Picture of Inexpensive Human Chess Set for After-School Club
DIY Human Chess Set

While teaching an after-school chess club for elementary students, my club needed a creative (a.k.a. "inexpensive") way to make a human chess set for the kids to wear.  It also had to store pretty compactly, since we have little room in our club's Rubbermaid bin for an elaborate multiple costume set.

I came up with this system of headbands and foam chess pieces that can easily attach to each other using hook and loop closures, yet can store flat in plastic gallon bags in our club's bin without taking up too much room.  And it doesn't cost as much as outfitting 32 children with character costumes!

Step 1: Materials List

Picture of Materials List
You will need the following:

36" X 36" package of black felt
36" X 36" package of white felt
4 sheets of 12" X 18" (2mm or 3mm) black foam 
4 sheets of 12" X 18" (2mm or 3mm) white foam
Scissors, rotary cutter, and/or Xacto craft knife
White thread
Black thread
White Hook and Loop closure (Velcro), 16 inches each side
Black Hook and Loop closure (Velcro), 16 inches each side
White 3/8" elastic, 128 inches total
Black Permanent Marker
White Paint Marker
Double Stick Fusible Glue and/or E6000 craft glue
Sewing Machine
Clipart images of the chess pieces (included here)

AmyM3316 days ago

I made this as costumes for the play The Seven Sided Dice which has a real life chess battle in the last scene. It was for a kids theater company with kids from ages 7-16 participating. We made the foam chess pieces just like in the directions. The only change we made on the foam pieces was using white poster paint instead of the white sharpie paint on the black pieces. We started with that but it was very light and didn't show up well on stage. Instead of making headbands we purchased inexpensive ski caps in white and black and sewed the velcro directly onto the hats. I attached a picture with my three daughters in their costumes. I did 30 in all but didn't want to post pictures with others children in them. The black outline on the white pawn didn't show up well with the black background in the picture but looked good on stage during the show. Right before opening night we realized one of the foam pieces had gotten lost so had to make another foam piece quickly. I didn't have time for E6000 craft glue so just used sticky back velcro instead and it held up for all 4 shows. Overall the directions here were very helpful and I'm glad I found something that was very doable for a small children's theater company with a tight costume budget. We paired the pieces from the directions here with thrift store turtlenecks. The kids supplied most of the pants from home.

chess pieces.jpg
That is a great idea! Definitely makes chess more interesting :)
kellechu (author)  Penolopy Bulnick2 years ago
We always have fun playing human chess games at our school. The first time is definitely a learning curve on what works and what doesn't work with kids aged 6 to 13. But the second time playing with all the kids was a blast!