How to Use Simple Card Games To Liven Up Your Training

Are you looking for a simple way to add variety, interaction, colour and interest to your training? Well, one method I use in a lot of my training courses is card games.

I have to say, I like activities which are easy to set up, don’t involve a lot of equipment, don’t need lots of space but which create a lot of discussion. Card games tick all these boxes.

Here are a few examples.

Putting cards in order

Where you want to discuss stages in a process (e.g. the steps involved in problem-solving, doing a risk assessment or planning a presentation) you can write the stages on coloured cards, put them in a coloured envelope and give them to a group. Then ask the group to arrange the cards in what they think is the right order.

Then you can use larger versions of the cards which you put up on a flip chart to show what you think is the answer. This generates a lot of thought and discussion as people work in their groups and, of course, there’s also usually a lot of discussion if they find their answers don’t match yours!


On my Train the Trainer courses, I sometimes use a card game to introduce some learning principles and common training mistakes. For example, one principle is “People learn best when they discover for themselves” and the common training mistake is “Telling people information rather than letting them learn for themselves”.

I make cards with pictures and captions related to each principle and mistake (with principles and mistakes on different coloured card) and then ask groups to match them together.

This helps the groups to learn and remember the principles because they are reading them out, looking at pictures of them, matching them and discussing them.

Some of the cards can actually be matched in different ways, it doesn’t really matter, it’s the discussion that’s important.

This is a good way to introduce a number of points when you don’t want to just stand there and say something like,”Here are 8 principles of learning… ”

Before and After

Another way of ordering cards is to get people to think of Before and After. One way I use this is to talk about what needs to happen before and after a training course to reinforce the learning. I give groups cards with various statements on and they divide them into two piles, Before and After.

Again, there may not be a definitive answer, the main point is to stimulate a discussion.

Also, as with many of these ideas, you can get people to come up with their own suggestions for what might go on the cards rather than just giving them your own.

For example, ask them for ways to support learning, write these on cards and then ask them to divide the cards into the two piles (it helps if there’s a short break so you have time to do this!)


This is a game I used to use a lot when I was a Primary Teacher – and it still works well with adults!

You have a number of cards (12 is a good number) which you turn face down on a table. One person then picks up a card and looks at it or reads it out. They then pick up another card. If it’s the same, they keep the cards, if it’s not the same they put the cards back and the next person has a go. The person who has collected the most cards at the end wins.

It’s partly a memory game, of course – if you pick up a card, you have to try to remember where you saw the matching card earlier. But the main thing is that it’s a good way to either introduce or reinforce key ideas from the training.

For example, you can use cards with visual aids you’ve used during the training and ask people to say what the visual aid represented when they pick up a card. Or you can use cards which aren’t the same but match in some way – for instance, I’ve used the “learning principles” and “training mistakes” cards I mentioned above.

I’ve also used this to help people learn a new computer software process, where one card represented the old method and another card the new method (e.g. the old method used “label”, the new method uses “folder”). People had to match the old and new words.

These are just a few ways to use card games in your training, I’m sure you can think of more. The main point is that these are simple to make and to play, they involve a lot of colour (including brightly coloured envelopes for the cards), can include visuals as well as words, and they get groups physically active and doing a lot of mental processing and talking.

What more do you want from an activity?

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