Chess for kids is a blessing. But I often get a question: “Will my children become smarter if they learn chess?” The question itself is funny but contains a few grains of truth, so I did deeper research on the subject. I also found people asking about the easy ways to teach chess to their children or how to find a chess coach to teach chess to their school going kids. In this post, I shall cover everything you need to know regarding chess for kids.
So, is chess good for kids? Yes, chess is good training for kids, the same as other intellectual hobbies, such as playing an instrument. Practising chess sharpens some function of the brain such as logic. Moreover, for young kids, chess teaches the importance of respecting rules. To many parents, chess for kids is like guidance.
In short, chess is an intellectual activity, which therefore trains the brain in the long term and has a whole lot of positive effects, especially on kids. There are a lot of things to know though, and several pitfalls, so I am going to elaborate some important points regarding chess for kids. Keep reading!
Playing chess “daily” does not certainly mean playing a tournament game every day. That would not be possible even if you were a professional chess player in the world top-50. You should read “playing daily” as “practicing daily”.
Practice chess every day is a very good training for the brain. So, let me share with you the two good sides of chess training:
The first and most obvious set of benefits you will get by constantly practising chess is an increase in your level of play. What I mean is simply: the more you practice the stronger you will be at chess! There are a lot of ways to practice chess, and my recommended way is to work with a coach (I am not a coach and am not even going to suggest one. It simply is my opinion.)
And if you don’t see improvements coming quickly, just know that it’s just normal. Improvements (big ones) will come with more time, as long as you are ready to persevere in your efforts and keep training and practising and following a program. Stick to your training program and results will come!
The second and less immediate set of benefits concerns your complimentary activities. There have been several scientific studies showing how the brain is pleasingly affected by the activity that a chess game requires, but honestly who cares about biology and technical explanations? In my opinion it is quite clear that, since chess is a sport that requires mental calculations, rational logic application and to follow strict rules at every moment, then a continuous practice will empower the brain features such logic and capability to stay focused.
The last is actually a big point in my opinion. I do believe that my ability to focus on a problem has greatly improved thanks to my chess practice when I was younger. To give you a bit of background, I am a software engineer with a PhD in the same subject, and somewhere between 2150 and 2200 Elo points (although not practising anymore).
Although it’s not granted, my opinion is that a constant chess practice will give you these benefits and probably some more that I forgot to mention!
Now that you read about the generic benefits of playing chess daily in the above section, you probably also have a better sense of what benefits chess can give when learnt (and practiced) since the youth.
As far as I know, most schools in US and Europe do not have chess as a common activity. The exception is of course Saint Louis. But if you think about a lot of countries in the eastern Europe, Russia and Armenia above all, they really do have chess taught at school. And I believe this is a great thing.
Once again, my favorite point is about focus and concentration. Chess may give to kids that additional boost they need to learn how to keep focusing on one thing. And we all know how erratic can kids be sometimes. For me, the ability to stay focused is really an important thing in professional life.
Sure, you will also get all the other benefits I mentioned before, and even at higher scale if your kid learns chess when (s)he is very young. Improved logic, mental and abstract calculation, all these things are in my opinion very good to have in one’s own pocket.
One additional feature that chess has and that, in my opinion, becomes extremely important when speaking about kids, is STRICT rules.
Chess has got a set of very strict rules and you simply cannot violate any of them. It’s not that you get a penalty like in many games; you simply cannot play if you don’t follow the rules. And this is, again in my opinion, a VERY important lesson for kids. They will learn playing is a lot of fun but you have to respect your opponent and the rules of the game.
Now that you have a pretty good idea of why and how your kids could benefit from learning and studying chess, your next question is very much like — Okay how do I do this?
As you read above, my opinion is that a chess coach is the way to go. Please notice that I am not a chess coach, nor I am suggesting to you coach names. I don’t have any economic return in what I am saying. In fact, I am not even going to give you any name or link, because I think you should go and find a coach by yourself. It’s quite easy.
That being said, I do have a few ideas on how a chess coach for kids should look like and therefore want to share them with you… In the next section! For now, I want to talk about the ideas I have in case you really want to teach your kids chess without a coach.
First of all, I don’t think you need to be a good player to teach chess to your kids. Actually I don’t think you need to be a player at all! To tell you the entire story, I believe that if you know nothing about chess and just learn it along with your kid(s) that’s just perfect. Just one thing: don’t be angry if they become stronger than you very quickly!
The one thing you will need to start is an awesome chess board to keep them curious about the game 🙂 Then, sure, you are also going to need a booklet with rules, in case you are not familiar with the game. After they learn the rules, you’ll simply have to sit and wait. Play with them, and just enjoy their progress. One day, soon, you will realize they have become very good at simple tactics, and that’s the moment you should grab another booklet, a bit more advanced, with basic strategic plans explained. And start studying it with them.
Let’s say instead that you want to hire a chess coach for your kids. That’s probably the best idea, although it’s going to be less fun. Once more, let me say explicitly that I am not a coach, and am not going to suggest anyone in particular here. I will simply share my ideas about how a chess coach for kids should look like.
First of all, I think the coach should be somehow young, relatively speaking. I would like to imagine the chess coach like a older sister or brother for the students.
In second place, the coach should ideally have already had experience with kids. I know that everybody has to start somewhere and have a “first time”, I just mean that if it was for my kids I would prefer someone experienced. Consider that in such cases, experience as a coach is definitely more important that experience as a player. In fact, the coach does not need to be a good player by any means, although to tell you the truth I think this would help in the long term.
What I am saying is that if the coach is also a good player then there are more chances for a long term collaboration in case one of your kids becomes very good at chess. And maybe pursuing a career in chess won’t sound that strange anymore.
Finally, when picking up a coach, you must be able to evaluate his personal skills at a glance. I hope you are someone good at telling people, otherwise let you better half do this!
In this post I shared my ideas about learning chess at young age and tried to answer to the question — is chess good for kids? Just in case you didn’t get it, my firm opinion is yes!
I also want to share with you links to some previous articles of mine that are somehow correlated and might be interesting for you:
As always, have a lot of fun!!