The Best Classic Card Games for Kids of Every Age
by Katie Coopersmith © Gifts for Card players
If you’re a card player, whether amateur, expert, or somewhere in between, chances are good that you’re hoping the next generation takes up the deck-shuffling mantle and falls in love with cards themselves. And there’s good news for you: if you play your cards right (pun definitely not intended) and wisely choose the games you teach to kids at every age, there’s a decent chance you will indeed succeed in imbuing at least some of the younger generation with a love for cards.
Here’s a (non-exhaustive) guide to a few of our favourites for every developmental stage:
Age 2-5: Go Fish
Go Fish is one of the first card games most kids learn, and for good reason. By this age, most kids will be familiar with at least some of their numbers (although they may need some help with the bigger numbers and face cards), and yelling “GO FISH!” is endlessly entertaining for them. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to teach kids how to take turns, as well as how decks of cards work; they’ll learn how each card comes in sets of four, and they’ll start to be able to identify suits. Go Fish is a fantastic foundation on which to build a lifetime passion for cards.
Age 6-7: War
By this age, kids are familiar with concepts of ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller,’ and they’ve often picked up a competitive spirit. The card game War is great for long car or plane rides, as it can literally go on for hours. Sure, it might prove boring for some (or a lot of) adults, but think of this game as a valuable exercise in concentration for kids…especially considering the fact that we live in a pretty systemically distraction-heavy world nowadays.
Age 8-10: Crazy Eights
This game is an absolute classic. You can play Crazy Eights either with a regular old deck of cards or in the more colourful form of Uno. Unlike Go Fish and War, Crazy Eights introduces an element of strategy into the practice of playing cards, and most kids will enjoy learning how to improve their game. Family Crazy Eights tournaments can be great fun, as well…for the more competitive clans, keeping an ongoing score tally can be an exciting way to up the ante!
Age 11-12: Spit
Also known as Snap (and probably several other names, too), Spit is the ultimate in adrenaline-pumping, fast-moving card games; it’s been known to bring out an intense competitive spirit in even the quietest kids (I speak from experience here)! It’s a two-person game, which has its pros and cons, but if your kids have siblings or friends with whom they’re competitive, it’ll keep them entertained for hours.
Age 13-15: Hearts
This game is one that can seriously keep a person entertained throughout an entire lifetime. Hearts has a strong strategy element, but it’s fun even before you’ve developed any strategy, and it’s a non-intimidating way to dive into the nebulous world of trick-taking games. Just like Crazy Eights, Hearts is a perfect family game, but it’s also a great game for kids to teach their friends at school or (a little later) college parties. There are plenty of free online game sites to play hearts, such as Solitaired, where teens can play against a computer. Alternatively, they can create their own account to get on the daily leaderboard and compete against thousands of other players.
Age 16-18: Poker
Okay, so there’s definitely no perfect age at which to learn poker, and arguments could be made for teaching it to kids both at an earlier and at a later age…but in the later years of adolescence, teens have started to develop a more nuanced understanding of emotions, strategy, and (unfortunately?) even bluffing, so this seems like a good time at which to introduce them. The ones who really get hooked will have a lifetime of learning and improving to look forward to, and even the ones who are just ‘meh’ about the game will have a shot at doing alright when they inevitably find themselves in an informal poker tournament among friends somewhere down the road.
Editor’s Note (Jude Goodwin): When I was a child, Sunday night was poker night for the family. After dinner, and after Wild Kingdom on the television, we’d clear away the dishes and spread the green felt. Dad would bring out the poker chips and all six of us (4 kids 2 adults) would gather round. We played ‘Spit in the Ocean’ and ‘Mexican Low’ and ‘Fiery Cross’ and ‘Acey Deucy One-eyed Jack’ – it was dealer’s choice and if dealer couldn’t decide we played the purest poker in the world: Cowboy. Us kids ranged from 9 – 15. We loved it, and even today, we’re in our 60s and mom and dad are long gone, if we get together we spread the green felt and bring out the poker chips!
And by the way, the best place to find Card Game Rules and Instructions is Pagat – find it here