I’ve been looking for a chess beginner’s app for my 7-year-old son that both engages him and helps him to learn. It’s all very well me teaching him, but he can only bear his dad doing that for about 10 minutes and then he wants to do something else. With digital games, however, he can happily play for ages. The combination of entertainment, interactive play and learning seems very effective at keeping him engaged.
Dinosaurs are his main interest, and indeed he already knows more about dinosaurs than his parents or anyone else I know, including his teachers and even publishers! He was given a children’s dinosaur sticker fact book as a gift and needless to say it didn’t take him long to spot a factual error in the book (a 70-tonne dinosaur the publisher stated as the biggest-ever dinosaur was wrong and he named another 100+ tonne dinosaur he had read about in two dinosaur encyclopaedias). I thought about writing to the publisher of the sticker book to put them right, but in the end I couldn’t be bothered – there are always more pressing matters.
Anyway, this budding palaeontologist’s hobbies include reading, watching TV, playing with Moshi Monsters, Lego building, singing, dancing, drama, swimming and judo, and is just starting to try another activity – chess. By the way, he doesn’t do all these things because we think they are good for him, he does them because he wants to – I don’t think we could make him do particular activities.
Anyway, while looking on iTunes for a beginner’s chess app usable on iPhone or iPad I found Dinosaur Chess: Learn to Play!
This app only costs £1.99 and yet it doesn’t contain any ads or in-app purchases, so that is the total cost. My son enjoys the dinosaur theme and the Scottish dinosaur teacher who wears a kilt. There is a beginner’s course (somewhat similar to what I would teach beginners), which includes interactive exercises after each lesson. My son has enjoyed working his way through these so far. I haven’t needed to intervene in any way apart from when he had a problem pressing the squares he wanted to when doing the exercises. With the iPhone version the squares on the chess board are very small, so hitting the wrong squares by accident is an annoying frequent occurrence. He’s found it easier to use on an iPad as the squares are bigger. He and I recommend this app to other dino-mad kids who are interested in learning chess!