Teaching Chess to Children

We hope you are enjoying the winter and getting in some fun family snow time!


When you have had enough of the great outdoors, one indoor activity we love which stimulates young and old minds alike is the amazing game of chess. 


Recently, chess experts Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick were kind enough to send us their  book, Chess is Child’s Play – a really thorough and fun guide designed for parents that want to introduce chess to their kids and teach themselves more about the game, which has been proven to help build some really important developmental skills in children and adults of all ages.


Laura is a freelance writer and chess coach and the co-founder, alongside her husband Dan of Your Chess Coach, based in Florida. Bill lives in California and is a serial entrepreneur and a lifelong chess player and coach (in fact, Laura and Bill met at a tournament in which they were both competing!). They also each have their own young children, who have all been learning chess from their parents from an early age.


One of the things we love about this book is that it’s made by parents, for parents, and that it encompasses all skill levels. So, it teaches parents very directly, in their language, exactly how to express the rules of the game to their kids. Whether you have never played chess before (like Harold and me!), haven’t played for years, or play every day, this book can help you incorporate it into your family’s life.


What’s really cool is that, as the book points out, studies have shown worldwide that chess and education go hand in hand, which is why some governments have made chess a required part of every child’s educational experience and why many homeschoolers use chess as a major teaching tool. Because, chess can actually make your kids smarter. (And the book offers up an excellent summary of some of these official studies in the introduction, so you can see the results for yourself!)


To summarize some of what chess brings to the table for your kids …


  1. Chess teaches problem-solving skills. The game provides the opportunity for kids to learn how to recognize patterns on their own and learn how not to make the same mistakes more than once.
  2. Chess helps kids learn how to react to “unwanted surprises.” They learn how to behave in situations where they can’t predict their opponents’ next move. When they are confronted by these types of surprises, they learn how to adapt to change.
  3. Chess teaches children how to think ahead and make decisions. Good chess players learn how to think ahead and can often predict their opponents’ moves before they are made. Kids who play chess come to understand the consequences of certain moves and make good decisions.
  4. Chess promotes self confidence. And who doesn’t want their kids to be confident and proud of the special people they are becoming? By playing chess, kids get put into the rare environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. When kids develop the skills to start winning against their peers and even grown-ups, they feel they can accomplish anything.
  5. Chess teaches kids to be creative. Sometimes in school, kids are discouraged from expressing their creativity and learn that thinking “inside the box” is the key to success. While chess has fundamental rules, once you master them, you realize you can sometimes bend the rules a bit in order to outwit your opponent, which teaches innovation.
  6. Chess teaches good sportsmanship. As hard as it is for parents to watch, kids need to experience setbacks in order to learn how to adapt and develop the strength to overcome adversity when life throws them a curve ball. One of the rules of chess is to shake your opponent’s hand and say, “Good game,” no matter what the outcome. This turns winning and losing with equal grace into a habit.
  7. Chess allows kids to imagine their own possibilities. Studies have shown that chess sparks imagination. Players learn how to create their own positions on the board and put ideas into motion, and they get instant results.
  8. Chess can provide a cure for short attention spans. Kids (and all people in today’s world, for matter!) aren’t exactly known for being able to sit still and concentrate for long periods of time. Chess draws kids in and makes them focus and engage in the many intricacies of the game, which helps expand their ability to concentrate – a skill that will translate to improvement in many other areas of their lives.
  9. Chess builds teamwork. As they become more familiar with the game, kids learn that all the chess pieces have to work together in order for the game to come out well. They have to learn how to coordinate their “team” of pieces and let them support each other. If they rely on one piece to do all the work, they are not likely to do well.
  10. Chess inspires kids to challenge themselves. When kids first start playing chess and start to play you, a grown-up or other opponents they see as “superior” in their minds, they might be discouraged. But when they learn the rules and start winning, they start to feel like nothing is impossible, which will help make them see all the possibilities in their own lives outside of the game.


Aside from giving practical chess-teaching tools, Chess is Child’s Play also offers up exactly what you should expect from chess lessons by outlining specific results you should see and the experiences you and your kids will have as you move through the different stages of learning. We’re really excited to spend some time learning with our son this summer! We hope you’ll check out this great book too! You can get it for yourself on Amazon.


Please also enjoy a live performance of our song “This Is the Moment,” below, from this summer’s Mamapalooza festival on the Hudson!