Card Games to Play with Kindergarteners and Pre-Schoolers

I have always loved to play cards. In fact, for my seventh birthday, my parents bought me 32 decks of cards!!* So, I have been anxiously awaiting the time when my kids are old enough to enjoy a game of cards with me.

  1. Crazy 8s. The time has come where now two of my girls like to play Crazy 8s. I’ve been amazed at how this game has taught my three year old to recognize and distinguish numbers. The girls are learning to take turns, to recognize the different suites, and to match numbers.

    Here is how we play: You begin by dealing 8 cards to each player. Put one card face up in the center of your playing area – the discard pile. The remainder of the cards becomes the draw pile. Players take turns playing a card either of the same number or same suite as the card in the discard pile or you may play an 8 and then name the suite that the next player must play. If you do not have any cards of the same suite or number, you have to draw cards until you have something to play. The first person to run out of cards wins. For more official rules and variations, see

    1. Match (or Concentration). Take several matching pairs of cards. Mix them up and turn them over. Then take turns turning over cards, trying to find a matching pair. You can make this easy by using only a few pairs, or more difficult by using half a deck. This game practices turn taking, memory skills and matching skills. It’s one of the first games I have played with my children. There are picture matching games, but I still find that a deck of cards is convenient and versatile.

    1. War or Battle. This game is great for teaching greater than and less than. The traditional game is played where players are dealt equal number of cards. Then player put out one card.  The player with the card of higher value takes both cards. If the cards are equal then you have to “do battle.” The player who takes all the cards wins.

      I have to admit, we rarely finish a game of war, because it can go on for a long time, and the game is a little too hard (and therefore boring) to my three year old. So, I still play it sometimes with my older child. She is learning the value of numbers. There is an addition variation suggested by the book Games for Learning, (which I have previously recommended). In this version of war, players each put out two cards. The player with the higher total keeps all four cards. I think this is a great idea for older children who are learning and practicing addition.

  1. Go Fish. This again is great to practice taking turns, practice matching and learning basics that will later turn into skills needed for higher level card games. You can vary up the game, by requiring two of a kind as a match or four of a kind as a match.

  2. Make up your own card game.  I let my four year old use her creativity to come up with a new game. Like we might sort the cards into piles – of matching numbers or suites, or whatever. It’s fun to play games similar to what we already play but with a different twist.

* Actually, they were supposed to be party favors to give to my friends, but we forgot to give them out, so I got to keep them!

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