Playing cards helps children practice social skills and math. For more ideas to have fun and teach your young children see the authors' website grandparentsteachtoo.org and wnmufm.org "Learning Through the Seasons" for books and podcasts.
What to do
Keep a few decks of playing cards in your car and home so they are always handy. Card playing goes across generations and any game can be simplified for preschool children.
Sit on the floor and divide up the cards. Decide whether an ace equals one or a higher card. Take out the jokers. After each player places a card on the floor, the player with the highest number or face card wins the battle. The winner places the winnings into a pile. Whenever there is a tie, ALL players battle. Each player plays one cards face down, then a new card face up. The highest of the cards will capture everything.
Old Maid/Go Fish
You can make a simple Old Maid/Go Fish card game for your very young children by sorting the cards and only using card numbers from 2-10. Shuffle and deal out four cards each. Players lay down pairs of numbers: two 3's etc. When they have no pairs to lay down, they can ask someone else for a specific number. If the person does not have the card, they say "Go Fish" and the child takes a card from the pile. The person with the most pairs wins. Old Maid is similar except a Joker is the card no one wants and players point to a card in someone's hand instead of asking for a certain card.
Ten Card Hide
Take ten number cards out of the deck and take turns hiding them around the room. Search for the cards telling the seeker when he is hot (near a card) or cold (far away). For very young children start with three cards and place the cards in easy hiding spots to increase success and confidence. When children learn numerical order you can offer a challenge. If children find a number out of order, they must leave it, remember where it is, and go back to it when the card is the next one in numerical order. You can also make the whole room a Memory game by hiding five pairs of cards and children must find the pairs when it is their turn. They must pay attention to what other children find and remember where cards are located. This takes practice.
How does this help my children?
Playing cards helps teach children to be civil to each other, patient and win or lose graciously besides teaching math and strategies.