How to Play Garbage (The Card Game) Rules and Gameplay Instructions

Garbage is an immensely popular leisure card game for preschoolers and young children. If you’re wondering how to play Garbage and how to teach children to play, let me just say that its rules are as easy as Hand Foot and Knee

Garbage is also loved by parents as the gameplay is known to help children gain a greater grasp over numbers and their values, without really involving any calculations. So don’t be surprised if after a few games of Garbage children have an answer to the question ‘what is the third number among the last 5 single digits?’ without having to count.

Scroll down to learn how to play Garbage and delve into the game’s easy rules.

What Is Garbage The Card Game?

Garbage Card Game Info Image

Garbage is a simple card game for kids. It involves counting cards, remembering the sequence of numbers, and a tad bit of luck in getting the right cards in order to finish fast.

Number Of Players: 2-4

Ages: Ideal for 4 years and up. 

Difficulty: Easy

Length Of Play: 20 – 30 mins.

Main Objective: Getting the right cards for the right position and being the first to get a complete face-up set.

Why We Love It: With its easy Garbage game rules and elements of arithmetics and number recognition, it’s the perfect game to keep the kids both engaged and mentally stimulated. Elders can always join in for some innocent fun making it a fun game for all ages.

Brief Overview Of The History Of Garbage

Just like popular card games like Crazy-8 and Pitty Pat, the place and time of the origin of Garbage are unknown. These games were likely developed with a purpose to (1) create a fun pass-time for kids, and (2) keep them busy during the day using the same cards that are used by adults at night for card games such as Follow The Queen Poker.

Garbage Game Set-Up

Since garbage is a simple card game, all you need is a regular deck of cards or two. Needless to say, the set-up is easy enough for 4-year-olds to get it right and can be done in 4 simple steps:

  • Shuffle the deck(s) of cards well.
  • Remove the jokers and face cards (excluding the Ace).
  • Distribute 10 cards from the top of the pile to each player face-down.
  • Arrange your cards face-down in two rows with 5 cards each.

And that’s all, you’re good to get the game started. 

If you leave your kids alone with a deck of cards, you shouldn’t be shocked if you come back to find a couple of cards missing or damaged. Kids often experiment with things that make them curious. 

Looking for a deck that will particularly interest the kids and can be replaced anytime in case the kids end up misplacing cards? 

This cute pack of 12 decks by Gamie that are specially designed for kids in a smaller size and attractive packaging is sure to have you covered for several games of garbage with the kids.

Gamie Playing Cards Deck - Pack of 12 - Gift Idea for Kids Ages 3+
Buy Now
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
01/05/2024 07:52 am GMT

How To Play Garbage: Rules, Gameplay, And Instructions

The play begins with the youngest of the group or the player to the left of the dealer drawing a card from the deck. The rest of the players take turns in clockwise order.

Counting The Cards

Before we get into the details of how the cards are positioned in the game of Garbage, let’s first understand the pattern of card counting in this game. In Garbage, the cards are counted from right to left in both rows.

This will give a counting sequence that looks like this:


Positioning and Replacing The Cards

Every card that a player draws fits into the position corresponding to its number. Once drawn from the pile, the card is placed in its right position by replacing the previous card that is lying face-down in that position. 

The player continues the turn in this manner until a card can no longer replace another card because the position has already been filled or when a face card comes up.

Let’s take reference from the table above where every cell marks the position of a card in a player’s arena. For example, if the player draws a card numbered 8 from the pile, this card will be placed face-up in the position of cell number 8 (third card in the second row).

Suppose the card that was already lying there face-down is 6, it will now be picked in the hand by the player and placed in the position of cell number 6 (first position of the second row from left). 

Let’s say this time the card that was replaced by number 6 was a King, being a face card, it will be discarded asgarbage. Unless wild card rules are applied, that is. Similarly, if the card was another 8 or 6, it would still be discarded as garbage because those positions are already occupied by respective face-up cards. 

In this way, once a player comes across a card that is garbage, the player’s turn ends. 

The Wild Card Rules (Optional)

In a variation to the game, players can optionally add one of the two typical wild card rules and include Jokers and Kings in the game. The two rules are as follows:

1) Players must select a number before they start drawing cards from the pile and claim it as their wild card position. This means that whenever they get a wild card (Joker or King), they can place it in that position and continue with their turn. This also means that if a number is already drawn for that position, the chance to use the wild card is gone.


2) Players must declare Jokers and Kings as wild cards that can be used at any position at any given time to keep the turn going.

As it is apparent, the first rule is to make the game slightly trickier while the second rule makes the game easier for kids. Wild card rules can add a fresh twist to the regular game of garbage.

Winning The Game

The player who manages to place all the 10 numbers in their right positions first, wins the game. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Garbage 

Playing Garbage Card game image

What Do You Do With The Face Cards In Garbage?

The role of face cards like Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Jokers in garbage varies according to predetermined rules. Some agree that these cards should be removed at the beginning of the game to make the counting easier for kids. Some like to play with these faces as wild cards to add a bit of smartness to the game.

How Many Decks Are Required To Play Garbage?

This really depends on the number of players. Since each player gets 10 cards, considering that the face cards will be excluded, one deck contains only enough cards for 4 players. But if there’s a larger group of 5-8 kids, we can always drop in another deck.

How Does Garbage Card Game Help Preschoolers In Getting Better At Math?

The repetitive counting does the trick with this game. Kids start getting a greater grasp over the positioning of numbers and begin to remember them for their value, not just for the sequence in which they come. For preschoolers, this is an excellent way to start off with basic maths.

Similar Card Games That You Might Like

Looking for card games to spice up your family game nights? We have an exciting collection to help you do exactly that!

If you’re looking for a card game that is ideal for a similar age group as that of Garbage, Pictureka is a must try. It will help stimulate kids’ brains and help them learn new things graphically. For slightly older kids and teenagers, Apples to Apples is a really fun game that is silly but tickles in all the right places.

For complete family fun, you always have games like Hedbanz and Fibber to go back to.

Article by:
Read all the articles (19) written by GG101 Team