Familiarity with playing cards and card games can be of tremendous educational and psychological benefit to children, and offers them immediate pleasure as well as lasting advantages. Child psychologists recognize the importance of bringing parents and children together on terms of equality, and this is most easily accomplished when they play card games together. An interest in playing cards stimulates a child’s recognition of letters, forms and numbers, and later helps teach him to count. Children who have learned to amuse themselves with card games become more self-sufficient. In later years, of course, this same familiarity with card games will be a social asset to them.
Children are naturally attracted to the bright colors and pretty designs on playing cards. That adults, too, like to play with the cards is a gratifying discovery: it gives the child a sense of maturity. Card games are the foremost indoor recreation where parents and children can meet on a common ground of interest, without a feeling on the part of the children that parents are merely pretending interest in the juvenile toys. Many parents have found that card games, with their rules and their etiquette, are a powerful force in weaning children away from the “Me first!” and “That’s mine!” and “I want it all!” of infancy.
A child is ready to play simple card games at the age of six. But at the age of four he should start learning the pack. Give a four-year-old a pack of cards; emphasize that it is his own, just as much as any other of his toys. At first he will throw the cards about, and delight in seeing them fall. He will soil them, tear them, deface them. Presently he will discover that there are two kinds, red and black, and will make a game of sorting them out. Then he will find that each color in turn is of two kinds; he will ask what they are called; and one day he will proudly ask, “Want to see me pick out all the diamonds?” He will ask the names of the picture cards; he will discover that the other cards are numbered, and will learn to arrange them in sequence and to sort them in groups.
On seeing adults play games with the cards, he will want to play too. Start him on Slapjack-good riotous fun. Next try him on Fish, and when he asks for more-he surely will-take up Stealing Bundles. This is the same as Cassino with building omitted. Each card is won by another of the same rank. But cards won must be stacked face up, and you can steal your opponent’s bundle if you can match its top card. Later, when he is learning simple addition, take up full-fledged Royal Cassinono happier introduction to arithmetic was ever devised!
With children who show marked powers of attention and memory, try Concentration. Many a seven-year-old is able to beat his parents at this game, despite their most honest efforts to win!
In teaching a child a new game, do not commence with a broadside of information about the rules. Put out the cards and start playing the game at once, telling him what to do at each juncture. Give him the rules little by little, as each necessity arises. After he feels at home in the game, a situation may arise for which he has had no instruction. If it is a matter of judgment, discuss it with him and advise his course. If it is a matter of law, be most careful to preface your dictum with “The rule is …” It is important to avoid creating any impression that rules are formulated on the spot to suit the case. Rules are rules, and have to be followed even if small fry thereby loses.