UNO! – a classic card game that’s still as good as I remembered from my childhood!

We can’t have a family games blog without mentioning UNO. Created over 40 years ago (1971) and popular all over the world, I doubt there’s many reading this that haven’t played it in their youth. We certainly did. What makes UNO such a family favourite is that it’s so easy to pick up and play with just enough twists to keep it interesting without disrupting the fast playing pace. On top of that, it’s great for mixed age play and a fun way for preschoolers to build their familiarity with number recognition.

So for those of you who don’t know, here’s how it plays:

Everyone is dealt 7 cards. The aim of the game is to go out by discarding all your cards first and remembering to shout UNO when down to you last card. To do this players place one of their cards on the central discard pile, matching the previous card either by colour or number. If a player can’t throw down a card they have to pick one up from the new card deck. There are also special cards that if discarded have consequences for the next player: miss a go, reverse direction, plus 2, and plus 4. There’s also wild cards.

We’ve played this with three families and they all have their own variation of how to deal with the +2 and +4 cards. Personally we love adding the penalties. So if a player discards +2, the next player must pick up 2 cards or can discard a further +2 making the penalty +4 to the next player and so on. This is the most exciting bit for N. He can’t wait to put down his +2 and +4 cards, and finds it hilarious if someone ends up taking a hit from a huge cumulative penalty.

In the original rules, the winner if actually the first to 500 points (the winner of each round gains points for the cards held by all other players when they go out). But I’ve never met anyone that plays these rules. It’s far better to keep it simple and play round by round when playing with kids!

What we love about this game:

This game is great for all ages and mixed age play. We’ve played across three generations while on holiday, and just got back from a dinner where 8 kids aged 5-14 played it quite happily together while waiting for a meal.

Because it is basically a matching game, preschoolers can play even if they haven’t mastered their numbers completely. This makes it perfect for building familiarity with numbers and as they get older, also counting in 2s and 4s. I did have a perfect clearly numbered pack exactly for this reason but N found an Angry Birds version that he loved in a charity shop. We started playing UNO with N when he was 3, and admittedly the Angry Birds set was useful because N often used the character’s name instead of calling out the matching number until he was more confident with 1-9.

The biggest challenge when playing with younger kids is actually being able to hold all the cards. So if you haven’t seen one, what you need is a card holder. We have this one from Gamewright and it’s perfect for making so many card games accessible to younger kids.

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