Jan 26, 2013

Review: Teach Kids Chess

A couple of years ago (most of my Jan 2011 posts were really from my old website when I switched to blogger) I started teaching my son how to play chess.  I managed to teach how each of the pieces move and how to set up the board.  However, it's been 2 years and we still haven't played a full game.  However, we have managed to start playing candyland, so it's time to dig a little deeper and begin playing the game of champions, as well as teaching my 3-year-old from scratch.  The only problem is, I realized that somewhere along the way I missed something.  I was so excited when I found Sherie's chess program at Learn Lots.  It is filling the gaps for me.

Included is a 48-page instruction manual with full-color printouts of each piece (bit cards), and printouts to make hats so the children can pretend they are the pieces.  It's a well-organized book- easy on the eyes and perfect for small children.  Then there is a 24-page student booklet and a video.  My children have been captivated by them.  We love listening to her British accent too.  :)  So here's the lowdown on each of these components.

The Teacher's Manual:

The manual is written with the perspective that you are introducing chess to your child for the first time, and more importantly, that your child is very young.  I would not recommend this book for someone wanting to learn chess as a young adult or even a 7 or 8 year old because I think there are other chess programs better suited for older kids, although they could still certainly benefit. (I like www.chesskid.com)  But my kids aren't older, and it's perfect for us.  Why is is good for younger kids?  Because she recommends fun activities to bring them in.  Singing games before setting the board up.  Play hats so children can pretend they are the pieces.  Advice for how to coach children through their moves.  Motivation for why it is important to teach your kids chess, and how, yes indeed, it is possible!  This e-book is unique on the market because there are so few programs out there that assume that you can and should teach a 3-year-old chess, but Sherie has done it twice and I'm optimistic that in a few weeks my children will be playing chess too.  She is a fellow Early Learning mother, and her writing style was refreshing and enjoyable to me.

The Workbook

Hooray for colouring pages!  (hey, it's a British e-book after all.  Wink).  But seriously, my children have loved having pictures to color and it has helped them recognize the standard pictographs.  The pages get progressively harder, ending with "Is the light king in check or checkmate?"  The worksheets are to be completed after the child has had a lesson at the board, either immediately after or later that day.  What I love about the worksheets is that they are little puzzles that can be completed within a tiny child's initial attention span, helping to build their endurance for "the big game".

The video:

The videos are designed for the parent and consist of Sherie teaching her 3-year-old how to play chess from start to finish.  They are high quality.  My kids have enjoyed watching the videos with me.  Watching the videos really helped everything "click" for me.  Her daughter was enjoying the game.  She didn't make some of the mistakes I made, like over-analyzing game play.  In her manual she reminds us that a 3-year-old that can play chess on any level is already an "advanced" player for their age, and I have learned that I need to let a lot of things go in the initial stages.

I'm going to go on a tangent now about the thought process this has given me.  Children learn as much if not more from their successes as they do from their failures, and indeed, so do adults.  Success gives us the motivation to try again and keep at it.  For example, we lost a lot of money on our first home because of a mold problem, and even though we know there is a lot of money to be made in real estate, we are leery of investing in a house again.  (at least the wife is).  Whereas someone who made a lot of money on one deal, even if they loose on the second, will know they did it right once and can do it again.  We only have a track record for failure.  Learning how to loose is a skill.  A child who learns to play chess at 8 has had the opportunity to learn this skill with candyland, crazy eights, chutes and ladders, and a myriad of other games, but a 3-year-old has not learned that it's okay to loose yet.  Naturally I'm not suggesting that we never let our child loose, in chess or anything else for that matter, and neither does this program, but she does suggest that you let the child win their first game.  What I am suggesting is that children need to learn and taught how to loose when they play a board game, and we should evaluate what our goals are and WHY we are teaching our children chess.

I am teaching my children chess because, aside from the fact that I love chess and it's just super awesome that way, I want my children to learn how to solve puzzles.  I want them to learn to analyze, how to look ahead and make decisions based on what may happen in the future.  Chess is a big deal for my brothers and I see a lot of benefit in chess because after you know the basics there is so much depth to the game.  But I need my kids to play a whole game first!  Looking at the full board with all of the pieces for the first time can be quite intimidating so I think letting them win a few times will make it less scary.  Advocates of never letting a child win weren't suggesting that you teach a 3 year old chess.  I suggest a new strategy, R2:  let the Wookie win.

This product is part I in her series, and ends with a child's first game of chess.  In her final notes she says that part II will delve more into strategy and how to become and advanced player.  Castling will be taught in part II.  Full disclosure, I actually traded my music e-books and a blog review for this product, so I didn't actually buy it.  But I would have, and I will purchase part II when it comes out!  I give it two thumbs up, 5 stars, what have you.  This product is perfect for where we are and fills in the holes I had in my own approach.  It's a 12 week program, and I plan on giving an update when we finish so I'll give another update then.  It may be awhile before my children are playing each other but that will be my next goal when I finish this program.  Thank you for reading!

1 comment:

Jane said...

Hello Tamsyn,

Thank you for your post, this program sounds very interesting. I see this post is one year old, have you been using this program during this time? How are your kids playing chess now? Would be great to read your update. Thanks

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