The best Games for Kids

The importance of teaching kids how to gamble ranks right up there with teaching them to say “please” and “thank you.” Disagree? Read on. Few realize that a deck of cards contains life lessons. Notwithstanding the unique opportunity to learn numbers (OK, just 2-10) and letters (OK, just J, K, Q and A) at a very young age, don’t forget that two colors are thrown in as a bonus, and four shapes round out the learning opportunities.

Let’s move onto the issue of gambling, and how a deck of cards can change your child’s life. Take the game of Black Jack for instance. On the outside chance of being run out of town, I am here to state that I believe this particular card game should be considered a math tutoring tool, similar to Hooked on Phonics is for reading. If played consistently, children as young as 4 can learn to rapidly – and silently – add numbers in their head, and figure out whether the sum is more or less than 21. (Note: Learning Las Vegas rules for appropriate hand gestures indicating a “hit” or a “stay” is optional.)

Notwithstanding the above, the most valuable lesson found in a deck of cards is one people might feel uncomfortable bragging about: Gambling. Sure, saying “Susie is a fantastic gambler!” does not have the same satisfactory ring to it as saying, “Susie is in math club,” or “Susie won the spelling bee.” Like “ham and eggs” or “salt and pepper,” most of us pair gambling with words such as “crime,” “Uncle Jim’s bankruptcy” and “prostitution”. But learning how to gamble might save your child’s life someday. Okay, maybe not his life, but just his money, marriage, friends and family.

Gambling 101: It is crucial to win money from a child at an early age. Or more accurately, “It is crucial for a child to lose his money at an early age.” There are three elements to a healthy gambling education. First, the gambling must be supervised by a loving adult who is not interested in, but not adverse to, winning the shirt off the young child’s back (the shirt was probably purchased by the loving adult anyway). Second, the child must have some understanding of what money is worth. In other words, if your child is just as happy when you give him a penny as when you give him $10, he is not ready for Gambling 101. Third, the child must own some money. This is because there would be nothing to win from him if he is broke. Also, gambling with someone else’s money is a whole another lesson.

It must be noted that if the child’s money is merely an extension of the loving adult’s money (e.g. the adult’s money is in the child’s pocket), learning will be severely hampered. Additionally, if the parent is in the habit and tax bracket of always buying the child whatever he wants, this will dull the effectiveness of the lesson, as well. See “understanding what money is worth” above.) The money the child uses to gamble with must be earned by himself, or be a true, no-strings-attached gift (e.g. Little Johnny can buy the plastic nose with life-like boogers that shoots green water out if he so chooses notwithstanding your suggestion that he buy Legos).

When real life gambling is occurring, the loving adult must resist the urge to “forgive” the child’s losing hand or reshuffle and re-deal. On the other hand, the loving adult should also resist the urge to jump on the table and chant “It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday,” when he wins. Teaching good winning and losing sportsmanlike conduct is yet another of the many lessons hidden in a deck of cards.

By playing gambling games early and consistently, one lesson the child learns is that mom and dad are not above taking his money. Also, he realizes “luck” does not function on command, hope or sheer desperation. Though he is unlikely to articulate it, the child will learn that luck is not something that can be earned or deserved, and it also cannot be blamed or praised. So, for example, no matter how many “As” are on your report card, how great your Little League batting average is, or how clean your room is, you still might lose all your money at the end of the day. (Note: The “loving adult” component is important because all lessons will be nullified if the adult continuously encourages the child to try one more time, driving the child into usurious debt.)

The Do-Gooders are mistaken when they condemn people for “wanting to get something for nothing” (e.g. buy lottery ticket for $1, win $5million) when the idea, in and of itself, is not wrong. It’s when you replace hard work with gambling, or ruin your own or someone else’s life in pursuit of it, that is wrong.

So, what is the ultimate lesson? Only bet what you’re willing and able to lose.

Perhaps graduating Gambling 101 won’t enable a child to discuss the nuances as to why “gambling” is a concept, not a sport, but learning about it in a real – especially protected – environment, teaches him how fickle and uncontrollable luck is, and will enable him to more ably recognize a bet he can’t afford to lose when it arises.

Be it a lottery ticket, a career change, a judgment call or a game of Black Jack, at times, the best you can do is weigh your chances, and assess your willingness (and ability) to lose before placing (or not) your bet. In this world, we don’t need more gambling laws to protect us from ourselves, just more teachers.