Card Games for Kids
Card games are a foolproof, fun and educational way to entertain a group of kids on a rainy day or during a long holiday. Playing cards can help children learn strategy, arithmetic, shape recognition and social skills. I learnt most of these card games from family or friends as a child myself.
Here are rules for the following 14 classic card games:
- Memory (Concentration)
- Old Maid (Donkey)
- Go Fish
- Happy Families
- Snip Snap Snorem
- Crazy Eights
- Beggar my Neighbour
- Twenty-One (Blackjack)
Tips for Playing Cards with Kids
Teaching The Rules
Start with practice rounds if players are new to the game. This means you start by playing an open round where everyone can see everyone else's cards. Players who know the rules talk the new players through the rules as everyone plays.
Making the Game Easier
Make the card game easier for younger or less confident players to learn by using fewer cards. The games at the beginning of this list are all based on matching pairs and can be played just as well if you remove a few pairs.
What Cards to Use
All card games on this list can be played with a traditional set of playing cards. For the games which involve matching pairs, you can also buy specially themed cards.
Deciding Who Goes First
If playing with a group who argue about whose turn it is, announce how you decide who goes first at the beginning. Here are some options:
- youngest goes first
- split the cards and the person with the highest value card goes first
- throw a die and the person with the highest number goes first.
- whoever sits left of the dealer starts
Deal out all the cards face down on the table.
- Players take turns to turn over 2 cards. If they turn over a pair that matches they win the pair, and get to have another go. If not the next player takes a turn.
- If you are playing with a standard set of cards you can either allow matching the same number and same colour card or just the same value.
- At the end, the player with the most cards wins.
You can also play Memory as a one player game. Use a timer to try and get as many pairs as possible in 3 minutes. Try and beat your own score, or someone else's.
Players: 2-6 (best with 3 or more)
Play Snap with traditional playing cards, or buy a set of themed Snap cards. Themed Snap can be especially fun for children and you can choose ones to suit their interests (or teach them numbers, maths or specific words).
- Deal out the cards around all the players, so each player has a pile of cards which they place face down.
- The first player to go, turns over the card at the top of their pile, and starts a pile in the centre.
- The next person to their left turns over the card at the top of the pile and adds it to the centre pile, and so on.
- If there are two cards that match, the first player to yell 'SNAP' wins the cards in the middle.
- If a player runs out of cards they lose.
Appoint a referee to rule in the event of disagreements about who called snap first!
You can also play so that players don't just have to yell 'snap', but also be the first to put their hands on the centre pile.
Old Maid (Donkey)
Players: 3 or more
Use a standard pack of cards with the Queen of Clubs removed, or buy a special set of 'Donkey', 'Old Maid' or 'Black Peter' cards. These are all the same game, just with different themes. Another option is to play with cards designed for Snap or Memory. Just remove one card from play so there is one card without a pair.
- Deal out all the cards one by one to each player.
- Players keep their hands secret but match up any pairs in their hand and place them facedown on the table. With a standard pack of cards pairs are cards which are the same value and the same colour.
- The first player offers their cards to the next player on their left by spreading them out in a fan. The player chooses a card. If it matches a card in their hand they place the pair on the table.
- The next player to the left takes a turn and so on.
- Once a player has no cards left in their hand, they are out of the game. Play keeps going until one player is left with the single Queen of Spades, or Old Maid or Donkey card. This player is the loser.
- Shuffle the cards and deal them out to the players. For 2 players deal 7 cards, for 3 deal 6 cards, and for 4 deal 5 cards. Place the remaining cards randomly in the middle of the table.
- Each player looks at their cards secretly.
- The first player to take a turn chooses another player and asks them if they have any of a certain value. They must have a card of the number they ask about in their hand. For example, they must have one or more Kings to ask for a King.
- If the player who is asked has any cards of the value requested they must hand them over. The player who asked for the cards can then take another turn and ask for another card.
- If the player has no cards of the requested value they must tell the player to 'go fish'. The player then must take a card from the centre.
- At any point, if a player collects a set of 4 of the same kind they win the cards and put them aside in their winner's pile.
- Play continues until all sets of 4 cards have been collected. The winner is the player with the most sets of 4 cards at the end.
Play Happy Families in the same way as Go Fish, except that you ask for a specific card like the Queen of Hearts rather than any Queen.
You can play this with standard cards. It is sometimes called Authors.
However for children, this game can be enjoyable with specific 'Happy Families' themed playing cards. Happy Family cards usually have a set of picture cards with sets of 4 families. This set of is one of my favourites. Woodland Happy Family playing cards
- Shuffle the pack of cards and deal out the whole pack to the players.
- Each player takes a turn to turn over the top card on their pile, creating a new face-up pile of their own on the table.
- If any player turns over a Jack, each player tries to be the first to put their hand over the pile with the Jack and yell Slapjack.
- The player who is first to "slap the Jack" wins the pile. They pick up all the cards in the pile, shuffle them and add to the bottom of their pile.
- If a player accidentally puts their hand over a card that is not a Jack they must give a card to the player whose card they slapped.
- Play continues with each player taking a turn. If a player runs out of cards they have one chance to get back in when the next Jack is played, or they lose.
- The winner is the last player left in the game.
Snip Snap Snorem
- The pack of cards are dealt out between each player. The first player plays a card of their choice face up in the middle of the table.
- The next player tries to match this card if they can and calls out 'snip'.
- If a third player after this can match the card again they call out 'snap'.
- And then if a fourth player can match the card they call out 'snorem'. This player starts the next round.
- The player who runs out of their cards first wins.
- Deal 5 cards to each player. Place the remaining cards in a stack in the centre, and turn over the top card to create a face-up card.
- Each player takes a turn to play either the same suit or same number on top of the face-up card, or an 8. An 8 can be played on any card, and the player playing it chooses what suit the next player has to play.
- The first player to get rid of all their cards wins.
There are lots of variations of Crazy Eights, most of which involve different wildcards. The most common additional wildcards are:
- If the player before you plays a 2, you must either play a 2 or pick up 2 cards
- Jacks reverse the play
There are also variations where 8s are not crazy (not the wildcard). The most common is Switch.
Beggar my Neighbour
Use 2 packs of cards if there are 4 players or more.
- Deal all the cards out one by one to each player in face-down piles. Players are not allowed to look at their cards.
- The first player to go turns over the top card on their pile and places it face up starting a centre pile. This continues with each player taking a turn until someone turns over a King, Queen, Jack or Ace.
- This player must demand the next player plays a set number of cards depending on the card they played. For an Ace the next player must play four cards, for a King three cards, for a Queen two cards and for a Jack one card.
- The next player starts placing the specified number of cards on the centre pile.
- However, if any of those cards are Aces, Kings, Queens or Jacks the next player must do the same thing. The last player to turn over an Ace, King, Q or Jack must pick up the centre pile and play resumes.
The winner is the first person to run out of cards.
Whether you win or lose is based on what cards you get and nothing you do will change the outcome. It is all down to luck, but still fun!
There are many variations of this game. This is a simple version that is suitable for children.
- Shuffle the cards and deal 2 to each player.
- The aim of the game is to get cards that add up to twenty-one, but no more. Cards are worth the following amounts: Ace is worth either 1 or 11 points; Jacks, Queens and Kings are worth 10 points and other cards are worth the number stated on the card.
- Each player looks at their hand and either decide to stick or tell the dealer they want another card. A player can keep asking for another card for as long as they want. However if at any time the value of the cards in their hand adds up to more than 21 they immediately lose.
- At the end after all players have stuck, remaining players must show their hand. The winner is the player whose cards add up to the closest to 21.
War is another classic. It is a simple game for just two kids to play against each other.
Rummy is another classic card game with many variations. Here are the rules for a simple version that is good for learners.
A personal favourite for many children is Cheat because to win you need to be the best at cheating!
What is Your Favourite Card Game?
Comment below and let me know your favourite card game to play with your children. Enjoy your family card game playing!