You want the best for your child, and that means preparing them for adult life as best you can. Teaching them useful skills, showing them right from wrong, and cultivating their development to make them healthy and strong. Do your job correctly and they’ll end up extremely capable — ready to take on the world.
But this process of preparation is neither simple nor easy. Everyone has different ideas about what’s best for kids, and relevant tools available to you can seem endless: so many games and schemes created specifically to help children, each taking a distinct angle. How can you pick?
Well, the sensible move might be to look past all the gadgets and gizmos and go for something classic and versatile. Yes, I’m talking about card games. Used well, they’ll make your child smarter. Allow me to explain why:
They help memory development
While some people naturally remember more than others, having a good memory is mostly about repeated effort. The more you try to remember facts and figures, the easier you find it — and young minds are more adaptable. So childhood is great for building functional memory.
Most card games require the players to keep track of not only their own cards. But also the cards on the table (and, if possible, those of their opponents). This is highly challenging for adults, let alone children, but it scales with the difficulty of the game. That means you can start small (using a two-player game with limited hands) and steadily build up to card games like poker.
Being able to quickly memorize things is an all-purpose skill, applicable throughout every field and industry, so it has immeasurable value throughout adulthood — and simply breaking out a pack of cards could end up being the first step on a highly-productive journey.
They teach mathematical skills
Simply remembering the cards that have been played in a game won’t help you with the cards that have yet to be played unless you’re capable of considering the odds. If you’re mathematically adept, you can rapidly calculate how likely you are to win a given hand and use that conclusion to inform your decision.
Mathematical skills aren’t generally encouraged in the gambling world, of course (a player can be kicked out of a casino for using odds to win at blackjack, ridiculously enough), but you should be fine provided you don’t take your child for a weekend in Las Vegas. The purpose isn’t to win anything in particular: it’s to become lightning-quick at mental arithmetic.
Even in a time of smartphones doing most of our calculations for us, there’s value in having a strong grasp of figures. Teach your child how to win at card games, and they’ll pick up the fundamentals of mathematics along the way.
They introduce elements of psychology
Even if you combine the two things we’ve looked at so far (a great memory and strong mathematical skills), you won’t have enough to win every card game — because competitive card games are heavily driven by irrational human behavior. Poker is the classic example: everyone knows what a poker face involves, and what it means to bluff.
You don’t need good cards to win a round of poker. In fact, you could have the worst possible poker hand every single round and still win the game if you were able to convince everyone else that you had the best possible hand on each occasion. This is very informative for a child because — even though it might sound seedy — this type of deceit is a big part of adulthood.
Sometimes you have to work with someone who can’t be convinced through rational means. So the superiority of your argument can’t help you. In such a situation, you may need to persuade them in some other way. Strategic card games show players how to think on their feet and come up with fresh rhetorical tactics: it’s a big part of being smart.
The beauty of card games is that there’s a near-unlimited selection of them already created. And even if your child gets bored of the ones you suggest, they can simply design their own. They can come up with their own rules and mechanisms, which is an exercise that’s intellectually-stimulating in itself.