Hubby and I spend a lot of “date night” time playing games. His game of choice is a game called Go. I personally like to play chess more. It’s just such a logical game- I like that I know exactly what moves you can make, and I like the mind game that comes along with trying to anticipate which moves your partner will retaliate with. Something we haven’t done well is teach the kids to play. They watch us play on occasion, but it wasn’t until we were chosen to do a review for Chess House‘s Starter Chess Learning Kit through the Schoolhouse Review Crew that the kids were really able to join in on the family fun.
With the Starter Chess Learning Kit, we received a portable chess board, plastic chess pieces, the #1 Pawn Level of Elliott’s Chess School and a really cool bag to carry it all in. The board rolls, and has a smooth top but textured bottom so it doesn’t slide around when we place it on the chair, floor, or even grass to play. The pieces are solid plastic and regulation sized- which also happen to be the perfect large size for little hands. They have green felt bottoms to keep them from slipping around the board, which is nice when we are playing on the road. The bag is my favorite part because it has compartments for each color piece set, and holds the rolled board in place. All the components are light weight enough that Bug can carry the bag anywhere we go easily.
The Elliott’s Chess School #1 Pawn Level DVD is the best thing next to sliced bread. Ethan was fascinated with it, and happily listened to Elliott, a National Master, teach him to play the game. The DVD starts with the basics, what each piece does, and how they are important. It teaches important skills and tricks along the way- like using your pawns as shields and anticipating the next persons move. Bug and Mr. Man watched each lesson together, and we paused it frequently to talk about what was happening on the DVD. The lessons are all short and clear, and Elliott does a wonderful job explaining in a way the kids understand. I am really impressed with the quality of the production, and how well it keeps the kids attention- they are highly motivated to learn to play so they can beat their Dad and I, but this DVD is also fun.
After watching each lesson, we proceeded with the activities in the booklet that came in the DVD. I love how this program is set up. The kids add just one component at a time, so when they first started playing, they only played with the Pawns. This allows the kid to focus on only one element, so they only needed to remember what Pawns were able to do to play. The Pawn game is played by moving the pieces across the board, with the first player reaching the opposite side first winning. They boys spent a long time on this stage, learning to pay attention to each other and what all the pawns on the board were going to do next.
It took a long time for the boys to start realizing that they needed to pay attention to the other persons moves rather than just their own. After a couple weeks of playing, they finally started to get it, and that’s when things became really fun for us. The boys began to really get competitive with each other and think hard about all the possible moves. After the pawn stage, we moved onto the next step, which was adding in rooks. To learn how to play with rooks, the kids played against me- they had the black pawns, and I had one rook. We are still working on this stage, and that’s okay. With this DVD, we have a really good Chess teacher right there at any time. I feel like we are learning in a logical way, and chess has become a bit of an obsession in our house.
In a Nutshell: I love that the boys were able to play together from day one, without needing to learn the whole game. I love that I know we are moving towards being able to play Chess together! They are learning solid skills, but in small steps that are age appropriate. I already have added the next levels of Elliott’s Chess School to our wishlist for the future, and I can’t wait for many more years of playing chess with my family. The Starter Chess Learning Kit would make a wonderful gift for any kid- the portable set is high quality, durable, and regulation sized. It will be well loved in our family for a long time to come! This set is recommended for ages 4 and up, and can be purchased at Chess House for $39.95.