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Colonial Kids and Cards

period playing cards
Card games were a popular pastime in taverns.

Card games are fun for people of all ages. However, many of the card games that kids play today would not have been enjoyed by children in the Colonies. Most colonial card games were made for adults only and were not considered games for kids. If the children played with cards it was as many kids do today, stacking them into a "house" of cards.

The cards that Colonial kids may have used look somewhat different than the cards we have today. Cards in the colonies looked like cards used in England and France as, like our cards, they had the same "suits" — in other words hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs on them. (Other countries used acorns, coins, swords and other pictures.) However, unlike today's playing cards, no numbers (indexes) were on the corners or sides, no fancy pictures on the back and no jokers were in the deck. The plain back to cards made them useable for many things like scrap paper. Some old cards have been found with printed invitations on the back, letters written on them and other fun uses. Most cards were true rectangles with no rounded corners and they were made of thick paper that was not shiny like the cards we know. The colors on the cards were usually black and red. Numbers on cards came as an American idea around the 1870's. It allowed card players to hold many cards in one hand and see the numbers on the sides instead of just counting the amount of hearts or diamonds printed in the center of the card. Try the card game below with friends and family. It is a game which is more fun when many people play. It is very similar to a card game played during the 18th century.

A Memory Game or the Art of Memory

For every player of cards, place three cards on the table face up. (If 3 people play, place 9 cards on the table, if 5 people play, place 15 cards on the table.) Give each player a little time to look at the cards and try to memorize them. After the time allowed to memorize has ended, the dealer picks up the cards on the table, shuffles them and deals three cards to each player. One at a time, the players name a card they had memorized that is not in their hand. Whoever has that card must place it on the table. If a card is called that was not part of the game or was already called by another player, the player who called the card must forfeit a point or take a dare. As the game continues, each player continues to name a card from the original memorized cards that has not already been named. The person who names the last card in play is the winner.