That young children have a vast capacity for learning is known well. In just the first few years of life, children develop from helpless infants to walking, talking individuals. Throughout the toddler stages, children are gaining many various abilities and skills, ranging from the capacity for multiple languages to more physical competencies such as walking, climbing, jumping, and a lot more. This is in addition to the fact that all children love playing games of some sort. They begin playing board games that are simple and targeted for them at very young ages. Chess is no exception, and some children even learn chess as early as two years old.
Chess for kids is no unfathomably difficult accomplishment between parents, teachers, and young students. The key is to focus on teaching youngsters in a way that is oriented to small children rather than depending on standard methods for older children or adult learners. So, how to teach chess for children? The first step is not to hurry. The highly complex game of chess has billions of possibilities and a plethora of rules. Do not overstrain children with a dense array of input. Teach at the correct speed for the age and for the specific child, which will vary according to development speed.
The second step is to acquire a chess set suitable for a small child’s equivalently small hands and still-learning coordination. Choose big plastic pieces that are able to take a beating–and a gnawing–rather than using the family heirloom set. Choose a nice, big board, perhaps even a fabric one, that has plenty of room for each piece to get set down a little haphazardly. Then, continue the primary directive of moving slow. Teach one piece and its moves at a time. Play ‘the chess board is lava’ to teach where the rook can go versus the pawn and the knight versus the bishop. It is ridiculous to sit down with a young child and all six pieces and expect them to master it out of hand. This is too often tried and might well be why some children lose interest very quickly. One sitting is simply too short a span to absorb this kind of information load.
It is advised to start with the rook. Many people begin learning chess by undertaking the movement options of the pawns, but the pawns are more subtle pieces. The rook’s movements are easy to grasp. Many games can be played with just one piece or two on the board. Practice games can help, such as reaching checkmate with a rook and a queen versus a lone enemy king or taking a knight around the board to touch every possible square while following its rules. Just start step-by-step with one chess piece at a time rather than overwhelming younger students with all of them at once.
Why teach such young children such a complex game? The answer is simple: it can be easily absorbed at this time of rapid-fire learning and will help prepare children for school and life. Chess for children teaches many fundamentals ranging from focus to follow-through, problem-solving to patience. If every child were equipped with these abilities prior to entering kindergarten or first grade, learning would be embraced in a different way. Teachers could focus more on knowledge and less on the personal development that the child had already been gaining in chess lessons.
Studies have also shown that chess helps children in the improvement of test scores across a score of subjects including science, math, and reading. Children who have studied chess do better in school. They not only tend to have higher IQ scores, but they also have superior levels of creativity, which is helpful in every subject in school. In particular, focus, concentration, and discipline are learned better through chess, and these weapons are key to the arsenal of success in attacking learning at school. In fact, there are several main reasons children should begin playing this game of strategy and logic which has been around for over 500 years.
As stated, chess improves concentration and memory. According to studies performed at the University of Memphis, chess playing improves children’s attention span, visual memory, and spatial-reasoning ability significantly. In order to do well, you need to focus wholly on your objective. To do this, you must constantly be visualizing the board, its pieces along with their potential moves, both yours and your opponents, at every moment. As this goes on, the power of your concentration grows. Along with that, it becomes easier to remember games past and classic strategies.
Playing chess enhances math and reading skills. With its focus on move variables and problem solving, it is perhaps not surprising that chess can help a child’s math skills. But numerous studies have shown chess to improve reading as well. Studies from various places such as Texas, New York, Los Angeles, and Canada have focused on children of elementary school age and found more improvement in reading assessment scores in chess players than in those of their peers who abstained. One researcher suggested that the cognitive processes for each, reading and chess, are similar, both requiring decoding, comprehension, thinking, and analysis, thus explaining the link.
Chess for children fosters critical thinking, logic, and creativity. Chess success is in favor of if-then thinking styles, along the lines of ‘if I move here, then the other player may move here or here’. That is an example of critical thinking and logic in action. Studies also show, however, that chess-playing boosts creativity, and most dramatically so in one particular area: that of originality. Researchers suggest that by encouraging small children to imagine all the potential move combinations, chess trains the child’s mind to play with potentialities, which is a foundation of original thinking.
Finally, chess for children is solid in the encouragement and rewarding of hard work. It offers immediate feedback. When you as the player lose focus, you lose a piece. Practice and focus on the strategies and you find you win more games. In chess, you are in control of your destiny. Or, as one chess winner opined, with harder work, you get luckier. Encourage children and adults of all ages to play chess. It’s fun, rewarding, and fosters improvement across the age spectrum.