After-School: Don’t Go Broke, Have Kids Learn Chess

Kids learning chess at school

Kids learning chess at school

It’s back to school time, and soon we’ll all be inundated with after-school offerings: soccer, dance lessons, lego club, Mandarin lessons, art club…and the list goes on.

I am very fond of programs that happen right at school. No driving, no hassle. The kids go straight from their classrooms to the activity, which means I get an extra hour or two in my day. Bring on the brochures!

But wait, what was that? If I’m not going blind, I swear I just read that the tuition for art club is $20 per session per kid. Yikes! Did they resurrect Divinci to teach? Oh, and Mandarin lessons are $25 per one-hour session per kid. Let’s do the math. Two kids x two activities = $90 per week, or $3600 per school year. 6 years of after-school elementary school programs add up to $21,600 for a two-child family.

This is stupid. When did after school get so expensive, and wouldn’t that money be better served in the kids college fund? And while we are on the topic of college, art and foreign language aren’t going to get any of our kids into Harvard. Chess clubs, however, are populated with kids that frequently get accepted into the Ivy’s. But that’s another article for another day.

There is a simple alternative to all this kid-activity money madness. Kids, learn chess.

Without diving into a formal cost-benefit analysis, chess is cheap. And the rewards of learning are nearly infinite. Having kids learn chess doesn’t require transporting your little angel to any location other than your own school, or your own house.

The program I ran at my kids school has 25% of the student body staying after school, once every week, for a cost than is less than school-provided childcare. Yes you read that correctly. It is cheaper for kids to learn chess after school than go to childcare. Sometimes it’s even free.

Part 2 of this article is coming soon, where I will tell you exactly how to start a kids chess program right at your school.

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5 Reasons to Play Chess For Kids This Summer

photo courtesy Giant Chess

1. Combat Summer Slide

According to educational research, the average student falls one month behind during the summer months. But chess for kids keeps active the areas of the brain responsible for problem solving and critical thinking.

2. Family Bonding and Eye Contact

It’s ironic that a “war game” is an outstanding tool for parent & child bonding. Even preschool aged children enjoy communicating over the chess board with their parents. Communicating face-to-face with your child is essential to their development. Research supports this, which is why there is a heavy push toward family meal times. Chess is as good or better than having dinner together as a family. Incorporate humor and fun in your chess play, and I promise you, the memories from family chess play will be among your most cherished.

3. The Luxury of Time = new passions

Summer is the time of year when kids have time on their side. That is, leisure time. Chess is best learned in a relaxed, pressure-free environment. Where there is a spark of interest, summer affords kids the freedom to dive deep into chess.

4. It’s Portable
Family road trip? Day at the park? Pack a chess board. Kids especially love playing impromptu chess with other kids they meet on family excursions. You can encourage them to engage in this type of socializing by having a set ready to go.

My favorite magnetic traveling chess board is this one, because the kids love the shiny silver and gold pieces.

5. Downtime Redefined

After a physically active day, everyone needs a quiet activity. Add chess to your regular repertoire of reading, drawing, and TV watching. Parents are often surprised that if given the opportunity, kids will gravitate to the chess board instead of other indoor activities. But for them, it’s natural; chess is a game after all. Having a board out, with pieces already set up will encourage casual pick-up play.

Not sure where to start? Learn the rules of chess for FREE on
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My Name is Jill Keto. I'm a Chess Mom.


Through my kids crazy after-school schedule, doing everything from tap dancing to baseball, I've discovered something... The best parents on the planet are chess parents. This blog is for you.

Also, it's a chance to show you that ZoomChess was made by real people. Not avatars. We are in the trenches with real kids, nurturing their growth through chess - through the hissy fits, hard-faught victories, cheating, hilarious negotiations over the board, tearful losses, and trophy ceremonies.

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