Chess is a game suitable for all ages. I was introduced to it at the age of 6 by my dad during a summer break. It was just another game for me then, a perfect way to kill time. My cousins and I used to spend hours playing and strategizing our moves without having to sweat or get exhausted in the heat outside.
In the beginning, I saw chess as just an indoor board game, but as I grew up and kept playing, I realized it was so much more. I learned a lot of life lessons from that game, so when I had kids, I knew they also had to be introduced to chess. So much so that when choosing their primary school, I looked for ones that offered chess as a part of the curriculum. Luckily, I found the best one.
Chess for kids
I introduced my kids to chess when they were around 5, and they are enjoying every second of it. The key is to teach in a kid-friendly and kid-appropriate way and keep it fun.
What’s the right age to teach kids chess?
While I have heard of parents starting to teach their kids chess as young as 2 or 3, the ideal age to start would be around 5. They are old enough to understand the names and moves of the pieces and use them. If your kids are already older than 5, don’t worry – it’s never too late to start learning this excellent strategy game.
Why should you teach your kid chess?
With the pandemic confining us indoors for most of the past 2 years, the primary purpose of any new game has been to keep kids busy and away from the screen while we attempt to have our Zoom calls.
However, the benefits of chess go beyond that. This fantastic game teaches kids to:
- Be patient: It is every parent’s wish and deepest desire to teach their kids patience and tolerance. Chess teaches the players to patiently think about their next move and wait for their opponents’ reaction.
- Follow the rules: Each piece has a designated move, and step-by-step instructions help kids learn the rules and the value of understanding and applying these rules.
- Plan forward: While younger kids start to play with fewer pieces, as you progress in the game, you have to think of your moves, predict your opponent’s, and plan accordingly. This helps children comprehend the strategy and learn the importance of forward planning. You can take my word for it – I’ve been an out-an-out planner since I was a kid, and it has helped me in everything.
- Become smarter: There’s no denying that people who play chess use their brains for sustained contemplation and planning. This exercise supports the cognitive functioning of the brain, helping kids become sharper.
- Learn to lose: Like any other sport, chess helps inculcate the notion of healthy competition. While you may win a lot, there will always be instances when you lose, and those moments teach a kid to embrace every loss and move on while learning lessons from it.
Chess boards for kids
Picking the right chess board for your child will depend on various things.
- If your kid is still young, getting an expensive set doesn’t make sense. Instead, consider a chessboard like this one, which has easily recognizable pieces, and make sure it doesn’t break the bank. In the early days, when kids are getting familiar with the game and learning to play, they tend to lose a lot of pieces, and you will find yourself buying a new set every few months.
- You can also get this beginner’s chess set, which comes with an easy guide on how to play.
- If you wish to take along the chess board when traveling, opt for a magnetic board and foldable set. It will take less space in your luggage, and a magnetic board will ensure the pieces don’t move from their positions if you wish to play while on the road.
- Once your kid gets good at chess and plays frequently, you can invest in a more durable and fancy chess set that you can whip out for every game.
- If your kid starts turning heads with their chess skills, some of the best options include a unique bronze chess set, or a fully functional elegant glass chess set
- If you wish to gift a perfect set to your nerdy kid/friend, you can’t go wrong with a classic Star Wars-themed chess set or a Roman gladiator-themed one.
How to play chess for kids
Now we know the optimal starting age and the benefits of this brilliant game. The next question is how to teach kids to play chess, especially in a fun and engaging way.
Here are some essential things to keep in mind when introducing your kid to chess:
- Don’t push or oversell the game. Remember, it’s still a game, and your kid only needs it for the purpose of having fun. (He doesn’t need to know about your secret agenda of making him smarter!)
- Use kid-oriented or age-appropriate techniques to make sure your child doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the rules and complexities of the game.
- Start with simpler pieces. For example, a pawn may be a much more complex piece than a bishop or rook. Do 1 or 2 pieces at a time and try to have less complicated puzzles for the kid to solve. I tried the same approach with my daughters, and they loved it so much that not only do they enjoy solving these puzzles now, but they occasionally also create such puzzles for me to solve.
- Over the first few sessions or games, try to gauge your kid’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests and address them. For example, one of my daughters loves the knight piece and enjoys moving it around for no particular reason. So, in the beginning, I tried not to eliminate her knights because the longer they stayed on the board, the longer her interest in the game lasted. Eventually, she moved on from this initial crush and is now less devastated when I capture her knight.
- Even if you don’t play chess, you can still help your child learn the game using apps and websites (more details on this in a bit).
Further instructions on how to play chess
Try some of these videos to assist your child in learning to play chess.
ChessKid Lessons: The Magic Of Chess
This video from ChessKid Lessons teaches wins and captures of the king and other pieces and additional chess strategies using a language children can easily understand.
It’s under 10 minutes long, so it should keep a kid’s attention engaged.
How to Play Chess: Animated Cartoon Series for Beginners
This animated series from Kids Academy explains everything about chess in a very entertaining and engaging way. It starts with the origin and history of chess, going on to explain the basics and intricacies of the game while keeping children hooked.
I recommend going through the series episode by episode to facilitate understanding and make sure there is no information overload.
Chess for Kids!
Grand Master Susan Polgar shares tips and offers instructions in a kid-appropriate language.
How to Play Chess: Rules for Beginners
This is a less complicated 12-minute video that explains everything you need to know before you start playing chess.
From the setting of the board to the moves of every piece, the video has everything covered.
How To Play Chess: The Ultimate Beginner Guide
At around 31 minutes, this easy beginner’s guide to learning chess rules and moves is slightly longer, but it covers all the basics with just the right amount of detail.
How to Play Chess: 7 Steps to Get You Started
This is a 7-video series, with each video covering different aspects of learning the game.
Chess classes for kids
Whether you are a pro yourself or a complete beginner, you will need help in teaching your kid to play chess. A professional coach will guide your child based on his own speed, skills, and interests. They can recognize your kid’s strengths and weaknesses at an early stage and model their instructions accordingly. Some of the classes you can enroll your child in are:
- US Chess Federation: The non-profit body officially governs and organizes events for chess players and enthusiasts. It connects fellow chess players and hosts games and championships for both beginners and experts. The organization also represents the United States in the World Chess Federation (FIDA). It connects local clubs to help you find a fellow chess enthusiast in your neighborhood and organizes games by correspondence/email.
- Chess.com: This online platform contains a databank of learning videos explaining the basics and complexities of the game for players of all levels. You can connect with other players, read blogs about games, and find coaches to help you learn faster.
Chess apps for kids
There are plenty of apps on the market that can assist your child in practicing and refining his chess skills. Some of the most highly recommended apps are:
- Lichess: One of the best apps for chess on the market, Lichess is an open forum where you can register and play with others online. The best thing about the app is that it’s completely free as it runs on donations. Even if you don’t want to participate in tournaments, you can watch others compete. The platform also has a mobile and a web version to choose from.
- Chess for kids: The highly recommended app from Chess.com is available both for iOS and Android devices. You can play games, learn strategies, and improve your skills by solving chess puzzles.
- Chess24: Chess24 is another big platform where you can play with others online. Since it’s popular, there are always good opponents available to test yourself against.
If you wish to read more about how and when to teach your kids chess, here are some of our recommendations:
- Winning Chess Strategy for Kids by Jeff Coakley – An easy-to-comprehend 101 guide to chess for kids aged 7 to 13, this book teaches everything, from opening moves to midgame plans and techniques to end and win games. It also works as a wonderful gift for kids and parents alike.
- Beginning Chess by Bruce Pandolfini – The author has been a chess coach in hundreds of games and was also the game strategist for the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. The book contains over 300 puzzles and problems for readers to solve and practice, helping them learn the real-time tactics behind the moves.