Looking for something fun and inexpensive to do with the kids? How about a game of cards? Here are 15 fun card games for kids:
#1. Gin Rummy
Number of players: Usually 2 players but up to 4 can play in variations.
Cards needed: Standard 52-card deck. King is high; Ace is low.
Goal: to collect a hand where most or all of the cards can be combined into sets and runs. A run or sequence consists of three or more cards of the same suit in consecutive order, such as 4, 5, 6 or 8, 9, 10, J. A set or group is three or four cards of the same rank, such as 7, 7, 7.
How to Play: Shuffle the deck and deal 10 cards to each player. Players should look at and sort their cards.
The next card is turned face up in the middle of the table to start the discard pile. The remaining cards are placed face down next to the discard pile to form a draw pile.
First player takes a card, decides if they are going to keep it in which case they have to discard one of the cards in their hand. Or if they don’t wish to keep the picked up card, they put it face up on the discard pile.
The winner is the first person to collect a full hand of either 3 in a set + 4 in a run / 4 in a set + 3 in a run
#2. Old Maid also known as Scabby Queen
Number of players: 3 or more players
Cards needed: Standard 52-card deck, remove the Queen of Clubs.
Goal: not to end up with the Old Maid!
How to Play: Dealer deals out all the cards to all the players. The players look at their cards and discard any pairs they have e.g. a pair of sevens or a pair of kings.
The dealer then offers your cards spread face down to the player to their left. That player selects a card from their hand without looking at it and adds it to their hand. If it makes a pair, they can discard the pair. They offer their hand then to the next player on the left and so on.
If you get rid of all your cards, you are safe and are out. The last person who ends up with the Old Maid or Scabby Queen is the loser.
Number of players: 3–7 players
Cards needed: Uses standard deck of 52 cards
Goal: to get rid of all your cards
How to Play: Deal all the cards out to all the players (some might have more). Player to left of dealer plays first and play continues clockwise. If he or she has a 7 they must play or pass.
When a 7 is played, it’s laid in the middle of the table as the foundation for other cards to play on.
Once a 7 is played, the 6 and 8 of the same suit can be played, either side of the 7. Cards are then played in sequence up to King and down to Ace.
If you can’t play, you pass. The winner is the person who gets rid of his or her cards.
Number of Players: 3 to 9 people.
Cards needed: Standard deck of 52 cards
Goal: to earn 25 points to win the game
How to Play: Players choose a dealer. The role of dealer shifts to the left after each hand. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals five cards to each player. He deals two cards the first time and then three cards the next. He then turns up the first card on the deck of cards. This card sets the trump suit.
Players who hold the ace of the trump suit can rob the trump card from the top of the deck. Play any card you would rather not have next to the deck of cards and replace it with the trump card. This can only be done on your first turn and only before you make your first play. You can then no longer rob the trump. Anyone who holds the ace can rob the trump, including the dealer, but you do not have to do so.
The player to the left of the dealer starts. She plays whatever card she likes to start. The player to her left lays another card of the same suit, and play continues until every player has laid a card. Players can win the hand by having the highest card in the suit or by laying a trump card. Trump cards automatically beat any suit card, with higher trump cards beating lower trump cards. Once a trump card has been played, the remaining players must play trumps if they can, as the trump suit becomes the new suit of the hand. Players can lay a trump card at any point, even if they have an appropriate suit card. Players don’t have to lay a trump card if they can’t follow suit. They can lay any card they like, simply to get rid of a weak card. Players don’t have to play the top three trumps–which are the five, jack and ace cards in that order–unless they want to play them. They can play a card of another suit, if they like. The winner of the hand starts the next hand.
Players or teams score five points for each hand won. Winning a hand is often called a “trick.” The game ends when someone earns 25 points. The game must stop immediately when somebody earns 25 points, even if the hand isn’t over yet. Multiple games are usually played and players often bet money on each game, with the winner of each game winning the pot. However, players can decide to score one point per game and stop at a predetermined number of points.
Number of players: This wild and crazy game is all about speed and quickness! Suggested ages 8 and up. Any number can play. The more players there are, the wilder the game gets.
Cards needed: One deck per player
Goal: The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards first.
How to Play: Each player has his own deck and begins by placing the top four cards from his deck face up in front of him in a row. There should be lots of empty space in the middle of the table between the two players. (In fact it is best to play on the floor, since cards often go flying once play starts.) Players hold the remainder of their deck in one of their hands during play.
Rank of Cards. A (high) K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.
There are no turns taken in this game, everyone plays at the same time. When both players are ready, one of them says “spit” and immediately each player takes the top card from his deck and plays it to the center of the table. These first cards should be far away from each other, forming two play piles between the players. Then, the players immediately begin playing their cards, as fast as they can, from their layout onto one of the piles in the center. A card can be played only if it is one higher or one lower than the card on the top of the pile. The card’s suit does not matter, and an ace can be played high or low (so that the sequence can “wrap around” between kings, aces and deuces).
Related Articles: Playing Cards
#6. Go Fish
Number of Players: 2-4 Players
Cards needed: Standard 52 card deck
Goal: to collect the most sets of 4 cards
How to Play: Shuffle the cards and if 2 of you are playing, 7 cards are dealt to start with. If more than 2, deal 5 cards to each player to start wiht. The rest of the cards are placed face down in the middle.
The player to the left of the dealer starts and asks another player for a card that they need e.g. “John, do you have any 4s?”. If the player has any of the card requested, they must hand them over to the player. If you get a requested card you get another turn. If the player you have asked doesn’t have a card, they say “Go Fish” and you have to pick one from the middle pile.
If you collect 4 of a kind, you can put them down on the table.
The game continues until all the cards are finished, the winner is the person with the most sets of 4.
Number of Players: 1
Cards needed: 104 cards (2 standard packs)
Goal: Get as high a score as you can.
How to Play: Shuffle the two decks of cards thoroughly. Deal a 3×3 square of cards, face up. Look at the 3×3 square. Remove a pair (two of a kind) or triple (three of a kind) if you see any. As soon as you remove a pair or triple, deal cards to the 3×3 square to replace the cards you’ve removed. Keep all of the removed sets separate from each other. Repeat this process until you have matched up all of the cards or until you cannot remove a pair or triple from the 3×3 square (all nine ranks are different). Score your pairs and triples as follows:
- Pairs: 3 points
Exception: A pair of identical cards (example: 2 Fives of Diamonds) is worth 7 points.
- Triples: 15 points (if two of the cards in the triple are identical, score 21 points)
- Using all cards: 104 point bonus
#8. Knockout Whist
Number of Players: 2 or more
Cards needed: 52-card pack is used, with four suits ranking from high to low A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.
Goal: to be the surviving player
The player on dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Players must follow suit if they can, otherwise they may play any card. Each trick is won by the highest trump in it; otherwise by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of a trick leads to the next trick.
After the first hand, a second hand is dealt, by the next player in order around the table, with only six cards each. The game continues like this, with one fewer card per player on each hand, until the final hand consists of one card each.
The winner of most tricks on a hand chooses the trump suit on the next hand. If there is a tie for who took most tricks, the players involved in the tie cut cards for the right to choose trumps.
A player who takes no tricks at all in a hand is knocked out, is dealt no more cards, and takes no further part in the game.
There is one exception to the rule about being knocked out: the first player during the game who takes no tricks on a hand is not knocked out immediately but is awarded the “dog’s life”. On the following hand, she is dealt just one card, and may decide on which trick to play it. In the course of the play, a player “on a dog’s life” may, when it is her turn to play, either play her card or knock on the table to indicate that she wishes to keep it for a later trick. If she is the player on the dealer’s left, she is not compelled to lead her card to the first trick; she may either do so, or knock, allowing the next player to lead.
If two or more players take no tricks on the same deal, no one having previously used the dog’s life, these players get one dog’s life each. Apart from this case, there is only one dog’s life available during the game. Players who take no tricks in later deals are eliminated immediately.
If a player on a dog’s life manages to take a trick with her card, the player on her left leads to the next trick, and the dog’s life player is dealt a normal hand on the next deal, and treated like the other surviving players. If the dog’s life player doesn’t manage to win a trick, she is knocked out of the game, like anyone else who takes no trick.
The game is won by the winner of the one trick on the final hand. Or if all but one of the players are knocked out before this, the surviving player is the winner.
Related: 10 Best Family Board Games
Number of players: 2-4 players
Cards needed: Standard 52 card deck
Goal: To be the person who hasn’t been seen putting your match down
How to Play: Shuffle the cards. Deal seven cards to each child. Put the rest of the deck face down in the center of the table. Turn the top card over. The first player decides if she wants that card. If first player chooses not to take that card, she will discard one of hers. The first player should lay her discarded card face down in front of the player to her left. The person to the left of the first player is to choose the card beside the deck or the discarded card. If the second player wants the card from the deck, a card from his hand is to be chosen and to be placed in front of the third player, face down.
Keep playing this way until someone gets four of a kind. The first person to get four of a kind, will need to lay the match down secretly. If that person has been spotted by another player, that player says “Donkey” and the person that was spotted is out of the game. The winner becomes the one that has not been seen laying her match down. All the other players are to keep playing until there is one person left with cards in his hand. Everyone says together “Donkey” to the last person playing.
Number of players: 2 or more
Cards needed: one standard deck of cards
Goal: to win all the cards
How to play: The player to the left of the dealer goes first. Play then moves clockwise. On his turn, each player turns over the top card from his face-down pile. When someone turns over a card that matches a card already face up on another player’s pile, players race to be the first to call “Snap!”. The player who calls “Snap!” first wins both piles and adds them to the bottom of his face-down pile.
When moving a card from his face-down pile to his face-up pile, each player should do so by turning the card away from himself. This ensures that the player does not see the card before his opponents have a chance to do the same. (The player should also turn the card quickly, so that he’s not giving himself a disadvantage.)
If two players call “Snap!” at the same time, the two piles are placed in the center of the table and combined into a face-up pile with one of the two matching cards on top. Play then continues where it left off. When someone turns over a card that matches the card on top of the pile, players race to be the first to call “Snap!”. The player who calls “Snap!” first wins the pile and the matching pile. If there’s another tie, the matching pile is added to the first pile and so on.
#11. Racing Demon
Number of Players: Limited only by the number of decks you can get your hands on
Cards needed: One deck per person each with a different design
Goal: is to get rid of your cards in your demon
How to play: Each player deals a pile of 13 cards face down (called the demon) and turns the top card face-up. Deal four more cards face up in a row to the right of the demon, these will be your work piles.
If you reveal an ace, place it above your piles in the middle of the play area called the “foundation”.
Place the remaining cards – the stock – face down between you and the 4 work piles.
When play begins, each player starts turning over their stock pile in threes. Cards revealed from the stock can be moved to the bottom of a work pile, as can the face-up card of the demon or any other card at the bottom of a work pile. Build downwards from the work piles with cards one lower in value and of opposing colour. So if the bottom of one pile is a red eight, you can place either of the black sevens under it. On aces in the foundation, build upwards, in the same suit.
If you empty a work pile, replace it with a face-up stock card or the top of the demon. If you remove the top of the demon, turn the next card face up. The winner is the one who gets rid of all of the cards from their demon and can shout “I’m out”
Be warned, it gets fast and furious!
#12. Kings Crown
Number of Players: 2 or more, ideal 4.
Cards needed: Standard 52 card pack is used. The cards rank K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-A (ace low).
Goal: to get rid of all your cards
How to Play: The first dealer is chosen at random and the turn to deal passes clockwise after each hand. Deal seven cards to each player. Put the rest of the cards face down in the centre of table to form the stock. Flip four cards face-up from the stock, and place them North, East, South, and West from the stock pile, to start four foundation piles.
Players take turns clockwise, starting with the player to dealer’s left. At your turn, you may make any number of moves of the following types in any order:
Play a card from your hand on one of the foundation piles. The card you play must be the next lower in rank and opposite in colour – for example you can play a red ten on a black jack. The cards on the foundation piles are overlapped slightly so that all can be seen. Since aces are the lowest cards, nothing can be played on a foundation pile that has an ace on top.
Place a king from your hand to start a new foundation pile in an empty space in one of the four diagonal corners of the tableau (NE, SE, NW, SW). It will then be possible to build on this king in the same way as on the original foundations, adding a queen of the opposite colour, then a jack of the same colour as the king, and so on.
Move an entire foundation pile onto another foundation pile if the bottom card of the moving pile is one rank lower and opposite in colour to the top card of the pile you are moving it onto. Example: a pile consisting of red 4 – black 3 may be moved on top of a pile consisting of black 7 – red 6 – black 5.
Play any card from your hand to any of the original (N, E, S, W) foundation piles that has become empty (because the card(s) that were originally in it have been moved to another pile).
If you manage to play all the cards in your hand, you have won, and play ceases. Otherwise, after you have played any cards you can or wish to, you must draw one card from the stock. This ends your turn. If you are unable to or do not wish to play any cards, you simply draw one card.
If in the original layout, a king is dealt any of the original foundation piles (N, E, S, W), it can be moved to a corner position. The player to the left of dealer will have the benefit of making this move and playing a card from hand to replace the moved king.
It may also happen that one of the dealt foundation cards will immediately fit on another, being one rank lower and of opposite colour. In this case the player to the left of dealer will be able to move this card and replace it with a card from hand.
If the centre stock runs out, play continues without drawing.
The play ends when someone manages to get rid of all the cards from their hand, or when an impasse is reached where the stock has run out and everyone is unable or unwilling to play any further cards.
#13. Beggar My Neighbour
Number of Players: 2-4 players
Cards needed: Standard 52 card deck
Goal: to win all of the cards
How to Play: Shuffle the cards and deal them all out to the 2 players. Players keep their cards in front of them cards down. The player to the left of the dealer starts the game by turning up his card and playing it into the middle.
If the card has a rank of 2 to 10, play passes to the next player. When a face card or an Ace (court cards) is turned up, the next player has to pay a number of cards:
Jack – the next player has to turn over 1 card
Queen – the next player has to turn over 2 cards one at a time
King – the next player has to turn over 3 cards one at a time
Ace – the next player has to turn over 4 cards one at a time.
If all the cards being “paid” are between 2 and 10, the player who played the court card gets to keep them. However, if one of the cards being paid is a court card, the player paying stops immediately and the next player has to pay.
This continues until one player wins the pile in the middle, that player puts his winning cards at the bottom of his pile face down.
If you run out of cards, you are out and the first player to get all of the cards is the winner. (NB it can take a while so you can agree that the players with the most cards at the end of a pre-agreed time is the winner)
Number of Players: 1 or more
Cards needed: Standard deck of cards
Goal: to get the most pairs
How to Play: Any (even) number of pairs can be spread on the table or floor in straight rows face-down. The object is to turn over pairs by remembering where one of them was the last time it was seen. Two cards are turned over on each turn. If they match, they come off the board. If they do not, both are turned back over in their original places.
The game is won by the player with the most pairs when all the cards are removed and paired. This can be played with as few as ten cards or as many as all 52, depending upon the age and skill level of the child.
#15. Crazy Eights or Switch
Number of players: 2 or more
Cards needed: One standard card deck
Goal: To get rid of your cards
How to play: Divide out the deck among the players, if 2 players each one gets 7 cards, if more than 2 players each person gets 5 cards. The undealt stock is placed face down on the table, and the top card of the stock is turned face up and placed beside the stock to start the discard pile.
Then one at a time, the players must either play a legal card face up on top of the discard pile, or draw a card from the undealt stock. The following plays are legal:
- If the top card of the discard pile is not an eight, you may play any card which matches the rank or suit of the previous card (for example if the top card was the king of hearts you could play any king or any heart).
- An eight may be played on any card, and the player of the eight must nominate a suit. The suit can stay the same or it can change.
- If an eight is on top of the pile, you must play either another eight or any card of the suit nominated by the person who played the eight.
The first player who gets rid of all their cards wins, and the other players score penalty points according to the cards they have left in their hands – 50 for an eight, 10 for a picture, and spot cards at face value (one point for an ace, two for a two and so on).
If the stock pile is exhausted, the standard rule according to most books is that play continues without drawing. A player who cannot or does not wish to play just passes. If all pass, the game is blocked. Play stops and everyone scores for the cards remaining in their hands. However, a variation played by many groups is that when the stock pile is exhausted, the played cards, except for the last card, are shuffled and stacked face down to make a new stock.
101 Best Family Card Games by Alfred Sheinwold or
Chambers Card Games for Families by Peter Arnold, both available from Amazon.co.uk
What’s your favourite card game to play with the kids? Tell us in the comments below.