playing chess with a 4-year-old

Hi, dear readers.  I have a story.  The other day my 4-year-old granddaughter asked me to show her how to play chess.  I showed her how to set up the board,  how each piece moves, and how you capture the opponent’s pieces.  We began the game and I proposed that we trade pawns.  She got anxious about the thought of losing one of her pieces so I made the suggestion, that since she was only four, we would play so only I would lose pieces.  She enthusiastically concurred, adding that I would do that twice as much for her little cousin because he was only 2.  We then proceeded to happily play, with my continuing to teach her and her very engaged.  I thought we both figured out a way a small child could learn a game like chess.

Some of you may be thinking, “But how will she ever learn to lose?”  If we think about it, learning to lose with grace and without discouragement is a long process.  The adults we know who still struggle with this probably experienced too many losing games, not too few.  Small children will slowly learn, if we adults allow them to win many times.  They, like my granddaughter, fully understand what’s happening.

Helping them laugh while you dramatically –and humorously–groan about losing will add to the fun and drain some of the tension around losing.  It will help them with the inevitable defeats they experience in their young lives.  You can introduce small losses as they are ready, and as in all situations, make sure you are ready to patiently and kindly listen to their tears and sadness.

It might help to remember that children [and often adults] will use small things to work on big sorrows.  When a child cries over a small incident like losing a chess piece [or the sandwich cut in the wrong way, or getting the wrong spoon], she is using the incident to work on bigger hurts stored inside.  Her crying will heal the hurts, whether or not she is able to talk about it.

questions for the blogging nana? write


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