When I was growing up, my best friend’s mom always carried a pack of cards in her purse. Anytime we were waiting around, she pulled those cards out to play a game, often teaching us new ones to challenge our thinking. I remember she even had an index card tucked in the deck with a list of game ideas! Cards are easy, screen free ways to interact with others, they distract from boredom, and often twist your brain and spark a few laughs. There are hundreds of card games for any age group to play. Here are a few I keep in my back pocket that every kid I know loves to play.
Crazy 8s (Recommended Ages: 4+) If there are two players, deal 7 cards each. Deal 5 cards each if 3-4 players. The remaining cards go in a stack face down in the middle. Turn the top card over. The player to the left of the dealer starts the game. Move clockwise from there. During a player's turn they can play cards face up that match the current card in either suit or rank. For example, if the current face up card is the 4 of diamonds, you may play either a 4 or a diamond. Eights are wild and can be played at any time. When a player plays an eight, they get to pick the suit. If the player can't match the top cards, then they draw cards from the deck until they get a match. Once the draw pile is empty, then players that don't have a match, they lose their turn. The first player to discard all their cards is the winner!
Go Fish (Recommended Ages: 3+) If there are two players, deal 7 cards each. Deal 5 cards each if 3-4 players. The remaining cards go in a stack face down in the middle. Choose a player to go first (to the left of the dealer, youngest, oldest...). When it is your turn, ask any player for a specific card rank. For example: "Marcy, do you have any 4s?" You must already hold at least one card of the rank you ask for. If the player you ask has any cards of the requested rank, she must give all of their cards of that rank to you. In the example, Marcy would have to give you all of her 4s. If you get one or more cards from the player you ask, you get another turn. It starts again and you may ask any player for any rank you already hold, including the same one you just asked for. If the person you ask has no relevant cards, they tell you to, "Go Fish." You then draw the top card from the draw pile. If you happen to draw a card of the rank asked for, show it to the other players and your turn continues. Otherwise, it is the next player's turn. You add the drawn card to your hand. The "next player" is the one who said "Go Fish." When you collect a set of four cards of the same rank, place the four cards face down in front of yourself. That is a "match". Go Fish continues until either someone has no cards left in their hand or the draw pile runs out. The winner has the most “matches”.
Casino (Recommended Ages: 7+) This is a 2 or 4 player game “fishing” style game. It is more complex than some of our other games, but really fun to play with kids who are learning multi-step strategy. Details of how to play this game can be found across the web, but I like to use the very clearly laid out rules from www.GameRules.com (@gamerulescom).
Spoons (Recommended Ages: 5+) This game is fast paced, and so much fun! Perfect to play around a dinner table with at least 3 people because you also need spoons! You need a deck of cards plus the number of spoons using one fewer spoon than the number of players playing in the game. Arrange spoons in the middle of the table. Each play gets four cards and tries to get four of a kind. To begin, the dealer takes a card off the deck to have 5 cards in their hand. They pass one of the cards (discards) from their hands face down to the player on the left.. The dealer takes a card off the top of the deck to have five cards in their hand, removes one and passes it face down to the left. Each player follows, taking a card and discarding to the player on the left. The last player to go, places their discard in the “trash” pile. The dealer starts again. This cycle continues quickly around the table until someone gets 4 of a kind. When this happens, the player grabs a spoon from the center. Everyone else playing tries to get a spoon before they are all taken. The player left without a spoon gets a letter (S to start). The game ends when someone has spelled SPOON. Note: If draw cards run out, shuffle the “trash pile” and keep going.
24 (Recommended Ages: 7+) This can be a game played individually or in groups as large as you’d like. You choose four cards from the pack. Using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division, try to find a way to make all four cards total 24. You can also play these with the Solving Fun Pal Packs by choosing four cards with numbers on their “values” and using those!
There are so many other games I love to play that I couldn’t possibly include them all here. Find a list of ones you love. My family has a book of card games we take with us on vacations for new ideas. Some of the classics are good, but I also highly recommend: Super Fun Family Card Games by Corinne Schmitt and The Ultimate Book of Family Card Games by Oliver Ho . The directions are easy to follow and both are filled with fun games for different ages.
What are your favorite card games?