Entertaining The Kids: Understanding The Rules Of Three Popular Card Games

Card games are a great rainy day or quiet time activity. If it’s been a hot minute since you played kids’ card games, brush up on a few of the most popular.

Yet, before we dive into popular 2-to-4-player card games, we all have childhood memories of long lonely afternoons when everybody was busy but ourselves.

Chances are, your kids sometimes have the same experience. How do you keep yourself entertained when nobody else can play with you?

So, while we’re on card games, this is the opportunity to introduce them to Solitaire, which remains by far the most frequently played card game on a computer. Thankfully, nowadays, kids do not need an old Windows version to play it. They can check safe online platforms. But, while you’ve got the cards in hand, show them also the physical setup for it! 

Here are the rules for War, Go Fish, and Old Maid card games:

How to Play Old Maid

The object of the game: Avoid being left with the unmatchable card (the “old maid”)

Set up and deal: If using a deck specifically made for the old maid card game, just shuffle. If using a standard deck, first remove one of the queens, then shuffle. Deal a card to each player, including the dealer, round and round until all cards are dealt.

Play: All players look at their own hands and discard matching pairs. The dealer then offers their remaining hand, face down, to the player on their left. That player takes a card. If the card matches one in their hand, the pair is discarded, if not, the card becomes part of their hand. Either way, play moves on, clockwise. (Or not, see variants.)

Winning: Eventually, all cards will have been matched with a pair and discarded except one. Whoever’s left holding that card loses. (This kind of game is played for negative stakes, originally played in drinking establishments where the loser had to buy the next round. If your family likes to play for prizes, perhaps you could play for household chores.)

Mixing it up: Variations for the old maid card game include requiring pairs to match color, as well as face value; removing a card at random, making it unknowable until the end what card will make you lose; allowing players who make a new match on their turn to go again, drawing from a different player; or, to make for a quicker game, you can remove whole sets of particular cards.

Kids playing card games

How to Play Go Fish

The object of the game: Make the most “books” (complete sets of four matching cards)

Set up and deal: Shuffle thoroughly. The deal is dependent on the number of players, so for 2 or 3 people, you deal 7 cards each, for rounds with 4 or more players you deal 5 cards each. The remainder of the deck goes in the middle of your playing space, spread around to make the fishing pond.

Play: Going clockwise from the dealer, players take turns requesting specific values of cards from the other players. So Anthony might ask Barbara, “Do you have any 3s?” If Barbara does, she has to turn them over. If she doesn’t, she responds “Go fish,” and Anthony must take a card from the pond. If in either scenario Anthony gets one or more of the cards he asked for, he can take another turn. Any time a player has a full book (all 4 suits of a given face value) they set it down.

Winning: Play ends when either there are no fish left in the pond or anyone player runs out of cards. Each player counts up their books, and whoever has the most wins.

Mixing it up: You can play for pairs, rather than books. You can keep playing until every book has been made. If you want an extra challenge (and a longer game) you can require players to ask for specific cards, suits, and value. For a shorter game, you can remove whole sets of cards. Or, especially if you’re playing with a large group, you could use two decks.

How to Play War

The object of the game: Get all the cards.

Set up and deal: Traditional war is played with two people. Shuffle and deal the whole deck evenly between the players. Players are not allowed to look at their hands.

Play: Each player flips their top card up at the same time. The player with the higher value card takes both, putting them at the bottom of their deck. If equal value cards are played, each player lays out three cards face-down, and a fourth face-up (saying, if you like, “I-de-clare-war,” one syllable per card). The player with the higher fourth card wins everything on the table.

Winning: When one player is out of cards, the other wins.

Mixing it up: A great variant for slightly older kids is the Egyptian War. In this version, players take turns laying down cards on top of each other. If a number card comes up, it stays there, and play continues. If an ace is played, your opponent has 4 chances to come up with another ace or a face card; if a king, 3 chances, queen 2, jack 1. If your opponent turns up only number cards, everything set down up to that point goes to you. Also, any time two matching cards are set down in a row, whoever slaps the pile first gets the cards. This version can also be played with more than 2 players.

Go Fishing, Declare War, or Play the Old Maid Card Game Today

Buy a fresh pack or two and rediscover the joys of these fun and easy card games!

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