As far as games go, chess has to be one of the most beneficial for kids. That isn’t to say that there is no educational value in Minecraft, but video games pale in comparison to board games when it comes to learning opportunities. Every game of chess is a strategic challenge to overcome, full of obstacles to navigate and problems to solve. As such, it’s an excellent game to introduce to your kids if they haven’t already tried their hand at the cerebral board game. While we certainly wouldn’t claim that it’s an easy game to master, the road to proficiency will provide a lot of valuable lessons along the way which will have useful real-life applications. In this guide we hope to show you what skills your child could learn from the game of chess, and why these chess benefits are important for their development.
Chess is hard, there’s no denying it. Chess rules aren’t simple, so learning how to play chess will take some time. You’re going to lose a lot, and that’s something that you have to learn to live with. Sometimes, you might even lose in three moves or fewer, which can be especially hard to cope with. As a child, you probably hated losing, so you can probably imagine what can be gained from taking these losses on the chin rather than to the heart. The skill of humility is not one many people possess when it comes to competition. Whether it’s the football pitch or a school quiz, competition tends to stir up negative emotions in kids which are often expressed in the form of tantrums. That’s why teaching your child to be humble at an early age will set them up for success later in life. Since defeat is inevitable in all realms of life, it’s important that we teach our kids to take our losses on the chin and not overreact. After all, in most cases, it’s just a game. What point is there in getting worked up over a video game or a friendly tennis match? At this point, you might be wondering how chess can teach humility since it’s just an old board game that requires moving pieces around a chequered board. Well, the reason chess is so useful for teaching humility is because it’s a very challenging game and one that the majority of people will struggle within the beginning. If you play and lose your first 10, 20, or even 30 games, then that can of course be disheartening. So imagine how that would feel to a child with a fragile ego and a competitive nature? Crushing. However, if you make an effort to normalise loss within the game of chess and minimise it to a degree, your child could learn a valuable lesson in humility. It all starts with you as the parent, you have to show that whether you win or lose you maintain a cool head. That way, they can learn by example, which is how many kids pick things up.
A skill that kids can learn that goes hand in hand with humility is patience. Patience is a virtue, yes, but it is also a skill that can be learned over time. How? With a chessboard, of course! It’s one thing to be gracious in victory and humble in defeat, but does your child know how to demonstrate patience as they play games? It’s no secret that a lot of kids are riddled with impatience - most likely due to the enormous amount of energy they hold onto each day. As a result, when it comes time to slow things down and think carefully and deliberately with a game like chess, it can be tricky to get the hang of. Chess isn’t like other games, it’s a cerebral game because it requires the use of the brain and a level of strategic thinking that you don’t get with many other games. If you ever thought chess was simplistic when you observed it at a distance, try learning it for yourself and you’ll earn respect for just how complicated it can be. When you sit down to play a game of chess, it can feel like you are literally performing a mental exercise, as your brain works overtime to think through all the possible moves and potential plays. There’s so much to a single game of chess, that the only way to make the right move is to think things through thoroughly. This teaches children to be patient and to wait for the right opportunity rather than acting through gut instinct every time. As you can imagine, this is an essential life skill for a child to learn, and it will drastically help them with the next skill we’re going to cover.
The red dress or the yellow one? The car toy or the helicopter? Maths or English? Kids have to make decisions all the time, yet as parents, it’s easy to make decisions for them when it’s convenient to do so. This is helpful at the moment and keeps things flowing, but it might also hinder their ability to make decisions for themselves. While in the chaos of daily life it isn’t always practical to let them make every decision for themselves, one time in which they can make all the decisions is game time. With chess, every single move you make requires a lot of internal deliberation, and of course a final decision. The decision between whether to take the opposing player’s pawn or move your queen up to try and put their king in check is an example of just one of many micro-decisions that a chess player might have to make. There are also macro decisions, those which affect the grand strategy of the player. Should you be reactive or proactive, aggressive or defensive? Needless to say, decision-making is a highly transferable skill and one which kids need to learn before the big decisions start to come thick and fast. School can pass by so quickly that decisions about university, employment, and leaving home need to be considered and these are decisions that will impact the course of one’s life, so it’s important to get them right.
Another skill that kids can pick up from playing chess is problem-solving, or logic. There’s a reason why chess games for the brain are a thing, and it’s because chess challenges your ability to think on your feet. Just like maths presents children with a series of problems that they need to work out using logic, so does chess. In order to be good at chess, let alone great, it’s essential to be familiar with all of the rules and movement patterns of the pieces. This is the first problem to solve, and it’s one that for many children takes a while to learn. After a knight just jumped in an L-shaped move several times to take one of their pieces, they’ll start to internalise this movement pattern and think of ways to solve this problem in the future. If their pawns always seem to get taken by the other player’s pawns, the child will start to think of ways to stop the problem from happening again in the next game. If your child is down to their last three or four pieces, they might give up the first few times, until one day they try to face the problem head-on and figure out if there’s a way out of their predicament. Chess is a game that puts problem after problem in front of you and asks you to solve them in real-time. It isn’t just your next move that you need to think about, but the next move of your opponent too, and what their grand strategy could be. Then there’s the value of all the individual pieces. In the beginning, many kids will willingly sacrifice their knights, rooks, and bishops when it isn’t absolutely necessary to do so. That is until they begin to realise the true value of the pieces. Once they learn that a bishop is a more valuable piece, they will start to use it more reservedly and develop new strategies to use it wisely. The overall meta of the game of chess is very complex too, so even when you zoom out there’s a lot of problem-solving to be done. The first move your opponent makes could indicate that they’re going for a two-move or three-move strategy to try and win the game quickly. When the opposing player moves their knight in front of one of your pieces that can take it, you have to ask yourself whether the move was intentional or whether it was a mistake on their part. By taking it will you gain the upper hand or will you fall into a trap set by your shrewd opponent? Problem-solving is an excellent skill to learn for kids because deriving enjoyment from the process of tackling problems can really help them with logic-based subjects such as maths. Maths to many kids is just an endless number of ‘impossible’ equations and sums, which are tedious and boring. Yet to the child who knows how to solve problems, it can be an immensely rewarding process to try and tease the answer out of each problem presented.
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