5 Great Card Games for Kids

Long summer days and lengthy car trips: prime to break out the deck of cards that has languished unnoticed all school year long. MomSpeaker Trina O'Boyle has five suggestions for kid-friendly card games her boys like.  

I am from Michigan and it seems like everyone I know plays cards. I grew up watching my family play card games and then learning those same games as an adult. Every summer we make the 10-hour drive back to my home state to spend a few weeks with family and friends. One of the things that pass the time during those long car rides is card games. These are also fun to play on those days when the kids can’t get outside. They can play on their own with siblings, other family members or friends. Here are my top picks that my boys ages 7 and 9 years old like to play.


Age: 7+; Players: 2+; Cards: Standard Deck 

How to Play: Deal out cards. When you have two to three players deal out 7 cards a player, anything more than that each player would get 5 cards. The remaining cards are placed faced down in a pile called the "Fish Pond."

The player to the left of the dealer starts by saying to another player (for example): “Give me your kings.” If that player has the cards requested, they need to hand them over. The requester can continue to ask the same player for more cards until the player does not have the cards he wants. If he has none, he says “Go Fish” and the player who requested the cards draws the top card and places it in his hand. The player who told the first requester to “Go Fish” will then be the new requester.

Anyone who collects all 4 cards of a set — for example, all 8s or 4 queens — puts them face-down in front of him. The winner is the first person to have no single cards left, only complete sets. If two players run out of cards together, the player with the most sets wins the game.


Age: 5+; Players: 2-4; Cards: Standard Deck 

How to play: In a two-player game each person gets 7 cards; when playing with three to four players, each player gets 5 cards. The rest of the cards go face down in the middle and the top card is turned up next to the face-down cards. The player left of the dealer starts by discarding a card that matches with either the number or suit of the top card in the discard pile. For example, if the card is an 8 of diamonds he could play any diamond or any number 8 card. If he doesn’t have a matching card he will continue to pick up cards from the deck until he gets one that is playable. Remember, 8s are WILD and can be played on any suit. Players continue to take turns matching cards to the top of the discard pile. The first player to use up all his cards wins the game.

3. WAR

Ages: 6+; Players: 2; Cards: Standard deck of 52 cards

How to play: All cards are dealt to the players and kept face-down. NO ONE looks at their cards. At the same time both players turn over the top card of their piles and put them face-up in the center. Whoever has the highest card turned over takes both cards and places them in a different pile. When you and your opponent lay down the same card (example: two 5s), then you are at war. You and your opponent each take another card and place it face-down on top of the card already placed in the middle and then one face-up. Whoever puts down the higher card wins all 6 cards. The player who collects the most cards wins the game.


Ages: 7+; Number of players: 2-6; Cards: Standard deck of 52 cards

How to play: The dealer deals the cards, if there are two players each person gets 10 cards; if you have three to four players, then each gets 7 cards; if you have five to six players, each gets 6 cards. The remaining cards are put face-down in the middle, with the top card placed face-up next to the “stock pile.” Each player then groups all matching cards and makes sets (such as 3 or 4 of a kind) or a run (which is 3 to 4 cards that in the same suit; for example, 3, 4, 5 of hearts or three 4s).

The person left of the dealer goes first by taking a card from the top pile or the face-down pile in the middle. If you have 3 of a kind or a suit you will then lay it on the table so everyone can see your cards. Before your turn is over you can discard 1 card and place it either in the stock pile, on someone else’s laid-out cards or on your own pile of laid-out runs or suits (example: you can lay a 5 on another pile of three 5s).

The first player to get rid of all their cards wins that round; the person who wins 5 rounds wins the game. You can modify this depending on skill level and concentration.

5. 31

Ages: 7+; Number of players: 4+; Cards: Standard deck of 52 cards

How to play: First you need to know the value of the cards – an ace is worth 11 pts.; 10s, Jacks, Queens and Kings are worth 10 pts.; and all other cards (2 through 9) are face value. Each player needs poker chips or coins (we play with pennies, giving three to each player). The dealer gives each player 3 cards and then places the rest of the cards face-down in the middle and 1 card face-up next to it.

The object of the game is to get a total of 31 in cards of one suit, or to have a hand at the end of the round that is higher than the other players. The person with the lowest amount pays into the pot.

The player to the left of the dealer goes first. They can either take from the face-up or -down pile in the middle. Each player takes turns until one player feels they have a high-enough card value. When you feel strongly about your the value of your hand you indicate by “knocking” on the table. All other players then get one more turn around. At the end everyone shows their cards and the player with the lowest value pays into the pot. You can pay into the pot 3x and then you are on “Cherry.” If you lose on Cherry then you are out of the game.

Anytime a player holds exactly the value of 31 they may “knock” immediately and again the player with the lowest value pays in. If a player “knocks” and another player gets 31 then the player who “knocks” has to pay double. The person in the end left standing with chips wins the pot.

Trina O'Boyle is a Drexel Hill, PA mom of two boys. This post is adapted from her blog O'Boy Organic.