Wherever you are in Australia, if you’re a parent, your soon about to have the kids home for a good few weeks. In SA we’ve somehow managed seven weeks of holidays this year, which is, I think, for the most part, a good thing. Although that does mean an extra few days worth of activities to plan for.
It was during one set of school holidays a couple of years ago, when the budget wasn’t all that elastic, that I set myself the goal of only doing free activities during the holidays. While it sounded hard to begin with, it actually turned out to be quite easy, and we now rarely spend unneeded money during the school breaks. It does require a little bit of organisation, though, and making sure the kids are happy when at home (and we do have quite a few home days), is the key.
This year we’ve got some board games as Christmas presents, a few big puzzles to do together, and the new ace in my sleeve: cards.
We stumbled upon the joy of card games rather accidentally. When dad was visiting last, he bought a pack with him, as was his custom. Dad was always playing cards and all of my sisters have memories of certain games they played with him. On his last visit, he spent a fair bit of time playing Gin Rummy with Taylah, which has left her with some lovely memories of him.
After he left, the cards sat on the bench and no one touched them at all. It wasn’t until one Sunday arvo, when I was trying to think of a two person activity to do with Bridie (who was needing some quality time), that I suddenly thought about them again, so I sat her down to teach her the game Spit.
I would like to say it was an instant success, but it wasn’t. Boatman went to his mate’s house (whose daughter is Bridie’s friend), so she went too, and I was left there, looking at a pack of cards. As it turns out, she felt bad about leaving me, and when she came home she apologised profusely and asked to play again.
What happened after that was a little bit of a surprise.
I taught Bridie how to play, and Bailey and Ava sat watching. It took her a few turns to get the hang of it, but then she was set.
The next day Bailey asked Boatman to play, and so he did. Soon he had learnt it as well, and now Taylah was watching. Bridie and Bailey together taught her. (Ava is a little bit little for that game, but she enjoys watching.)
I thought that would be it, but it wasn’t. Enjoying the fun of card games, they soon started playing different ones. Go Fish and Memory, of course, Lowest Number, and then Old Maid. (Or Old Man as my kids call it 😉 ). They’ve become regular little card sharks, and I ended up investing $3 in another packet so for two people games (like Spit), no one missed out.
What started out as a quality time exercise (and still is), has become a sibling exercise, and something to play that doesn’t involve screens. In fact, I’m not getting any tears at the moment when I say no to TV or devices because they play cards instead. It’s pretty great. Ava has even taken to making up games. They tend to be overly complicated and rely on all the cards being ‘friends,’ but one had quite a lot of promise. Over the next few weeks, I expect we will be learning some more games to play on hot days, or lazy days, or even take camping. (Hopefully, they will have a few more rules and clear objectives than Ava’s.)
If your kids are just that little bit older and able to recognise numbers and sequences pretty well, cards are a great, free activity. And because they’re having so much fun, we’ve made a ‘Spit how-to’ for anyone else who wants to learn. Hopefully, as the weeks go on, we can share some more fun card games. For now though, here’s Spit:
Deal out the pack between two people.
Lay out 15 cards in a row of five. Like this:
The rest of your cards make up the Spit Piles.
Using the Spit Pile, each player says ‘one two three Spit!’ and places one card face up. Remove as many of your cards as possible from your hand, by stacking on either spit pile. Numbers can be any colour or suit, but can only go up or down. EG. 7,6,5,6,5,6,7 etc.
When you’ve removed all the cards in your hand, grab the smallest pile in the middle.
Play another round.
When one player has less than 15 cards, they set out all but one and put that aside. The other player is the only to spit.
When someone runs out of cards, both players attempt to get the lone card. If the player who placed it gets it, the game is over and they have one. If the other player gets it, the player who placed it takes the spit pile and the game continues.
The winner is the person who places the lone card next to the one spit pile and successfully snaps it.
Do your kids like card games?