How to Play SET with a 6-year-old

I love playing SET, but it is a challenging game that can be very frustrating for kids. You can only stare at 12 cards for so long without getting a little exasperated.

Here are a few ways I make this game more kid-friendly.

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  • Use more cards. When playing SET, use 15 cards instead of 12. More cards means more chances of finding a set!
  • Let kids complete a partially made set. I let my kids find the easy sets themselves. But when the only set I can see is a pretty tricky one, and my child isn't seeing it, I will often pull two of the three cards in the set to the side, and ask her to find the third card from the set. If she still struggles, then I ask her to look at the two cards, and identify what color, shape, etc. is needed to complete the set (for example, "There are two reds, so what color does the third card have to be?"). You could also pull just one card from one of the possible sets that can be made with the given cards, and challenge your child to find the other two.

  • I repeat frequently, "all the same or all different" as well as "No twos." While looking for a set, it can be easy to forget exactly what you are supposed to be looking for. In the game of SET, you cannot have exactly two of any attribute (for example, a set cannot have exactly two cards that are red, or two cards that have diamonds). A set must have either exactly one card of a given attribute, or three cards, but not two. When my child finds a set that isn't really a set, this is usually how I show her it isn't a set: "It has two reds. You need one or three." I also remind her frequently, "all the same or all different." 

Note that the game instructions themselves suggest starting with an easier deck that is limited to three different attributes instead of four (by only using the solid shapes). This is a good way to introduce kids to the concept of the game, but I found this reduced deck to be a little boring and also too few cards. The game is over pretty fast.

In case you are wondering, I do play this game "competitively" with my kids (meaning I take some sets myself), but with my tips and hints, my kids usually end up winning.

SET is a classic logic game that exercises your visual perception skills in a serious way! The attention to attributes and comparison of different shapes make this game a great way to build skills for geometry. It helps prepare kids to compare shapes according to a single attribute (for example, number of sides) or compare shapes among multiple attributes (length of sides, types of angles).


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