Thursday, January 8, 2009

Can a Toddler Learn to Play Checkers?

I bought my two-and-a-half-year-old a Mickey Mouse and Pluto checkers set for Christmas. One morning, with a whole morning of quiet in front of us, I sat down to try to teach it to her.

First I set up the pieces. She got all the Mickeys and I got all the Plutos. I showed her how her pieces could move forward and diagonally.

She went to move one of my Plutos. “No, sweetie, the Plutos are mine. You have to pick a Mickey. Which Mickey do you want to move?”

She picked a Mickey and moved it directly forward. “No, you have to move it here or here. Where do you want to move it?” I say, pointing to the two choices.

“Okay, it’s my turn now. Which Mickey do you want to move now? Oh! Don’t bump the board!” I exclaimed, fixing pieces that had fallen off.

She picked a Mickey off the board. “No, honey, you have to move it on the board, like this. Where do you want this Mickey to go?”

I let myself move into her way a few times, showing her how her Mickeys had captured my Plutos. Finally, she had one piece one move shy of being kinged. “If you move this Mickey, he wins and gets kinged. You can move him here or here,” I said.

She moved and I kinged her Mickey. “Yay! Mickey got kinged!” She threw her arms up into the air, saying “Hurray!”

Then I started to lose her. I had to keep directing her attention back to the game. I quickly made myself lose so we could bring the game to a conclusion.

So is it a fruitless effort to try teaching a toddler a game like checkers? I don’t think so. She learned about taking turns, having patience, keeping her attention attuned, and following rules. And she kept her Mommy’s attention on her. It might be the best thing I did all week.

Painting: Checker Mates by Susan Rinehart

1 comment:

Loren Christie said...

Elizabeth, you're right. I bought J a checker/chess board when he was a toddler, and now, as a preschooler, he taught his little sister checkers and plays chess with John and me. He's memorized the chess rules.