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When we think of chess, many of us picture old men in the park sitting at tables in the shade playing a game of old. What we don’t necessarily consider is how that game can benefit the daily life of our children. Chess is a strategic skill game that allows our children to develop a multitude of highly sought after skills, can be taught from an early age, and will allow your child to excel both in the classroom and in the real world. Chess opens up a dialogue between young and old, it is a language in and of itself that allows those who can play to find common ground no matter the age or native language of the player. This game is played worldwide amongst avid opponents from across the globe.
Think of chess as exercise for the brain. We are all familiar with the common adage “knowledge is power”, but have you ever stopped to think of your brain as a muscle? Have you ever considered how that muscle works out and acquires knowledge as it forms connections and synapses during your child’s growth and development. When considering the brain as a muscle, constantly moving, forming new connections, one of the best workouts for this muscle is chess.
Attention to Detail and Strategic Thinking
When playing chess, children are taught to carefully observe and concentrate on the board in front of them.
A player must be aware of what is happening on the board in relation to multiple pieces all at one time. This attention to detail that allows them to play chess successfully also develops this useful observation skill in their daily life.
Chess also teaches children to think strategically as they will soon learn they must think ahead before moving their pieces in order to win. Chess allows children to both consider small details and to look at the long range goals they want to accomplish on the board in order to plan their moves and play successfully. Oftentimes a chess player will plan several moves down the line in response to multiple scenarios available to her opponent.
This juggling of so many factors at once in the brain leads to a highly developed muscle which can evaluate multiple factors simultaneously, i.e. strategic thinking.
Math Skills and Conceptual Thinking
Chess teaches children to use both sides of their brain. Due to the strategic nature of the game and play, which depends on both object recognition and pattern recognition, both the left and right brain are “exercised” during play. Both of these are factors similar to the skills necessary to solve difficult math problems. Children will eventually learn to think abstractly and they will be able to not only recognize the patterns at play in the game, but will be able to apply these advanced recognition skills to patterns in different situations such as higher math.
Chess forces children to visualize what is happening on the board in front of them before actually acting and moving their pieces. Identifying patterns of play and being able to step back and see the big picture is an acquired skill in chess, and the more a child plays the more easily he will begin to see these patterns emerge allowing him to calculate his next move. The way a chess player moves pieces around in his head before making moves on the board is similar to how “mental math” is developed through our children’s education.
Logical Thinking and Discipline
In a game of chess a child must learn to make decisions from a multitude of options. However, she must evaluate the results of specific actions or moves and the sequence of play that will stem from each of these options before making her choice.
Children developing their chess skills will quickly learn to make these decisions based on logical thinking rather than impulse in order to play and win.
Children will also learn discipline and patience playing chess because impulsiveness will cause a player to quickly lose the game. Children are taught to evaluate situations, which can then be carried with them into their everyday life, and not to quickly do the first thing that comes to mind.
Chess requires a child to think about the consequences of their actions and the reactions of their opponent, teaching them to identify alternatives and weigh all options before making a decision.
Enjoyment in Education
Chess is both a source of enjoyment and an invaluable educational tool. While the skills chess teaches stimulate your child’s mind and development, it also instills in them a love for learning because they are developing invaluable skills while playing a game. Children who play chess become better problem solvers and decision makers.
It is a game that develops both sides of the brain while teaching critical thinking, strategic thinking, and logic skills. It increases one’s verbal capacity and introduces patterns and analysis. These are all educational components wrapped up in a game allowing children to have fun while unknowingly improving all of these skills.
Teaching children to love to learn by using chess as both a game and a teaching tool gives them the opportunity for lifetime educational fun!
Chess allows children an opportunity to learn and play simultaneously. It allows children who may not otherwise speak to one another to become great friends. It gives children who are not interested in sports or music a hobby, a group to join, and honestly may pair them up with others both similar to and very different from themselves due to the widespread play of the game. Chess is one of the few games you’ll find with both child and adult groups, teams, and organizations from elementary school through senior citizens. By learning to play chess now your child will forever have a skill that he can continue to hone and utilize throughout life. One day your child may just be that old man in the park playing chess with a friend or teaching her grandchild how to move the pieces.
Photo Credits: Kristin dePaula