Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Cards from Sleeping Queens, Stack the Scoops, Exploding Kittens and Sushi Go! (Photo by Jillian O'Connor)

4 fun card games you can take anywhere

Portable analog entertainment: Small gifts that fit easily in a big stocking.

Kids’ card games: Board games are great, but when you are headed out the door to a restaurant, or to a friend’s house, or to an airport, you want something to bring along that travels well. 

For me as a mom, that answer has always been card games. Not to knock the old queen, king and jack, but sometimes they can be found a bit wanting when compared to modern design and hip, cartoonish graphics.. 

Here are some games that have stood the test of time with my sons, and they also suit my own distaste for overly complex and specific game rules. (Personally, I love a good game of War, and I don’t want the complexity to exceed that of a good game of Hearts, especially when I am playing with a fairly energetic and easily distracted child.)

Here are my current favorites for kids who are 5 and older.

Sleeping Queens 

This one will always have a place in my heart. My younger son received it as a present from a first-grade classmate. The rules are simple, even elegant. The object is to wake up twelve queens who have all fallen asleep. It’s a fun strategy game with characters that include the Pancake Queen, the Peacock Queen and the Cake Queen, as well as dragons.

Ages 8 and up. 
2 to 5 players.
Playing time: About 20 minutes. 

card gamescard games


Stack the Scoops

This entertaining ice cream game was created by Seattle’s Child writer Astrid Vinje and her family during the pandemic. You score points as you match sets of bases (Cake cone? Waffle cone? Bowl? Donut?!), scoops and toppings. You can build your kids’ numeracy skills – addition and multiplication – as you go and you can double or triple your points too. (When’s the last time you had a math workout at an ice cream shop?) 

Ages 5 to 10 and up.
2 or more players.
Playing time: 15 to 45 minutes.
Available at and at Amazon.



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Sushi Go!

Sushi Go bills itself as “the pick and pass card game.” As you play, you need to grab the best combination of sushi as it goes by. (Also on the menu: dumplings, tempura and puddings.) And you get extra points for dipping the piece in wasabi (by drawing a wasabi card, of course). And from pre-pandemic times, I know it’s the perfect game to play as you wait for your actual sushi and gyoza with kids. 

Ages 8 and up.
2 to 5 players.
Playing time: about 15 minutes. 


kids card games


Exploding Kittens

Yes, you read the name right. Yes, I was horrified when my fifth-grader told me he had played this on the school bus. And even more irritated when he played with his second-grade brother. Both have been just fine ever since and I can assure you that no kittens have been exploded. The tagline for the game is: A card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats. It was created by cartoonist Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, and, yes, it certainly has a sense of humor. What can I say? It kept my kids plenty busy and I learned it easily (and liked it, too). Bonus: It’s the only game I know of in which you can unleash the Catterwocky or find “beard cats.” 

Ages 7 and up. (Make sure not to get the explicit content version.)
2 to 5 players.
2 minutes to learn. 15 minutes to play. 

Honorable mention to Bears vs. Babies, another fun Oatmeal card came, but in a larger, furrier box.  (Again, please make sure not to buy the explicit content version for kids.)

More games:

Game night! 20 of our favorite family board games

Seattle boy invented the hot-selling family game Taco vs Burrito

11 cool games to play with your kids

About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.