by Betty Galvan
My oldest son, who for the past three months is "almost six", is about to take part in his first chess tournament this weekend in New York City! He is "almost six" but was probably more prepared for his tournament a year or two ago than he is today.
Since our move from New York City last year, it has been more and more difficult to continue to have him learn the game he learned to love at the young age of three. Back then, his preschool had a chess coach go in to the class once a week and teach small groups. His teaching of chess was like nothing I had ever seen before. The coach had a story for each piece and told it with so much animation and passion, that it was impossible for the children to forget how each piece was supposed to move. Diego learned that one King moved one step at a time because he had a huge belly!
It has been difficult to find a coach or a program who works well with very young children. We spent a year trying different places but many don’t take children under seven, so we would sit and try to teach him the little that we know. We also downloaded Shredder Chess app for the iPad as recommended by his former coach. We eventually relaxed when we learned his school would open up the chess after-school program to the kindergarten classes this winter. He will only have one class before the tournament this weekend but we felt it was important for us to have him re-connect with the coach who helped build his love for chess.
The benefits of a child learning chess are just as important as the benefits of a child learning math and music. Chess helps with critical thinking skills, analyzing, planning ahead, pattern recognition, concentration, creativity and sportsmanship. It’s also very inexpensive (especially if your school offers a class) compared to other activities. Parent Magazine has written that, "A growing body of research is showing that chess improves kids’ thinking and problem-solving skills as well as their math and reading test scores. Accordingly, communities across the country are racing to create after-school chess programs and start local chess clubs, and some states — New Jersey, for one — have written chess into official school curricula." This is being seen in inner city schools as well as private schools.
We don’t know how well Diego will do on Saturday, but he is excited to go and that is what is important to José and me. Diego will see his old coach, perhaps see old friends and we will all be motivated to start up again. As parents, we have also realized that there will be so many things we cannot teach our children! We have vowed to find resources when our sons’ express an interest in an activity as beneficial as chess because, "The beauty of a move lies not in its appearance but in the thought behind it." - Aaron Nimzowitsch
To learn more about the specific chess curriculum designed for children of ages 3-10, visit Chessat3.com!
She is the mother of three beautiful little boys and a teacher.