25 Card Games Every Kid Should Know
I have wonderful memories of playing card games with my family as a kid. The laughs, the late-night snacks, the speedy way my dad would shuffle the cards ... good times! I recently started teaching my four-year-old some simple card games for kids, and I was struck by how captivated she was by these classic card games, all without flashy gimmicks, lights, or sounds. Whether you've got preschoolers or teenagers at home, here are some easy card games that are perfect for your next family game night.
Need more creative ideas to keep your whole family wholesomely entertained? Check out our Boredom Busters guide, not to mention this roundup of the best-ever board games and these brainy puzzle games for kids.
Do you have any fours? Go fish!
Easy Card Games for Kids of All Ages
1. Old Maid
Prep a standard deck of cards by removing one queen card and shuffling the deck. Deal out all the cards to all the players until there are none left. Players remove the pairs in their hands. The dealer fans out his cards in his hands and offers his hand to the player on his left. That player selects one and adds it to her own hand. Any matches are removed. The process continues around and around the circle until everything is paired up except the queen. Whoever is left with it as the end of the game is the Old Maid! There are some cute Old Maid decks out there with funny pictures kids will adore.
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2. Go Fish
You can get some really cute decks just for this game, or a classic deck works just fine. The goal is to get four of a kind. Deal out seven cards to each player. (If your group has seven or more players, use five cards apiece). Put the remaining cards in a deck in the center. Player 1 picks any other player to ask if he has the card she’s looking for (e.g., Do you have any threes?). Hand over the card if you've got it, or tell them to “Go Fish” for a card in the pile. As soon as you find four of a kind, put them face up on the table. Whoever runs out of cards first is the winner.
Warning: This game of luck can be addictive for kids. Divide the deck evenly among the two players. Each player turns over the top card on her deck at the same time. Whoever has the higher card takes both cards and puts them at the bottom of her stack. If the cards are the same, it’s war! Each player counts out three cards (face down) and the next card is shown. Whoever has the higher card wins all the cards.
4. Crazy 8s
This game has one crazy twist: eights rule! Deal out seven cards to each person in a two-player game, or five cards for games with three or four players. The rest go in a draw pile, with one card turned over to start the play pile. The player to the dealer's left must match the card's number or suit from the face-up pile. A player who does not have a match may play an eight and change the suit to anything they wish. A player who has neither a match nor an eight must draw until he gets a card that can be played. The first to discard all their cards wins. (Did you notice that this game is UNO, without buying a fancy deck?)
Turn a standard deck into a game of concentration by shuffling the deck, laying out the cards in rows, and hunting for “matches” of the red kings, black threes, and so forth. For little ones, use just the two red suits for a more manageable set.
6. House of Cards
Got a little engineer at home? Stack up those cards and build a house of cards!
Forehead poker is loads of silly fun, with no tricky rules to memorize.
Classic Card Games To Play with the Whole Family
Gin and Rummy have a bunch of variations. The goal is to earn points by collecting sets three or four of a kind or runs of three or more (same suit). Here’s a basic version that’s good for older kids. Deal 10 cards to each player. The rest go in the center as a draw pile, with one card turned up to start the discard pile. You’ve got two jobs on your turn: take a card from the draw or discard pile. Then, put any matches or runs on the table face up. For rules on scoring, and all the variations, check out these detailed rules.
8. Blackjack or 21
It’s you against the dealer in this classic casino game. Deal two cards face up to each player; the dealer gets two cards, too, but one is down and the other is up. The dealer gives the first player the option to get another card, with the goal of getting cards the value of the cards to add up to as close to 21 as possible without going over (which is game over!). Players can take (hit) as many cards as they like, or stop (hold) whenever they want. Note that in this game, face cards are 10 points each, and aces either equal one point or 11 points. When all players eventually hold, the dealer shows his hand and must take cards until he reaches 17. Whoever is closer to 21 without going over is the winner.
Pick a card, any card, and try to make a match.
9. Kings In the Corner
The goal is simple: get rid of all your cards! Each player is dealt seven cards. The rest go in a deck in the middle of the table, with one card flipped over at each side of the deck. Like Solitaire in reverse, you’ve got to stack the preceding card in the sequence, but the opposite color. So, if the five of diamonds is showing, you can play a four of spades or clubs. If you have a king, you can lay it down on the table “in the corner” to start a new pile. Get all the rules to play and scoring here.
10. Forehead Poker
This is a fun, super simple two-player game for little guys. Place the deck between you and your child. Each of you grabs a card without peaking at it and places it on your forehead so that your opponent can see it, but you can't. Have your little one guess if their own card is higher or lower than yours. If they’re right, they take the pair. If they’re wrong, it’s yours. Take turns and work your way through the deck. The person with the most cards at the end is the winner.
You're never too young to know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em. Photo by Mommy Poppins
Math Skills Card Games For Kids
11. Math Minute to Win
Here's one for kids learning addition or multiplication math facts. Let the aces serve as ones and jacks serve as tens. (Queens and Kings can be elevens and twelves if your child is ready!) Set a timer for a minute and turn over two cards. Your child must add (or multiple) the numbers as fast as she can to earn as many cards as possible before the timer runs out. Play two rounds, and try to beat your score from the first round.
12. Math Wars
Sharpen up those addition skills! In this game, face cards are worth 10 and the ace is 11. Deal every player four cards. Simply add up the value. Whoever has the higher number wins the hand. Play the best out of five games.
13. Blitz (aka 31)
With simple rules, just three cards to hold, and math skills to practice, this game is perfect for young hands. To win, gather three cards of the same suit that add up to 31 (like an ace, which is worth 11 points, and two face cards, worth 10 points each). Start by shuffling the deck and then putting all the cards face down in a single pile except for one, which you turn over (this will become the discard pile). When a player has a turn, she either pulls from the top of the discard pile (if that card is helpful) or from the pull pile. You must discard a card you pulled or another card from your hand so you keep three cards in your hand at all times. Once a player has three cards of the same suit that add up to 31, the player reveals his/her hand and yells "Blitz!"
Place seven cards face-down in a row in front of each player. Player 1 turns over her first card. She declares if she thinks the next card will be higher or lower. If it is, the process continues. If she's wrong (or if the number is the same), she stops and it's the next player's turn. Player 2 will see if he can get further than Player 1. Essentially, everyone plays until they're wrong, and the first person to finish their row of seven is the winner. Players get a new hand of seven cards with each turn.
When kids are laughing and playing together, you know who wins? Parents!
Fast-Paced, Fun Card Games for Kids
In this two-player game, try to get rid of all your cards first. Both players play at the same time, yelling "Spit" to start play. Play fast, play one-handed, play ruthlessly. Read detailed instructions for playing this slightly complicated but amazingly fun classic camp game here. (The video is very helpful!)
Sit in a circle and put in the center a pile of spoons that's exactly one less than the number of players. Deal four cards to everyone for their hand. The dealer picks up a card from the deck and discards one, which he passes to the person on the left. That person does the same, and the play continues with everyone picking passing cards quickly around the circle. If you get four of a kind, quietly grab a spoon. When players notice a spoon is missing, they quietly grab one, too. Whoever is left without a spoon, is out.
The game continues until one person is left: the winner! This fast-paced game will have your whole family cracking up in no time.
It’s a snap to play this game! Deal out all the cards as evenly as you can among your players, making little decks in front of everyone. One at a time, players turn over the top card of their decks to make a face-up pile. When someone turns over a card that matches one that’s already face-up on another player's pile, scream “Snap!” as loud as you can. Whoever calls it first wins both face-up piles and adds the cards to the bottom of their face-down pile.
Keep playing until someone wins all of the cards and that player wins the game. If you run out of cards, just flip over your face-up cards and keep going. (You can penalize players for calling a false “Snap!” but we ignore that rule in my house to keep the peace.)
18. Snip Snap Snorem
Gather three or more people and deal out all the cards. Everyone looks at their cards, and the player to the left of the dealer goes first. The first person plays a card face-up on the table. For whatever card is played, everyone else has to match the rank in other suits. Say "pass" if you don't have it. The player who plays the fourth card gets to choose any card in their hand for the next round. For extra fun, say "Snip" when the second card is played, "Snap" for the third, and "Snorem" for the last card in the book. The first person to get rid of all his cards is the winner.
19. Beggar My Neighbor
Your child will definitely be begging to play another round of this game! Deal out all the cards as evenly as you can so that each person has a face-down deck in front of them. Player 1 turns over her top card. If it's a number card, her turn ends. But if it's a face card or ace, the next player must pay an “honor” by turning over cards (four cards for an ace, three for a king, two for a queen, or 1 for a jack). If these honor cards are all numbered cards, Player 1 gets to keep the bunch. But, if a face card is turned over while paying an honor, the next player pays a fresh honor to Player 2. Keep going until one person has all the cards: the winner!
Roll & Play is a great first game that introduces cards and incorporates physical activity. Photo courtesy of the company
Card Games for Kids That Have Special Decks
Learning to play Uno is practically a right of passage for elementary school kids. Match colors and numbers of cards in your hand and try to be the first to get rid of all your cards.
Don't Blink or you might miss something! Race as fast as you can to make matches based on shape, rank, and color in this two-player game.
22. Eye Found It
This Find It game is great for all ages. Deal out the cards, which display very crowded Disney scenes. Be the first to get rid of your five cards by locating the target objects on them.
23. Happy Salmon
High five and fist bump your opponents in this high-energy, silly card-matching game geared for four to six players.
24. Roll & Play
Roll & Play is perfect for toddlers and preschools who are developing their motor skills and listening ears. Just roll the colored dice, pick a card that matches the color, and follow directions like "Roar like a lion" or "Spin around twice."
If your kids have played their fill of Exploding Kittens, it's time for Throw Throw Burrito. Photo courtesy of the company
25. Throw Throw Burrito
Throw Throw Burrito is a hilarious fast-paced game that's like a cross between Spoons and Dodge Ball. Quickly pass cards to make matches, and if you match certain action cards, start a burrito battle where squishy toy burritos will fly (better duck!). This game is great for older kids and any good sport that doesn’t mind getting a burrito chucked at them. It's the newest game from the creators of Exploding Kittens, so you know kids will love it.
Pro tip: Our family plays a lot of cards. And one thing I have learned is that frustrated kids can't learn or play any game well. So for little hands, kiddie cardholders can be super helpful in eliminating the frustration of falling cards!
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Unless noted, photos by the author