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Guys, chess is so good for kids. Chess teaches children all kinds of skills, like thinking through your actions, executive functioning, strategic thinking, sportsmanship, problem-solving, patterns, and, my personal favorite, social skills. While it might seem like a complicated game to hoist on kids, it’s well worth the effort.
I have one question. When did chess become cool?
(Rhetorical question, I know it was during the pandemic when everyone was watching Queens Gambit)
I agreed to run the chess club at school their year and was not expecting the turnout I got. Now chess is the hot thing at school and in my classroom.
The kids ask to play it online during their downtime or pull out my board during snack break.
I’m overwhelmed but pleased because chess is just flat-out good for kids, and I think any child with interest should learn it.
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Why is Chess Good for Kids?
So we covered a little bit about why chess is good for kids, but let’s get more specific.
Chess has a lot of rules and limitations for students to learn, but at the same time, those rules create a situation where kids have to think strategically.
They must figure out how to defend their own pieces while going on the offensive to get checkmate.
It’s a skill that can benefit them in many areas of life, and chess, a game, can be a motivating way to teach it.
Perspective of Others
Chess encourages you to take the perspective of others. When playing, you have to think about your opponent, their temperament, and how they play.
Good players will take the perspective of the person across the board and try to think about what they would do. You can’t counter their moves to get checkmate if don’t know what’s coming.
And this is different than strategic thinking because every player is different. For instance, I favor my rooks and will use them often, while my father loves his knights.
Knowing your opponent’s preferences and tells is important and is a good social skill to learn over a board game. It can help you set traps.
My biggest fear when I started the Chess Team at school was that we would be bad sports. People like to win. Winning is fun, and losing is not.
Some people are better at it than others, but I was pleasantly surprised that when I set the tone of learning and having fun, and celebrating playing games over winning, my kids seemed to follow suit.
The kids I was most worried about shook hands after matches and come to me with big smiles on their faces, win or lose.
And you don’t need to enter competitions to learn that sportsmanship. When learning to play chess, you tend to lose a lot. While that can be rough, it’s a good time to teach sportsmanship and how to be a graceful loser (and winner).
So there is a component that I’ve been mentioning here that is, in my opinion, the top reason that chess is good for kids.
There’s an opponent. You’re playing with someone.
That means you’re talking to someone, socializing with someone, and maybe even making a friend.
Chess provides a structure and set of rules which can be reassuring to some people. They know what to expect from the socialization aspect of chess, which can build positive experiences.
I always recommend it for students who struggle with social skills, so they can feel successful.
Who Should Learn it?
Chess is an interesting game. It can be very complicated, and yet children not only learn to play it but can excel at it.
Teenagers have earned the title of Grandmaster and competed against adults.
So I’m not shy about teaching it to any kid who wants to learn. I’ve taught kids with intellectual disabilities, autism, nonverbal children, and partially verbal children.
Never let a child’s disability deter you from teaching them chess.
In fact, I think given all the benefits it can offer, including the socialization element, it’s more important to teach them chess.
If they love it, it can give them a foot in the door to predictable social interactions. Plus, as a bonus, you can work on so many other skills just while playing a game.
And we all know I love teaching board games!
Check out this post to learn why.
How to Teach
This question here could involve a whole blog post on its own. But let’s cover some simple basics.
I like to use this website to teach kids because the graphics are fun and engaging, and the lessons are simple and easy to follow.
In addition to using the website, I also like to have kids play on a physical board, but I structure it differently.
I only have them play with one piece at a time. We play with only pawns and a king until we know how they move.
Then we add in the rooks (not castles), and so on and so forth.
It’s my own special scaffolded way of teaching chess. Tons of fun and very engaging.
Chess is good for kids. I will say it as many times as I need to in order to make sure everyone knows how true it is.
People can get intimidated by the game because of the grandeur around it and the complicated elements of playing it. However, even if people don’t become grandmasters, there are still tons of benefits to playing it.
That is why I recommend that all kids with interest learn, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
If you’re interested in learning more about board games and their many benefits for kids with disabilities, make sure to check out my blog post on the topic.