I sometimes think playing cards are like socks. You ever notice that no matter how well you monitor your laundry, you always seem to lose one? It seems to be like that with me and cards; whenever I actually have a moment to play a game, the deck seems to be mysteriously shy a card or two. That got me to thinking: playing cards are great for games of course, but they are also great launchpads for creative projects! I thought I’d share a few ideas that I’ve come up with, along with some links to the amazing things other people have done with cards as well.
Whenever we have an event with a group of older kids who may not know each other and will be sitting at tables for an extended period of time (like a Bar or Bat Mitzvah), we love conversation starters! Playing cards make the perfect base. All you do is print up a series of questions like...
- “If you could create a new candy bar, what would it be?”
- “Do you believe there is life on other planets?”
- “If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?”
- “What subject should they teach in school?”
Print them on sticker-backed labels (regular mailing labels are good, or if you get full sheet labels, you can cut them to 1.5 x 3 inches) and place those labels on the face side of the cards. If you wish, you can label the back of the cards with a sticker that says “Conversation Starters” or “Getting To Know You.” Place one card at each place setting or make a little box for the center of the table where everyone has easy access.
Similarly, you can create a little “book” by placing a hole punch in the corner of each card. Use one of those loose-leaf rings you can buy at an office supply store (like these) or a brad to hold the cards together and create a little book. You can then print up everything from words of encouragement and love (like these “52 Reasons I Love You”), to ideas of things to do with the kids, to restaurant suggestions, to simple recipes... the themes are limited only by your imagination!
Mini Photo Frames
Cards make the perfect frame for those wallet-sized photos from school. Simply mount the photo on the face of a playing card with glue dots, double-sided tape, or a glue stick. To make a little frame stand, take a second card and fold it in half from top to bottom so that it makes a little tent. Attach the tented card to the back of the frame card with glue, and you’re ready to display your photo! This can also make a great table seating card (especially for a casino night!); just print out a label or write the person’s name in permanent marker.
Accordion-Style Wallet Photo Display
In the same vein, you can also create a sort of flip-out/flip-down photo montage. You can even make it so that it chronicles all of your child’s school years, or their ages. For example, for a baby, you can use an ace as a photo from their birth, numbers 2 through 10 as the corresponding months, the jack as the 11th month, queen as the 12th month, and king as their first birthday.
All you need for this is a straight run of one color or suit, clear tape, glue dots, and your photos. Lay the first two cards (ace and 2) side-by-side or end-to-end (depending on whether you want your accordion to fold out so that it can stand on a table, or down for a wall hanging). Place a two-inch strip of tape at the sides of the side-by-side cards, or on the top and bottom of the end-to-end cards so that the cards are connected. Flip the connected cards over and repeat the process on the backside. Keep flipping and attaching fronts, then backs, until you have the length of cards you want. Use glue dots to adhere the photos to the cards. You can now display your photos at home, or place them in your wallet. (Remember those old TV shows where the guy would reach into his wallet and pull out a photo, that would then drop open like a Jacob’s Ladder, revealing a looong chain of photos?)
Alice in Wonderland decor
Inspired by those little fellas who make up the Queen of Heart’s court, I came up with these funny little playing card people. All you need are some fun photos, cards, popsicle sticks, hot glue (adult supervision, please!), pipe cleaners, and beads (if you like). To make the body, take a popsicle stick, cut it in half, and hot glue it to the back of a card with about one inch sticking out beyond the top of the card. Hot glue one full-sized pipe cleaner (about 12 inches) across the back of the card near the center to make the arms. Bend the second pipe cleaner in half and hot glue that across the back of the card near the bottom to make the legs. Take a second playing card and glue it to the back of the first card so that it sandwiches all those body parts. Cut the heads of the photos out and glue them to the top of the popsicle stick. You can then embellish the hands and feet with beads if you like. Make little loops at the ends of the pipe cleaners for hands and feet, and glue the feet to an additional playing card so that your little person can stand on their own. These make really fun decorations, and also great table seating cards for a “mad hatter” tea party.
And finally, give the kids something to do on a rainy day...
Playing Card Scavenger Hunt
The full-out, detailed description of this activity can be found here on our main site. The basic premise is to hide playing cards throughout the house and have kids hunt for them. As they discover the cards, they need to make as many poker-based combinations as they can (e.g., pairs, runs, three of a kind, etc.). Points are awarded for each combination. Easier combos, like pairs, get one point, whereas harder combos, like a full house or flush, earn more, like 20 points. A single card may be used as many times as possible; for example, it can be used once in a pair, but also in a four-of-a-kind combo, once in a flush, etc. Keep track of the players’ points, and then at the end finish up with a search for all the remaining missing cards! Just remember, if you end up losing one or two, you’ve now got a bunch of activities you can do with the remaining ones!