Fits up to 180 cards for trading and playing on the go.

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