momready archives

Card Sharks

Posted by Elisa Taub
Card Sharks

My family has always been big on card games. In fact, one of my fondest childhood memories is the hours I spent playing cards with my grandmothers. I also remember my parents sitting in bed playing Gin Rummy. They too were always up for a quick game. And if I didn't have anyone to play cards with?... That's right. Solitaire, in all its different forms.

My husband is not a fan of playing cards. However, as soon as my children were old enough I taught them how to play. Because so much of card playing is luck of the draw, its always a level playing field so I still enjoy the game. And they are good little card players, constantly outsmarting me.

Playing cards is great for kids on so many levels. It teaches math skills, strategy and perseverance. Plus I think it was what kept my Grandmother sharp for all of her 94 years.

I just taught my 5 year old how to play Gin Rummy last night. On the second hand he wouldn't throw down a 5 of hearts because he saw I needed it. I was a proud mother indeed. So what if my husband doesn't play cards... I've got two worthy opponents in my kids. He can take me to the movies instead.

It is hard for little hands to hold, let alone fan out the cards in their hands. To aid this problem you may want to purchase the Card Holders shown below. These have been invaluable tools in our family card games and allow everyone to play and not feel they "can't do it.'" I like the stand up variety (buy 2 for each child playing), but the round disk type is good for intermediate players as well as travel.

When you first introduce a game play open handed... meaning everyone's cards are laid on the table for all to see. This way you can help your child. Because your cards are down as well, he won't feel at a disadvantage. Seeing each other's cards also adds another level to the game and makes the game more about strategy, another great skill builder.


The first game I taught my kids was War. They both learned this game when they were four years old. This is great as a first card game because you don't have to hold any cards in your hand... a difficult task for the under 6 set. It helped with number recognition and really cemented the idea of greater and less than.
click here for instructions

Go Fish
This classic card game is not my personal favorite but the kids love it. I also played this with letter cards when my kids were little and they had to match the upper and lower case of each letter. It really helped them learn all their letters and they had a great time doing it.
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Old Maid
The old matching game is still a lot of fun. As kids try to not be left with the "Old Maid" they are actually learning the rudimentary skills of strategy.
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Crazy Eights
This game calls for the distinction of number and suit in playing your cards. Great for number recognition, and even fun for adults. It's a step up from the games above, but most 4 year olds can play it.
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Gin Rummy
A great first "grown-up" card game I'd recommend playing this open handed until your kids really get the hang of it. As you collect sets and runs, your child is learning about patterns, numbers and strategy.
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Not played much anymore, Casino was the card game I played the most as a kid. Great for strategy and math skills, I just recently taught it to my daughter and she too is hooked.
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13 (version of Solitaire)
I love this version of solitaire which calls for the player to add together the face values of cards in an effort to make 13. Easy to play, but really hard to win. I've only won three times in my life...but that's what keeps me coming back for more.
click here for instructions