How to Teach Your Toddler to Play Chess – Part 1.

Books by NM Steve Colding

Teach your toddler chess

 by National Master Stephen Colding

This post is the first in a series of articles that will give parents a proven method on the subject of “How to teach your toddler to play chess”.  The articles will be written by National Life Master Stephen Colding or Mr. C as his children refer to him. In this article, Mr. C shows parents the outline on how they can easily educate their toddlers on the Royal Game of chess.

If you would like to know more about NM Stephen Colding you can watch this video on his youtube channel or visit his website

Introduction:  Chess is great for children

The subject of how to teach your toddler to play chess is one that parents have struggled with every day. In this article, I will give an outline to you on my method of teaching the game of chess. This works for children who are as young as 2 years of age. There is no doubt that the children flourish greatly with the skills that they learn from chess.  Problem-solving, independent thinking, looking ahead are just a few of the gifts that chess bestows on the young. Skills learned through playing the game of chess have been proven to be of great benefit in the intellectual development of children. An article that explores why your child must play chess can be studied in this article here. The purpose of this article is to show parents, the outline, on how to teach their toddlers to play chess.

Help is on the way!

I have found that many parents who attempt to teach their little ones to play chess might find the task close to the scaling of Mount Everest.  This need not be the case.  In response to this need, I have dedicated this series of articles for you.  We know that when you are armed with the correct approach,  as explained here, it will not only be easy and educational but also fun for your child and yourself.  A little patience and time will bring you both warm and bonding memories that will last a lifetime.

A little About me:

My name is Stephen Colding and I have been teaching chess to children for over 50 years.  The students, under my tutelage, have won many local state and national titles and they have also won scholarships from prestigious Ivy League schools.

Now for the first time, in this series of articles on how to teach your toddler to play chess, I will bring to you some of the tips and tricks that I use that have helped me become one of the leading scholastic chess coaches in America today.

Today, I will share with you the methods and practices which have helped me reach thousands of children, regardless of age, throughout my career. It has truly been a privilege for me to have helped in bringing the game of chess into their lives.  I have learned so much from teaching the little ones and truly they deserve the best that we can offer.

Equipment needed to teach toddlers how to play chess.

In this article, we will discuss very briefly the list of things we will need to accomplish our task. The list of  equipment we will need are:

  1. Standard tournament chess set and board
  2. Construction Paper and Scissors
  3. Chess for Children Activity Book (Free PDF download from Chess for
  4. This article
  5. How to Teach Your Child Chess in 10 easy Lessons by National Master Stephen Colding (optional)

 Chess Equipment

1. Standard tournament chess set and board – We use a tournament chess set because it is big enough for the child to see every part of the board. The size of the pieces makes the chess pieces easily recognizable.
Children that are totally engaged in a Chess for Children Lesson
Children that are totally engaged in a Chess for Children Lesson

Teaching Tools

2. Construction Paper and Scissors. We need these to cut out squares to be placed on a chessboard so we can test whether the child can recognize straight lines and diagonals.

3. Chess for Children Free Activity Book – You can download the activity book for free by going here

It is used to help with exercises and activities that help to reinforce the lessons and it will give you very useful and fun exercises.

Did I mention that it was free?

4. This article –  The article gives you an outline of how to proceed with the lessons. 

5. How to Teach Your Child Chess in 10 Easy Lessons by National Master Stephen Colding (optional)
Has a more in-depth approach than this article. The forward is by the famous Chess Teacher Bruce Pandolfini and includes 34 2 line nursery rhymes to help your child retain the information. We have also learned that the short poems can be sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star!

Outline of the lesson plan on how to teach your toddler to play chess

1. Set up a learning environment

A setting that is conducive to learning can make all the difference for your young one. Pick a safe area, well lit and free from distractions. Turn off all media. Make sure your child knows that it is your special time to be together. Schedule it, children love consistency because it brings order into their lives. 

 2. Have fun! 

Please don’t let your competitive streak get the best of you. It is not fun for a child to get beaten all the time.  With little ones, it is ok to lose. It encourages them. Remember your goal is to teach not to dominate! Have fun with the lessons, laugh at your mistakes and show the little one that everyone makes mistakes, it is human. 

You must concentrate on your child. Remember that these times will not come again and are precious moments that you can take to bond with the most important person in your life.

  3. Relax!

 Don’t forget to relax and take your time. When the child is getting tired or begins to lose interest, take a break, there is always tomorrow. It is better for them to learn a little solidly than a lot haphazardly.

Make a game out of the lessons, use the free activity book to give you an idea of how you can make it a game.

You can make everything a game, getting out the pieces putting them away, setting up the board, etc.  Your children love games and they will look forward to playing each and every one of them with you.

 4. Use Pneumonic Devices

The little ones sometimes have a hard time remembering things so we should make it simple for them by using memory tricks to help them remember. In Chess for Children’s free course, Mr.C uses 2 line nursery rhymes to help them retain what they have learned. Here is an example: “A Pawn can move in just 1 way, forward is the way they play.”

5.  Take Chess for Children’s free course ” How to Teach Your Toddler to Play Chess” 

Chess for children has provided a series of video lessons designed to help parent help their little ones to play chess. The series can be found on Youtube or

6.  Have Patience 

Remember that you are doing a loving thing. You are teaching your child how to learn a skill. When we do that the goal is sometimes achieved through little steps and not all at once. Sometimes a child takes a little longer to understand a concept, sometimes they run through the lesson quickly whatever pace they learn keeps criticism and negativity at bay. Yes, sometimes it’s frustrating but perseveres and the fruits of your labors will be rewarded.

7. Use this order to teach the rules

  1. Test the child on knowledge of spatial relationships
  2. Teach the chess-board
  3. Teach the Pawns
  4. Teach the Rooks
  5. Teach the Bishops
  6. Teach the Queen
  7. Teach the King
  8. Teach Check
  9. Teach Checkmate
  10. Teach about Draws 

Once we have all of our equipment and lesson plan together we will now be ready to move on to setting up a learning environment.

Stay in their dear reader because the best is yet to come. 

Until next time, this is Mr.C

National Master Steve Colding

saying see ya later!

Next Lesson: Setting up a Learning Environment. 

NM Stephen Colding

NM Stephen Colding

National Master Stephen Colding , author and CEO of Chess for has taught tens of thousand of youngsters the pleasure of the game of chess.