Searching for chess content for kids online or in an app store will return a huge number of books, websites and apps. As a busy parent the challenge as ever is trying to find the best content amongst the sea of possibilities. Not unlike trying to find the best move in a game of chess !
I went through a similar dilemma a few years ago when deciding to teach my own boys chess who were around 3 and 4 years old at the time. Although having played chess seriously for many years myself I didn't know where to start in terms of trying to teach my own children. After much research and discussion with others I came across a number of good resources that I have found invaluable in teaching not only my own children but also used in teaching children in a school chess club and recommended to other parents. I should add that these resources don't assume or require any previous chess knowledge or experience from the parents and mostly focus on engaging children with easy to learn mini-games to start out.
For young children just learning how the pieces move and what a chess board is I can think of no better book than Chess is Child's Play: Teaching Techniques that Work by Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick. It is very well laid out with a chapter on special exercises for children aged 2 - 4 and then chapters introducing each piece and building up through other concepts right through to playing your first full game of chess. It makes extensive use of mini-games throughout as it introduces pieces and other concepts. Each chapter ends with troubleshooting tips with advice for parents based on typical mistakes or misunderstandings that children may have and how to to help them.
If you prefer something smaller to digest and get going with I can highly recommend the Chess at Home series created by Chess in Schools and Communities which provides a week by week program with a downloadable worksheet and YouTube video lesson for each week. Again the focus as with the book is getting started by playing through fun interactive mini-games. This course builds up progressively and is all available for free from the link above.
Once your children have started to try some of the mini-games either from the book above or the Chess at Home series then Acorn Chess can be an excellent resource to allow them to practise these mini-games by themselves and play against a weak engine. Acorn Chess runs on a laptop or desktop computer.
If you want an app that children can use on a mobile device such as a phone or tablet then Dinosaur Chess is excellent in providing a fun self learning interactive experience that children will enjoy. It is available for IOS and Android.
Beyond the basics
Once children have learnt how the pieces move and how to start a full game of chess there are a number of good resources to help them progress.
There is a series of 4 books by Tim Onions and David Regis covering openings, middlegames, endgames and tactics that are great at helping children take the next step in their chess understanding. They are small enough that they are easy to digest and children can go through them easily by themselves or with little help from parents. They can be bought individually or as a set of 4.
Richard James has been involved in coaching junior chess in the UK for over 30 years and has written many excellent books on the subject that are all freely available to download from his Chess for Heroes website.
Acorn Chess is also very useful for this level with core checkmates and endgames that can be practised. It also allows full games of chess to be played against 6 levels of engine. The lower levels are tuned to play at a similar level to junior players.
Chesskid is a great platform for children to play against other children in a safe environment whilst also providing much instructive video content.
There are of course many other options out there but this provides a solid curated list to start with including several free to use / download options. Future posts will cover more intermediate and advanced resources as children start to compete in chess tournaments and play more competitively.