If your kids are anything like mine, they spend a lot of time with their face in a screen. It’s not just the TV either. It’s the computer, tablet, and video games. If I didn’t get them to unplug and take a break, they’d be on those things all day. About a year ago, their grandfather got them iPad minis for their birthdays. He bought them on the pretense of using them for school, not realizing that they get iPads to use at the school. I try to get them to use all their tech for educational purposes (aside from the video games at least) but my oldest wants to play games or watch videos of people playing games, and my middle child wants to watch unboxing videos and videos of other people playing with toys on YouTube (the youngest is too little for her own iPad yet). Few phrases elicit more groans in my house than “turn off your iPad.” If I don’t want to hear a bunch of groaning when I tell the kids that tablet time is over, I have to have fun games to play without electronics.
Now it’s not like I spent my childhood as a Luddite. I spent plenty of time sitting on the floor playing games on my NES, watching TV, and, eventually, playing some games on the computer. But I don’t remember spending hours and hours every day doing this kind of thing. Although, if the video games I played when I was a kid looked as good or were as easy to buy as they are today, I might’ve spent a hell of a lot more time playing them. It’s not just my kids either. I know my kids’ friends spend a lot of time with electronics too.
Our pediatrician recommends the kids get no more than two hours of screen time a day. I try to keep them to that as much as possible, but sometimes when I tell them to lay off the screens they don’t know what to do with themselves. That means that I have to have something to keep them occupied. A lot of the time that means I have to suggest something for them and if I am going to play too, I better be sure we have fun games to play without electronics. Lately, I’ve turned to some classic card games to help with that. (There are a bunch of go to board games we have as well, but I’ll cover that in another post.)
Uno is a classic color and number matching card game where each player tries to play a card on top of the last card that was played. Players can match the number on the top card or the color to get rid of a card from their hand. The first player to get rid of all the cards in their hand is the winner. There are two ways to play. You can play a single hand to determine a quick winner if you’re pressed for time, or you can play multiple hands where players count up the cards they have at the end of each hand and you accumulate a score over multiple hands. At the end of the game, the player with the lowest score is the winner. The last time I checked, there were about 5,000,703 versions of Uno available. There are themed packs like Spongebob or The Simpsons, and there are decks that come with battery operated devices that have an impact on the game. There’s even a game that combines Uno and Jenga. For my money, the original version of Uno is the best. The rules are straightforward, the cards are well designed, and they’re extremely portable.
Skip-Bo is more complicated than Uno, but not so complicated that a first grader can’t pick it up. In Skip Bo players are trying to get rid of their own draw pile by building up four different discard piles. Each player takes turns playing the cards from their hand and their draw pile off of these communal discard piles building the discard piles in sequential order from 1-12. There are also a number of Skip Bo (wild) cards in the deck to help move things along. This game has a slower pace than Uno and requires a little bit of strategy. Everyone plays off of the same discard piles, so you have to think about the openings you leave for the next player as you complete your turn. After a game or two with some coaching my kids picked this one up and have fun playing it. Skip Bo is also an easy game to take with you and play on the go, although you need a little more play space than for Uno.
Spoons is a big hit at gatherings at my mother-in-law’s house any time there’s a family gathering. Spoons is a fast-paced game that is kind of like mixing a card game and musical chairs. Each player starts off with four cards and there are spoons laid out on the table before everyone in easy reach. There is always one less spoon than the number of players. The dealer starts going through the deck card by card, picking and passing to the players down the line. The first player to get four of a kind snatches up a spoon and the person left without a spoon is out. This game requires speed and cunning as players have to watch their own hand and be lightning quick to grab a spoon as fast as one disappears from the table. A favorite trick around the table at my in-law’s is to grab a spoon as casually as you can and wait to see who else notices. This is a fun game for kids and adults, and it’s almost a guarantee that at least one game of spoons will be played any time we’re hanging out with my wife’s family.
Sequence combines a card game with a board game and is probably the game on the list that takes longest time to play. In Sequence players lay down a card from their hand that corresponds to a place on the board where they also place a poker chip. Depending on the number of players or teams playing, you need to make one or two sequence of chips by lining up five in a row. This is a good game when you’ve got a little more time to spend playing. I first played this game at my parent’s house and isn’t one we play as often, probably because it’s not as exciting as the other games on the list. Somewhat like Uno, this game has many different versions, including oversized versions of the game, but I’ve only played the original version.
Of course, there’s plenty of fun games to play without electronics, and a lot of games you can play with a simple deck of cards too, but I find that having a variety of choices to pick from gets the kids a little more invested in putting their electronics down. I’m always on the lookout for good, interesting games to play with my kids. What kinds of card games to do you like to play with your kids when they need a break from screen time?