Teaching Problem Solving Skills: Checkers and Chess Can Be Helpful
This past year has been fun for our family as Grant (7) has picked up the game of chess and has been very successful with it. We have enjoyed traveling to several tournaments, and have met dozens of wonderful children and their families.
For several years I used checkers with my adhd clients of all ages to teach them problem solving skills. Checkers is an easy tool to use, as it is fun for children, especially younger kids, and if the parent or coach is not too competitive, is a great way to teach children how to think before making a decision and to look at the possible consequences of their decisions.
What surprised me was how many "hyperactive" children in the 8 to 12 year old range could sit down, focus, and play a really good game of chess with other kids their age. Perhaps you could help your child by teaching checkers first, as below, and them over a year or so moving them into chess. It is a wonderful strategy game, and I told Grant that it is just a way to play "army" with someone else, and there are rules that both players have to play by. He loved that idea.
I know that the "Stop and Think" movement in ADHD treatment has lost some momentum lately, but I still believe that the basic strategies and techniques are still worth teaching your children. After all, problem solving skills are important for everyone to have, whether ADHD or not. In fact, many marriage researchers agree that if married couples had basic problem solving skills better mastered that many marriages would be happier and many divorces averted. So problem solving skills are important for everyone.
Its easy to teach your child this five-step problem solving strategy. My favorite version of this simple skill goes something like this. . .
- Ask yourself, "What is the problem?"
- Think up three possible solutions (options) to the problem.
- Look at each option for a minute. Ask yourself, "Is this a good move or a bad move?"
- Pick what you think would be the best option or solution.
- Try it out and see if it works.
I use Checkers to teach this formula. It is a great way to practice without it effecting anything in the "real world." I use this formula to teach the skills in Checkers:
- Move "A" - think of three good moves that you could make. Pick the best move.
- Move "B" - choose your move. Now once you have moved, ask yourself, outloud, "Is this a good move or a bad move?" If it is a bad move, go ahead and move something else.
- Move "C" - choose your move. Now once you have moved, ask yourself, "Now that I've moved here, what will the other player move next?" If you look ahead and find that you won't like the consequences for your move, go ahead and change your move. Think ahead!
I really like the kids to be able to think in terms of "Look at all of your options," and "Is this a good move or a bad move?" and "If I do this, what will happen next?"
Parents, you can do this with your kids at home. Just remember the point of the checkers game is for the child to learn the problem solving strategies (let him change his move even if he's taken his hand off of the game piece!). Game by game watch your child (if age 6 or older) get better and better at making decisions and good moves. Then use the "language" from the game to talk about real life situation. Good luck with this.