Kids & Chess: Why it's important and how to teach them to Play
Written by: Paige Bosse
When introduced at a young age, chess has been proven to have numerous benefits in a child’s life and developing brain. With ties to academic, social and emotional benefits, there is very little reason why chess shouldn’t be introduced to children at all.
Chess, as most people know, is a game that requires focus and concentration. However, when introduced to children it helps them not only develop and enhance their focus and concentration, but also their problem-solving skills, and memory, just while playing the game. Having to consistently be aware of what the opponent is planning, as well as your own game helps to increase their multi-tasking and various aspects of problem solving skills. (1)
Additionally, chess has had direct benefits on various parts of learning and schooling. In one study, children who were in a chess club had a greater increase in their reading scores at the end of the school year when compared to children who weren’t in the chess club, but had similar reading scores to start (2).
Multiple studies have also found the link between chess and improved math scores in school. One study in particular incorporated a weekly math class that was taught using chess in grades 1-3. They found that not only were math scores improved in those that participated in the chess-based math class but there was also a tie to children being more engaged and willing to participate in the math lesson. Children were excited to learn math if it was tied to chess, even when it wasn’t using the physical board, and rather pictures of the board. (3)
One key social benefit that chess also teaches children, is that it’s okay to lose. Introducing chess, and even other similar games can boost children’s self-esteem by showing them that you may not win every time, but that’s okay. More importantly, it can teach children what they can learn and takeaway from losing a game of chess. Maybe next time they will watch a particular piece better, or make a bigger move, or make more smaller moves. The lessons they may take away from a game are endless, but they won’t know unless they are given the opportunity to learn them (2)
Not only does chess help with memory, and concentration, it also encourages patience in young children. Having to wait for their opponent’s turn is a great starting point in encouraging patience with others as well as their peers (4).
Tips for Teaching Kids Chess
1. Let your child play with the pieces and board.
- Allowing your child to let their imagination run wild will let them get comfortable with this new wooden game they may or may not have seen before.
- If they want to call the pieces different names, let them. If they want to make up a story, by all means. Allowing your child to have some control over everything in the start can make them more excited to learn.
2. Start slow and with the basics.
Begin by teaching how each piece can move, and some of the basic terms (check, checkmate)
- Remember to learn with your child.
- If they got used to calling the pieces after different animals or every member of the family, you can try it too. It can be equally engaging for both of you.
- It’s recommended to start with the rook, as it only moves forwards and backwards, and left and right, with no set number of spaces.
- If you need refreshers as well, you can check out easy to follow videos online that break down the game in various steps.
- Kids Academy: Chess for Kids - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19oTGb0C_cA&list=PLiMIqKsOLxPzpduDv7DAHsJpie47cR0nc&index=1
- ChessKid - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdnvlntAQH8
3. Use visual aids to help remind how the game works
- See our visual aids for how our pieces move on our game board!
Not only using these aids for explaining, but while your child is learning can be very helpful in letting them make their own choices in how they want to make their next move.
- This way they don’t have to ask for reminders, but can look back when they want to.
4. Don’t get stuck on the rules
Instead of pointing out every rule, start with one reminder per round/game
- “Next time, remember we want to protect the king as much as possible”
5. Learn together!
- Most people know only the more basic rules of chess. When you and your child are both comfortable with the basics, learn more advanced rules together, or challenge each other by joining a local chess club or playing against opponents online.
Rosholm M, Mikkelsen MB, Gumede K.Your move: The effect of chess on mathematics test scores. PloS one 2017;12(5): e0177257.