Chess For Children
Kids are getting started with chess at earlier and earlier ages these days. Here’s how to make it a fun and engaging experience for them.
Why Chess is must for your Child ?
Chess is a great game to start learning when you’re young. Not only is it a fun and intellectually stimulating pastime, but it actually has mental and physical benefits that will help children’s brains grow at a faster rate. You won’t get that from Candy Land!
Some parents feel pressure to teach their children how to play chess at an incredibly early age so that they can become prodigies and start winning tournaments by the time they hit double digits. We would advise against this approach, unless the child is particularly interested in chess. Parents should always go by the interest level of their child. If the child is simply not interested by chess and doesn’t find it fun, there’s no point in forcing them to play it.
Usually, forcing a child into learning something that they have no interest in doesn’t lead to child chess prodigies but rather resentful children that end up quitting chess completely as soon as they are able! If you want your child to have a healthy relationship with chess that will last throughout the rest of his or her life, don’t make it a chore. Only play as much as the child wants to, and if they’re not interested in learning now, try back in a few more years.
Importance of an Early Start
Many people feel that an early start at chess will give their child a competitive edge and the best possible shot at becoming the next Boris Spassky or Bobby Fischer. While this approach may be effective in some rare circumstances, it more often causes more harm than good. It’s important not to push your children too far too soon. Your desire for them to become that next big chess star is not enough – they have to want it for themselves, too and be willing and able to put in the work required in a healthy and balanced way. Remember, this is the only childhood that they will get! They need to have a good mixture of “training time” and “kid time” to become well adjusted adults.
Always remember; chess is a game, it should be fun!
So, its important to start your children on chess early, but only as soon as they’re ready. Some children may not be able to get enough of chess at the age of 4 and wake you up each morning at 6am, chessboard in hand. Others may be completely uninterested until they’re older, or they may never be interested. The important thing is that you introduced the concept to them and let them choose whether they wanted to engage with it further, without forcing them to do anything that they didn’t want to do. Always remember; chess is a game, it should be fun!
Well, What are You Waiting For?
If you’ve not yet introduced your child to the game of chess, now may be the perfect time! Whatever you do, don’t force them to participate if they’re not interested. Simply explain the rules in terms that they would understand, and see if they would like to try playing a game with you. It’s possible that their attention spans may be smaller than their interest, in which case you’ll need to be a patient teacher. Or, they may have no interest and prefer to spend their time doing other things. Don’t worry, you’ve planted the seed in their mind and in a few months or years you may find they come back to you asking about that chess game you were talking about before. Keep introducing the idea to your child at different intervals and see if they take the bait.
On the other hand, you may have a child that can’t get enough of chess! They may be asking you, their friends, and their siblings to play at any chance they get. If their interest in chess outweighs your own, you may want to consider enrolling them in a chess program or getting them a private chess teacher so that their skills can grow and you can have a break from the chessboard.
Mental Benefits of Chess
Playing Chess Can Increase Your IQ
That’s right, playing chess can actually increase your intelligence in a measurable way, as evidenced by increased IQ scores in chess players. The most surprising part is that it only takes as little as 4 months to see a positive effect! It’s amazing to think that in such a short time you could actually be improving your brain’s capacity through something so simple as playing regular games of chess, but it’s true!
It Gives Your Problem Solving Skills a Workout
Chess is a game all about solving a series of increasingly complicated problems and puzzles, so it should come as no surprise to know that it works your problem solving skills as you play. What is surprising is that your problem solving skills seem to work a bit like a physical muscle, in that the more they are worked, the stronger they get. Yes, people are getting a workout sitting down at chess tables across the country! The foresight and constant planning and replanning required in a typical game of chess give these skills an intense workout that builds up over time and helps you become better and better at solving complex problems.
Chess Keeps Your Brain Healthy
There is a lot that we don’t yet know about mental health and degenerative brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, but what we do know is that chess can help keep your brain healthy longer. Regular “exercise” of your brain with a thought provoking game like chess can prevent degenerative brain diseases from taking root. It’s also been found that patients with schizophrenia show improvement in their condition and reduced symptoms when they play a daily game of chess. Just one game per day increased their ability to focus their attention, plan, and reason logically. That’s amazing!
It Also Helps You Focus and Maintain Concentration
Chess games are well known for their longevity and the way that they can sometimes last hours and hours on end. During such a long game, you need to keep focused on your goals so that you don’t overlook a detail and make a costly mistake. At the same time, games sometime come down to the wire, when the clock is ticking and you need to make the right decision, fast. At times like these, it helps to bring all of your concentration to bear on the task at hand, rather than being distracted by other things. Matches played with chess clocks can be some of the most strenuous for your mind, offering the best benefits. These are skills that chess hones in its players that can be widely applied in all other areas of life.
Chess Contributes to Improved Memory
As all serious players know, the game of chess involves a lot of memorization, particularly when you are first starting to learn it. Not only do you have to remember the rules of the game and how each chess pieces moves, but you’ll need to know at least a few of the most common openings, middle games, traps, and end games by heart. You’ll need to be able to employ them yourself as well as recognize them when your opponent starts to use them against you, which requires a high level of memorization. On top of all that, you’ll also want to remember which moves work best against each of these play styles! All of these things quickly add up into a memorization nightmare, but luckily for beginner chess players everywhere, the simple act of playing the game can help expand and improve one’s memory. That’s a big plus!
Chess Fosters Creativity
It may not be thought of as one of the most creative of pursuits, but in reality, chess requires a great deal of creative thinking. Creative thinking is how you solve problems, and we already know how much of chess is just problem solving. Playing chess regularly gives your brain more and more new opportunities to think of creative solutions to common problems and implement them in unique ways. This increases your level of creative thinking not just in chess, but in other areas of your life as well.
Playing Chess Can Actually Change the Structure of Your Brain
The benefits we’ve discussed so far have mostly been abstract ones brought about by the simple process of practicing certain skills and, in turn, getting better at them. But that’s not the only effect chess can have on the brain – it can actually change your brain’s structure in two ways; first by promoting new dendrite growth, and secondly by encouraging the more rapid development of the prefrontal cortex.
Physical Benefits of Chess
Playing Chess Encourages the Growth of Dendrites
Dendrites are one type of cell contained within your brain. They are what conducts signals from neuron to neuron, allowing you to send and receive signals from all over the body. When you play a game of chess, your brain is actually stimulated to grow more dendrites. A higher dendrite count means that your brain can increase the speed at which information is fired through your neurons. This increase in processing power will help to increase the performance of your brain over time.
Chess Uses Both Sides of the Brain
If you’re working out, both sides of your body need to be equally exercised so that both legs and arms possess similar strength. This is also important for the brain, yet many mental activities we do only work one side of the brain at a time. Chess actually gives both sides of your brain a good workout. If you continue playing chess over time, your brain will also perform better, which in turn gives you a better advantage on future chess matches.
Playing chess involves using the left side of the brain for tasks such as object recognition. At the same time, the right side of the brain also gets involved to help you recognize patterns. Both of these skills are needed to play a game of chess. Since chess involves many rules, techniques, and visual recognition, over time the game will help to stimulate both sides of your brain.
Chess Could Be An Effective Alzheimer’s Disease Preventative
It’s not surprising that if the elderly are stuck in a care home where all they do is sit and watch TV, that soon their minds turn to mush. Research has shown that when it comes to degenerative brain diseases, use it or lose it is a good motto. If you don’t continually stimulate and challenge your brain, you will be more prone to developing a degenerative brain disease like Alzheimer’s.
In one medical study conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 488 seniors were part of a study. One group of these seniors were allowed to play chess on a regular basis. Obviously, they’re the ones who had a decreased risk of dementia. Since chess stimulates brain activity, it keeps the mind from deteriorating, and keeps it functioning at the normal rate even into the senior years. Starting your chess hobby in your earlier years will integrate it into your life more fully, making it something you’re more likely to continue doing as you advance in age. Trust us, your brain will thank you for forming this habit!
Helps to Prevent Schizophrenia
Chess can even provide benefits to patients who suffer other mental health conditions. During one study at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience in Bron, France, the doctors had schizophrenic patients play chess for a number of hours per week and compared them to the patients who didn’t play any chess at all. The patients who did play chess had a better attention span, better planning, and more advanced reasoning abilities than the ones who didn’t play chess. And interestingly, these patients decided to continue playing chess even after the study was done because they could feel the benefits.
Many Benefits to Children
When children play chess, it helps to improve their thinking and problem-solving skills at a faster rate than children who do not play chess. If they’re introduced to chess at a young age, they’ll likely do much better in school in the years ahead. Apparently, playing chess will help to improve the child’s cognitive abilities throughout life. They’ll naturally be better at reading and math. Many experts think that the second grade is the best time to teach children how to play chess, though some may be ready to learn the game at the tender age of four or five. You know your child best!
It Can Increase Your IQ
While it’s possible that you’ll have some extremely smart people take an interest in and excel at chess, there are many more people who take up the hobby and get smarter the more they play the game. Playing chess can increase your IQ level over time. Your IQ will improve with regular chess instruction and by actively playing the game for as little as several weeks.
Builds Better Self-Confidence
There are many famous people who play chess, such as GM Magnus Carlsen and the hip-hop producer known as RZA. These influencers will help encourage people to play chess by showing just how fun and cool it can be.
Playing chess can also help to build up your self-esteem. Since this is a game that is played by individuals, rather than people in teams, you’re on your own. You succeed or fail based on your own skill. If you lose, you can review your game to figure out where you went wrong. If you win, you know that it was your own hard work that got you to that point. Both playing and analyzing the game helps to builds up your mental strength and self-confidence, which can impact every part of your life, not just your chess game.
Great for Rehabilitation and Therapy Purposes
Even patients who are suffering from brain injuries can benefit from chess. It can be a form of therapy for people who have been in bad accidents or who have suffered strokes. Playing chess is also a good therapy for children with autism or other developmental disabilities. And not only can chess benefit the brain, it’s good for motor skills too! The very act of picking up and lifting a chess piece across the board can gradually improve a patient’s fine motor skills. The mental effort required to play the game will help to build communication skills and cognitive abilities. Playing the game also teaches young kids to sit still, relax, and focus. This can help to calm and center patients who may be experiencing anxiety.
Makes You More Creative
Since chess is a game that is played one-on-one, it’s just you who is responsible for your success. You’ll need to outwit your opponent to secure a win, and you can’t do that by using the same old moves every time. You need to be able to think creatively. You’ll learn how to adapt to situations. After you play chess on a regular basis you may discover that you experience a surge in creative thinking and originality, both on the chessboard and off.
Helps to Improve Reading Skills
Even though you’re not actually reading anything in a game of chess, there will still be improvement in the reading skills of children who play the game. Playing chess improves the cognitive function of the brain overall, so that even skills you’re not actively using in the game become more finely honed. Think of it as getting a better tool- everything you do with that tool will come out better as a result.