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How to Practice Chess with Your Children At Home

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

If you were taught how to play chess by your parents, you may recall that magical day when you beat your mum or dad for the first time. For me, I will always remember being seven-years-old and defeating my grandfather with a back-rank checkmate. He went on to beat me many times after that, but he never dared to underestimate me again.

Playing chess with our children is a wonderful way to encourage them to practice and more importantly, to develop their confidence. I may not have been able to join in with the “grown-up” conversations at dinner when I was a shy seven-year-old, but when I played my grandfather at chess, I felt like his equal.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a FIDE grandmaster or forget which way around to set up the board, practicing with your children at home can be a wonderful aid to their progress.

Here are some tips on how you can help them get the most of their learning at home.

Ask Them to Teach You

In class, we love to give students the opportunity to have a go at teaching their classmates.

It is said that we learn 10% of what we read, 30% of what we see, 70% of what we discuss and 95% of what we teach others. Even if you have never played chess in your life, you can help your child by helping them to teach you. Ask them what they learned in class this week and then ask them to show you on the board. In our Mindful Chess classes, we teach your children effective strategies and powerful tactics, so who knows? You may learn something new.

Don’t Just Let Them Win

This is an interesting topic for discussion. Should we always play to our best ability or should we let children win from time to time to keep them interested? We all learn from our mistakes but at the same time, crushing our children in gameplay over and over is likely going to do nothing but damage to their self-esteem.

We don’t know the right answer to this question, but our advice would be to avoid “going easy” on your child as this does not help them learn. The prospect of beating you is also incentive for them to keep learning and testing out the tactics they learn in class.

If you are an experienced player, our suggestion would be to try playing with a handicap. For example, play a game without your queen and see if this evens up the odds. This will likely make the game more fun for the both of you.

You can also allow your children to take back blunders and explain what moves they could have done differently. This means that by playing with you, they are learning at the same time. This seems to be more beneficial than “going easy” on them just so they can falsely believe they beat you.

Encourage Them to Play Others

Chess can be a wonderful tool for building a child’s confidence. As a sport, chess transcends all boundaries. People of all genders, ages, classes, races and capabilities are equals in the eyes of the board. It is not even required that both players speak the same language.

Encouraging your children to play with others is, therefore, a wonderful way to increase their confidence. It allows them the opportunity to play with different people and feel on the same level as an adult.

Use ChessKid

ChessKid is one of the most effective learning tools for Mindful Chess kids. It allows them to learn at home and to play with other children through a safe and controlled app.

If you are not a chess player yourself or do not have the time to play with your child at home, you can still encourage them to practice through the use of the ChessKid app.

All Mindful Chess students receive their own accounts at the start of term and will be familiar with the site from their lessons at the club. We would advise taking ten minutes to log in with them and checking they know how to navigate the app so that they can confidently practice alone.

(Click here for more information on how we use technology in the classroom.)

Encourage Them To Do Their Worksheets

At Mindful Chess, we have a sizable supply of resources to aid our teaching. These include many worksheets which we sometimes use in class for tactics practice.

Students are welcome and encouraged to take this home and if your child is interested in playing competitively, we would certainly advise them to have a go at solving the puzzles on these sheets.

At the end of the day, every game your child plays will aid their learning in one respect or another. The important thing is that your child is enjoying the time they spend playing chess and is being positively encouraged.

If your child is keen to take their learning even further, you can find out more about our one-to-one tuition sessions here.

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