Time to Play: Card Games with the Kids

Let me get my bias out up front: I believe all good games are social and that playing games should be a social experience. I spend many hours each month sitting around a table with friends playing board games both simple and ridiculously complex, and have tried to instill a similar sense in my three children, a teen, tween and 9yo. Video games with live chatting many see as similarly social, but just as an in-person cup of tea with someone is so much more fulfilling than a phone call, I think being in the same space, playing and laughing together is so much more rewarding and nurturing that I really don’t even see video games and computer games as “games” at all, in the same sense.

My favorite kind of games are those that are easily portable, too, and that’s why card games are great. Either games like cribbage or rummy that can be played with a $1.00 deck of playing cards or specialized deck games like Pit and Mille Bornes. And it’s the latter that I want to talk about today because it’s become quite a family favorite with my younger kids, rather to my surprise.

Never heard of it? It’s a card game from France that lets two or more players race to be the first to go 1000 miles. To proceed, you play milage cards (25, 50, 100 or 200 miles) but to do that, you need a green light. Opponent getting too far ahead? You can sabotage their vehicle by giving them a flat tire, causing them to get into an accident or even simply turning their green light red. Fun, easy to explain, and typically 5-10 minutes to play a full game once the players are familiar with the game.

What’s interesting is that I remembered this game from when I was younger and tried a few times to get my children interested, but without much success. Then I found a Mille Bornes game for the iPad that used Tintin artwork. That proved the gateway for my children, who love the simplicity and quick play on the iPad. But since they can’t play electronic games all the time — and because they like the social aspects of when we’re playing as a family — it was easy to transition them to the real card game, a game whose deck is now permanently in the car so we can grab it and play whenever there’s a space in our schedule.

Whether it’s Mille Bornes or some other card game (we play a lot of Go Fish too), I can’t encourage you enough to start your children young learning the basics of card game play. With almost zero investment required and a lifetime of fun ahead of them, having children equate playing games with having fun socializing with their friends and family is a huge benefit in our modern electronic times, times that feel more directed towards splitting all of us apart as we obsess over our electronics.

Oh, and you can pick up a Mille Bornes deck for about $15-$20 if you’re interested, or you can often find them for $1 or even less at a garage sale or thrift shop. Even better, if there’s a card or two missing the game will still work just fine…

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