My Introduction to Card Art
When I was a teenager, I visited a friend who had some kind of board game about art (Googling it now I believe we were playing Masterpiece by Parker Brothers). I remember collecting beautiful cards featuring famous works of art. I loved the game and was completely fascinated with the cards!
Then in college, when like any good student I traveled the world (Europe) with a backpack and a Eurail pass, I visited as many museums as possible. I didn’t have a lot of spending money, but in the gift shops afterwards I would greedily seek through the scores of postcards and carefully choose ones displaying the art I had liked best during my visit. I built up quite a collection of these fine art postcards from a wide variety of museums–and use them in my Magician’s Tools Intermediate Tarot Class. Fine art cards were my sneaky introduction to tarot.
Reading For Kids
I like reading for kids. One reading I did for a kid was at a street fair. The main flow of foot traffic was around an oval thoroughfare and we had situated our tent to face towards the flow. But at one point during the day a movement caught my eye coming from behind the tent, on the grass, from the opposite direction. A girl with her hair pulled back in a ballerina bun walks right in, sits at my table, plops down a five-dollar bill, and says not a word. What’s a reader to do? I shuffled the deck and had her pull cards. I’m not sure this was my best reading, I remember asking if she was engaged in a creative project and she said she was writing a short story about a squirrel. The Chariot card was in the spread and I remember telling her the story of Phaeton. I asked her if that seemed relevant to her story, and she shook her head no!
Another time I was reading at the Mercury Cafe. A woman called me over. She said that her daughter had been watching me all night and would I show her what I was doing. I brought over my tarot cards to show the girl. I was reading with the Tarot of the Old Path. I let the girl pull a card–The World. I tried to tell this girl that the World was a great card and represented completion and attainment. But she obviously wasn’t buying it. Now, the World card in the Tarot of the Old Path has a weird cosmic woman standing in a red, white and blue oval. A circle of silver stars halos her yellow hair. She wears a crescent moon crown and a necklace, but otherwise is naked. Her eyes are blank silver. She’s holding her breasts and silver stars are coming out of her nipples. I finally said, she looks weird, doesn’t she? The girl nodded. I’m pretty sure I destroyed her budding interest in tarot.
My favorite story of reading for a kid was a nine-year old girl at a big psychic fair up in Loveland, Colorado. The mom and daughter sat down and the mom said she’d like a reading for her daughter. When I asked the daughter what her question was, she looked to her mom. The mom suggested she ask what she would be when she grew up! There are too many major life steps between being nine and having a career–I asked the girl what she wanted to know about her life now. She asked my what wolves and dogs meant to her! Now there’s a real kid question for a tarot deck. I wrote about this experience, and the answer I found in the cards, in this post (a post written for adults, so skip the first section if you are sharing this with a kid!).
What Makes A Deck Kid-Safe?
Last week a woman came in with her two daughters, ages 9 and 12, to experience the art of divination. They had read Moon Over Manifest, which featured a diviner as a character and a location called Miss Sadie’s Divining Parlor. The mother suggested that we spend some time looking at astrology and tarot. She booked about a month ahead of time, so I had plenty of time to go through my decks and pick out some that I thought would be kid-safe and fun for them to use.
What makes a kid-safe deck? Is tarot appropriate for children at all? Here’s the big disclaimer: I didn’t learn tarot until I was an adult, and I don’t have children. But I have a pretty strong-willed inner child. So I don’t have the answers, but I will make some suggestions and I hope if you are thinking about introducing a child to the amazing art of the tarot, you’ll find these offerings helpful.
- I think tarot decks for kids should be colorful, whimsical, and draw you into a magical world like the best story books.
- I think tarot decks for kids should be G-rated.
- I think tarot decks for kids should soften the difficult cards, not avoiding them, but showing real-life, practical instances of these challenges and demonstrating empowering ways to navigate them.
- I think tarot decks for kids should have kid-level references–For the Chariot card, perhaps Peter Pan’s flying ship or the train that takes Alice, the pawn, that first big jump from the second to fourth square on the chessboard. But no, not necessarily Phaeton (although as kids, my sister and I loved Greek myths!).
- I think tarot decks for kids should have fully-illustrated pips (also called scenic Minor Arcana), like a kid’s picture book. There should be no need to consult a book of meanings–each card should be perfectly clear based on the image alone (with a little bit of imagination applied or guided by an adult).
- Tarot for kids does not have to be about learning symbolism or doing readings. Therefore there’s no suggested age–how old is a kid when you get them their first picture book? Kids’ tarot decks are the original never-ending story book–an infinite number of stories can be told from the images on the cards, and every time you rearrange them you get a new story.
For instance, when I was working with the two girls last week, the 9-year old was using the Inner Child Cards. She asked whether they would have pasta for dinner the next night. She pulled the Nine of Hearts, which showed a waterfall splashing into a bowl-shaped rock formation, then overflowing into the ocean, where a mermaid filled a jug from one of the streams that spilled out of the bowl. The girl was hesitant at first, but I asked her if she ever made pasta. She said yes. I said, “Do you remember what you did?” She said she filled a pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. I said, “What’s happening in the image?” She said, “She’s filling the pot with water! Yes! We’re having pasta!”
Meaning is always derived from the image, as I teach in my Magician’s Tools Beginning Tarot Class. If I had said, you pulled the card that many readers call the Wish Card so the answer is yes, I would have been doing her a huge disservice by suggesting that the authority lies outside of the cards and not within herself and her ability to compare the illustration to her question and apply the commonalities to discover an answer.
How I Compiled My List of Tarot Decks for Kids
I had a lot of help selecting decks from the generous and knowledgeable staff at Goddess Isis Books. They reminded me to share that these decks are not just for kids–they can be for anyone who likes fantasy and fairy tale, who wants a polite deck for public use, or who reads for clients. I also learned that decks need to avoid nudity to be prison-safe, so these tarot decks would also be appropriate for the incarcerated.
Following are the decks I selected!
In a series of subsequent posts, I will do short reviews of these decks, a few at a time, so that you can see sample cards and get a better idea of what the decks are like. For the most part I selected decks that fulfill the requirements I have for beginning tarot decks.
If any card in a deck feels inappropriate for your child, you can remove it from the deck. This might be the best choice in some instances. But remember, you are also removing the child’s opportunity to talk about and discuss the challenge that card represents. A compromise might be to remove harsh cards when the child is doing random draws (selecting cards randomly via a cut of the deck or choosing from face-down, fanned out cards) and return the difficult cards for an analytical approach–choosing cards by looking at the images on the face of the cards. For instance, doing an analytical draw with the complete deck, you might ask the kid questions and have them answer by looking through the card images and choosing their own card. If you ask, “How did this incident at school make you feel?” the kid should have access to all options to be able to best express any difficult situations.
Watch for an upcoming list of tarot decks for teens!
Tarot Decks for Kids
- Inner Child Cards. Read my review. Publisher’s product page. Find images here.
- Mystic Faerie Tarot. Read my review. Publisher’s product page. Find images here. Here’s a post with a short reading I did from this deck.
- Tarot of a Moon Garden. Read my review. Publisher’s product page. Find images here.
- Everyday Witch. Publisher’s product page. Find images here.
- Wonderland Tarot. Publisher’s product page. Find images here.
- Halloween Tarot. Publisher’s product page. Find images here.
- Mystical Cats. Publisher’s product page. Find images here. Also available as an app.
- Bleu Cat Tarot. Publisher’s product page. Find images here.
- Victorian Fairy Tarot. Publisher’s product page. Find images here. Also available as an app.
- Whimsical Tarot. Publisher’s product page. Find images here.