Family-friendly Card Games

A little competition is good for the family soul!

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Sitting around in front of the television is an American pastime, but it's not the best vehicle for connecting with your kids. Family events and activities are where the real memories are made, and you don't need much more than a deck of cards. Playing card games with your children can be a lot of fun and can also help to teach valuable lessons, like how to follow rules and how to be a good sport. And, of course, the most important one: how to cheat at poker. These 10 family-friendly card games are guaranteed to provide some good clean fun.


10: Go Fish

Go Fish is a classic card game to play with the whole family.

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One of the all-time kid classics, Go Fish is a two-person game that can be played by kids of all ages. The object of Go Fish is to collect groups of four cards by value. You get your cards from your opponent by simply asking them to "give me all your Aces," for instance. In order to ask for the cards, you must already hold at least one. And if you have the requested cards, you need to give them up. If you ask and get some cards, then you repeat your turn. If you strike out, your opponent tells you to "go fish," and you must draw from the top of the deck. When you get a set of four, lay the set down and resume the game. Play continues until the winner runs out of cards.


    9: Concentration

    Keep your memory sharp looking for matching pairs.

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    Also known as the "memory game" or "pairs," this simple card game is a great way to improve your child's memory and remind you how much yours is slipping. You can play with anywhere from two to six people or more. If you play with more than six players, you might want to add a second deck. Turn over all of the cards on the table or floor in rows of seven. Taking turns, flip over two cards at a time. If the cards are the same, then you get to keep the pair. If not, you turn them back over and the turn goes to the next player. The better your memory, the more pairs you'll score. Once the cards are all gone, the person with the most pairs -- and best memory -- wins.


    8: War

    Did You Know?

    Many scholars believe the very first war was in 2700 B.C. between Sumer and Elam.

    One of the easiest card games to play between two people, War can be taught to even the youngest kids. The deck is evenly divided between the two players to begin the game. In rapid succession, both players lay down their top card once after the other, with the highest card being the winner. If you win the round, you collect the two cards. You keep this up until one player eventually has all of the cards and has won the war. In the event of a tie, three cards from each player are dealt facedown with the fourth acting as the battle card. Whoever wins the hand gets all of the cards. If the name of the game doesn't jibe with your pacifist sensibilities, you can call it Head to Head or just makeup a name. Your kids will enjoy playing whatever the name.


    7: Old Maid

    Don't find yourself with the only Queen left in the deck.

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    The first thing you need to do for this game is remove three of the Queens from the deck. The one remaining is the "Old Maid," and acts as a kind of hot potato for the players. Deal the entire deck, one at a time, face down to up to eight players. Each person should organize his or her hand and discard any pairs. Whoever goes first turns to the player on the left and makes him or her draw a single card. If that card makes a pair, then that player lays them down immediately and continues play to the left. If not, he or she simply continues play. Once all of the pairs are down, the player stuck with the Old Maid loses the game. Everyone else wins.


      6: Crazy Eights

      Use your crazy eights to tip the game in your favor.

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      Start the game by dealing five cards each to up to four players. Place the remaining cards facedown and turn the top card over. The first player must either lay down a card that matches the faceup card (by suit or by number) or draw a card from the deck if a play can't be made. If you have an eight, consider it a wild card as you can play it on any other card. Once you do this, you must nominate another suit. So if you lay down an eight, you might say "the suit is now Hearts." If the next player has a heart, then he or she is in luck. If not, then it's time to draw either one or a set number of cards until they draw a playable card. The first person to get rid of his or her cards wins.


      5: I Doubt It

      Be sure not to slip into the adult version of the game and yell out an obscenity.

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      This game goes typically goes by a different name when adults play, and it's been known to include alcoholic beverages as well. Luckily, there's a family-friendly version called "I Doubt It," and there are no shot glasses involved. Deal five or seven cards to the each player -- you can have anywhere from three to six players. The designated lead player names the first rank, the suit does not matter. Then, go clockwise around the table, with each player either passing if he or she doesn't have the named rank, or laying a card faced down on the table. Play for each round continues until all players pass or there's a challenge. If you feel like your little brother is trying to fool you, smack the deck and declare "I doubt it!" Turn the card over -- if it's not the designated rank, the bluffing player picks up all the cards and the challenger names the new card rank. If it is, the challenger picks up the cards and the one in doubt takes the lead. The winner is the first player to get rid of his or her entire hand.


      4: Go Boom

      Keep an eye on your opponent's hand; you don't want them to go boom first.

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      This fast-paced game can be played with up to 12 people. Deal seven cards, one at a time and facedown to each player. The rest of the deck goes facedown in the center of the circle. The person to the left of the dealer lays down one card face up. The next player can lay down a card matching in rank or suit, or keep drawing until a playable card comes up. After one full turn around the circle, the round is finished and the played cards are studied. Whoever laid down the highest rank leads the next round. Play continues until the first player to lay down all of his or her cards wins. This is noted by yelling "BOOM" as loudly as you can.


        3: Lie Detector

        Can you spot the liar in the game?

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        This bluffing game can be played with up to six people. Each player is dealt seven cards facedown, one at a time. The rest of the deck is placed in the center, facedown. The person to the left of the dealer starts play by laying down either a single card or group of cards that are the same rank, face down. The player must announce what cards are, for example "two Jacks." The next player must beat that hand by the next highest rank, draw from the pile or bluff and lay down "dummy cards." So in this case, the player must lay down two Queens, draw or bluff. At any point, any player can challenge by declaring a "Lie Detector." Whoever loses the challenge inherits all of the center cards. Whoever is empty-handed at the end, wins.


        2: Animals

        Did You Know?

        The Stratiomyid Fly's scientific name is the longest name of any animal at 42 letters -- Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides.

        This is a fun game for young children. Each player must first pick out an animal to be -- the longer the name, the better. Then all of the cards are dealt facedown to the players. One at a time, each player turns over a card on his or her pile. As soon as one matches the face up card from another player, those two must race and shout out the other player's animal name three times. Whoever is able to do so the quickest, wins the round and must pick up the other's discarded pile. In this game, whoever ends with the most cards is the victor. And to them goes the spoils.


        1: 21

        Instead of money, how about playing for something else; maybe chores or candy could keep the game interesting.

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        This game may be played as "Blackjack" in Las Vegas for big bucks, but you can play without any money and teach your kids a little math in the family-friendly version. As the adult, you should play the dealer role. Deal your kids one card, face up, around the circle, then one to yourself facedown. Then deal another one faceup to each player and one more faceup for yourself. Forget the Vegas rules with the splitting pairs and doubling down -- they can learn all that stuff later. Just go around the circle one at a time and ask if they want to hit or stay, with the object getting as close to 21 as possible without going over. At the end of the line, turn over your cards and see who won. Each round in the family-friendly version counts as its own little game, or you can assign a point value in place of winning chips.