Chess for Kids

Another observation Oscar's teacher made at his parent-teacher conference was about his interest in board games at free time. He'll play a game if a classmate brings it out, but he won't pick one out from the stack and initiate it on own. Not a huge or significant concern, but she wondered if I had any board games at my house. I told her I've gotten some in the past, but after a while all the pieces get lost or scattered (see here). I gave up buying games for a while.

She explained the benefits of board games (taking turns, patience, following directions, fun) and told me to give it another try! She also suggested that I could even change the rules to the games so there wouldn't always be a winner. Just play until everyone makes it to the end or something.

I liked her suggestion, and took her up on it. Ella's teacher, coincidentally, also happened to mention the benefits of board games, particularly chess. That's the board game I decided to buy!

Chess is way advanced for my kids, so I developed a game that could introduce the pieces to them in a fun and simple way. Best of all, there's no winner! I call it Squish the Bug. Here's how to play:

You'll need:
1. A Chess Set
2. A bag for the pieces (This chess set comes with a fancy velvet bag)
3. Bug Stickers (I found reusable ladybug stickers in this book, but this book looks like it has even more creepy critters!)

1. Place stickers on the board in random places. Press half of the stickers on the board and bend the other half up in the air. See picture below.
2. Have child pick a chess piece out of the bag.
3. Explain the name of the piece and what it does.
4. Place the piece on the board and have the child squish the bugs! Make sure the child is moving the piece in the correct direction.
5. Repeat until your children have gone through the entire bag or you've created the next Bobby Fischer.

Do you play board games with your kids? What board games do you recommend?

FYI: The board in these pictures is from this beautiful eco-friendly chess set (all the pieces are floating around my house somewhere). It was more photogenic than this new board I just bought.


  1. Boyfriend and I play chess pretty regularly (we're nerdy) and while kids are a long way away for us I've always wondered how I'd go about teaching them to play. Or how my dad taught me. This is a great idea, Sharon! Did your daughter find the bug-part as much fun as your sons?

  2. http://www.toycrossing.com/bananagrams/rules.shtml

  3. I second the Banagrams comment above! I LOVE Banagrams. It's a ton of fun and a great way to build kids language skills. You could totally adapt it so that there's no winner AND it's kinda fabulous for adults too. Grab your closest friends, a bottle of wine, banagrams, you're totally set for a fabulous evening. The company also makes Peargrams and Applegrams, which I think are geared toward the younger kids as well.
    I also really like the game Pass the Pigs, which is kinda silly, but totally fun and portable (this was a vacation staple in my family).
    Crainium and Pictionary might also be a good option. Oscar and Owen may still be a little to young for Pictionary, but in a couple of years, I'd give it a go. It's a really good way to build team work and communication skills.
    Hope that helps! I'm a bit of a board game enthusiast myself :)

  4. my dad (Mr Chess himself) started teaching the grandkids how to play as soon as they wanted to touch his chess set. ( a real NO-NO) If they wanted to touch it, they had to play a game with him. Slowly, slowly he taught them all. Now his oldest grandson (29 years old) gives him a real run for his money....and MAY have beat him at his own game...but nobody talks about that...

  5. I love the game! How cool! I play this at school with the kids and they really enjoy it. It does help with turn taking, and a little bit of strategy! http://www.amazon.com/University-Games-Brown-Bear-Panda-Bear/dp/B000MI43XA

  6. My family loves bananagrams as well as chicken foot - http://spaanszt.home.xs4all.nl/Domino/Chicken_Foot.html - and all you need for that is a large domino set!

  7. That's another creative approach to playing chess for the kids to enjoy. I think there are some kids that cannot keep up easily as to how real chess is being played. However, whenever they know how to play the game it can amazingly help them intellectually.

    You might want to learn more about chess at http://smartdolphins.net/

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