Teaching your child to play chess isn’t the easiest thing you’ll do as a parent. It isn’t the hardest, either, but there is an undeniable challenge when it comes to teaching kids something as challenging as chess.
While it is a board game, which means it’s supposed to be fun, not many children enjoy losing. Yet in the beginning, it’s inevitable that they’re going to lose a lot.
This brings up a conundrum for you as the parent: how can you teach your child to play chess without growing to resent the game?
It’s a tricky one, but there are ways to go about it that should encourage a positive approach to the game and deter your child from spiraling after a loss or taking it too personally.
In this article, we’ve compiled a series of what we believe are the best tips and resources to ensure your child not only stays motivated with chess but also has the chance of reaching a level of proficiency with the board game
Positive Reinforcement is Key
A term you’ve almost certainly heard before when it comes to incentivizing and encouraging certain behaviour in kids is positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement basically means praising your kid for the things they do well, in the hope that they continue to do them and feel good about themselves. This, in theory, will result in motivation over time which should help your kid lock in the habits they need to get good at chess.
But what if my child always makes mistakes and never learns, you might ask.
Well, in this case, it’s probably very tempting to scold them or abruptly correct them to make sure they don’t repeat the mistake, but this approach isn’t going to help them in the long run.
Sure, by being like a drill sergeant you can instill a military-like discipline in your child and condition them to play well, you will likely cause them to resent the game if you treat them this way.
If a child begins to create associations between negativity and learning to play kids chess, how do you think they’ll respond when you ask them if they want to play?
At the same time, overdo the praise and you might instill false confidence which could come crashing down when they eventually play someone else.
Ideally, then, you want to keep things light and positive without praising every single move they make. Try to ensure that they rebound from mistakes in a positive way, so that whatever they do they feel like they’ve made some kind of progress or at least learned a valuable lesson.
Since losing is a normal part of the game, it’s important to normalise it in your child’s mind.
Make Sure it’s Fun
Chess is a cerebral activity that requires logical skills and astute decision-making - but it’s still a game.
As such, your child will learn to love it if they see it as such.
Yes, there are a lot of cognitive benefits to learning chess for kids, but first and foremost you need to make sure you’re child is invested in the game so that they can enjoy it.
That will mean different things for different people.
For some, a hands-on approach in which you guide them through various moves and strategies will be the best for keeping things fun. For others, perhaps online chess for kids resources such as videos will help keep the game engaging and enjoyable.
Find what works best for your kid, and if you’re unsure, ask them how they would like to learn.
Teach on a Schedule
While you don’t want to make chess for kids seem like a chore, some level of discipline is required if you want them to improve and step up their game.
You don’t need to draw up a complicated schedule or make it seem like just another school subject, but some kind of regularity is key to your child making progress with the board game.
Think up ways to make scheduling chess fun.
For example, get your kid involved and ask them if they like the idea of Friday board game night or Sunday afternoon chess sessions.
Make the Most of Online Resources
Online resources can make learning anything a real joy.
Whether you’re trying to encourage your child to learn chess or pick up a new skill yourself, leaning upon online resources is one of the best things you can do.
Online resources can make chess seem like so much more than a few dusty pawns and an old black and white painted board. They can make it seem like it's alive and thriving, and that there are millions of people worldwide who can’t get enough of the board game.
From courses to kids chess games, tutorials to chess lessons for kids, the internet can teach your child to play chess from start to finish. Even if you yourself don’t have the foggiest idea how to play the board game, there’s plenty of hope to be found in the myriad resources which can be just as good as having a private tutor.
You can even find a tutor online if that’s what you’re looking for. That way, you can rest assured that your kid is receiving a quality chess education from someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Here are some of the top online resources for helping your child get to grips with the basics and more advanced concepts of chess:
Chess Kid is widely acknowledged to be one of the most popular websites to turn to if you want your kids to learn chess.
On the website, you’ll find just about everything you need to teach your child how to play the game, and with minimal effort on your part.
There are so many ways of learning through the website, too, so whatever your child’s current skill or experience level they’ll be able to find something for them.
Chess Academy for Kids
Chess Academy for Kids is an app designed for iPad users which contains more than 30 tutorials and challenges for young chess learners.
Through the engaging app, children will learn all of the basics of the board game and can challenge their friends and family to a game when they feel like they’re ready to play.
Not to be confused with ‘Chess Kid’, Chess Kids is another website full of chess-related resources and activities for kids.
This website is for children what Chess.com is to adult chess-learners, which is to say it has everything a child needs to succeed at the board game. It’s a real one-stop-shop with an online curriculum, organized tournaments, and so much more.
Ok now that you have some tips on how to approach chess as a teaching subject, and come across several online resources, let’s get into some practical strategies for teaching the board game to your child.
Get Familiar with the Board
The first thing you’ll want to do is introduce your child to the game by showing them the board.
When you have the chessboard out and they’re done examining it, explain how it has eight rows that go across and eight columns that are vertical. Tell them how each square on the board corresponds to a letter and a number - at this point, you could draw a comparison with coordinates on a map if they’ve studied this in geography before.
To drill this point home, you can test them by placing a pawn on a square and asking them what letter and number it is in.
Explain the Pieces
Now it’s time to go through the various pieces, taking the time to let your child play around with them and hold each in their hands.
Start with the pawn, describing how they are one of the least and most important pieces at the same time, and how they can only move forward unless they are taking an opposition piece.
Then, move on to the bishops, knights, rooks, queen, and king.
Even if your child has a special kids chess set, it’s best to teach them the original pieces first so that if they want to play with others they know what they’re working with.
Depending on your knowledge of the game, teach your child some basic strategy.
To do so, you can simulate a normal game but take the time to explain in detail why you’re making each move and what it means for the bigger picture.
Of course, you should be open to questions at this point, since the chances are if this is your child’s first time seeing a chessboard they will have many going through their head.
After you’ve gone over the board, pieces, and some basic strategy, you can put their newfound knowledge to the test by playing a practice game and seeing how they get on.
One of the best ways to pick up a game or skill, after all, is to make mistakes and learn from them.