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The Power of a Child’s Imagination: Caine’s Arcade

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:


The Power of a Child’s Imagination: Caine’s Arcade

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). The Power of a Child’s Imagination: Caine’s Arcade. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 8 Sep 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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