Dinosaur Chess: Great Fun for Young Learners
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So I gambled $2 on an iPad app to help teach my 6-year-old chess, & I must say that I'm very happy with it!
Dinosaur Chess seems aimed at kids around 5-10. It does a great job covering the basics, and really keeps its young audience engaged at the same time! The app is divided up into four modules: Learn, Play, Fight, & Progress.
Learn includes a set of lessons taught by a wise old (Scottish?!) dinosaur professor. Your child is represented by a young dinosaur hatchling who grows bigger & stronger with each lesson. The lessons themselves are great: Everything is made visual on a dynamic 2D board (where captured pieces explode with a satisfying pop!), and each lesson includes interactive activities & mini-games to provide hands-on practice for each concept.
Also great is the Play area: This is what it's all about! Here your child works their way through six saurian opponents, from the easy-to-beat ankylosaurus up to the vicious T-Rex. Versus the easier opponents, your youngling enjoys a material "odds" advantage of some kind (see screen below), so the focus here is on converting a winning advantage, avoiding blunders (dropped pieces), and mastering basic checkmates.
The Fight module is an arcade-style incentive for the user to complete all of the lessons in the Learn area. Remember how I said the little dino gets bigger after every lesson? Well, the "Fight" area rewards their efforts in a way that probably won't appeal to adult users. Here, you pick from the same six opponents as in "Play" and use your finger to pop these strange bubbles that fall from the sky. Each bubble has a fight move that you can use to try to push your opponent off the screen. There's nothing chess-related here, but again, your success in the Learn section will make or break you in a "fight."
Finally, the Progress area shows all the lessons the user has completed, all the dinos they have defeated, and even all the pieces they have taken - all tumbling around in little containers. Fun!
If the app has one glaring (blaring, actually) flaw, it's the menu screen, which for some reason plays this funky music that seems twice as loud as everything else in the app. Thankfully, the pain ends as soon as you choose one of the four modules.
That's it! If you're trying to raise a chess-lover (& you have an iPad), you should definitely take a look at Dinosaur Chess for iPad. I'd certainly recommend it.
P.S. I just found out that there are also versions for Mac and PC available from Convekta, but they are $25-35 and don't seem to offer additional content or features. So at $2, this is a steal for iPad owners.