At Chess Made Fun we believe introducing chess to your child may begin at a young age. Be structured in your chess time. Set aside 5-15 minutes of dedicated time to chess a couple of days a week. They will begin to look forward to “playing chess”. Below are some guidelines for introducing chess to your young children. These are just guidelines. Every child learns at a different pace, so you may adjust to your child’s specific needs.
0-1 years of age
You may start from birth by reading chess books to your child. Reading the names of the pieces and their movement from a young age will begin your journey. Play chess in front of your baby and young children. Seeing the pieces move across the board will usually intrigue them. Purchase a silicone chess set. When your baby is old enough to grasp objects let them grab the pieces supervised naming the pieces they are holding.
1-2 years of age
Let them play with the silicone chessboard supervised. Taking the pieces in and out of the bag, placing them on the board, or just playing with them in their own way will teach them how to hold a piece, what a chessboard is and the names of the pieces. Introduce chess themed toys; castles, kings, queens and knights. Let their imaginations fly while they are playing and having fun.
2-2.5 years of age
If you haven’t already purchased Chess is Child’s Play, we highly recommend it. This book will teach you proper techniques with lots of tips for parents to use during lesson time. There is a chapter of how to teach chess to your 2-4 year old introducing mini-games you can use during your lesson time. The book’s mini-games continue until they know how each piece moves, how to attack, capture, check and checkmate. The book will grow with your child until they know how to play chess. It is written for parents, and may be understood even if you don’t know how to play chess.
By now your child should know the names of each piece. The next step is introducing piece recognition. Teach them what each piece is named, and make a fun game out of it. Start with one piece at a time (Ex. Pull out the 8 pawns put the other pieces up). Show your child the pawn, and tell them the name of the piece. Set it in the center of a square in the starting position. Pull out another pawn and ask them the name of the piece. Repeat these steps over and over until you pull out a pawn, and they are able to call it a pawn when asked without help. The attention span of a child this young is short. When their attention begins to fade stop the lesson. Pushing them too hard could discourage them from wanting to play or participate in their lessons.
Once your child knows the names of each piece, name recognition, and knows how to set a piece in the center of the square move on.
2.5-3 years of age
Teach your toddler how to set up the chessboard by showing your child where the pieces go in the starting position. Remember there should always be a white square in the bottom right corner of the chessboard. Here is a video teaching a 3 year old how to set up the chess board for advice. It will take many lessons to teaching them how to set up the chess board up to a few months depending on your child. When providing instructions be clear and consistent, so they do not become confused.
3 years of age
Once your toddler knows how to set up the chess board teach them how each piece moves. Start with one piece at a time during a lesson. Do not move on until they know how the piece moves. This may take many lessons to learn, so don’t get discouraged and remember to be patient. Most people will introduce the rook first because it is the easiest piece to explain. Take all the pieces off the chessboard except for the piece your child is learning during that lesson.
Once your toddler knows how each of the pieces move introduce attacking and capturing. Have a single rook on the board and put pawns in its path, and show how a rook can move forward, backwards or side to side and capture a piece. Move the pieces, and ask your child what pieces may the rook capture. Once your child understands the concept, move on to the next piece until they understand how each piece moves, attacks and captures.
Most toddlers won’t understand more advanced teachings. Stick to the basics, and make sure they understand how the pieces move, capture and attack. Once they are older you may introduce your child to mini-games and checkmate. Let us know in the comments some techniques you have used to teach chess to your toddler.