Is Your Kid Ready for Chess?

Getting started

First, children should learn how the pieces move, says Scimia, followed by the rules of the game. These basics are the backbone of chess, and kids can learn them very quickly, he says.

Anthony Migyanka, a dad from Texas, used that technique when he started teaching his two-year-old son to play. Initially, they just traded chess pieces. "He picked up the different moves quickly," says Migyanka. Eventually, he began adding in different moves to bring strategy into the game. By age 5, his son was competing in the advanced division of a local chess tournament.

"It was a happy coincidence that my son loved capturing my pieces, so we kept playing. It was something that brought us together," he says.

Migyanka already knew how to play chess when he and his son began playing, but some parents don't. Scimia says this shouldn't deter you. In fact, it can be fun to learn right along with them. The children's book Gary's Adventures in Chess Country and even chess games for your computer or video game system can help you learn the ins and outs of the game, says Scimia.

"It helps if the kids learn [at the same time as a parent], because then they have someone at home at the same level as they are," says Scimia.

Offering encouragement

After your kids have mastered the basic rules and can play a full game with you or their friends, they might be interested in playing in more competitive situations. Scimia says to look for chess clubs through your local library or your child's school. A club can help kids develop their strategy skills, and gives them an opportunity to meet kids with similar interests. And for the child who wants to improve their chess skills, playing against someone who is better is a smart move, he says.

Another option is private lessons. These really aren't for kids who are just starting out, says Scimia. "Wait until they have learned how to play and have some basic skills, then look for a local teacher," he says. You can often find a teacher through a local chess club or library.

As for competitions, they aren't for everyone. "It's fine to just play for fun," says Scimia.

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