Matching Card Games

Simple card games where players match cards with similar or identical images helps children develop observation, logic, and fine motor skils.  These games can be played with decks of regular playing cards or sets of cards that feature thematic images for a holiday or subject matter.

Go Fish

Go Fish is a matching game that works best for 3-6 players, but it is possible for 2 to play. The goal of the game is for players to collect 'books' of four cards that depict the same image. The game starts with a dealer dealing 5 cards to each player (7 each for 2 players). The remaining cards are placed face down in a common space between players to form the stock.

The player to dealer's left start takes the first turn by asking a specific player for a specific card. For example, if using a deck of Halloween cards, the first player might ask: 'John, please give me your haunted houses'. The player who asks must hold at least one or the requested cards in his or her hand, so that first player must have at least one haunted house in his or her hand. If the player who was asked (John) has any haunted house cards, he must give all of those cards to the player who asked for them. That player then gets another turn and may again ask any player for card already held by the asker.

If the person asked does not have any cards asked for, they say 'Go fish!' or some other agreed upon phrase.  The asker must then draw a card from the stock. If the drawn card is the they type of card asked for, the asker shows it to the other players and gets another turn. If the drawn card is not what was asked for, the asker says nothing, keeps the card, but the turn now passes to the  the next player on the left.

As soon as a player collects a book of 4 identical cards, it must be shown to the other players and face down next to that player (out of the stock pile). The game continues until either someone has no cards left in their hand or the stock runs out. When that happens, players counts the number of books they have collected throughout the game.  The winner is the player who has the most books.

Old Maid or Black Peter

This children's game is known by various names in different parts of the world, and can be played by two or more players.  The object of the game is for players to collect pairs of cards, emptying their hands while avoiding being stuck with the 'old maid', which has no partner.

The game begins with a dealer dealing out all cards to the players.  Often, some players will have one more card than others, but this does not matter.  Players look at their cards and discard any pairs they have (a pair is two cards that show the same image, such as two footballs or two black cats).

The dealer takes the first turn by offering his or her cards to the player or his or her left.  The best way to do this is to hold the cards in a fan spread out facing down. That player on the left selects a card from the hand without seeing it, and adds it to his or her hand. If that makes a pair the player who drew the card discards the pair before offering his or her hand to the next player to his or her left, and so on.

When players get rid of all their cards, they are safe and take no further part in the game. The turns simply passes to the next player to on the left, who still has cards.  Eventually, all the cards will have been discarded except one (the old maid, grinch, mummy, etc) and the holder of that card loses.


It is also possible to play a reversed version of Old Maid. The game is played exactly the same way, except that the holder of the odd card, (the wise owl or the golden egg) is the winner.

A group can also play several rounds keeping track of the number of pairs that each player collects during each round.  Players can be be penalized (or rewarded) 3 to 5 points for holding the odd card at the end of a round.