Getting Kids Interested in Chess

by Jack Feerick

In a demographic that is dominated by video games, organized sports and social networking sites, it's not always easy to get youths interested in a game like chess. Learning chess takes patience, time, concentration and a desire to always improve. With so many other activities, how do you get your kids involved in the game of chess? How do you provide them with the life skills and benefits that chess offers its players?

Make it a family tradition
By playing chess with your family on a regular basis, you are bringing the game into the one of the most important areas of a child's life - the home. Teaching the rules and practicing together is a time for bonding and communicating. Also, setting the game up as a family tradition or as something to pass along, adds value to the game in the child's eyes.

Trigger their imagination
This is especially important for younger children who may not yet have the ability or the attention span to learn how to play chess. Have them create their own chess boards and pieces using paper, crayons, markers and other craft supplies. Or simply give them a chess set and explain which pieces are which and then have them come up with stories for the pieces. This will help them learn the different pieces as well as help them develop creative thinking skills. Once they grow bored with easy stories, you can teach them how individual pieces are allowed to move and have them create stories where the pieces can only move in that way. This is a sly way to actually begin teaching the rules. No matter how you do it, encouraging their imagination using the chess set is helpful to getting them used to the pieces and board. They may eventually decide they want to learn the real way to play all on their own.

Spark their competitive streak
Most adults like to compete in games of skill and strength, especially those they are good at. This is no different for children. Encourage your child to improve at chess so that they can win, or at least contend, when they play. Once they have learned the basic rules, further encourage them to practice by suggesting the possibility of entry into tournaments. This will get them thinking about prizes and bragging rights, two things children really enjoy. However, be careful not to push too hard. Once a child feels forced, they will have a hard time developing the love of the game that is necessary to becoming truly great at it. You also want to be weary of creating sore-losers, so make sure they understand that playing well is just as important as winning.

Make it their own
Kids love possessions. So let them pick out a board, pieces and accessories that are just theirs. Once they own their own set, they will want to use it often to show it off.

Get them involved
Check into local chess clubs through the school or community centers. Putting your child with peers that are into the same game will help them develop lasting friendships as well as a stronger bond with the game. This is also an excellent way to pass off the teaching once your child has outgrown your guidance (providing you are not a Grandmaster).


About the Author

Jack Feerick is an editor with PurelyChessSets.com -- your source for chess sets and more