Much has been written about the benefits of the game of chess for all age levels but chess is especially beneficial for children. Even Benjamin Franklin had praise for the game, inspiring him to write his Morals of Chess book.
Beginning around age seven, the Chess Variants app has proven to improve concentration, teach teamwork and patience, improve reading and math scores, develop self-confidence, enhance critical thinking, promote creativity and introduce strategic planning.
Make Chess Omnipresent
The best way to teach your child to enjoy chess is by making it a part of their everyday environment from a very young age.
I was surrounded by guitars at home when I was growing up. My parents, aunts and uncles were avocational singers and musicians. They were my role models. I naturally gravitated to playing myself, because a guitar was readily available whenever I was passing by. One was there whenever I had a sudden interest in trying out that new chord I heard on the way to whatever I was doing. With each small success, playing guitar became fun. The same learning model can work for chess.
Be A Role Model
Start by playing chess with your child yourself. It’s easier than you may think. Keep a working chess set in a common area at home open and available to the inquisitive child as they pass by. Have instructional books about chess available at home and if chess is your favorite game, display chess inspired art. Start or support a chess club or academic curriculum in your child’s school and in your community and get him or her involved. Hold chess themed parties and invite friends and family members to play chess at your home. Keep a travel chess set in your car and encourage your children to play during long trips. Make chess a regular activity in the life of your child.
Begin teaching your child with simple forms of the game like these below, and like reading, help your child grow into greater understanding and complexity.
The Pawn Game
* Set up the pawn chess pieces on the chessboard, and see which player can get the most pieces to the other side.
* Pawns move forward one square at a time, except the first time they move, they can choose to move one or two squares.
* Pawns only capture opponent pawns diagonally, and if meeting an opponent pawn head on, are “stuck” in place until an adjacent diagonal option opens up.
This is a good way to learn how the pawns move, and the benefit of teamwork from the adjacent pawns. There is a pawn special case, called an en passant (in passing), which is not needed here for this simple game.
The Knight Puzzle
* Set up the board with a knight in the center area of the board completely surrounded by the eight (8) opponent pawns.
* Remember that the knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces, and moves in an L pattern, i.e. either two-squares, then one square, or one square, then two squares, each in any direction.
* Next have your child jump the knight out of the center, then capture each opponent pawn successively, without jumping to a blank square.
* Captures are made my jumping onto an opponent-occupied square.
This is a great exercise to learn how the knight moves, and “see” its effect on the surrounding pieces.
The Pawn/Knight Game
* Set up the board with pawns and knights.
* Play the Pawn Game again, this time with defending and attacking knights.
* Protecting the leading and trailing pawns will make this game more of an interesting challenge.
* When a pawn reaches the opposite end of the board, it is considered safe.
* Again, s/he with the most pawns on the opposite end wins.
* If all pawns are captured before reaching the opposite end, the game ends in a tie.
If you have to leave one of these games unfinished for any reason, leave it as is, so your child can see it every time she or he passes by.
Make chess a part of your child’s everyday life. If the game is readily available and your child is surrounded by others having fun there will be a much greater likelihood of inspiring a young mind. Remember to be patient because your child has a shorter attention span than an adult.
Chess is certainly not the only tool to help your child and you improve cognitive and social skills but it is a two thousand year old game proven to enhance intelligence and it’s a great way to spend time and bond with your child.