The Power of a Child's Imagination: Caine's ArcadeWe know that kids have big imaginations. But sometimes we forget just how great they can be. We forget just how much joy and creative fire they can fuel. And we forget that our kids’ imaginations can actually promote positive change.

Nine-year-old Caine Monroy spent months meticulously constructing an arcade at his dad’s used auto parts store, Smart Parts, in East Los Angeles. His tools were simple: cardboard boxes and packing tape. Caine worked on everything from designing his games to creating his prizes. With little foot traffic and a lot of harried customers, he didn’t get any visitors to his elaborate, life-size arcade. But Caine kept at it.

One day filmmaker Nirvan Mullick needed a used door handle for his 1996 Toyota Corolla. He happened to pick Smart Parts. Caine asked Mullick if he’d like to play in his arcade. Mullick bought the $2 Fun Pass, giving him 500 turns.

Mullick became Caine’s first customer. He also captured Caine’s creation on camera in the below film. (Caine ended up getting a few more customers to his arcade.)

Caine’s Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

It was a film that would be viewed by millions of people, and one that inspired a string of generous gestures and creative events all over the world: The producers raised over $215,000 (so far, with a goal of $250,000) to pay for Caine’s college expenses. Kids across the U.S. began creating their own games out of cardboard, with everything from pinball machines to mazes to board games.

Over 100 schools in nine different countries started constructing their own cardboard arcades. And the team behind the film has established the Imagination Foundation, whose mission is to “find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids.”

According to the Imagination Foundation:

‘Caine’s Arcade’ celebrates the power of kid creativity, storytelling, community, and play. These elements are in our DNA and they will continue to inform what we do and how we do it.

We believe that kids’ imaginations have the power to inspire and change the world. To that end, we’re creating programs that will help kids to develop creative thinking skills, give them opportunities to create, introduce social-entrepreneurship at a young age, and foster the creativity of future generations. We’re building an ecosystem that connects creative kids, parents, schools and communities. Our goal is to give kids the tools to build the things they imagine, and to imagine the world they can build.

On October 6, 2012 the Imagination Foundation will host the Global Cardboard Challenge, which encourages both kids and adults to play and celebrate creativity and community. Learn more about the challenge here!

Further Reading

This Wired piece features an interview with Mullick and talks about Caine’s amazing adventures, such as his speaking at the USC Marshall School of Business. (He was the youngest entrepreneur ever to talk there.)

Check out these Psych Central pieces on cultivating your child’s creativity:




View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 1 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


No trackbacks yet to this post.

    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Sep 2012
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). The Power of a Child’s Imagination: Caine’s Arcade. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2015, from


Family &

Recommended Books

  • Tending the Family Heart
  • Connecting Your Family in Disconnecting Times, a parenting e-book by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.
  • Purchase Child Psychology and Development for Dummies now!
  • by Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D.

Latest Articles

Recent Comments
  • Chet Bush: Thank you Professor Betsy Hoza for your ‘much needed Study on the ‘impotence of...
  • Lucy: Hi Shawna – you really need to get away from your father. You also need to realise that nothing he says...
  • kazchaz: This is helpful, very much so and it would be great to hear from you again, with updates on your progress,...
  • sambo: I really need some help im so depressed and anxious I cant work or leave the house im on antidepressants and...
  • Concerned: My father was a narcissist. He basically ruined my mother’s life and she ended up dying young of...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 7894
Join Us Now!