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My Kid, the Card Shark


One afternoon last year, my husband picked up our 4 year-old from school. I immediately received the following text: “Hey – Oliver was beating his teachers at cards when I walked in…” It was then that we became aware of this incredible fascination (borderline obsession) with card games. I, myself, have always enjoyed a good game of cribbage with my in-laws and loved playing Gin Rummy or Double Solitaire with my grandparents, but I hadn’t thought about introducing card games at home yet. But, we did. So here are a few of our favorite games and why you should play them with your kids today. (If you need more convincing check out this Wall Street Journal article!)

1. “War” (Rules) – This game is GREAT to start with. Beginners can count the items (diamonds, hearts, etc.) to determine which number is larger. I might suggest removing face cards, aces and jokers at first. This game helps strengthen number recognition and number sense. Oliver picks up a three and says “eeks! I am SO not winning” but responds to an eight with an uncertain facial expression. It’s also a wonderful way to teach resilience. My super competitive child understands that he can’t win each showdown or each war. Although this game can last for a long time, we usually set a timer and then measure heights of our deck parts.


“Look, Mommy! I barely beat you!”

2. “Go Fish” (Rules, we play for pairs rather than books – it’s easier and faster!) – This game improves memory (which cards/suits have they asked for?) as well as teaches cause (no, I don’t have a 5) and effect (I need to say ‘Go Fish’.). We count cards in pairs (skip counting) and are constantly comparing numbers. I usually set the cards up for him because he’s still learning how to hold them in a fan.


Counting by twos.

3. “Crazy Eights” (Rules – we don’t keep score aside from win/lose, it’s too complicated!) – This teaches quick decision-making. Do I have the same number or the same suit? Do I have another card or do I need to use an 8? We love this game because 3-4 people can play which makes it even more fun!


Daddy getting in on the Crazy8 action.

All of these games teach sportsmanship (“you get what you get and you don’t get upset!” or “win some, lose some”) and increase vocabulary. It’s hilarious to hear a four year old say, “Mommy, remember aces are high” and “deal me in!” Many of these games can also be played with multiple players which improves collaborative play and cooperation.

We LOVED our jumbo 5×7″ cards (thank you, Amazon Prime!) and highly recommend them to begin with. You might be lucky enough to see them pop up in Marshall’s, Home Goods, or Target on occasion. We throw a deck into any bag when we’re headed out to dinner and even play at meals – check out our One Morning post.

Bottom line: No matter how many TV shows, computer games, or iPad apps exist in the world, nothing can compare to a good old fashioned card game.


Jumbo cards are good for growing hands.

Do you have a favorite card game that you play with your kids? 

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One Response to My Kid, the Card Shark

  1. abby
    abby August 9, 2015 at 4:46 PM #

    I loved playing cards with O so much that I bought Ben his own set of jumbo cards. Starting him off this week!

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