Kids are getting started with Chess at earlier and earlier ages these days. Here’s how to make it a fun and engaging experience for them.
Chess is a great game to start learning when you’re young. Not only is it a fun and intellectually stimulating pastime, but it actually has mental benefits that will help children’s brains grow at a faster rate. You won’t get that from Candy Land!
Some parents feel pressure to teach their children how to play chess at an incredibly early age so that they can become prodigies and start winning tournaments by the time they hit double digits. We would advise against this approach, unless the child is particularly interested in chess. Parents should always go by the interest level of their child. If the child is simply not interested by chess and doesn’t find it fun, there’s no point in forcing them to play it. Usually, forcing a child into learning something that they have no interest in doesn’t lead to child chess prodigies, but rather resentful children that end up quitting chess completely as soon as they are able! If you want your child to have a healthy relationship with chess that will last throughout the rest of his or her life, don’t make it a chore. Only play as much as the child wants to, and if they’re not interested in learning now, try back in a few more years.
Chess in Schools
Many people feel that chess is a skill that should be taught to children in school, right alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic. Some schools have taken this sentiment to heart and incorporated chess classes in their curriculums, while others offer chess clubs as an extracurricular activity.
Chess being taught in schools can offer students exposure to a great hobby that they may otherwise not have had the opportunity to learn. There’s really no downside to it. Children of all ages and from all backgrounds can enjoy the game- it’s universal. And, if they want to continue playing at home, there is very little startup cost for the simple materials they’ll need- a chessboard and chess pieces. If you can’t get your hands on that, there are even paper versions that can be printed at the library and assembled for use at home.
If you are a teacher or school administrator and are interested in starting a chess program in your school, there are many resources available to help you implement one. Many nonprofit organizations dedicated to teaching chess to children are interested in chess classes becoming part of the public school curriculum, so they would be more than willing to help you in that regard.
Kid’s Chess Tournaments
There are chess tournaments available for children of all ages- even for kids as young as 4! Your child could be competing in his or her first tournament before even entering kindergarten, if they show sufficient interest and talent for the game. These tournaments are often organized locally, through various educational chess programs or through schools with chess programs. They are significantly more laid back and less competitive at the younger levels than the official tournaments you may be familiar with- and they definitely have fewer nasty parents booing from the stands than your average little league game! Kid’s chess tournaments are mainly a way for kids to get some fun chess games in and meet other children their own age that share their interest in chess.
Importance of an Early Start
Many people feel that an early start at chess will give their child a competitive edge and the best possible shot at becoming the next Boris Spassky or Bobby Fischer. While this approach may be effective in some rare circumstances, it more often causes more harm than good. It’s important not to push your children too far too soon. Your desire for them to become that next big chess star is not enough- they have to want it for themselves, too and be willing and able to put in the work required in a healthy and balanced way. Remember, this is the only childhood that they will get! They need to have a good mixture of “training time” and “kid time” to become well adjusted adults.
So, it is important to start you children on chess early, but only as soon as they’re ready. Some children may not be able to get enough of chess at the age of 4 and wake you up each morning at 6am, chessboard in hand. Others may be completely uninterested until they’re older, or they may never be interested. The important thing is that you introduced the concept to them and let them choose whether they wanted to engage with it further, without forcing them to do anything that they didn’t want to do. Always remember; chess is a game, it should be fun!
Well, What Are You Waiting For?
If you’ve not yet introduced your child to the game of chess, now may be the perfect time! Whatever you do, don’t force them to participate if they’re not interested. Simply explain the rules in terms that they would understand, and see if they would like to try playing a game with you. It’s possible that their attention spans may be smaller than their interest, in which case you’ll need to be a patient teacher. Or, they may have no interest and prefer to spend their time doing other things. Don’t worry, you’ve planted the seed in their mind and in a few months or years you may find they come back to you asking about that chess game you were talking about before. Keep introducing the idea to your child at different intervals and see if they take the bait.
On the other hand, you may have a child that can’t get enough of chess! They may be asking you, their friends, and their siblings to play at any chance they get. If their interest in chess outweighs your own, you may want to consider enrolling them in a chess program or getting them a private chess teacher so that their skills can grow and you can have a break from the chessboard.