Family, Kids & Relationships

5 Family Games You Can Play With Only a Deck of Cards

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December 28th is Card Playing Day, which means it’s a perfect time to learn some new games you can play as a family! These five games are all kid-friendly, simple, and can be played with nothing but a standard deck of cards. Many of these can also be played over video chat as well—perfect for virtual holiday gatherings or reconnecting with family and friends that you and your kids are missing!

To get started, find a deck of cards for in-person games, or set up a game room at PlayingCards.io in order to play virtually

Animals

  • Who can play?—4-8 players, age 6 and up
  • How to set it up—First, each player chooses an animal and tells the rest of the players. Deal all cards out to the players, making a face-down pile in front of each person. 
  • How to play—Players take turns flipping over cards from their hand and placing them face up in a pile. Keep an eye on everyone’s deck! If someone flips over a card that matches a number that’s already showing on someone else’s pile, call out that person’s animal. Or, make it even more fun and call out their animal’s sound! The first player to yell out the correct animal wins both players’ face-up stacks. If someone yells the wrong animal or noise, they lose their stack to the person who just played the matching card.
  • How to win—Collect all of the cards!

Go Fish

  • Who can play?—2-6 players, age 7 and up
  • How to set it up—Deal five cards to each player, and place the rest of the cards face down between the players. This is your fish pond!
  • How to play—Keep your cards hidden from the other players. On your turn, ask another player for a card that matches one of your cards. If they have the card, they will give it to you to add to your deck. Otherwise, they will tell you to “Go fish!” which means you need to draw a card from the fish pond in the middle. Once you’ve collected a set of four cards of a kind (all four aces, for example) remove them from your hand and set aside.
  • How to win—Once all of the cards have been played, count how many sets of four of a kind each player has. The one with the most sets wins!

Memory

  • Who can play?—2 or more players, age 3 and up
  • How to set it up—Lay an even number of cards face down in a grid (or a random pattern for more advanced games), making sure every card you use has one match. Use fewer cards for younger players.
  • How to play—On your turn, flip over any two cards. If they match, remove them from the grid and keep them, then take another turn. If they don’t match, turn them back over. Keep playing until all cards have been matched.
  • How to win—Count each player’s cards. The person with the most cards wins!

Crazy Eights

  • Who can play?—2-4 players, age 5 and up
  • How to set it up—This one is very similar to UNO. Deal five cards to each player, and put the rest of the deck face down in the middle of the table. Flip over the top card and place it next to the deck face up. This is your discard pile.
  • How to play—On your turn, choose a card from your hand that matches the number or suit of the card on top of the discard pile. If you don’t have one, draw from the face-down deck until you do. Eights are wild!
  • How to win—The first player to run out of cards wins. If you run out of cards to draw from, reshuffle the discard pile.

War

  • Who can play?—2 players, age 5 and up
  • How to set it up—Split the deck evenly between the two players, and keep each person’s hand in a pile in front of them, face down. 
  • How to play—For each turn, both players take the top card from their deck and place it face up in the middle, next to their opponent’s card. The player with the higher ranking card takes both of them and adds them to the bottom of their personal deck. If both cards are the same rank (two queens, for example), each player puts in one more card face down and another face up. Whoever wins the “war” between the new face up cards takes all six cards. 
  • How to win—Collect all of the cards!

Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.

For ongoing updates on coronavirus-related issues and questions that impact children and families, please find additional resources here.


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Mckenna Saady is a freelance writer and digital engagement consultant from Richmond, VA. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. She now lives in Philadelphia and volunteers as a foster parent for orphaned kittens with the PSPCA.