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The spring sun beat in through the walls of the tent and birds chirped loudly. My two boys climbed over me, requesting chocolate milk and urgently expressing their need to pee. I put on my glasses and glanced at my phone for a time check.
5:30 am. oy!
It’s one thing to keep them occupied and quiet on a weekend at home while my husband sleeps in, but 5:30 am in the great outdoors while camping at a campground with “quiet hours” until 8am? That’s a whole new challenge. At least at home you can turn on the TV and doze on the couch while they gorge on cartoons and tablet time. But what can keep two loud, rambunctious boys occupied for hours while the rest of the campground sleeps?
On our last camping trip, I made some coffee and brought out a trusty deck of standard playing cards to teach them some of my favorite childhood games. And it was a hit! Not only did I get to connect with them by telling them stories about playing these same games as a kid with my brothers and sisters, we now have a shared hobby that I can easily tuck into the diaper bag and take with us for times we need to stay quietly occupied.
When we were kids, we played TONS of card games when we spent time at my grandfather’s cabin. Some we bought, like Skip-Bo, Uno, or Dutch Blitz, but many more can be played with just a simple deck of cards. Here are some of our favorites.
21 Card Games Kids Love
- Go Fish!
Go Fish is the very first card game I taught my boys. The original object of the game is to win the most “books” of cards. A book is any four of a kind, such as four kings, four aces, etc. We modify the game and aim to collect pairs instead of books. Bonus Game: Go Fish for Tens (Played the same as Go Fish, but your pairs must add up to 10.
- Slap Jack
Can you win all the cards by being the fastest one to slap the jack? This game takes quick reflexes. While it might be frustrating for a kid who hates to lose, I think that’s a great learning opportunity.
- Kings in the Corner
- Kings in the Corner is a Solitaire style game for 2-4 players. The winner is the first one to play all the cards in their hand and the rest of the players receive penalty points. Play continues until someone reaches a pre-determined number of points and the player with the lowest score wins.
In this fast and furious game of quick hand-eye coordination, can you be the first to slam all your cards onto the Spit Pile?
- Egyptian Rat Screw
Lots of opportunities to SLAP and stay in the game with this one! I have to say it was my all-time favorite as a kid.
- Bullshit! (You can change the name for kids to I Doubt It or Liar)
We loved that playing this game gave us permission to swear and lie! Ha! But it’s also a good, easy introduction to “bluffing”– which your kids will need later for poker.
War is another game we played A LOT as kids and one of the first ones I taught to the kids. It’s great for kids as young as 3. The object is to capture all the cards and you only need 2 people to play.
He who hesitates is lost in this fact-action card game! Be the first one to notice a match and yell “Snap!” to win all the cards – and the game!
In this fast-moving card game, paying attention to the other players is just as important as paying attention to the cards in your hand!
Whenever I think of playing Spoons, I am taken back to our peer counseling overnight retreats in high school where we played this game A LOT! It takes speed and keen observation skills to win at Spoons.
- 31 is a gambling style game, but you don’t have to play with real money. Kids have just as fun playing with and winning all the chips, even if they don’t represent actual cash.
- Crazy Eights
In this game you’ve got to get rid of all the cards in your hand before your opponents do. Just beware of those crazy eights! This game is usually included in sets of cards for kids.
- Of course, Poker is another gambling game and there are many different styles and ways to play. As a kid, our favorite was Texas Hold Em.
- My Pap Witmer served in the air force and he was ALWAYS playing solitaire. He taught us and then I passed on the lessons to my kids. It’s a great game to pass the time, especially when no one else is really interested in playing.
- Old Maid
- In this game of matching pairs, don’t be the last one left with the “Queen” or Old Maid.
- Golf is another solitaire style game.
- Garbage (or Trash)
- Trash is a good game for young kids to help them learn and practice counting skills.
- Higher Lower
- Higher Lower is a guessing game where one player is the dealer and the other player tries to guess if the next card dealt will be higher or lower.
How good is your memory? Keep an eye on the cards and remember where they were to collect the most pairs and win!
Want instructions on how to play 21 Card Games Kids Love?
I’m working on putting together a fun little printable version with instructions you can laminate and keep with your deck of cards, but I have a new baby at home, so it’s not quite ready yet.
As I was searching for a reminder of the rules on some of these, I found a bunch of new games I’d never heard of on the Bicycle Playing Cards Website.
There are so many ways to have fun with just a simple deck of cards, but here are a few more suggestions of a few more unique card games we love.
The kids had a little trouble holding all of their cards, so when we got back from camping I made this simple DIY Card Holder out of a pool noodle. Super simple and fun!
When I found out about the Summer Throwback Blog Hop, I knew this would be the perfect activity to share. The best part!? Some of my favorite blogging friends are writing and sharing my absolute favorite summer activities from my childhood and you can read them all here!