Story Time Chess Review

Reading Apps

With its wonderful illustrations, fun stories, interesting characters, minigames and clear, sequential teaching method, if you have a young child that has shown some kind of interest in chess, and you want to nurture that spark and get them started ASAP, Story Time Chess might just be the program for you. 

What We Like

Wonderfully illustrated
Memorable characters help kids learn chess
Components are all well made
Multisensory learning
Lots of fun and silly humor that kids can connect to
Step by step approach with focused practice
Short lessons and exercises
Very easy to use, even for non-chess parents

But watch out for

Not the cheapest program out there
A few concepts are contained in add-on levels

What Is Story Time Chess?

Story Time Chess is an educational program and game that is designed to help young kids learn to play chess.

To do so, it takes a step-by-step approach and uses a set of custom chess pieces and chessboard, a variety of focused, skill-building exercises and activities, and a series of highly illustrated and amusing stories to teach the game’s essential movements and rules.

Beyond the main chess curriculum, Story Time Chess also offers parents more complex add-on levels that can introduce kids to more advanced strategies and tactics, such as board analysis and castling.

What Ages Or Grades Is Story Time Chess Intended For?

Story Time Chess is intended to teach younger children how to play chess, with the company claiming that it can teach kids as young as 3. 

This stands in fairly stark contrast to more traditional chess programs for kids that tend to be aimed at kids aged 7 or 8, or around the second grade, and up.

It does this by addressing many of the issues that parents tend to encounter when trying to teach chess to a younger child, such as maintaining their more limited interest and attention and making it easier to understand the various pieces, rules and moves involved with the game. 

The program, for example, uses brightly colored and illustrated teaching material, easy to understand writing, cartoon-like chess piece characters, a healthy dose of silly humor and, perhaps most importantly, a careful and sequential approach to teaching with a good deal of built-in reinforcement to help students with skill mastery. 

While we can’t exactly speak to whether a typical 3 year old can truly learn chess (although it is certainly possible with a motivated and intelligent child), we would say that overall Story Time Chess does a good job at making its teaching material well-suited for younger children.

In our opinion, it should be appropriate for teaching interested students from Pre-K and K (4 or 5 and up) the basics of the game.

What’s Included

As might be expected from a program designed to teach younger kids the basics of a somewhat complex board game, Story Time Chess has a few more components to it than a typical chess set, including: 

  • Custom chess pieces
  • A two-sided chess board
  • Story Time Chess characters
  • Dual instructional booklets, cards and tokens

Story Time Chess Pieces

Story Time Chess comes with a standard set of 32 black and white chess pieces, with white representing King Chomper and his kingdom and black representing King Shakey and his realm. 

The chess pieces are competition-size but are pretty well-designed for young players.

They are fairly big and thick and made of durable, but lightweight, ABS plastic, so they are pretty easy for little hands to pick up and move across a board compared to solid wood, metal or heavier plastic pieces. 

Although they have the same overall look and dimensions of standard chess pieces, the Story Time Chess pieces are slightly modified with a front slot molded into them that helps hold the character tiles in place a little better, which is nice. 

To their credit, Story Time Chess also provides parents with a nice pair of blue and purple drawstring storage bags to store its chess pieces, one for Team Shaky and one for Team Chomper. 

The bags are made of pretty standard cloth and, although not made of anything fancy like velvet, they are pretty nice and, more importantly, durable so they won’t easily tear and drop pieces unexpectedly. 

Two-Sided Chess Board

Story Time Chess also comes with a custom, double-sided chessboard. 

One side of the board is a standard or regulation chessboard, albeit with green and white rather than the standard black and white tiles.

The other side, however, is designed to be used with the program’s various lessons and exercises.  

Referred to as the “Story Side,” it is designed to look more or less like a standard tiled chessboard but with printed grass instead of clearly defined squares so as to make it seem as if the pieces are meeting outdoors.

picture of story time chess board with pieces on it

The Story Side is also printed with specific, nicely-illustrated pictorials in the margins to help kids remember which character pieces go where and in what order, i.e. where the kings go, which bishop goes where and so on.

The board itself is otherwise a pretty standard, square-folding chessboard with typical 2” x 2” squares and is about 21” x 21” in overall size.

The use of a regulation board, rather than something specifically designed for kids, is actually a positive.

Its size makes it easy for everyone to look at and use and being a standard size means that it should be easier for students to translate the knowledge they pick up to any set that they eventually find themselves using.

Finally, the Story Time Chess board is solid and pretty well built, in our opinion.

It is made of fairly thick cardboard, which is good in that it should stand up to most accidental twists or pulls from kids.

That said it is, at the end of the day, a board game style set so parents will still need to make sure that play doesn’t get too…spirited, resulting in catastrophic tears and rips.

Character Pieces

One of the issues that many younger kids have with standard chess sets is the vague and abstract style of the pieces themselves. 

It is often hard for them to picture a king as a large pillar with a cross on it, for example. 

In the spirit of Battle Chess or themed chess sets, Story Time chess includes a variety of cardboard slips that fit over its included standard pieces and give them a more recognizable appearance. 

Both queens, for example, are given unique characters (Bella and Allegra) who each wear distinctive clothing and crowns that reflect their royal stature. 

picture of story time chess queen character pieces

So too are, for instance, the colorful trapeze artist bishops, Bea and Bop and the armored horse-knights, Clip and Clop. 

Even the various pawns are each given their own unique looks, which is kind of cool.

picture of story time chess pawn

By and large, these character pieces are nicely drawn and have a colorful and humorous cartoon style that we think is a lot of fun and generally a lot more interesting for kids to look at and use compared to standard plastic chess pieces. 

They are also made of a similar cardboard quality as the board itself.

In addition to preventing the pieces from flopping around when handled, this should also help them stand up to moderate use without tearing, which is always a plus with younger kids

Story Time Chess Instructional Booklets

Finally, to help kids learn the fundamentals of this often intricate game, Story Time Chess comes with an 87 page softcover, full-color booklet. 

Over the course of 9 chapters, the instructional booklet introduces each piece’s character, role and moves, provides them with practice exercises and even has a chess-related card game (Crown) that kids can play at the end.

The booklet is nicely illustrated and is written in a charming and humorous manner, with amusing short stories introducing each chess piece before launching into their unique movements. 

The instructions are written in a pretty straightforward and clear manner, although the level of writing can sometimes be a bit advanced. 

Written at what seems to be a third grade reading level and containing puns or other plays on words, parents of younger students will likely have to spend some time reading the lessons aloud and explaining things from time to time

As a result, it’s probably not the most ideal program for busy homeschooling parents of young kids looking for a quick set-and-forget chess program. 

That said, older, more fluent readers might be able to read much of the book on their own, which can help busier parents out a bit more.

The book also comes with cardstock chips or tokens that are used in the game’s first couple chapters (that parents will have to punch out from a sheet), as well as cards that are used in the crown card game. 

picture of tokens found in story time chess

To go along with this instructional booklet, Story Time Chess also includes a brief manual for parents that lays out the lessons, their structure and components in a sensible, step-by-step and easy to understand manner. 

Interestingly, the program also includes a standard chess instruction guide, which is essentially included to help parents who are themselves unfamiliar with chess. 

This particular booklet is printed in black and white and largely eschews the fanciful illustrations and character driven teaching methods and exercises in favor of the type of straightforward directions and diagrams that might be found in a typical board game box. 

While perhaps not the most exciting to look at, and while probably not required by most parents who deliberately go out and buy their children a program to learn chess, it does lay things out pretty clearly and can be a handy quick-start reference to those new to the game, saving them considerable time watching introductory YouTube videos on the game. 

How Story Time Chess Approaches Teaching Kids Chess

Story-based, character driven chess

As the name might imply,  Story Time Chess teaches kids to play a little bit differently than most other chess programs out there. 

Rather than simply explaining the different pieces, their possible moves and so on, Story Time takes a literature/story-based approach that turns each otherwise anonymous chess piece into its own distinct character with a unique look and backstory. 

In this way, the program transforms the chessboard itself into a sort of fantasy kingdom that can entertain young kids with tales of gluttonous kings, acrobatic bishops, armored horses and so on. 

picture of  queen bella's story in story time chess

Each piece’s backstory not only adds additional depth to this chess kingdom, but also helps explain why the pieces move the way they do in an often amusing way.

King Chomper, for example, only moves a space at a time because of his weight, while his children/pawns do so because they don’t want to end up in a chaotic heap. 

By and large, these sort of just-so stories are quite cute and pretty charming and tend to better grab a child’s attention and interest rather than simply arguing based on tradition or rules.

By increasing a student’s attention to the details, these stories and characters can help keep kids more engaged in what they are doing, which in turn can better help them remember how the pieces are supposed to move across the board in the long run.

Step-by-step, mastery-style learning

Rather than teaching kids the game of chess all at once, Story Time Chess takes each piece and teaches students about it and its particular movements one at a time. 

picture of lessons and table of contents in story time chess

Starting with the white king, students progress chapter by chapter and spend a considerable amount of time with each chess piece, learning its moves and practicing before moving on to the next in a kind of mastery-based learning process.

This approach effectively breaks down the initial complexity of the game of chess into more manageable chunks, allowing kids to work at their own pace and reducing the likelihood of confusion, making it a way of teaching that is ideally suited to younger and more easily overwhelmed students. 

It’s important for parents to note, however, that the effectiveness of sequential, mastery learning can depend on the individual child. 

While many benefit immensely from a slower pace and more thorough examination of each piece and its role on the board, others may find it a bit slow and prefer to learn by seeing how it all fits together holistically from the start. 

Plenty of activity-based practice

To help reinforce a child’s learning about each chess piece’s movements on the board, Story Time Chess provides them with a lot of opportunities to try out what they’ve learned through lots of focused practice. 

After learning about each chess piece, students are then presented with several increasingly complex but relatively short minigames that help students practice that piece’s movements, collecting specifically placed tokens either alone or, eventually, alongside other pieces. 

This method of practice can be very helpful for young kids as it lets them work with the chess piece in isolation and really focus on it without being distracted by the rest of the board and pieces. 

Further, by making these practice sessions into token-based minigames, it can make learning a lot more fun, interesting and relevant, as its overall format is fairly similar to various social and mobile games that younger kids might be already familiar with. 

On the downside, some of the minigames can feel a bit repetitive or similar to one another on occasion, particularly for older or more precocious students, and some kids might want to skip ahead after a while.

Use of humor and illustrations

Finally, Story Time Chess works to overcome what is likely the greatest barrier to kids learning chess, i.e. boredom and lack of sustained interest, by using wonderful, cartoon-like illustration and a good deal of humor. 

Rather than simply explaining chess rules, each piece is drawn in a fun way and they are each given amusing reasons for their pattern of movement that kids will appreciate. 

The black king Shakey is scared of grass, for example, the bishops are acrobatic and prefer certain colors, the pawns will otherwise crash into each other unless they take things one step at a time, the black queen is an architect who developed her wide-ranging skills and movements by reinforcing her husband’s pillow castle and so on. 

As we’ve mentioned, these cute, amusing and unusual stories and illustrations can serve to make learning more memorable for kids and should keep them wanting to learn more.

picture of story time chess story explanation

That said, not every parent may necessarily approve of each backstory, such as the stories making light of King Chomper’s food obsession or weight problem.

How It Works

As we’ve mentioned, Story Time Chess’ main instructional booklet is divided into 9 chapters that parents and children tackle one at a time.

Each chapter focuses on a particular chess piece, i.e. the king, the queen, the bishops, the knights, the rooks and the pawns, and provides each with a unique look and backstory. 

Students and parents start off by reading a short story about the character-piece in question. 

Aside from being fun to read, these stories introduce the role of the piece and slowly introduce students to its particular movement across the board and, importantly, give them a funny and memorable reason as to why the piece moves as it does in chess.

Parents and students are generally encouraged to have fun with the story, using silly voices or physically acting things out in order to really make it fun and more memorable for small children.

At the same time, parents and kids slip a character card over the relevant chess piece, inserting the base of the card into a special slot located on the front of the piece for added stability.

This serves to transform the otherwise nondescript chess piece into its memorable character from the story and lets young kids more easily find it on a busy chessboard later on.

Once students get an idea of the purpose and movement of their chess piece, they move on to the next part of the lesson where they reinforce and practice the piece’s movements through little activities or minigames on the Story Side of the chessboard.

Depending on the story and the piece in question, these minigames can be pretty diverse. 

Some involve picking up tokens in a particular order or direction, others may involve locking certain pieces, while still others involve racing, taking out or otherwise working with other pieces on the board. 

They also tend to become progressively more complex, with the beginning lessons involving a single piece and progressing, towards the end of the book, to a full game of capture the king.

The final chapter of the book is based around a skill-testing card game of sorts called the Crown card game that serves to tie the learning together. 

Kids and parents make use of the deck of 30 challenge cards included in the Story Time Chess box.

Students and parents play by picking up various challenge cards that test the skills they’ve picked up throughout the book. 

As they win, they earn tokens for their particular king (pizza or diamonds) and the first to five wins.

Our thoughts

Overall, Story Time Chess is pretty straightforward and easy to use and, we believe, quite well designed for younger students. 

The lessons themselves are quite short, with practice broken up into games that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to complete, so they shouldn’t be too taxing for young (and often short) attention spans. 

The humor, we feel, lands well for the age group and can be quite effective, using topics and cartoonish scenarios that even young kids can immediately grasp and will likely find funny, such as a king being scared of bees, a castle made of pillows, a gust of wind blowing a fat king’s pizza all over his yard and so on.

One thing that we thought was quite interesting is that the lessons are often quite multisensory. 

In addition to looking at and moving pieces around a board (visual and tactile), kids listen to stories (aural), repeat or chant things aloud (verbal) and are even encouraged to act things out (kinesthetic). 

Aside from its helpfulness in keeping wiggly kids entertained, multisensory learning has been shown to have a number of positive effects that can help students better retain and retrieve information.

On the downside, while there are a few minigames for each lesson, which provides a good amount of practice as we’ve mentioned, it can be a bit much (and sometimes a bit repetitive) for some students, particularly older ones or those who pick things up quickly, and can lead to frustration

Additionally, while Story Time Chess lessons do a good job at introducing the overall concept of chess and its basic movements and patterns, they don’t necessarily cover all of the essential concepts a chess game involves, such as pawn transformations, castling and so on, which are left to the more advanced add ons or further parental explanations. 

Can it really teach a young child to play chess?

Overall, we feel Story Time Chess can be a good way to teach even young kids the essentials of chess. 

Through its use of engaging stories and colorful illustrations, identifiable and memorable characters and focused practice, the program can help kids learn and remember the basic patterns, movements and rules of the game’s pieces and it can be a very solid introduction to the game for those under 8.

Parents should keep in mind that students won’t become chess masters or experts by any means with this program, but they should finish Story Time Chess with the ability to reasonably understand and play a simple game with a parent or sibling, although they will obviously need to keep practicing and learning. 

It’s important to remember, of course, that each child is different and even with the games’ fun stories and amusing characters a child will need to have the ability to sit, listen and concentrate for several minutes in a row.

Similarly, although Story Time Chess can be a lot of fun for kids, it is also important to remember that not every child has a particular interest in or willingness to learn and practice chess, and this more often than not has a significant impact on learning outcomes regardless of how entertaining the curriculum might be. 

Educational Benefits For Homeschooling Families

On its own, chess has a variety of benefits for homeschooling students.

The game itself can help build a student’s concentration and attention to detail, and its slower pace and immediate consequences for mistakes can help students learn patience and to temper their impulses. 

More than that, chess is known as a great way to foster strategic thinking and creative problem solving skills in kids, helping them learn to plan, set up and execute moves against an opponent and eventually encouraging them to think outside the box to overcome difficult problems. 

For homeschoolers in particular, there are any number of chess clubs specifically designed for homeschooling kids where students can meet and play against each other either in real life or online.

Interestingly, because Story Time Chess uses a literature/story-based approach to learning about chess pieces, the game can actually be used to enrich a language arts curriculum as an ongoing reading and reading comprehension enrichment activity, which is kind of cool and sets it apart from most other chess programs out there.

Is Story Time Chess Secular?

Story Time Chess is a completely secular learning program. 

At no point did we see any references to God, the Bible or religion, making it ideally suited to secular and neutral homeschooling philosophies.

That said, with its high quality artwork, fun learning style, focused practice and step-by-step approach, Story Time Chess can also be a great option for faith-based homeschools, as long as they aren’t really looking for a faith-based solution. 

Pros And Cons


Wonderfully illustrated

Story Time Chess’ character pieces, associated stories and instruction manual are all full color and professionally illustrated with fun and modern cartoon art that is as much fun to look at for kids as they are to read and/or use. 

Memorable characters really helps kids learn chess pieces and moves

Rather than rely on the usual abstract chess shapes that populate most chessboards, Story Time Chess gives each piece its own unique representative cartoon character that makes them far more identifiable on the board and more memorable for kids.

Contains pretty high quality components

Story Time Chess includes a variety of high quality components, such as durable plastics for its chess pieces, a full color and illustrated storybook/manual, nicely designed cloth storage sacks, and thick and durable cardboard for its two-sided chessboard and character slips. 

As a result, nothing really feels cheaply made with this product nor do we feel it will break or tear easily when handled…something that’s always a plus with things designed for small children. 

Uses a good deal of humor in its stories

Story Time Chess takes a story-based approach to teaching chess rules and the reasons for their movements, mixing in a good deal of silly humor that kids will appreciate and find amusing, which should help them remember things a lot better in the long run.

Offers a step by step approach with focused practice

Rather than introducing the chessboard and pieces in their totality, Story Time Chess slowly and carefully introduces each piece one at a time, allowing students to really take their time and learn the role and the movements of each piece on the board without being overwhelmed or distracted by other components of the game. 

The program also provides students with a good deal of focused practice, in the form of little minigames, which allows them to work with each piece in isolation in order to really get the hang of them.

Short lessons and exercises

Designed to help younger children learn to play chess, Story Time Chess keeps its lessons pretty short, generally taking less than 20 minutes or so, which should help prevent kids from zoning out, getting distracted, bored or generally becoming overwhelmed by the learning. 

Easy to use, open and go chess program

Story Time Chess is pretty straightforward and easy to use, both for parents and students. Aside from attaching small cardboard slips on top of chess pieces and periodically setting up a board, there is very little prep time involved in teaching each lesson and parents who are at least a little familiar with chess can generally pick up the story book and start teaching lessons. 


At any given lesson in Story Time Chess, kids may be asked to pick up and use pieces, listen to stories, repeat back phrases or key bits of knowledge and even act out certain events physically if they so choose. 

As a result, the program engages quite a number of senses and can work quite well to engage students with different learning preferences. 


Not exactly cheap

Although it is fun and effective for small children, at just under $50 Story Time Chess is not exactly the cheapest introductory chess set out there and can be a bit pricey for some families.

Some important ideas contained in add-on levels

While it can provide an excellent introduction to chess and can get kids up and running quickly, the basic set of Story Time Chess doesn’t include all the relevant or commonly used rules, strategies and tactics that parents might want their kids to learn, such as promotion, castling, pawn structure and more .

Instead, these are contained in add-on levels that cost extra.

Who Is Story Time Chess Ideal For?

Younger children who have shown an interest in learning chess

With its short lesson format, story-based explanations, focused practice, easily identifiable and memorable characters and use of humor/colorful illustrations, Story Time Chess can be a particularly fun and effective way to teach even very young children to play chess should they show some motivation to do so. 

Fans of literature or story-based learning

To help students learn about chess pieces, their movements and roles on the board, Story Time Chess uses a humorous, story-based learning method that turns each piece into its own unique character and provides them with a detailed backstory that parents and/or students read.

As a result, the program can be a good option for fans of literature/story-based learning especially compared to a typical dry and to the point chess manual. 

Kids who love minigames

To help students get practice moving each individual piece around the board, Story Time Chess has included a variety of minigames in each lesson that can be fun to play and may feel familiar to fans of casual video games. 

Parents looking for a fun-filled and entertaining way to teach kids the basics of chess

At the end of the day, Story Time Chess is a lot of fun to use. 

Its stories are funny, its characters are well-illustrated and amusing and it generally teaches in a way that won’t be too stressful for young children. 

As a result, we feel it can be particularly effective at getting younger kids up and running with their first real game of chess. 

Who Is It Not Ideal For?

Older kids and teens who want to learn chess

While its step-by-step lessons, gorgeous illustrations and use of humor can be quite suitable and effective with younger students, older kids and teens may not appreciate the cartoon-like adventures of King Chomper or King Shakey’s kingdoms quite as much and may prefer a more traditional and straightforward approach.

Parents who want a comprehensive chess program for their students

Although it is a great way to get started with chess, Story Time Chess is really designed to teach the fundamentals of chess and isn’t, at least in our opinion, a comprehensive chess program that will dive into all the various strategies, tactics and minutiae of the game right off the bat. 


Note: All prices are correct as of writing. All prices in USD. 

Story Time Chess comes as a bundled item, including board, pieces, instructional books, tokens, cards and characters, and costs around $49.99.

The company also sells add-on bundles covering more advanced chess strategy, moves and tactics that kids can graduate to once they complete the first program, which are also known as level 2 and level 3. These cost:

Strategy Bundle (Level 2): $44.99

Tactics Bundle (Level 3): $64.99

As always, parents should check for current prices, as well as any deals or discounts that may apply.



Is It Worth The Price?

Although not exactly the cheapest chess set out there, if you are a homeschooler or a parent looking to introduce a young child to chess, Story Time Chess is a fun and effective option and can provide a lot of value for money.

Story Time Chess contains well-designed and sturdy chess materials, such as custom-designed ABS plastic chess pieces, a sturdy double-sided chessboard, fanciful drawstring storage bags and two sets of illustrated instructions (one for students and one for  parents). 

More importantly, however, the program adheres to many of the best practices for teaching young children complex skills. 

Bottom Line

With its wonderful illustrations, fun stories, interesting characters, minigames and clear, sequential teaching method, if you have a young child that has shown some kind of interest in chess, and you want to nurture that spark and get them started ASAP, Story Time Chess might just be the program for you. 

Picture of our tech author David

About the Author

David Belenky is a freelance writer, former science and math tutor and a tech enthusiast. When he’s not writing about educational tech, he likes to chill out with his family and dog at home.