Ask the average adult if chess is cool and they’d probably say, “No way!” Ask the average young child and I’ll bet they’ll give you a different answer – “Chess is way cool!” Children don’t seem to know that chess is considered “geeky” by some.
Don’t believe me? Try an experiment. Put out two chess sets in a lunchroom or other kid central location and step back. See what happens. It’s been my experience that children will flock to the boards. They love the game.
My husband and I fell in love at a chess tournament. Chess had always been a part of our lives. When we had our first child I decided to start teaching him early on.
I wondered how he would respond to the game. I realized that how I introduced the game to my son would dictate his response. I took it slow, realizing it was my job to make chess cool for him!
He took to it quickly and we had a lot of fun. Soon his friends wanted lessons and other parents began asking us to teach their children. I worked on fine tuning my techniques so that they would work for all children, of any age.
I went into the preschool at my children’s school and worked on finding ways to teach two- and three-year-olds to play. Most of the kids loved the lessons but one little boy didn’t show any interest at first. I was working on showing him how the rook moved. He’d just watch me and decline to move the piece himself.
So, how did I make chess cool for this boy? I am not one to give up easily.
I thought back to what my son loved most at age two. Trains! I asked him if he liked Thomas train and his eyes lit up. “Yes, I love Thomas and Percy and…” Well we had a fine discussion about all the trains. I was so happy I knew them all.
“You know,” I told him. “The rook moves like a train on a chess board!” Well, now he was interested. In fact I had trouble ending the lesson. He wanted to move all the rooks on the board (naming each after ones from the Thomas train story).
It’s always the teacher’s job to make any subject fun and cool. Chess is no different. As long as you teach at the right speed and level for the child in front of you, and keep things fun, your child will love chess and reap the rewards that this game has to offer.
Laura Sherman wrote Chess Is Child’s Play with Bill Kilpatrick. Chess Is Child’s Play teaches any parent, of any skill level, to teach any child, of any age, to play chess. This book will be released April, 2012.
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