What is the right age to begin playing chess?
This question is commonly asked by parents wondering whether their 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old is too young to play chess—and it is also asked by parents of teenagers who wonder whether their child is too old to begin playing chess professionally. Those figures alone should reveal a simple truth: There is no such a thing as the “right” age at which to begin playing chess. Certainly those who start at an early age enjoy the benefits of mental flexibility and are thus better positioned to reach a high level of play, but the “right” age to begin playing chess will differ with each child, and rightly so.
How early can a child begin playing chess?
Not surprisingly, the answer to this question also varies from child to child. Children can indeed learn chess very early, some as early as 2 years old, however, most children can pick up the basics of chess by the time they are 5 or 6 years old.
But every child is different. So don’t push your child to learn chess if he or she is not ready to. Interest, indeed, will be one of the best signs of whether your child is ready to begin playing chess. If your child shows no interest in learning chess, then wait a while: When a child does not enjoy a game, forcing him or her to play it won’t bring good results. But if your child shows interest in the game, then he or she can begin picking up the rules at any age and learning to enjoy the game.
So if your 5- or 6-year-old is not interested in learning chess, don’t worry! Wait a year or two and ask again. Remember that chess is supposed to be fun: If your child does not enjoy playing chess, then neither you nor your child will like the result.