“Chess makes kids smarter” is a phrase we often hear in everyday life. It’s the reason that many parents start teaching their children a little chess with the hope that they will get smarter. Many people are convinced that chess is a game that improves various skills – but how?
Many parents search for ways and means to make their children develop from the time they are toddlers, so that they become intelligent people. From a certain age, they start them playing games that are supposed to enhance children’s cognitive development.
There is no that playing at least a little chess regularly has an immense effect on the brain – as long as children aren’t forced to play it. Compulsion has never led to really satisfying outcomes. However, almost 30 countries in the world have already included chess as a mandatory part of their school curriculum, which certainly must have some meaningful reasons.
Chess makes kids smarter in several areas in life, which we hope to explain in the following article. Maybe you will be convinced and even decide to motivate your child to explore this fascinating new game, who knows?
Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist and epistemologist, postulated a theory about the cognitive development of children. He divided it into four stages: the sensorimotor stage (0-2 years), the preoperational stage (2-7 years), the concrete-operational stage (7-12 years) and the formal operational phase (12 years plus).
Chess is a game of logic, a faculty that starts developing by the age of 7 in the form of the first steps in abstract thinking. From experience, we can say that children of kindergarten age have trouble understanding complex games in a deeper sense. So, the beginning of school is a good time to start.
Abstract thinking starts, according to Piaget, at the age of 12. But is that so true? Aren’t there kids who outplay strong chess players already at an earlier age? Certainly, there are many kids who are able to think abstractly at an earlier age! This shows us that chess contributes extremely positively to children’s cognitive development.
Moreover, chess makes kids smarter in the area of logical thinking. In chess, you are supposed to evaluate different ideas, recognize patterns and decide on the best moves.
Studies also prove that children who play chess have a higher intelligence quotient. A study was performed in Venezuela with 4000 second graders. A significant increase in their IQ scores was measured after only 4 1/2 months of systematic chess training. Chess tournament games require good performance under time pressure. This games training – a form of play, combined with serious thinking – is helpful for children’s performance in tests and exams.
Performance at School
The concept that kids who play chess are better at math is widespread. And there’s really something to it! A chess player needs to calculate variations throughout the whole game. And for developing calculation skills, it is important to imagine and visualize the intended positions and moves. These skills are very useful at school!
Plenty of people say that school is only about learning by heart and that children who are the most diligent get the best grades. Chess, undoubtedly, trains the memory – a chess player needs to remember openings, move orders, endgame strategies and so on!
And what is the key to good performance at school? Discipline and concentration! During a chess game, a child has to concentrate for hours. Typically, younger children have very short concentration spans, of about 10 seconds for children aged between 7 and 12 years. A study tested these children by using long and longer sentences, measuring how long it takes before the children give up and switch off. Children who play chess completely outperformed the others!
Children who play chess are far more creative than children who don’t. This fact is proven by a study with 40 fifth graders. Half of them had 42 chess lessons, while the others had none in the course of one school year. At the end, some tests were conducted – with stunning results! Children who played chess performed far better than the others (see the graphic on the left)!
Chess makes kids smarter at acquiring languages and at reading! Already in 1996, the New York City-based educational psychologist Stuart Margulies found that elementary school students in Los Angeles and New York who played chess scored averagely 10 percentage points higher in reading tests than their peers!
Many schools, on learning of the results of such studies, now encourage chess. For instance, a private academy in New York City, Dalton School, has one of the first and best chess programs in the States. The program started 18 years ago and today the students start their chess training already in the kindergarten. Chess is not considered to be a hard subject or work, but a lot of fun.
In consequence, chess makes kids smarter in various subjects at school, which means it is a great idea to include it into the timetable! Performance improves, and grades get better in a verifiable way.
We have talked a lot about the improvement of the cognitive skills of your kids. But what about social intelligence? Chess has also an impact on that!
Chess training can be a really fun thing. You come together in a group, solve some puzzles, maybe compete against each other, or talk about different moves or positions. Just like when you have other hobbies where you find friends, you can make many new friends with the same interest when playing chess! Sometimes, it is even more effective to train together than alone. Thus, chess makes kids smarter in social interaction.
Playing a chess game at a tournament requires you to be respectful to your opponent as well. You learn to respect others no matter if you are in a good mood when you win, or frustrated when you have lost. It’s a rule to shake hands before the game and is good to congratulate your opponent at the end if you lost.
Patience is surely also needed if you want to play chess. Many children experience problems when they have to wait for something, and they want to have everything immediately. That’s a typical phenomenon of the modern world – as much as possible, and as fast as possible! However, chess trains you to be patient and persistent in a long game!
A chess tournament can lasts up to a few or even several days. You have to travel to a specific place and usually stay there throughout the tournament. The accommodation usually costs a little money, so that children often stay without their parents. These days will increase the independence of your children, as they stay some days without permanent parental aid.
Chess makes kids smarter? – Conclusion
Yes, chess makes kids smarter! We hope we have been able to convince you of that and motivate you to encourage your child to try out a new hobby which is helpful for all areas of their life. If you don’t agree, or have something to say on the issue, please feel free to inform us and leave a comment.