Yes! Your Child Can Play (and enjoy) Chess.

There are many misconceptions surrounding the ability to play chess.

  • Only smart kids play chess.

    – At {YEL!}, we believe that every child has certain gifts they are given.  We see enrichment as an opportunity to channel those gifts.  ALL kids are smart kids. While there have been numerous studies claiming that chess may improve intelligence, especially in young children (see 10 Big Brain Benefits of Playing Chess or Compilation of Chess and Education Research Studies), there is little doubt that chess will improve your child’s concentration, and she/he will learn to be less impulsive about their next move as well as the moves made by their competitor. This will, in all probability, transfer positively into their daily life. 

  • Chess is hard to learn.

    – Actually, our nearly two decades of experience working with all types of students from rural communities to wealthy suburbs and everything in between, tells us that many children pick up what chess is all about much quicker than even they anticipated. Once they learn the names of the pieces, the rules around how they travel the chess board, and some basic strategies, it almost becomes second nature to them. Our teachers at {YEL!} tell us regularly how even kindergarten and first graders can grasp the game quickly. And the more they play, the more they’ll be hooked on this fun activity, often challenging their parents to play against them at home. Get ready!  We hear from many parents how their child either gives them a run for their money or even gets a win after studying with {YEL!} for just a few months.

  • My child is too young to play chess.

    – Not true. Plain and simple. In fact, the earlier your son or daughter begins learning chess, the better they will play as they grow older. For me, I starting teaching my children the names of the pieces at age three using a Super Mario Chess Set.  At age four we started talking about how the pieces move.  At age five, how all of the pieces move, piece-capture and check.  Now, to be sure, there was a lot of “Space Chess” and Mario Kart chess mixed in, but starting early got them interested and they’ll have chess as a game to play for a lifetime.  NOTE: My middle child enjoyed it so much, he made up his own chess puzzles.

    • Chess is a life-long game where you learn something new every day. It’s like riding a bicycle. Each bike ride (or chess game) presents it’s own set of twists, turns, and bumps along the way. And it’s fun at the same time!
  • Competitive sports are where it’s at.

    – Well, you may personally like hockey, basketball, soccer or baseball, but these great “team” sports aren’t for everyone. Some kids prefer one-to-one competition, find team play confusing, or just don’t

    Play chess and battle minds!

    Chess is a battle of the minds!

    enjoy sports with a ball (See Benefits of Fencing with Ro Sobalvarro for additional ideas) … and no one can convince us that chess isn’t competitive. It’s a battle of the minds, and it will help to improve patience and focus. If your kid doesn’t exhibit either of these traits right now, they may develop them over time playing chess. And they’ll make new friends in a smaller group environment.

  • Can you play traditional sports and chess?

    – Absolutely.  NFL Running Back, Adrian Peterson, plays chess to relax during down time.  The Edina, MN girls high school hockey team actually employed {YEL!} coach, Igor Rybakov, to teach them chess and with the goal of helping their focus, concentration, and strategic thinking.  Personally, my classes have been filled with multi-sport athletes who enjoy making layups just as much as finding checkmate.

  • It promotes good sportsmanship.

    – Chess tournaments don’t have a referee who throws a flag or blows a whistle when there is a penalty.  Chess players have to follow the rules themselves and mostly referee their own play.  If an error or illegal move occurs and the players can’t rectify it themselves, they will call in the tournament director to make a judgement on the game.  If a player disagrees with the tournament director or doesn’t follow chess tournament etiquette, they may be asked to forfeit a game or even be removed from the tournament.

    • At {YEL!} Chess Tournaments and in our classes, we ask students to shake hands at the beginning of each game and at the end of each game.
  • But are there are real benefits to playing chess?

    – Absolutely, positively, YES! These days it seems like there’s a study about almost everything, and they all claim incredible benefits. Considering that chess has been around since 6th-century India, there’s hundreds of years of studies into the benefits of the game. There has been a proven strong correlation between chess and increasing your IQ. Chess is also known to improve your memory, stem

    Play chess as an adult or youth.

    Chess is for adults and youth.

    Alzheimer’s, and increase creativity, as it exercises both sides of the brain. 

  • As a parent, what’s in it for me?

    – Well, to begin with, chess doesn’t require expensive equipment, uniforms, or contributions to things such as practice ice time. Even better yet, your car and house won’t smell like a locker room, and chess doesn’t make for seemingly endless piles of laundry. But perhaps most importantly, chess is the same for girls and boys, and will improve their confidence as they learn more and more exciting strategies that will be potentially useful for many decades of playing the game. There no best size or shape to play chess. Just a willingness to learn and have fun at the same time.

Signing your child up to learn chess with {YEL!} may be one of the best decisions you make for them. One that they’ll be thankful for, for many years to come.

Click Here to read more about {YEL!} Chess programs and other {YEL!} programs.


What I Learned in Woodworking Summer Camp.

CCX News out of Blaine, MN showcased the {YEL!} Woodworking summer camp along with Osseo Community Education.


YEL chess programs.

Five Components of every {YEL!} chess class

Shh...Chess Players at Work

• “What did you learn in chess class today?”

• “You got chess dollars?!!?  Awesome.  How did you earn them?”

• “Did you play a chess game in class today?”

If you have a child in a YEL chess class, perhaps you’ve asked your child any, if not all of these questions at some point.  

Every class YEL teaches, whether it is chess, LEGOs, guitar, fencing, sewing or any other YEL class, has one mission:

• To engage youth to THINK, LEARN and PLAY WELL.

Every chess class has five components every student should get out of each class.  We call this our recipe for success in chess.  The five components of each chess class are:

Teach It!
Practice It!
Puzzle It!
Play It!
Chess Dollars and FUN!


The Teach It! time should feel like The Price is Right…or any other game show.  Kids should be pumping their hands in the air, anxious to answer the next puzzle and they are rewarded with a Chess Dollar for answering the teacher’s questions.

YEL instructors are trained to give a 10-15 minute lecture at the beginning of each class.  These lectures can be as basic as piece movement or castling and as complex as Queen Sacrifices, the Fried Liver Attack or Rooks on the seventh rank.  Each lesson is designed for multiple levels in the same classroom.  Each lecture starts with basic positions and gets progressively more difficult.  For instance, if we are teaching the King & Queen versus King, the teacher would start with a basic puzzle.

From here, the teacher asks, “What are white’s available checks?”  We want the Teach It! time to be collaborative learning experience for everyone, so the teacher will take all sorts of answers.  Some things students might say are: Qc5+, Qe7+, Qg7+, etc.  The teacher discusses each answer:

1. Qc5+…Ke8 or
1. Qe7+…Kg8

Then we focus in on the best answer, or answers.  In this case, there are actually four moves that lead to mate-in-one.  Can you find all of them?

5k2/2Q5/5K2/8/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1

Yes, 1. Qf7# is one option.  Good job!  Chess Dollar for you!  

What are the others?  Scroll down to see.









chess diagram as animated GIF file

Yes, 1. Qd8# works.  Of course 1. Qc8# and 1. Qb8# also work.

Great job!  $1 Chess Dollar for you.

After thoroughly discussing the basics, YEL teachers go over more difficult puzzles (See your child’s Lesson 2.06 worksheet for more KQ vs K puzzles…NOTE: It’s possible your child hasn’t had this lesson yet as it is usually the 12th lesson of our system).  Then it is on to…


Practice It! time is an opportunity for students to drill the concept a bit more so they understand when they come across it on the chess board.  For the above chess lesson, we ask the students to set up the following position on their board:


White is up a Queen in the endgame.  A winning position for any player who has practiced this lesson.  From here White needs to simply follow the recipe for a win: 1) Pick a jail; 2) Create a box; 3) Copy Cat; 4) Lock the King in jail; 5) Bring in YOUR King and 6) Checkmate with Queen.

You did it!  Chess Dollar for you!

Once they do this, they are asked to switch places and have the the other player win from the same position.  The instructor is constantly canvassing the room and coaching any struggling students.

Students who finish early can move on to…


During Puzzle It! time, students are given a sheet of 12-24 puzzles varying in difficulty.  They can solve as many puzzles as time permits.  The YEL Chess Coach is still canvassing the room, looking for opportunities to help each child.  

You solved 6 puzzles?  Awesome!  Here are $2 chess dollars  for you!

After a child is finished with puzzles, or about 10 minutes into Puzzle It! time, they are paired up with a student of similar age and skill for…


This is where the rubber meets the road.  It’s where the PLAY WELL component of our mission comes in.  Students are given 20-30 minutes of playing time each week.  They pair up with a classmate, friend or new opponent, shake hands, say “Have a good game.” and play chess.  Our coaches continue to canvas the room, but we have found varying coaches have varied approaches.

• Coach A may coach during each game.  Find suggested moves, whisper a strategy in one player’s ear, encourage players that are struggling, etc.
• Coach B may treat Play It! time as a tournament, where there is no coaching during games.  Encourage students?  For sure: i.e. “Keep working hard, a solution might present itself.”, “Don’t give up.  There is still a lot to learn.”!  But coaching happens after the game is complete.  We have found both approaches are highly effective and which style is really a matter of personal coaching style.


Chess Dollars and Fun!

You’ve seen chess dollars referenced throughout this article.  The chess dollars function as merit points based on a student’s work and focus in that day’s chess class.  Students should receive between $5-10 chess dollars per day.  Students can earn chess dollars (as mentioned above) in a number of ways:

• Answering questions during the Teach It! lecture time.
• Solving positions during the Practice It! time.
• Solving puzzles during the Puzzle It! time.
• Creating checkmate, castling, finding a useful Pin or Fork or other tactical gains during the Play It! portion of class.
• Playing hard, keeping your focus and helping your teammates in class!

As you can see, the Chess Dollars aren’t based solely on winning.  And different levels of students can earn different levels of dollars.  It’s quite common for a fourth year student to have $300 chess dollars saved up.

What are the chess dollars used for?  Chess PRIZES!  We’ve got ’em all: Rookie Trophies, Pro, All Star, Expert and Grandmaster trophies too, chess keychains, magnetic chess boards, chess pins, knight erasers, etc., etc.  

What else?  Chess Dollars are a great way for students to learn how to watch over their money.  Maybe even learn a bit about budgeting for the big prize they are saving up for.

All in all, the class is designed for multiple levels of chess students to work at their level for fun, merit and the love of the game.

We hope you consider signing up for a YEL Chess Class or YEL Chess tournament in the future.  


CLICK HERE to visit our registration page and find a class near you.  

Don’t see your school?  Call (800) 959-9261 or email us to get a program started!

What kids and parents love about after school enrichment classes!

How after school enrichment classes with {YEL!} help kids to THINK, LEARN and PLAY WELL!

After School Enrichment

  1. Kids are excited to attend school.

  2. They are convenient!

  3. They keep learning fun!

  4. They create friendships!

  5. They create new interests.

  6. The initial investment is low.

  7. They present another positive role model.

  Bonus: What’s Next?


The school year is up and running.  After school enrichment is too!

You’ve barely had time to get together school supplies, clean and prepare lunch boxes, get new shoes and find the perfect first-day-of-school outfit.  If you are like us, the gears shifted dramatically at the beginning of the school year.  Now we are planning soccer practice, chess classes, dance classes and parkour memberships.  It seems like a lot, but we want to give our kids a rich experience in extra-curricular activities.  It does pay off in the end.  Below is a list of some reasons kids and their parents love after school enrichment (a.k.a. extra-curricular activities or out of school time activities).

1. Kids are excited to attend school.

Excited student at school bus

The top reason parents and kids love after school enrichment is it gets the kids excited to go to school.  For {YEL!} chess classes, kids love to grab their chess wallet and their chess dollars (merit points) the day of chess class.  {YEL!} STEM class students (we use LEGO® bricks) grab their favorite LEGO® Minifig or their piece de resistance LEGO® project they spent hours on over the summer (LEGO® Yoda, anyone?).  Sports students grab their team jersey, and so on and so on.  Being excited to go to school is a win-win-win situation.  The child tends to stay more focused during the school day, the teachers have the benefit of a more productive student and parents find it easier to motivate their child for the school day.

Studies have been conducted tying quality after school enrichment with a rise in test scores.  The American Institute for Research asks “Does participation in after school programs make a difference?  According to Little, Wimer, and Weiss,  the short answer is yes. . . .A decade of research and evaluation studies, as well as large-scale, rigorously conducted syntheses looking across many research and evaluation studies, confirms that children and youth who participate in after school programs can reap a host of positive benefits in a number of interrelated outcome areas—academic, social/emotional, prevention, and health and wellness. (2008, p. 2)”

2. They are convenient!

What could be better than having your child take chess, STEM, dance or sports classes in the safety of their own school and parents only have to come pick them up an hour later than usual.  Talk about a win-win!

There are fantastic off campus clubs that have chess, robotics and fencing classes in many communities, but they tend to be centered in a downtown area that could be 20-30 miles away for most parents.  So, if your child is interested in fencing, {YEL!} offers fencing classes in dozens of communities to hundreds of students each year.  If you don’t have fencing, chess, robotics, sports and dance classes at your school, give us a call at (800) 959-9261 or email us at and we’ll discuss options for your school and community.

3. They keep learning fun!Learning fun graph

The benefits of chess are numerous and have been widely studied.  {YEL!} STEM classes using LEGO® bricks incorporate many 21st Century Learning Skills including creativity, communication and collaboration.  The importance of sports classes, fencing classes, dance or any class that gets your child’s pulse pounding cannot be understated.  In a day and age where USA adult obesity is nearing 75%, getting your child used to moving 60 minutes or more a day is incredibly important.

{YEL!} instructors implement daily lesson plans that incorporate all those benefits into our after school enrichment offerings.  Because of the robust curriculum and dynamic instructors, the student participants learn without even knowing it.  Chess stimulates the brain and makes using your brain fun.  LEGO® brick projects teach basic engineering and spacial skills all while the child is enjoying “playing” (read “building”) with LEGO® bricks.  What parent wouldn’t want learning to be fun for their child?



4. They create friendships!

Friends, friendships, friendship, fencing

Many children sign up for after school enrichment classes with a friend.  Being together on a chess team, building a LEGO® project together, being in a dance class together or being on an after school sports (flag football, basketball, soccer) team with a buddy can codify those friendships.  Not only that, building with a school mate that you don’t know as well can create a friendship that wasn’t there before.  My 10 year old son started taking chess classes in kindergarten and learned all the names of the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade chess students.  Then he would often say “hi” to them in the hall.  Those older more accomplished students also motivated my lil’ chess wizard to work harder at chess so he could beat them some day.

5. They create new interests.

Students can “dip their toes” in the after school enrichment pool (to strain the metaphor) of soccer, chess and other classes where there is a large number of beginning students in the fall.  As an example, maybe your child is excited to learn more about soccer, but your family schedule won’t allow for you to do two nights per week of practice, plus Saturday or Sunday games.  As an alternative, after school enrichment classes meet only one time per week and can introduce your child to soccer so they understand the rules, skills and team work required.  If their interest in the sport grows, then you can decide as a family whether the time is right for a traveling league.

6. The initial investment is low.Low investment

For {YEL!} classes, parents have to pay a participation fee, but other than that, everything is provided for that fee.  {YEL!} Fencing classes include all the gear a fencer needs to participate safely during class.  {YEL!} dance classes do NOT require expensive dance uniforms that may last only one year.  {YEL!} chess, LEGO® STEM classes, robotics and sports classes include all the materials needed to THINK, LEARN and PLAY WELL in any of those subjects during class time.

7. They present another positive role model.

Parents often reach out to {YEL!} teachers and share gifts and thank you cards with them.  {YEL!} teachers understand that making a difference in a child’s day is one of their greatest priorities and it is something they can “hang their hat on” at the end of each day.  Students in our classes can benefit a great deal from another positive role model that will keep them active, engaged and create the love for something other than video games.





BONUS: What’s Next?

{YEL!} lists all of our classes on our REGISTRATION WEBSITE.  Simply choose your school, school district, subject or type in your zip code to see what is in your area.  If you can’t find what you are looking for, call us at (800) 959-9261 or email us at and let’s start a discussion about bringing {YEL!} programs to your schools.


The Joy of Sewing: Summer Sewing Camps

The Joy of Sewing

Six awesome aspects of the {YEL!} Project Runway Summer Camp

It’s summer time.  Time for rest, relaxation and summer camps.  {YEL!} offers our Project Runway Sewing Camp with new projects each year.  Students with no experience up to intermediate experience can learn, create, sew and wear home their own swim suit coverupear bud case and mini messenger bag.

{YEL!} sat down with the authors and editors of the Project Runway curriculum, Tammy Severtson and Krista Weaver.  They spoke about sewing glowingly and the many reasons they have a joy of sewing.  To start, sewing is a skill that has historically been passed on from one generation to the next.  After a brief hiccup, sewing is making a comeback.  Here are six reasons we believe sewing is awesome for young seamstresses and tailors.

1. Do it yourself

2. Sewing Circles

3. Bonding across generations

4. Self-discipline

5. Stewardship

6. Showcase

Bonus: (What’s Next)

Do it yourself

Creativity is at the core of that “I did it myself” feel and there are studies to prove it.  Author Dan Ariely in the second chapter of his book Payoff discusses a study where novice “builders” of origami projects valued their project more than “buyers” who were asked how much they would pay for the project.  The study continued by having the “builders” build their origami with fewer and fewer directions.  In the last phase of the study, critical steps in the “builders” instructions were removed.  After building with less instruction, the “builders” valued their projects more than five times higher than “buyers” valued the same project.  The more you do yourself, the more creativity you invest, the more you value what you’ve made.

Sewing is the same.  I was at dinner one night with the family and I saw a fourth grade girl from my chess class.  I said “Hi.” and asked her how her summer was going.  She mentioned she had just finished the Project Runway sewing camp.  She then stood up to show me the dress she had just completed that morning.  Beaming with pride, she “showed off” her dress in front of my family, her family and any customer that happened to be looking.

Do you have a similar experience?  Perhaps you still have the pot holder you made in seventh grade.  Or, when visiting your mom, you still glance to see if she has the mini pottery bowl you made in fourth grade.  Personally, I have a mosaic art piece from third grade that I’ve taken with me everywhere I have lived for the last 40 years.  I have yet to outgrow that thing.

Make it your own

In addition to making projects with our guided instructions, accelerated sewers have opportunities to make their project their own by: adding a pocket or two, adding decorative buttons, finishing the hem with a unique addition.  What will they come up with this year?

Sewing Circles

In the age of text messages that truncate and “acronize” our language, where a Snap Chat that disappears in 10 seconds is the norm, how refreshing is it to see young ladies measuring, cutting, sewing and TALKING without even a glance or concern about their phone?  We call it “sit…sew…chit…chat.”

Tammy and Krista both reported that the Project Runway classes they have taught and observed have built camaraderie among the participants.  Krista recalls a class where none of the girls knew each other at the beginning of the summer camp, but by the end they were all friends, sharing in each other’s accomplishments and creativity.

Bonding across generations

What was old is now new again.  Perhaps you remember your mom or grandma going to the quilter’s club at their local VFW.  Maybe you’ve been to a church bazaar where generations of women sit together around a quilt that heralds the return of a war hero from Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.  There is something about sewing that connects us across generations.

Tammy, a baby boomer, said that she started sewing with her aunt and mom at a young age.  Tammy took a 30 year hiatus from sewing.  She had started a family and didn’t have time that sewing projects require.  She still mended seams and repaired buttons, but larger projects became a lost art.  When Tammy started crafting the Project Runway curriculum, she thought back to the last project she made.  A summer dress.  She wondered if she still had the skills and the desire to make these projects.  She wondered if kids would be interested in making their own dresses.  Six years later, the curriculum Tammy has crafted has created somewhere around 2,500 dresses.

Krista, a milennial, learned to sew from her mom and grandma.  Krista still brings projects to her grandma and her grandma “swells with pride” each time Krista brings something new to her.  Like the chess student mentioned above, Krista still gets a sense of accomplishment and joy when she “shows off” her projects to her grandma and mom.


Controlling the foot pedal while feeding the fabric across the bed of the machine; being careful to keep your fingers well away from the needle; following instructions; measuring, cutting, pinning and sewing to make the dress to spec; even the basic task of threading a needle, all of this requires self-discipline and patience.  Our instructors will guide, instruct and encourage students, but it is up to each student to construct their projects.

Things of quality take time to create.  Taking time requires patience and self-discipline.  Don’t cut corners by…cutting corners.  Students can learn that by staying focused, being patient and following instructions they could leave class sporting a fashionable summer show-piece in no time!


Taking care of what you are given is an important aspect of stewardship and the reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy.  Fixing a button, mending a worn pair of socks, patching up a pair of jeans or taking that pair of jeans and up-cycling it into a backpack…these are just a few examples of how we can take care of what we’ve been given and reduce waste in our society.

A stitch in time saves nine

Now that young sewers have the beginning skills to mend minor tears, this might be a good time to teach them the value of being proactive.  Fix it now or you’ll have to spend more time and thread to fix it later.  Is your button loose or do you have a small tear in your favorite shirt?  Patch it, today.  You have the skills.  Go get ’em, tiger!

Showcase it!

The last day of the {YEL!} Project Runway sewing camp ends with the Project Runway Showcase.  Parents, family and friends are invited to see the projects their child created throughout the week.  Children can showcase their projects while walking the runway…and they love it…even if it makes them nervous.

Krista has had dozens of reticent girls in her classes. Nervous about the crowd, nervous about what people will say about their project and apprehensive about walking the runway.  Krista says that with the support of their Runway friends and visiting family, each one of those nervous girls has loved the showcase and left exhilarated by the experience.

What’s Next?

The most common question from parents at the end of the Project Runway sewing camp is “What’s next?”  Your child has learned the basics and completed some awesome projects.

  1. I’d say the first step is to let them show off their projects in public.  Be proud of what they have learned.
  2. Look into buying a sewing machine.  The sewing machines we use in class are Brother LS2125i.  This is a very good introductory sewing machine.
  3. Check out local sewing shops for classes.  You’ve invested time and treasure into getting the basics down.  If you are ready for the next level, check out local shops for classes and ideas.
  4. After you get the machine, check out Pinterest for ideas.  It is replete with patterns, ideas and instructions.
  5. Head to Goodwill or grab some old, tattered apparel and look for opportunities to up cycle them.
  6. Start your own in-home sewing studio.  Maybe start small with a project for mom and child to work on.  Invite grandma or aunty over and watch the group grow from there.
  7. Design your own garments and give them a try.  Remember Dan Ariely‘s study referenced above?
  8. Look into future {YEL!} Project Runway summer camps.  We’ll have new projects next year!
  9. Have a great summer! And don’t forget to check out our other blogs, including “How to plan and choose summer camps.”