Is It Proven That Chess Will Be A Long Term Solution To The Mental Wellbeing Of Youth? Yes, Indeed It Is!

These kids are going to be quite brainy by the time they reach middle school, lol!!

Definition and History of Chess

Chess is a classic two-player board game that has gained momentum across the globe and is prominently connected to intelligence and strategy. Chess can be played both leisurely and competitively in multiple settings like schools, community centres, libraries, camps and at home with family and friends. Each chess player utilizes one checkered game board and sixteen chess pieces (bishops, kings, queens, and pawns) that are moved and used to capture the opposing chess pieces. The objective of the game is to capture the opponents king, to make escape (checkmate) possible.

Chess was invented in India during the 6th century AD and is 1,500 years old. The name chess is derived from the term” chaturanga” which means “four arms” in the Sanskrit language. When the Arabs impregnated Persia (now Iran), chess was pursued by the Muslim world, and eventually gained popularity in Southern Europe.

Health Benefits for Children

Just like eating nutritious foods, exercising, learning foreign languages, reading, doing puzzles, and sleeping, chess provides as many social, emotional, cognitive and mental health benefits for children. If you’re willing to pursue chess recreationally, competitive or both, or are already an avid chess player, feel free to give this article a read! Hopefully, you can take away some key benefits and share them with your families, friends and others who may be interested.. Here are 5 ways that chess can actually boost your cognitive, social, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Chess improves children’s creativity

When players internally think this statement, “If I move here, then my opponent might be able to move here”, it shows that they are able to think logically, creatively and critically. The game of chess loves the “if-then” mindset and improves creativity in one particular part of the human brain- the right hemisphere. There are many areas of creativity, but originality is one area of creativity that notices significant increases when kids play chess. The reason why chess improves originiality levels in children is, children are required to visualize all possible moves, the game board, pieces and their opponents every countermove, which enables young chess players to play around with ideas. Playing around with ideas is the cornerstone of original thinking.

Chess enhances children’s literacy and numeracy skills

With its main concentration on areas like logical thinking and moving variables, it’s not a shock that playing chess can improve children’s numeracy skills. According to multiple studies that were conducted in Los Angeles, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania and Canada, chess can also improve children’s literacy skills. Avid chess players tend to have higher assessment scores, perform academically well and have better cognitive health compared to non-chess players. Furthermore, avid chess players have higher IQ levels, because their cognitive processes for reading and math are similar. These cognitive processes that are needed for reading and math are decoding, thinking, comprehension and analysis.

Chess allows the brain to form neuron dendrites

endrites are tree-like branches that conduct signals from other neural cells into the neurons they are connected to. See dendrites as antennas that are picking up signals from different brain cells. The more antennas you have and the larger your antennas are, the more signals you’ll be able to grasp. Learning a new skill like playing chess causes the formation of dendrites. However, the development doesn’t end once you’ve learned and master chess; regular interaction with people in complex activities also enables the dendrites to grow, and chess is a great example!

Chess teaches young players foresight and planning

Encouraging teenagers to play a game of chess may help them in the long run. One of the final parts of the brain to properly form is the prefrontal cortex- the area of the brain that is responsible for things such as planning, judgment and self-regulation. Since the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully mature until adulthood, teenagers still grapple with skills like self-regulation, judgment and planning. As a result, they are known to be “psychologically immature”.

Strategy games such as chess can support the development of the prefrontal cortex and help them make better choices in all aspects of life. Maybe, engaging in meaningful activities like playing chess can prevent them from exhibiting self-destructive, risky, unhealthy and immature behaviours that teenagers often display. Teaching kids the game of chess at a younger age could perhaps help them perform better mentally, emotionally, psychologically, academically and socially as teenagers. The earlier you start, the better off they will be!

Chess improves children’s memory

The majority of avid chess players know that playing chess improves your memory. Being a good player means recalling how your opponent has functioned in the past and remembering the moves that have helped you win before.

According to a two-year research study that was conducted in 1985, young students who were given regular opportunities to play and engage in chess have performed academically well, and their educators have noticed improved memory and organizational skills in their students. A similar research study of sixth-grade students residing in the state of Pennsylvania discovered similar results. Even students who have never played chess before improved their verbal communication skills and memory after playing.

Bottom line

In my personal opinion, chess is an amazing mental sport for your child to particpate in. Any sport is beneficial to the optimal health of children, but chess has some pretty unique benefits to the four components of childrens health- cognitive, social, emotional and mental. Just as much as physical health is vital, brain health should also be taken into account. Brain health doesn’t revolve around going to therapy, eating healthy foods, drinking enough water, connecting with people and reading books; it also includes participating in activities that foster problem-solving skills such as chess and doing various types of puzzles.

Chess may not be for every child, but it is worth a shot! I did not start playing chess at a leisure level until I was fourteen years old, but that doesn’t mean that your child has to start in his/her teenage years. If she/he is passionate about playing at a younger age, you should investigate some local chess clubs in your area or see if there are any chess clubs at the school in which your child currently attends.

Playing complex games like chess also takes practice. If you want your child to continue following his/her love for chess and get the most out of the game, consider playing outside of local chess clubs that your child may be a part of. If you’re into chess yourself, consider playing with your child at least once or twice a week as a way to recharge and disconnect from social media. If your child has a group of friends who also enjoy playing chess, encourage your child to schedule regular “get togethers” to play a few games of chess on the weekends or school holidays. This will be a great opportunity to take a break from his/her devices to socialize with his/her peers, engage in a purposeful activity, get out of the house and unwind after a busy school week.

Chess is not difficult to find. Places like toy stores, book stores and game/puzzle stores often sell chess games and can easily be purchased online and in-store. Depending on the store, brand and quality of the game, prices may vary. That being said, try to find a cheaper chess set if you can’t afford to buy a high-quality chess set. Income levels should not take away your freedoms to pursue the art of playing chess!

Happy gaming, stay safe and healthy!

References

Reiner, D. (2013, October 9). Playing Smart: The Benefits of Chess for Kids. Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://www.connectionsacademy.com/support/resources/article/playing-smart-the-benefits-of-chess-for-kids

Ramsay. (n.d.). Does chess make you smarter? 10 big brain benefits of playing chess? Retrieved March 7, 2021, from https://www.brainscape.com/academy/does-chess-make-you-smarter/

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Talia Flanzraich

Talia Flanzraich

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Hello! I'm currently studying to obtain my Recreation and Leisure Services diploma at Seneca College in Canada