If someone were to ask me, “Do you want your children to learn foresight, consequences of decisions, resilience, how to handle pressure, determination, and strategic planning?” I would emphatically respond in the affirmative and ask how. If they responded with, “Teach them how to play chess,” I’d be taken aback. However, chess does teach those skills, and there is no better medium I have found to learn the game than ChessKid.com.
#1 – Lessons
The lesson videos have adorable animations, fun sound effects, and engaging dialogue. Here are some direct quotes from beginner-level lessons: “Of course you can’t go off the edge of the chessboard; that would be crazy!” “The rook acts a little bit like a bowling ball and runs over the enemy piece.” “We didn’t learn how to become a fireman! Maybe we’ll learn that in our next lesson, maybe not.” “Be careful not to lose the staring contest and get captured first!” Our kids have loved working through these lessons because they feel like watching cartoons!
#2 – ChessKid Adventure
Running as an entirely separate app, this “adventure mode” takes kids through a series of quests and mini challenges complete with gold coins, custom outfits, mythical creatures to challenge, and prizes. Kids will learn the beginnings of chess as they advance through increasingly more challenging levels. The best part? It’s completely safe with no free-form chat!
#3 – Coaching
For those next-level learners, there are a set of ChessKid Certified Coaches who can provide one-on-one coaching with your child! These are no slouch coaches either. These are National Masters and professional chess trainers. While this service does come with a fairly steep additional cost, as a parent, I know it can be very easy to justify costs when your child is passionate about something.
#4 – Puzzles
Puzzles will drop a preconfigured, mid-game scenario which you have to solve your way out of. If you make the wrong move, you’ll be prompted to try again. At first, I didn’t understand the value of these puzzles as I figured the odds of that exact scenario happening were slim to none. However, I quickly found that these puzzles teach principles and things to look out for much more than teaching a specific use case.
#5 – Animation
The cartoon animation in ChessKid is straight up adorable. My 7-year-old daughter heard some of the cartoon chess characters on my laptop, came over to see what kids show Dad was watching, and got hooked! We signed her up with a free account, and now she’s plowing through the lessons. I’ve caught her straight-up laughing at the animations, and she’s loving getting the basics of a seemingly complex game down.
#6 – Limited Social
While your child can connect with other ChessKid friends and challenge them to chess duels, there is hardly any social aspect. There are clubs kids can join with leaderboards, news, and tournaments but absolutely zero chat capabilities. There is no in-game chat nor direct messaging, even between friends. It is a safe space to learn an incredibly strategic and fun game together without worrying about slander, bullying, or inappropriate content.
#7 – Supplemental Learning
While the core of ChessKid.com is incredible, there is SO much supplemental learning connected throughout. For example, here is a list of key chess terms to know. Are you familiar with each of the special rules of chess like castling, pawn promotion, or the elusive En Passant capture? Did you know that the horizontal rows are called ranks, and the vertical columns are called files? There is a level of depth to chess to which I was previously oblivious.
#8 – Gamification
Not to be confused with ChessKid Adventure, the core ChessKid gamification is flawless and fits perfectly. Learning apps often push gamification too far where it becomes the focus over the learning itself. ChessKid masterfully balances chess-focused learning with light gamification of progressing chess piece levels based on your completion of lessons and activities and stars earned. It’s a fun feature without being too heavy or overbearing.
#9 – The Events
I had no idea there is such an active, vibrant chess community out there! During the month of this posting, I counted 32 chess events ranging from speed tournaments to live lessons to expert challenges to live Twitch streams. Some are multi-lingual, some have prizes, and some allow for direct connections with the chess pros!
#10 – Playing!
Whether playing against an adorable AI “bot” with varying degrees of proficiency and personality, completing a Puzzle Duel, or challenging another kid, the ChessKid playing experience is simple and smooth. There are light noises and music (if desired), over 30 styles of pieces and boards (including Bubblegum, Icy Sea, and Graffiti!), and little dots showing where a piece can move if selected. There is even a coach mode which will give real-time feedback!
Overall, while a subscription to ChessKid.com is fairly pricey, it is worth every penny. It is fun, it is engaging, and it feels like video game time while we parents know it’s really learning time. =-)
Disclaimer: I received a temporary subscription to this service for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.