Chess: The Classic Family Game

by Groshan Fabiola

Playing games with your children generally brings to mind images of noisy, boisterous arguments and colourful game pieces being strewn around the kitchen table while peanut butter-and-jellied fingers roll dice or try to count out play money.

The shrieks of laughter or hoots of winning can fill a young household, but are quickly silenced when your children grow tired of these childhood games. Boxes of torn, dog-eared board games with missing pieces are stacked up in the dusty corners of family rooms everywhere, but there is one game that will never be banished in such a way.

The family chess set.
When you play a game of chess, you can put your busy world aside long enough to refuel and relax. It's a game of strategy and skill, certainly, but it can offer you and your family so much more than that.

A quiet moment; an opportunity to spend a little time with a loved one; the satisfaction of a mental challenge - such are the rare pleasures we all could use more of these days.

How do you know when your children might be old enough to learn to play chess?

Amazingly, children as young as 4 and 5 years old can pick up the basic rules and skills required to play a simple version of the game. If your child enjoys board games, has a moderate attention span, follows instructions well and shows an interest, then it may be the right time to consider pulling out your faithful chess set.

There has been some debate as to whether playing chess actually does make children smarter. Several international studies have been conducted in countries like Belgium and Venezuela which seem to lean towards a positive answer to this question.

However, regardless of the studies and their conclusions, some of the skills and benefits that playing chess teaches are generally accepted to be true; such as:
* Focused, disciplined thinking
* Improved concentration
* Forethought, planning and strategy
* Understanding actions and consequences
* Problem-solving

There are also benefits to your family.
The bonding of parent and child can be strengthened over time spent on a shared game of chess. The child feels pride in being considered an equal partner in an adult game. Playing the game in a quiet environment generally has a calming effect on child and adult alike.

Watching a father and son together, for instance, heads bowed in tandem concentration, is a beautiful sight. A mutual respect emerges; the child may exhibit a maturity the parent may not have noticed before, or a child may understand that challenges can be won with strategy rather than aggression. Soon, a chess set becomes more than a game board, but a state of mind as well.

The pleasures of the game can be outweighed by the happiness of such small, shared moments.

And once grown, looking back at the elegant pieces of a handsome chess set that becomes a family heirloom, a child will recall the fond memories and quiet times spent together... and that, as they say, is priceless.