Tell us about the concept behind Story Time Chess.
Story Time Chess is the byproduct of a curriculum that was developed over twelve years ago. The company is called Chess at Three. It’s a tutoring business that is now virtual because of the pandemic. It started really small in a prestigious school called Washington Market School in Lower Manhattan. Over the twelve years, the curriculum became better and more expansive, and the business just started booming. Today, we have 140 chess tutors teaching lessons in New York City, Hong Kong, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Because of COVID, we now have a virtual wing and we’re teaching chess all over the world. When we started Chess at Three, we were the only company in the world that could teach a child as young as three years old how to play chess.
We don’t approach children in a generic manner of “this is the piece, this is how it moves”. Three-year olds do not care about that. Instead, we tell fun, silly, and engaging stories about characters that are memorable and who the kids fall in love with. Each character represents a chess piece. They translate to the movements on the board and how all the pieces relate to each other. It’s a story-based approach that teaches chess in a gradual and progressive manner – it’s kind of a scaffolding approach.
Historically, we were teaching chess through in-person lessons and partnering with schools so teachers could read our stories and teach the children. A few years ago, we recognized that millions of families didn’t have the opportunity for in-person lessons and didn’t have access to schools with our curriculum. We wanted to figure out a way to bring the magic of what we had created to anyone’s home in a cost-effective way. The result is Story Time Chess.
We initially launched on Kickstarter – we were one of the highest-funded chess games in the history of the platform and were fully funded within five hours, reaching, 290% of our goal. We produced 2500 games and received rave reviews. Our second version of the game was improved based on the feedback we received from the first release. We sold out of our inventory of 10,000 sets within two months. The game was recognized internationally and within the toy industry. We won the People’s Choice Award at The Toy Association’s Toy of the Year 2021 event. It was like winning Best Picture at the Oscars. We now have about 60,000 games that will be delivered over the next few weeks.
What skills do children learn through chess?
Chess has been around for hundreds of years. It’s one of those beautiful games that has been tested over and over again throughout history and is known for its positive impact on cognitive processing, memory, and the ability to forecast and assess risk.
The exciting part is that studies have been done on the benefits of chess for children as young as seven. And now we’re able to teach kids as young as three. Just to be able to teach a child of that age how to lose a game, to be okay with that and shake their opponent’s hand and say “good game” – which is one of the lessons in Story Time Chess – is an important skill. It’s amazing to make all the benefits of chess accessible to an age that has never been taught to play before.
What is inside the Story Time Chess game box?
At the heart of the game is the storybook, comprised of ten chapters. Each chess piece is covered and each story has beautiful illustrations designed by a former Disney artist. After each story, you go into exercises and the gameplay. Along with the storybook, the box includes regulation black-and-white chess pieces with a twist – they have a small insert at the base where a child can insert a cardboard character cutout from the storybook that matches the piece. That’s the beauty of the scaffolding approach to the game; kids visually connect the chess piece with the character and remember the stories from the book. Ultimately, this creates a learning phase. When they get through all ten chapters in the storybook, the cardboard cutouts can be removed from the chess pieces but that connection is still there. We’re able to transition them seamlessly to a real chessboard.
The game also includes a two-sided board – a story-themed board and a regulation board. When kids have finished the lessons, they can flip the board and play a regulation game. Cardboard tokens work in conjunction with the stories to help motivate the kids to go to certain spaces. And, there are two cloth drawstring bags in which to store the chess pieces. We try to be as green as possible with the game. We cringe when we see games that are full of plastic trays and plastic bags.
Do the adults need to know how to play chess before teaching their kids through Story Time Chess?
No – no chess is experience required! A lot of people don’t know how to play chess. With Story Time Chess, you’re able to read and learn along with your child. We always say that our age range is three to 103. This is the most fun way to learn chess at any age: read a story and learn about these amazing characters as you learn along the way.
Where can people find Story Time Chess?
We offer four options: about 350 to 400 schools have licensed our curriculum;, we have a platform for online tutoring; there are in-home lessons; and, the Story Time Chess game can be purchased on our website. It’s a catered approach to learning through whatever method is best for the student.
Now is a great time to make good on your goal of learning chess. Visit the Story Time Chess website to learn more and buy the game.