I didn’t learn to play chess as a child and, honestly, have found the thought of learning intimidating. The rules seemed too complex… the strategy too complicated. Yet I’ve always been intrigued. It’s also common knowledge that playing chess can help children better understand math. Yet I’ve always wondered why. So I did some research.
Fun Way to Learn
I got over my initial fear of the game when I found “No Stress Chess“, a version made by Winning Moves Games. Even though it’s made for ages 7 and up, I decided to give it a try with my then almost-five-year-old. I figured we might as well learn how to play at the same time. And it worked! We both picked up the rules quickly and easily. The set comes with a board, one side a normal checker-board style, the other with instructions as to how to set up the pieces. The easiest version of the game has the players use a deck of cards that show the players how to move the pieces. Players randomly select a card on their turn, and the player must move the specified piece, using the allowed moves. Ingenious! OK, it takes much of the strategy, and, arguable, the challenge out of playing the game, but it’s an incredibly easy way to learn the rules of the game. Luck becomes a crucial factor, yet there is still a lot of room to bring strategy into play. Chess has now become the game my son chooses to play more often than any other. We play 3-4 times per day! A reminder.. he’s five, and he absolutely loves it. When he’s ready, we’ll begin to use the incrementally more difficult versions of the game until we’re playing true chess. This has been a fun way for me, an adult, to learn the game as well.
Why Play Chess?
The benefits of playing chess are many. I found the following data from an article “Chess and Math” on About.com. Chess…
- Improves visual memory
- Increases attention span
- Improves spatial reasoning skills
- Improves ability to predict and anticipate consequences
- Improves analytical skills
- Improves ability to use criteria to drive decision making and evaluate alternatives
- Oh… and it’s fun!
Need more convincing? I found this in the “Chess and Math” article…
The late Faneuil Adams (president of the American Chess Foundation (ACF). believed that chess could enhance learning, especially for the disadvantaged. He with the ACF founded the Chess in Schools Program which initially began in New York’s Harlem School district. Early in the program, the focus was on improving math skills for adolescents through improved critical thinking and problem solving skills. Remarkably “test scores improved by 17.3% for students regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.56% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities.”
I didn’t begin playing chess with my son in order to improve his math scores or math ability, and we’ll never know if it’ll help his math ability in the long run, but we’re sure having a lot of fun playing. Give it a try!
Looking for a fun way to teach your child(ren) about geology? Here are a few edible activities you can do at home in the kitchen to show the difference between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Click to view complete instructions for each activity…
What a great way to learn about all those rocks my five-year-old has collected over the years. Plus he loved both making and eating these experiments!!
Looking for a fun way to introduce photography to your child? If you have a camera on your phone, you may want to try this out!
For details, see my post here from ANatureMom.com… Photography for Kids: Fun with an iPhone.
You may also enjoy… Kids ‘n Cameras: Five Tips for Introducing Kids to Photography
For instructions, see my post here from ANatureMom.com… Kid Science: Make a Seed Viewer
The easiest way to introduce pointillism to young kids (preschool through first grade) is to use the Do-A-Dot Art Sponge Tip Applicators. If you’d rather use something you have at home, you can cut a sponge into one-inch rounds, pour different colored tempera paints into the cups of an egg carton, and allow your child to dip and dab the paint onto the paper. At first, my son made abstract paintings, and later moved into painting pictures of things (flowers, trees, word, etc). Give your child the time and space to create as they wish.
A couple years ago, when my son was three, I put together a bin full of art supplies, so we’d be ready to create whenever the mood hit. I considered an art “shelf” in his room, but I realized I wanted something portable. We don’t always do art in his room. His easel is there, and I like that our art bin tucks away conveniently beneath it, but we like to do a lot of projects outside, where we have more freedom to be messy. The bin lets us pick up and go without much thought. Is it a beautiful day, and we want to head out for some art in the park? Easy! Just grab the bin and go.
Here’s what we have in our bin…
- Tempera paints in a variety of colors
- Powdered tempera paints (in primary colors… red, blue, and yellow)
- Watercolor paints
- Finger paints
- A palette
- Paint brushes of all different sizes
- Sponges – different sizes and textures
- Colored pencils
- Air-Dry Clay
- Food colors
- Plastic cups
- Disposable aluminum baking pans
- Plastic spoons
- Masking tape
- Paper for different paints, pencils, etc, and in all different sizes
- Paper towels for that inevitable spill
Is this all we use? Nope. We use lots of other materials, too. But these are the ones I like to have on hand at all times in the bin. I do also have a small bin for what I consider to be more crafty stuff…. glue, scissors, paste, etc. I just won’t focus on that here.
Am I missing some of your favorite art supplies? Let me know!
I originally created a post similar to this one for my other site, ANatureMom.com. I realized after I published the post that it would be fun to devote an entire site to the art projects we’ll be doing in the coming years. This is my first article for this new site. I intend to publish a new art activity each Monday morning. If you’d like to follow along and receive updates via e-mail and/or through Facebook, look on the right side of this page for subscription info.
I should point out here that the goal of the activities I post will be to forget about the outcome. Don’t worry about how the painting looks in the end. Simply let your child play with the materials and have fun. This should be about exploration and discovery, not about creating a perfect piece of art. Now, let’s get started!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Tempura paint (I prefer the powdered kind, so I can mix the paint kind of watery)
- Cups (one for each color of paint used)
- Spoons (one for each cup)
- Paper (or, as used today, paper plates)
- Some kind of tray (shoe box, cake pan, baking pan, serving tray, etc)
- Marbles (one for each color of paint, extras if you’re doing this with a larger number of kids)
- Pour or mix paints in each cup. I’ve found the marbles roll around better when the paints are more watery, and less sticky)
- Put a marble and spoon in each cup
- Affix paper in the tray. If using a tray larger than the paper, I recommend taping the paper down. If paper is larger than tray, cut paper down to size. Today, we used paper plates, which fit inside a round cake pan. I just had to bend the edges of the paper plate up a little to fit into the pan.
- Have child spoon a marble or two (or more!) onto the paper in the tray. If desired, also spoon some extra paint with it. Today, we used one marble at a time. My son experimented, doing one painting with just enough paint to cover the marbles. On a later painting, he glopped spoonfulls of paint with each marble. It’s fun to see the different results!
- Tilt the tray back and forth and around to allow the marble(s) to paint the paper.
- When child is done with a marble, pick it up with a spoon, and put it back in the color corresponding paint cup (or rinse off with water first)
Photos of my 5-year-old making his marble painting…