Tomorrow I teach my chess class to over a dozen 6- to 8-year-old boys. Some seem interested in playing in their first tournament come the end of next month (when a scholastic event is being held in their home town), so I have decided to speed up the lessons a bit and get to the opening sooner than I had planned.
I had a bit of discussion about what openings to teach them on the excellent Openings for Amateurs forum last week. Comments there convinced me the best idea is to teach them a single basic pattern as both Black and White, and preferably something they can play against each other. On Pete Tamburro's recommendation, I've decided on c5, e6, and d5 as Black (including the French, ...e6 Sicilian, and Tarrasch) and the Colle / Torre / and Queen's Gambit (with d4, e3, and either c3 or c4) as White.
This is actually a pretty good system for any beginner. It does not allow easy attacks on the King so there is no danger of getting mated quickly. It is both tactical and strategic, so they have a chance to start learning some strategic principles rather early (including the classic Isolated Queen Pawn motifs). There is a lot of flexibility and so it allows for wide experimentation and latitude for later development. And principles they learn from one side of the board will apply on the other as well.
Now I just have to figure out a way of teaching them so it will be fun....