The Importance of Chess for Children

What do children do?

Children spend a lot of their free time playing sports, organized or otherwise, and video games. The sports are great as it keeps them physically active, however, neither of the sports or video games do a great job of mental stimulation or growth. Some could argue (especially the kids) that they get their mental stimulation at school, so the rest of the time they can take it easy. Is it enough? The benefits of playing chess even just for an hour a week split up over two half-hours during the week can provide an enormous lift to the child who is playing/learning.

Reasons to choose Chess

Apart from the benefits of playing chess which I describe below, there are also other reasons why Chess is a good game to play. For one, it is an inexpensive game - a board with pieces can be had second hand for little or nothing. Chess can also be portable, as many versions of the board can be folded to hold the pieces inside during transport. It can be played anywhere - in a cafeteria, library, shopping mall, food court, cafe, picnic table, park bench and so on.

Benefits

There are numerous benefits for children when they learn and play chess:

  • Memory - The first thing to do when learning to play chess is to memorize each piece's allowed movements and the general rules of the game. This makes use of the memory. As a player gains experience, their memory is further tested by remembering plays that have worked well, or not so well in past games to help them in the current game. An additional memory test is to remember how an opponent plays, as each player may have a specific style.
  • Foresight - By practicing the planning of the next move and subsequent moves, this engages a part of the brain that is used at very few other times during childhood. Developing this ability will help in many other areas as the child grows up.
  • Math - At its basic, each Chess piece has a point value, so often as kids are learning to play chess, they will add up the point values of the pieces they have captured, and that their opponent has captured to evaluate who is in the lead. At a higher level there is logic and comparator operations taking place where piece tradeoffs or a decision among two possible moves would need to be evaluated.
  • Attention Span - Most sports and video games are instantly gratifying in that when you kick the ball, the ball moves, or when you shoot the demon in the game, the reaction is immediate. In Chess, the player needs to pay attention to the game for longer and longer periods as they advance and increase their experience. This ability to grow the attention span has a tremendous effect on their ability to study for school.
  • Grace - As the child plays there are some games where they will win and others where they will lose. If they do not show grace in either circumstance they will soon find they have no one to play with. Being graceful at losing or winning will help in all other areas of life where there is the potential to win or lose.
  • Independence - When a child first learns they are taught the moves, and will receive suggestions as to what move to make next. As they progress, they will be offered choices as to what moves are available to them. Eventually they will be on their own to decide what moves to make. Making these decisions independently will start to give the child a sense of autonomy and proactvity that will translate to other areas of life.

Conclusion

There are a number of other benefits to playing Chess for children. In fact, even learning as an adult, many of the benefits listed here would apply also. I highly recommend teaching children the game of chess to as young as a 5 year old.

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Comments 34 comments

albertacowpoke profile image

albertacowpoke 5 years ago from Redwater, Alberta

I can attest to what you wrote here. My father played chess with me almost daily. Besides the points that you made, chess also teaches you patience and of course the most important thing in life, that success must be earned and a loss taken gracefully. Thanks for a great hub.


amurbach profile image

amurbach 5 years ago from Arizona

Nice hub. I try to keep my kids away from video games and so playing chess more often may be the perfect substitute. I may even be able to benefit from playing chess myself because my memory and attention span could use some improvement.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

ABCP - indeed patience and perseverance also, if you can keep your kid playing to the end of the game.

Amur - Thanks, yes playing chess as an adult can also help us use parts of our brain that we don't use too often.


Greg Sage profile image

Greg Sage 5 years ago from Orlando, Florida

The foresight part is huge. I've taught a couple dozen people to play, and have been thinking about doing an after school program at my kid's school if I can work out the time.

I suppose that would finally force me to go back and learn some fundamentals since I'm self-taught.

I love that my 11 year old LIKES playing with me. Scary how quick he's gotten it, though. He'll be beating me in another couple years.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

There is a lunch time program in my kid's school where someone from the local chess association comes and teaches the kids. That's how I got my kids involved. Indeed, once the children start to really play regularly, their skills really improve dramatically.


whoisbid profile image

whoisbid 5 years ago

Children will never forget us if we taught them how to play chess. I am not a great chess player but I taught a child how to play and I can tell you it was really worth it. The satisfaction I had of knowing I had imparted something incredible to them for life is without doubt a great achievement for me! We all need to get the youngsters to play chess with others more often to increase the attention span Phil has mentioned. I can see a lot of people grow up and no-one has ever trained them in the area of concentration. I think the concentration is like a muscle and it can be grown and chess is like steroids!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Indeed, there really isn't anything comparable to chess for kids with respect to improving attention span.


ediann profile image

ediann 5 years ago

Phil, Thank you for writing this as I have a son who is autistic and very easliy bored. He has many challenges but is high functioning and I believe if we were to get him interested in playing chess it would certainly help him and provide challenges that he so desperately needs. We are always trying to find ways to help our son develop positive self esteem and help his mental outlook. I believe chess would be a great thing for our son to learn. I would need lessons myself!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

ediann, I'm sure you could google some free software that would teach you how to play, then with a real board you could teach your son. If you did this it would be a great hub for you to write - chess and autism.


ediann profile image

ediann 5 years ago

thanks phil for the information! i will check into this and will follow up with you!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

No problem, I'm happy to help.


SariCeciliaArts 5 years ago

I really enjoyed reading this piece and believe in what you said wholeheartedly. I have 4 chess boards in my classroom (Art Teacher) and I use it as a reward for those who have completed their work to "chill out" and play! I really enjoy watching their decision making processes. The boards are now tattered and wobbly and I will be replacing them. I really enjoy a good game myself and the kids know this (:


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks, Sari. I wish that all schools everywhere would have teachers like you who do what you have done.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

Rated Up and Awesome!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Wow... I wish I had been taught chess as a kid ;_;


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Chess for me was something that had I learned it, my brother would have made it seem like a life or death situation. Every time we played. To this day I hate Cribbage, Poker and Monopoly.


nikki_m profile image

nikki_m 5 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

Wonderful hub. I was fortunate enough to go to a small school when I was very young, and so each person in the class was taught chess. It's the perfect thing to do on a rainy/snowy day or when you just want to escape the hypnotic electricity powered games.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Patty, thanks!

Simone, it is never too late.

Flora, that sounds terrible. It is really too bad that your brother did this to you.

Nikki, thanks, I agree that it is a great game for rainy days.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Way to go for chess! I can play a little but not really good with strategy and all. Hmmmm you made me want to get my chessboard and play! :d

Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination! For voting and other details, head this way: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/DIY-HubNugget-...


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Hey RM, thanks so much for letting me know, I just got back from vacation. I'm not a super player either, but do enjoy playing occasionally.


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 5 years ago from Bishop, Ca

You have done a masterful job with this hub, Phil Plasma. At almost 55 years old, I could use some of these skills still, yet now I have another chance with my 11 month grandson. Hopefully I will interest him in the art of Chess when he's ready-I've always loved the game, though never achieved the level I always wished for!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks lorlie, at the earliest ages just spend a few minutes at a time to explain the way the pieces move to try and pique his interest, than gradually move up. I hope too that he takes to it.


Fadeo profile image

Fadeo 5 years ago

A very interesting Hub that I most certainly agree with. It has enlightened me to the benefits that can be gained from playing chess at a ripe age. I was lucky enough to be taught at a young age by my step-father and still very much enjoy a good game of chess when I get the chance. Definatly something that should be more advertised. Thanks for a great read! Gets an awesome from me :)


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Fadeo, thanks - you are reminding me that I need to get the board out and play a few games.


Ebower profile image

Ebower 4 years ago from Georgia

I agree that children can learn a lot from chess. I never won when I was young, but I'm sure I gained some benefit from it anyway. I voted this up and useful. :)


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Eb, thanks for stopping by. You are reminding me that I should engage in a chess game or two with my children, it has been quite some time since last we've played.


Robert Erich profile image

Robert Erich 4 years ago from California

Phil! I am fascinated by the titles of many of your hubs. I loved this one especially. Chess is a great alternative for video games.

Good point about everyone sharing my one hub too much. I will have to look into that. This "game" might get a little carried away!

Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your articles. This one is voted up and shared.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Thanks Robert, it is very kind of you to share my interest in helping others. At least two of my hubs are about helping other hubbers.


creativelycc profile image

creativelycc 4 years ago from Maine

Very nice, this is a wonderful way to help with the mental and emotional development of children. I think I'll buy a chess set for my granddaughter's 7th birthday. My son used to be on the chess team in high school, he loved it.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Yeah, that's a great idea - hopefully your granddaughter will take to it.


MomsTreasureChest profile image

MomsTreasureChest 4 years ago

I made sure my four children all learned how to play, and they all like it. For some reason I could never get on board, tried many times, just wasn't' for me.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

MTC, I commend you for having encouraged your children to play. Too bad it hasn't worked out for you. Thanks for stopping by!


mosotheman 2 years ago

I am applying to college and am writing an essay about chess and why it is important to me. This was surely a nice place to begin my research.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 24 months ago from Montreal, Quebec Author

Moso, I'm glad this hub helped. Good luck with your essay!

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