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Knowing how to play chess can be extremely beneficial to children – here's why

I never understood the benefits of chess because I never learned to play the game. As a kid I would watch the adults play the game and sit for hours methodically choosing their moves. In fact, I thought the game took too long and they were just being picky about moving their pieces across the board. What I didn't know was the level of intelligence, planning, patience and just the mere thought process that was required to win.

Knowing how to play chess, in fact, helps you in so many other areas in life. When I realized this, I knew that chess was a game I wanted my kids to play. Also it was a game that many black kids didn't play. There are some great benefits to introducing this game to all children, and here's why.

1. Critical thinking

Moms can really be "mama bears" at times. If you're a mom who finds it easier to answer a question for your kids instead of requiring them to think it through, or you are always quick to come to their defense, then you'll want your child to play chess. Chess requires critical thinking skills. Your child will have to think ahead several moves before moving. Chess is methodical. Sometimes as parents we coddle our kids and think for them. We are always quick to do things for them instead of allowing them to use their own brains to conjure up a solution. As a parent, if you're having problems pulling back and allowing your child to do things on their own, enlist them in a chess class and allow them to learn and think on their own. This is a great way to do that.

2. Pump up the brain power

I don't want to get too technical but there's something called dendrites in the brain that grow exponentially when kids are engaged in a game like chess. What this means is that your child gets increased brain power potential and capacity. Our children need brain power to survive in the classroom these days with mandated state tests that are truly difficult for some kids to master. Every little bit helps and there aren't many games that help the brain to get a little pumped.

3. Life skills

Ever heard the saying, common sense is not common? Well at least with chess your kids develop analytical, synthetic and decision-making skills, which they can transfer to real life. We all know real life skills are essential.

4. Higher order thinking

Chess calls upon higher-order thinking skills, helps them analyze actions and consequences and visualize future possibilities. What are higher-order thinking skills? With kids you want them to be able to truly analyze information on a higher level. Students must master the lower-level skills before they can engage in higher-order thinking and playing chess helps them do that.

5. Learning discipline

Chess teaches discipline from a very early age. This is one of the best parts of having your child learn chess, if you know what I mean. Chess teaches kids to anticipate and to plan ahead. That's a very useful skill that they can apply to planning out their clothes for the week for school. Also with playing chess, you have to plan things out. Another plus is that your kids learn if they plan well, they get rewarded in chess. if you don't plan well, you suffer the consequences and get punished. That also applies in real life.

Check your local area for chess clubs and sign your kids up. They are often low cost. Or talk to your child's school about starting a chess club. Knowing the benefits it offers to kids is all you need to prove your case.

Article by Kia Morgan Smith




What's New

Mar 16, 2017
The Brainy Benefits of Chess

Chess Makes the Grade

Schools that encourage chess are reacting to studies like that of New York City-based educational psychologist Stuart Margulies, Ph.D., who in 1996 found that elementary school students in Los Angeles and New York who played chess scored approximately 10 percentage points higher on reading tests than their peers who didn't play. James M. Liptrap, a teacher and chess sponsor at Klein High School in Spring, TX, conducted a similar study in 1997. He found that fifth-graders who played chess scored 4.3 points higher on state reading assessments and 6.4 points higher on math tests than their non-chess-playing peers.

Further proof comes from the doctoral dissertation of Robert Ferguson, executive director of the American Chess School in Bradford, PA. He studied junior-high students, each of whom was enrolled in an activity -- either working with computers, playing chess, taking a creative writing workshop, or playing Dungeons and Dragons -- that was designed to develop critical and creative thinking skills. By the time the students had spent about 60 hours on their chosen activities, the chess players were well ahead of the others in several psychological tests, scoring almost 13 percentage points higher in critical thinking and 35 percentage points higher in creative thinking.

Experts attribute chess players' higher scores to the rigorous workout chess gives the brain. Studies by Dianne Horgan, Ph.D., dean of the graduate school of counseling, educational psychology, and research at the University of Memphis, has found that chess improves a child's visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability. And because it requires players to make a series of decisions, each move helps kids learn to plan ahead, evaluate alternatives, and use logic to make sound choices.

Science aside, anecdotal evidence is enough to convince some teachers and parents of chess's benefits -- behavioral as well as cognitive. In 1990, for instance, the principal at Russell Elementary School in Brownsville, TX, had become concerned about some boys who were being dropped off at school early and getting into mischief. But when she visited J. J. Guajardo's fifth-grade classroom one day, she was surprised to see some of those boys quietly engrossed in chess games. So she asked Guajardo to start a before-school chess program. Soon kids from kindergarten through sixth grade had signed up to play, and by 1993 the Russell team was winning state championships.

"We were a public school with a lot of students from low-income families, but we were beating magnet schools with gifted students," says Guajardo, who's now a high school teacher. "And I noticed that every one of our kids who played chess was also passing the state assessment tests in reading, writing, and math."

Excerpted from Parents Magazine, Article by Beth Weinhouse