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When Is the Right Age to Introduce a Child to Chess?
It’s been frequently said that playing chess is a great way for a child to improve his brainpower. While having a lot of fun playing the game, the child’s mind is also trained to create and analyze strategies, which in turn improves his mental capabilities even for other aspects of life outside the world of chess.
Because of the multiple benefits that chess can give to children, many parents are interested in exposing their kids to the game as early as possible. However, many parents are also wondering whether there is a right time to teach a child the rudiments of chess. Some say the earlier, the better. But then, others think it would be better to wait until the child is mature enough to grasp the concepts of the game better.
Potential Problems of Teaching Chess to a Very Young Child
There are many avid chess players these days who claim they started playing the game at the age of four or even younger. While this can definitely be true in some cases, it’s not really a common phenomenon. Just take a look at an average four-year-old and you can easily see that they don’t even have an attention span long enough to listen to the rules of the game, much less sit for long periods playing it till the game is over.
If you manage to get your young child to play, it is recommended that you don’t spend more than 5 minutes on the game. Never mind that you don’t get to finish. The important thing is that the child gets to experience the excitement of the game. As he gets older, he will start to remember how the pieces are supposed to move and he will also be able to play longer and a more focused level.
Aside from the lack of attention, there are also other problems that can be encountered if you teach chess to a child while they are still very young. For toddlers, for instance, there is a chance of choking if they swallow the piece while you are not looking. This can easily be avoided, of course, if you only let them play with the pieces while there is an adult watching over them.
Parents who teach chess to a very young child are probably not expecting the child to comprehend the game right away. Their purpose is mostly just to breed familiarity so that it will easier to teach the principles of the game later on. But even so, it is very important for you to gauge your child’s interest in the game when you start exposing them to it.
It’s All about Whether the Child Is Interested or Not
Forcing chess upon a child will be very counterproductive. If you can sense that they are not interested at the moment, it is better to leave it at that and just try to play with them some other time. If you keep forcing them to play, you will only dissuade them from becoming interested at all. Instead, just try to entice them in subtle ways and if they find it fascinating enough, they will ask you about it on their own.
At the end of the day, the biggest factor that will determine whether a child is ready to learn chess or not is his interest in the game. If your preschooler keeps bugging you to teach him how to play, there’s no reason for you not to do so. Who knows, you may have the next great prodigy on your hands and just not realize it at the time. On the other hand, even if you think your child is old enough to learn, if they are simply not showing any interest in the game no matter what effort you make, it is best not to force them and instead just support them in whatever other hobbies they set their heart on.
There are many parents out there who have great dreams of their child becoming the next grand master, perhaps because they were not able to live out these dreams themselves. There is nothing wrong with having dreams for your children but if you push them to the point that you are already making them do something against their will, you will just end up being frustrated in the end.
If you see a strong potential in your child, nurture it as much as you can but never ever force them to play the game if they don’t want to. Chess is supposed to be fun and it’s best that we keep it that way for our kids.
It would also be good to give your child his own chess set to further encourage his interest. There are many chess sets out there that are designed specifically for young children. Most of them are small enough for tiny hands to grasp and are made of plastic so they won’t be susceptible to damage when thrown around.
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