The Perfect 1st Card Game (and how to modify it for shorter attention spans!)

L&L are just getting to the age we can start playing real games and I’m so excited!

One game they got just today is the classic card game Old Maid.  

There are many versions out there, ranging in price from $1 – $9.  We found ours for $3 at Walmart (ours is not pictured).  They are all played the exact same way, the cards just vary in size, pictures, or quality.  

After playing a few rounds with L&L before nap time, I’ve decided it’s probably the perfect 1st card game for the toddler/early-preschooler age.  One reason for this is that the main skill involved is matching, which by age 2-3, most kids can do easily.

For those that have never played, Old Maid is simply a game where all the cards have a match (i.e. there are two identical cards) except for one — the old maid card.  The entire deck is passed out between the players.  Each player matches up any pairs they might have in their hand and put them in a pile, leaving only the unmatched cards in their hands.  Then players take turns picking one card from each other’s hands and seeing if it matches any cards they already hold.  The object is to match up all your cards and not end up holding the old maid at the end.

To introduce the game, and to keep it simple since L&L are so young, I opened the deck of cards which consists of probably 40-50 cards, and pulled out only 6-7 matching pairs + the old maid card.  Limiting the number of pairs we needed to match up helped in several ways — it limited the total number of cards we were playing with and it made the game time significantly shorter than if we had tried to play with all the cards.  L&L have pretty good attention spans, but because we were learning a new game, I didn’t want them to get frustrated and have a negative first experience.  As they get better at the game, I’ll add in more pairs until eventually we’re playing with the full deck, but for now, the abbreviated version is perfect!

When we played, I let Luke (3.5+ years old) have his own cards.  He laid them out to match them up and then I arranged them fanned out in his hand to hold for the picking.  For Lilah (28 months old), I simply held the cards and let her do the “work” of the game (matching the pairs, picking a card from Luke’s hand, etc.).  

Both kids really liked the game and have already requested to play when they wake up from nap time and when Dad gets home this evening! 🙂

To make holding the cards easier and hopefully reduce frustration, I just bought these card holders from Amazon:

You can hold the holder in your hand or set it on a table.  Two holders come in the set, which right now on Amazon is $6.16.  The description says it holds standard and over-sized cards, and with a 4.5/5 star rating with 56 reviews, I’m hopeful that these will be great for us!

L&L are getting quite a few games for Christmas, and we already have a bunch in our toy closet, so as we get into them a bit more, I will definitely share our favorites!

What are your favorite games?

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!