Teaching your child chess is a gift you give them for life. Chess brings out the imagination, improves critical thinking skills, helps children to recognize patterns – and best of all any child can learn to play! While a six year old may seem young to teach such a challenging game to, it’s actually often easier for younger children to quickly pick up the rules. And as children learn more, their improvements build confidence that will help them both on and away from the board. Best of all - you don’t need to be an expert yourself before teaching your child – it can be a super fun bonding experience to learn and improve together.
Start with one piece at a time
Don’t start with a full board of pieces. Practice with one piece at a time, taking time to learn how each piece moves and captures.
Learning chess should be fun, so give praise, talk through your own moves, don’t interrupt your child’s train of thought, and play regularly.
Keep your lessons short
Children aren’t known for having super long attention spans, so plan accordingly when teaching your child a new skill or move. Start by just playing for 15-20 minutes a time to keep the excitement going.
Engage your child’s logical thinking with questions related to their moves:
Why did you play that move?
What do you think your opponent is trying to do now?
Have you thought about what your next 2 moves are going to be?
Where there any moves you would have made differently next time?
Focus on the basics
After learning how each piece works, focus your teaching efforts on how to capture the opponent’s pieces, how to protect the king, and how to get a checkmate.
Leave the board accessible
Keep your chess board in a space easily accessible to your child, whether that be in their bedroom, living room, or play space. Keeping the game in their line of vision will encourage them to pick the box up more often. Also, try not to turn your child down when they ask you to play. If you’re busy, just let them know how many minutes they need to wait before you can play together.
Remember that it’s okay to lose
It’s important to teach your child from the start that it’s okay to lose. Losing is a part of any game, but just because it’s bound to happen doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to play.
That being said, winning a game can be a huge confidence booster, so do make sure your child wins a few games to keep their interest growing too. You can help your child secure a win by playing a game where you switch sides in the middle so they can play your pieces and you can try clean up their side.
Allow for a mulligan
When your child is first learning how to play make it a house rule to allow 1 mulligan or do-over. This will encourage your child to think critically about their opponents moves as well as create a more relaxed environment.
Play as a team
If you have 4 players, try playing a team game with 2 players on each side. Sharing the wins and loses can provide an opportunity for adults to model how to maturely handle the feelings that come with both.