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Marc Cressac; Chess Fact-Checked by Marc Cressac | Updated 2023-01-13
Founder of Chessily.com

Every Kid Should Play Chess. Here’s Why.

Admittetly, the title might be worded a bit too firmly. But there is no doubt that chess has a lot of benefits, both cognitive and social in nature, that every child should at least be able to try and take advantage of. So in this article we’ll make the case for why every parent should teach their child to play chess from a very young age.

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4 Benefits of Playing Chess In (Young) Children

While many parents and avid chess-lovers have long spoken about positive impacts on child development from learning and playing chess, those suspicions are rarely followed up by hard facts. Today, we want to change that and take a closer look at the science behind why every child should play chess. For that, we did a deep-dive into chess science and neighboring fields of study to find out how exactly children can benefit from learning and playing chess.

1. Chess Improves Mathematical Skills

This 2012 study by Farhad Kazemi, Mozafar Yektayar, Ali Mohammadi Bolban Abad examined the effect of learning and playing chess on meta-cognitive ability and mathematical problem-solving skills. For that, the researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial with 86 students being taught chess for 6 months, with a control group of 94 students receiving no treatment. The subjects were almost equally distributed between fifth, eigthts and ninths grade.

The results show that students learning and playing chess did better in tests for both meta-cognitive ability as well as mathematical problem solving skills. 

Students Playing Chess Score Higher on Math Tests
Students Playing Chess Score Higher on Math Tests

This lets us conclude that children and early teens benefit from playing chess in general cognitive ability, as well as math in particular. This effect was positive and significant across all grades. Similiar results have been found in previous studies, such as the one carried out by Gaudreau (1992) in New Brunswick, Canada.

So, if you want your child to improve their mathematical (and cognitive) abilities, teaching them how to play chess is certainly a good idea.

2. Playing Chess Increases Social Intelligence

There is no doubt about it – chess is a social game. While you might have fun playing against the computer, chess is much more enjoyable if it is played human-to-human, face-to-face.

To examine the influence chess plays on social intelligence and social-emotional enrichment, Ramón Aciego, Lorena García and Moisés Betancort conducted an extensive study with 170 schoolchildren aged 6-16 years old. The study split the group into chess players and those engaging in different extracurricular activities, in this case basketball and soccer. 

It was found that playing chess regularly does not only improve cognitive abilities, coping and problem-solving capacity, but also the socioaffective development of children and adolescents.


3. Children that Play Chess Are More Extraverted and Energetic

This study tried to close a research gap that existed for decades in chess science. We’re talking about the personality types of chess players, in particular children who take it up voluntarily as a hobby. Merim Bilalić Peter McLeod and Fernand Gobet used the Big Five model to create an image of what makes a young chess player. 

The researchers used a group of 219 young children that play chess regularly and 50 of their peers that don’t play the royal game. The results were quite interesting.

While stereotypes might suggest that chess players tend to be more introverted, this is however not the case in young chess playing children. The study found that children who score higher on Intellect/openness and Energy/extraversion are more likely to play chess while children who score higher on Agreeableness are less likely to be attracted to chess. 

4. Chess is a Fun Game

Admittetly, this reason is not (yet) backed up by science, but our very own perception of the game (we might be a bit biased here). Chess is an incredibly fun and challenging game every child should at least try once. Obviously, it might not be for everyone, but giving it a try certainly won’t hurt!

When Should Kids Start Learning and Playing Chess?

Now that we’ve established the clear benefits of playing chess in children, the next logical question is: When should I start to teach my child how to play chess?

When it comes to chess, there is no one definitive answer to the question of when kids should start playing the game. Some experts argue that chess can be beneficial for kids as young as four or five years old, while others believe that kids shouldnt start playing until theyre at least seven or eight. Personally, we’d suggest getting your kids started with chess as early as possible!

Obviously it makes no sense to expect a child to learn chess before it can even hold the chess pieces or make moves. But if the individual maturity level and interest in the game allows for it, why not start as soon as possible! Human brains are known to be the most plastic (i. e. able to learn and store new information) in our youngest years.

How To Teach Chess To Children

Lots of parents want their children to learn and play chess, but struggle with actually teaching them.

While it is certainly possible to hire a chess coach to teach your children, this approach can get quite expensive (especially if you don’t know if your child will even enjoy playing!). For that reason, we came up with a small guide on how to actually teach kids how to play chess.

  1. Start with the basics. Before you start playing, it‘s important that your child understands the basics of the game. This includes the different pieces, how they move, and the objective of the game. There are also online resources like ChessKid that are great at teaching the chess basics!
  2. Demonstrate and explain. Once your child knows the basics, it‘s time to start playing. As you play, take the time to explain each move and why you‘re making it. Also, ask your child for their thought process and why they make certain moves.
  3. Let them make mistakes. It‘s important that your child feels comfortable making mistakes. This is how they‘ll learn and improve. A mistake is always a chance to learn and improve at chess!
  4. Encourage them to think ahead. One of the key skills in chess is thinking ahead. As your child makes each move, encourage them to think about their opponent‘s next move and how they can counter it
  5. Praise their successes. Whenever your child makes a good move, be sure to praise them. This will help them feel good about the game and encourage them to keep playing.

With a little patience and practice, your child will be playing chess like a pro in no time!

Children and Chess: Wrapping Up

While chess is certainly not a game for everyone, the benefits of trying to get your kid to learn and play chess from a young age far outweigh the potential drawbacks (are there any, really?). Whether your child turns out to be a chess prodigy or just a casual player, chess can be a fun and rewarding experience for both of you. So, don’t be afraid to start teaching them the game – you may be surprised at how quickly they take to it.

Do you have any comments, suggestions or additions to this article? Please reach out: [email protected]!

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