Chess for Kids – Teach Your Children Chess before They Start School

teach kids chessCan one teach a child to play chess while they’re still in diapers? Is chess useful in any way for those who haven’t even had their first day at school?

In the following article, we want to get to the bottom of the question of whether chess for kids is useful and valuable.

It is well-known that young children have a huge capacity for learning! In their first years of life, toddlers acquire many various skills and abilities.

They are able to learn multiple languages as well as various physical competences like walking, jumping, climbing and a lot more. In addition, every child loves playing games. They start playing simple board games from a very young age. So why should chess for kids be any different?

Children can learn chess very early, some even as early as two years old! The key is to teach them in a child-oriented way, instead of relying on standard methods for adult learners or for school children.

Chess for kids should not be seen as a myth invented by parents, but a great chance to develop children in a social, as well as academic, way while having a lot of fun together!

Chess For Kids – How to teach them?

Don’t hurry! Chess is a highly complex game with billions of possibilities and many rules. So, don’t overstrain your kids with information en masse. Teach kids at the correct speed for them.

This speed will vary from child to child, so the educator must be alert to the subtle indicators that a child is ready to continue on to the next subject.

Chess For Kids – Teach Your Children Chess Before They Start School

Moreover, select a suitable chess set for your child. It’s nonsense to buy an expensive wooden chess set when your child will start playing with it, starting to examine the beautiful shapes of each piece.

Buy a set with big plastic pieces which are robust and allow the child to discover all the nuances of the board the pieces.

Additionally, it is important not to thrust all six pieces into a young child’s hands, explaining to him or her how they move in just a few minutes.

Unfortunately, that’s how many children are taught and that might just be why some lose interest quickly! It’s too much for most young (or old) children to grasp in one sitting.

Instead, it is a good idea to break up the lessons into segments, isolating the game into component parts. The book Chess Is Child’s Play – Teaching Techniques That Work! starts with the rook and goes over its movements in great detail.

Why Start With A Rook?

Chess For Kids – Teach Your Children Chess Before They Start School

Many people begin their chess lessons by teaching the movement of the pawns. It seems logical at the time, but however, often it is not the perfect piece to start with and has been revealed to be a mistake.

That’s because the pawn is one of the most complex pieces! As such, it should be taught last. The rook’s movements are the easiest to grasp.

When breaking down all the aspects of a piece’s movements, there are many baby steps that can be applied. It’s much easier to learn these skills using just one piece on the board. So, start step-by-step with one piece after another instead of overwhelming children with all of them at once!

Why Tackle Chess At Such An Early Age?

The Benefits of Chess for Kids – Academic Reasons

Chess For Kids – Teach Your Children Chess Before They Start SchoolIf we all teach children to play chess when they’re four or five, they will be primed for school. Chess teaches children many fundamentals, like problem-solving, focus, patience and follow-through.

Imagine if every child was equipped with these skills as they entered kindergarten and first grade. They would embrace learning in a different way.

Ideally, schools would pick up on the trend and include chess in their curriculum. However, even if the schools didn’t teach the game and a child only played at home, he or she would have an advantage over non-chess playing students.

Studies show that chess helps children improve test scores in many subjects – math, science, reading and more. Children do better in school when they study chess.

Kids who play chess do not only have a higher IQ but they are also more creative – something which is helpful in every school subject. Particularly, their concentration and discipline are better through chess which is key to success at school.

Many children have problems trying to concentrate on one thing for a long time. The one-on-one chess lessons for kids are perfectly effective to train the attention span of a kid!

Use this ancient game to develop your child’s skills and ease the start of school for them!

The Benefits of Chess for Kids – Social Reasons

Chess For Kids – Teach Your Children Chess Before They Start SchoolChess doesn’t only help to train some academic skills, but it is also a very social game. Children learn to be patient and to wait for the opponent’s move.

Moreover, they get confronted with rules which they have to follow. Following concrete rules is hard for many children so it is very meaningful to start learning it early.

Then, you always have company while playing chess, so you can have a lot of fun together! Teach your children chess in a playful way, so that they can discover things and get excited without any boredom.

Don’t make your lessons exhausting but enjoy a fun and nice time playing the board game together.

Another great advantage of chess is that kids start to learn to deal with losses which is a key competency for their whole life and prepares them for school and social interaction with their peers.

Children are naturally drawn to chess. If they are taught properly, and not rushed through the basics, they want to play and improve. Frequently, many children love to show others what they are already capable of.

So, why not let a child show his or her wonderful abilities and teach his friends or even adults to play the game of kings and queens?

Don’t Be Intimidated To Teach Your Kids

Sometimes parents can be intimidated by chess. Perhaps they were taught the rules too quickly and never quite grasped them. These parents sometimes feel that a child must be a genius in order to pick up chess and play a game. This isn’t the case. Anyone can learn to play and the fact is that chess helps children become smarter.

Tackling this problem, the book Chess Is Child’s Play teaches the parent to play, while teaching them to teach their child. Even a parent who has never seen a chess set can pick up this book and teach their children.

If every parent introduced their children to chess before they started school and then continued to play with them at home a few nights a week, it would complement their children’s studies tremendously, giving them an advantage in life!

Conclusion – Chess For Kids Before They Start School

Finally, surely, children are able to learn chess before entering school at an age where they are capable of acquiring dozens of various things! The key to success in teaching kids chess is a lot of patience and a very child-oriented approach, capturing the special needs as well as the individual strengths of the child.

Have you already had experience teaching toddlers chess? Then feel free to share your story with us in the comments section.

Chess For Kids – Teach Your Children Chess Before They Start School
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In her DVD, Susan quickly teaches you the basic chess knowledge including chess pieces, points, chess rules and moves in a playful way which you can transfer to the training with your child.

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33 comments on “Chess for Kids – Teach Your Children Chess before They Start School

  1. Hello there, You have done a great job. I will certainly dgg it annd personally suggest to my friends.
    I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this site.

  2. r gokhale says:

    I started teaching Chess to my son when he was four. He started playing and enjoying…one game after the another…six, seven games at a time…. wouldnt leave the Board. He especially loved playing chess with this grandfather because Grandfather let him win. then i thought of stopping this ‘letting him win’ business and put my son in a chess class. his coach sent him to play a tournament within three months. we looked at it as a sign that our child was playing well. 1st tournament – 4 losses and three wins. We saw chess prodigies there. We thought even our child could be one of them. Since then, we sadly kept on expecting him to win in tournaments and he could not cross the limit of winning 3,4 games out of 7,8. his coaches kept saying that everyday homework and problem solving was important. the moment Chess became a forced ritual he lost interest in it. its a sad story. he is 10 now. We have now stopped his formal coaching and all chess problems and homework. I let him play a game or two if he wishes to. Can someone give me ideas to revive his interest in Chess? He was really good at it, but formal education and tournament pressure made him lose interest in it because it was no more fun.

  3. Janet Keith says:

    I introduced my grandsons to chess tonight. Ages 6&7. I pulled down my 50 yr old chess pieces. I am by no means an expert. I know the pieces, the moves and the setup. In a short time, so did they. They played numerous games with me, their dad and each other. Sure.. there is much to learn… but I was surprised how quickly they learned to set the board and remembered pieces names and allowable moves.

  4. Morris Nelms says:

    Nice article. Interesting thinking–get kids playing chess before they can read… I like it.

  5. I actually think if a child shows interest you could start teaching them in diapers-or maybe a little out of diapers.
    Until this fall I would have never even given chess a thought for my pre-schooler. We went to a local public school’s street fair and there was an area to play chess. My daughter who was 3.5 at the time asked to play. I sadly do not know how to play at all, but luckily my husband does so he sat down with her. She stayed for 5 games. I couldn’t believe she was so into it.
    My husband and I have started talking about getting lessons for her.

    1. Laura says:

      Wow, Beth! What a great story!! Yes, children naturally are attracted to the chess board and pieces. It’s fun to watch! Please keep in touch. I’d love to hear about her chess adventures!

  6. Nadia says:

    I didn’t know children could be taught, at such a young age. I still don’t know how to play chess, and I’ve always wished that someone would have had the patience to teach me as a child. If I have kids, that’s definitely a skill I’d like them to have.

    1. Laura says:

      Nadia, thank you for your kind comment! If you can find a child to teach, Chess Is Child’s Play will teach you to play chess while teaching you to teach that child. Maybe a neighborhood child? It is actually written for the non-chess player as well as the chess player. I think a lot of parents wait until their children are eight or nine to play. It has been my experience that pretty much any four year old can learn the basics and play!

  7. Julie Phelps says:

    Reading about this reminded me of how playing Chess impacted me.
    I bonded with my step-granddad more than my “real” one due to Chess. He would take me to the park where the older guys sat and played at picnic tables. The time was ALL the time. He and the other kindly gentlemen taught me the basics. I was nurtured by those often grumpy old men!
    Years later my youngest son noticed a Chess game on my computer monitor. He was only 2 years old, but showing signs of being interested in how things worked and spent time thinking things through. Those were the beginning days of computer games. I had a business selling mail order PC and Apple games and programs. I was knee deep in work, trying to assess the feature of that newest Chess game so I could accurately review it for our catalog. While appreciating his interest I really wanted to just get on with my task. So I sat him in front of a different monitor and let him explore on his own. He came up with questions so I finally took him to a table, set up a real Chessboard, and got him started on the basics. I had not been a avid player, so was basically back to being a beginner myself. About 3 games into this learning session, that 2-year old out-logic’d me and I lost the game! I cleverly deduced I had my hands full.
    I am a painter. I see things differently than logic alone would dictate. The kid has always been more logical than I, and is now very successful in the extreme architecture of highly complex networking and related aspects of the computer world. He sees the big pictures that appear to be muddy messes to the rest of us. I don’t how much early Chess playing factored in his development, but I tend to believe the logic patterns learned and enforced by understanding how to play at such an early age were positive elements.
    And of course, my own experience aptly demonstrates that one does not need to be an expert in order to expose a young (or old) mind to the mind-expanding game of Chess!

    1. Laura says:

      I love your story! WOW! This is great.

      Chess has a definite artistic component. You cannot play well if you cannot create well. I hope that you’re able to check out my book when you get a chance. It takes the very basics and breaks them down into bite-sized pieces, with an artistic flair, of course. 🙂

      Thank you for sharing your endearing and amazing story of your brilliant son. I would love to hear form him sometime!

  8. I teach my boys to play chess when they turn 4. I even wrote about it on my blog (google “How to teach a 4-year-old to play chess”; it comes up first). For a while, they didn’t play too often. Now, however, my oldest has started playing competitively so there is lots of chess going on around the house. My two-year-old loves it; he gets out the board and sets up the pieces. He doesn’t put them in exactly the right place but he’ll put all the pawns in the same row or whatever. If you play with him, he likes to lead with his Queen, capture pieces randomly, and after a few moves he says, “checkmate!”. It’s really cute.

    1. Laura says:

      I remember that article! I actually commented on it a while back. I love your story about your 2-year-old. “Checkmate!!”

      I find that younger children become more interested when their older brothers and sisters are into chess. Also if parents play each other, it sparks the young ones. It becomes a super cool activity!

  9. Tyler says:

    My company [email protected] ( specializes in teaching 3-year-olds chess. We have a unique story based curriculum and are teaching it at 2 of the biggest pre-schools in manhattan. So yes… 3-year-olds can play chess

    1. Laura says:

      Wow, Tyler, that’s great that you do that! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get ALL pre-schools teaching chess? I’d love to learn more about your program!

  10. Laura says:

    Hi, William! I appreciate your kind words on my article. Thank you!

    I think that one age might be too early for one child, while it might be just right for another. The trick is to teach a child in a way where they are consistently able to get the answers right and learn the next step with confidence.

    There are children who can play a full game at age 2 (I’ve even heard of a few learning before then), but some cannot master consistent piece movements. For instance if you’re trying to teach them how to move the rook in a line and the child wants to move it in circles around the board, they aren’t ready for that lesson.

    Still there are things you can teach them, things that will prep them well for later lessons. As long as you keep lessons exciting and fun, they will want to play and learn.

    I have found that by the time the child reaches age four, they can usually learn all the rules and play a full game.

    I definitely think that concentrating too much on chess would be a mistake. It really should complement the other lessons and activities.

    1. J R Shukla says:

      Try to get the child to observe how different animals move differently. They can imitate all. But ask if how whould a elephant look galloping like a horse… Build a little more on Tis theme and relate with the moving style of pieces on the board. Try if this works. It worked with my 3 year old.
      J R Shukla

  11. William says:

    Hey Laura,

    I couldn’t agree more with this article, especially the line about the benefits of chess for children “Chess teaches children many fundamentals, like problem solving, focus, patience and follow through.”

    The inherent plasticity of a child’s developing brain enables young kids to absorb information like a dry sponge. I definitely like the idea of encouraging kids with baby steps by starting off with the rook (Before this article I thought the pawn was easier too!)

    But when do you think is the best age to start kids on chess? Do you think there should be a minimum limit?

    While chess does teach great skills, etc.. to kids, do you think that studying too much chess can be a bad thing?

  12. Arnoud says:

    In my experience you cannot really teach children chess at such a young age. For example, their span of attention is too short and they simply do not understand why it is bad to lose a couple of pieces.
    You can however teach them simple games derived from chess, as a means of preparing them for the real game (and for school, as you point out).

    1. Laura says:

      Hi, Arnoud! I agree with you that the simple games are a great place to start. That’s what we focus on in Chess Is Child’s Play.

      Bill and I discovered that breaking down the basics into smaller steps helps children of any age. We developed “mini-games,” which isolate certain pieces or concepts in order to teach a child certain skills. When you do this, it has been my experience that a child’s ability to focus improves greatly.

      Sometimes the first lesson may only take ten minutes, but after a while, a four-year-old can sit for 30-40 minutes and play!

      Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts!

  13. jublke says:

    I think if I tried to teach my newly minted 3-year-old chess, she would chew on the pieces and run off with them. I suspect she might be up for chess if we started with other, easier games first. Or do you advocate chess as a first game?

    1. Laura says:

      Thanks for writing in! Chess does not need to be the first game you teach your child (or the only game). Many board games teach children wonderful lessons. Plus the bonding experience created is quite special.

      I found that parents sometimes think that a child must be nine to learn to play chess. I was curious how young one could start, so I researched it and discovered that some two-year-olds could learn to play and do well! Not all, mind you, but some could. Others could enjoy some simple games designed to teach some very basic fundamentals.

      Really it comes down to one’s teaching techniques. There are many ways to overwhelm a child of any age, so that they really don’t want to learn the game (or they believe the game is too difficult). This goes for adults as well.

      Our approach is to teach children in a very step-by-step manner. Chess Is Child’s Play has a lot of little “mini-games” for children of all ages. It’s about breaking the game of chess up into bite-sized pieces (and making sure the individual pieces cannot be bitten)!

  14. Chess assigns arbitrary value and movement to arbitray shapes. I believe the same portion of the brain that processes mathematics is used in the understanding so the brain is developed sooner by playing chess when complex mathematical relationships cannot yet be understood. It is like trying to make a 2 yr old understand that a dime is worth more than a nickel (won’t happen, a 2 yr old will almost always trade a dime for a nickel) but when the child is 4 yrs old their brain can assign arbitray value for the dime and nickel and understand that the dime has more value.

    1. Laura says:

      Thank you, Tom, for writing in and taking the time to share your thoughts!

      It has been my experience that children learn at their own pace. Some learn quickly, while others need time.

      Some two-year-olds are ready for chess and some aren’t. However in Chess Is Child’s Play the exercises we present are very easy and basic. They focus on naming pieces and other very fundamental aspects of the game.

      I will tell you that some two-year-olds do master all the elements of the game.

      The point however is to introduce children to chess at an early age (when they are ready) and to have fun with the experience!

    2. Diana says:

      I don’t know, Tom. Isn’t language assigning arbitrary meaning to arbitrary sounds? And we know that the earliest years are when people learn languages best. I know of three year olds who have started to pick up the basic elements one at a time and on a gradient like this article is talking about–so cool!

      1. Laura says:

        Thank you for writing in, Diana! I completely agree with you. Very young children can learn many things if they’re taught correctly.

    3. I don’t know, Tom; I don’t think the shapes of chess pieces are completely arbitrary. If you think about it, the shapes of certain pieces (knights, bishops, rooks) mirror their movements. I think a very young child can begin to grasp that.

      1. Laura says:

        Dear Mommy Blawger,

        I love that about the Staunton design of chess pieces. They are designed with hints about the pieces movements. It’s fun! The queen also indicates her movements (her eight points on her crown point to the eight ways she can move).

  15. Barb says:

    Great ideas and encouragement. I had no idea you could teach children so young. Great strategy for engaging them while prepping for edu!

    1. Laura says:

      Thank you! Yes, it is fun to watch young children embrace chess.

  16. Kyt williams-gardner says:

    I have 5 sons and all of them taught the “next” one after them, after two of the oldest were taught by a family friend. My oldest is 40 and the youngest is 19. The youngest has also taught his four nephews. Awesome!

    1. Laura says:

      Wow, that is great! It’s so perfect when one child can teach another. It gives them such a feeling of accomplishment and they actually learn more about the game.

      Thanks for writing in and sharing your story, Kyt!

  17. Vanessa says:

    My twins before they started school would have needed chess pieces safe to be chewed and safe to be used as missiles (ie without hurting or damaging anything). They would not have been able to focus well enough or even cope with the turn taking and other social skills needed (such as the ability to accept the fact they have to follow rules not turn it into one of their imaginary stories and do it all their way). They needed something simpler because just playing a turn taking game at all was challenge enough- they needed that to be the only rule. One has Autism and is Over Active and his twins has Aspergers and ADHD). One of them does now play chess (they are 11 years old now) but at under 4 (UK school starts at 4 or 2 1/2 or 3 if they go to Nursery) it would have been a recipe for failure and would have put him off trying any other games.

    1. Laura says:


      Thank you for taking the time to write in! I understand all your points and can see why in your case, it would have been difficult to start teaching chess at a young age. Having said that Bill and I designed Chess Is Child’s Play so that the child can learn at their own pace. We strove to make teaching chess easy and fun!

      In Chess Is Child’s Play we also provide exercises for children who are 2 and 3 years old. These “mini-games” are very, very basic and are geared around naming the pieces and learning other fundamentals. It has been our experience that children love these games.

      There are times when they can go on and learn about how the individual pieces move and play a full game, but sometimes the parent needs to wait a bit before progressing through the book. It is always dependent on the individual child.

      There have been various two- and three-year-olds who have been able to apply all the lessons and play a full game with their parent. Some become quite good!

      I would never advocate forcing a child to learn something that they aren’t ready for, but most four-year-olds are ready and eager to learn (from my experience). And most two- and three-year-olds can handle our exercises for that age group.

      Your point on selecting the right size pieces is a good one. We spent some time on that topic in our book, because regardless of the age of the child, it is important that they use standard pieces and not the teeny-tiny ones.

      That is great that one of your sons plays chess despite the challenges he faces. I have heard quite a few parents say that chess can really help autistic children focus. Have you found that to be true?

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