family playing cards: take ’em, make ’em, then play!

family playing cards

A few years ago, I burned the midnight oil way too close to the finish line, in an attempt to create Family Playing Cards for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

And though I made the work harder than it needed to be, it was well worth it.

The kids have used the cards steadily for the last two years, playing games, using them as ‘cheaters’ when they made cards, wrote notes, and developed stories with their family as the main characters.

This year, I utilized my sweet, sweet laptop a little more–and I called in the resources of a good pal–so my work was a little easier. So with a little help from my friends, I created family playing cards for my kiddos, adding new cousins and Brady.

But I also made a set for our niece and nephews, and I’m hoping that they have as much fun learning our names as we have had learning theirs.

So before your friends and family hit the high road for home, and the holidays are officially over, my suggestion for you, my friends, is this: grab your camera, make everyone stand against a light-colored wall, and take their photos.

Then use the template here to create your own set of Family Playing Cards for your nieces, nephews, cousins, and little loved ones sometime this year.  And don’t forget to make a set for your own crew.

I’m betting everyone will be glad you did.

Here’s the skinny:

I took photos of my family members at Thanksgiving this year, making them totally uncomfortable by standing against a white wall in my in-law’s basement.

family playing cards sheets

family playing cards sheetsFamily Playing Cards, ready to be cut and sorted by family


Then I saved them on my computer under ‘family cards’ so that they’d all be in one happy place.

And the family members’ photos that I forgot to take at Thanksgiving, I either grabbed them the next time I saw them and took a shot or two, or I begged them to send me photos via email. And if they didn’t–or couldn’t–I either searched my own photo archives or did some Facebook-photo searching until I found one that worked.  It was much easier than I thought it’d be.

I then added the photos to the Family Playing Cards template, which you can download here as a Word Doc or a pdf.  Download and save it to your desktop as a Word Doc, then add names and add photos yourself.

Or, download Family Playing Cards as a pdf, print it out, and cut and paste photos old-school style. Both ways work.

I then saved a set of Family Playing Cards for each family I was making–adjusting names as necessary (Mommy to Aunt Amy; Daddy to Uncle Brent, etc).  Then I printed the Family Playing cards on cardstock and cut them out.


family playing cards sheetsFamily Playing Cards, arranged by family

family playing cards sheets

family playing cards

fun boxes for the Family Playing Cards

Last time I made these, I used clear contact paper as a protector for the cards, and though it was more labor-intensive, it worked fine.

This year, one of my girlfriends offered to laminate the cards for me. I took her up on the offer and plan to buy her dinner next time we’re out. It was an incredible time-saver, and she saved me hours and hours and hours. And lots of contact paper.

Once the cards were laminated, I cut the cards out, and arranged them into families to make sure I had everyone.

Then I added ‘Family Cards’ stickers to a tiny plastic box from Ikea with a few little ‘xoxo’s’ on the side.

family playing cards sheets

family playing cards

I included the rules to Memory, Go Fish!, and Old Maid, along with a few blank cards in each box, and we were good to go! The gift was ready.

Though we use the cards in a ton of ways, I know I haven’t written them about each and every time we’ve used them.

But here are just a few totally fun ways that kiddos can use Family Playing Cards for some sneaky, at-home learning. . .

For the little guys:

  • pick out the girls and the boys
  • sort the cards by adults and children
  • find their brothers and sisters, pets, and parents
  • pick out their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins
  • organize the cards by family
  • play Memory with only a few cards–one family at a time–or with only males or females
  • play Go Fish! with only a few cards–one family at a time–or with only males or females
  • practice writing their own names by copying the card
  • play ‘find the match’ by hiding one card and having the child search for the person’s partner (Mommy & Daddy; Grandma & Grandpa; Nanny & Pap, etc)

For the slightly bigger kiddos:

  • find family members whose names begin with the same letter (or sound)
  • find family members whose names end with the same letter (or sound)
  • sort the names by shortest name to longest name
  • use magnetic letters to build names
  • talk about which names rhyme or sound alike
  • write around the room by placing the cards in different spots around the room
  • play Memory, Go Fish!, or Old Maid with the whole deck

For the bigger kiddos:

  • talk about syllables, sorting by one-syllable names and on up
  • sort the cards alphabetically
  • talk about last names (though they are not on our cards)
  • talk about larger relationships (that daddy’s brother is actually Uncle Jeff, which makes Aunt Jenn Mommy’s sister-in-law)
  • use the cards for name writing practice
  • play Family Bingo with the cards, using the Blank Bingo board and having kids write in family names
  • use the cards for paint bag writing or Jell-o writing
  • use the cards for Wiggly writing or window writing

There are tons of ways to use them– have fun, and hope they enjoy!




  1. trisha says

    I have made FOUR sets of my family cards and every family LOVES them!!! And those others who didn’t get a set thought the gift was totally awesome! (They were so jealous and thus I kept making more and more. ha! I invested in a laminator too b/c of all my printables. TOTALLY WORTH IT!) THANKS Amy for a wonderful gift idea and also for the fantastic “games”!! LOVE the list (more than I thought!). I usually copy this list and give with the cards. THANKS again for a winner of a gift! :)
    Happy 2012!

    • amy says

      You are kidding me! You have made my year!! You made FOUR sets?? I’d love to see how they turned out–please if you ever are inclined, do share a photo on our FB page: — I’d LOVE to see them!! I think I’m going to have to invest in a laminator, too. . . where’d you find yours?
      So, so, so happy to hear that the cards worked out for you, my friend–happy, healthy 2012 to you!

    • trisha's sister, amy says

      HAAAAAAAAAAAA!! Is this my little sis Trisha??? It has to be….as I’m currently downloading lunchbox notes I started wandering around and came across the cards & actually wanted to see how you made them! lol! Yes, Amy, she HAS made 4 sets and even has some of my girlfriends asking for some of their own families. Me, on the other hand, brought it to a whole new level….I made “40th Birthday” playing cards for my 10 bffs for a rowdy weekend! I expanded them to have both “UNO” phrases AND jack, queen, etc….but the pictures were ones throughout the past 20 years that could NEVER make it on facebook. The ones from bachelorette parties, shore weekends, and so on. It was a HIT & we could hardly get through a game without laughing and screaming! So, thanks again for your creative mind 😉

      • says

        AMY! For a few minutes I was TOTALLY confused and then it became clear to me–thought you commented on a lunchbox note post, but it was this ole playing card one! Talk about a throwback!

        I LOVE, love, love the idea of doing cards for a 40th bday weekend. . . I can ONLY imagine how hilarious those picts were and how hard you guys laughed. SO, so funny, right? Please–if you ever feel inclined–share a pict or two w/ me on our fb page–I’d LOVE to see them!

        HUGE and happy thanks for reading, my friend–and have a super year!

  2. says

    Amy, these are so wonderful. I tried sharing from your Facebook page and had some trouble, so I just shared on my Wise Owl Factory page. I Tweeted it, put the link on Delicious, Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon. I Pinned it, too! Love it! Carolyn

  3. Jaci says

    Trying to figure out why I cannot download as a Word doc… I only get PDF and Text options with Text defaulting to MS Works. Any suggestions? These would be a wonderful addition to the classroom.

    • amy says

      Lawanna! Let me know if you need me to email it to you; sometimes if your computer uses an outdated flash or pdf reader, you may have problems downloading. :(

  4. Pam M says

    Does the same thing with me – can only get PDF & Text. The pdf looks good, but the word would work so much better for me. This is a great idea. I was thinking about this as we have family all over the country that we want our kids to know when they see them, in person and on Skype. Thanks.

  5. Judy says

    Hello…LOVE this idea! I’m also having trouble downloading it as a Word doc…only get the PDF or txt options. Would LOVE to make these asap!
    Would you mind emailing me the document? Thanks so much! And thanks so much for sharing this wonderful idea!

  6. Judy Maci says

    Hi there – This is a wonderful idea! I’m looking forward to trying it. Like everyone else, the PDF only downloads. Any chance you could email me the Word doc as well. Sorry to trouble you!


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