During my years of working with the tarot, I have often been asked about which deck would suit a child. In fact, the subject came up just recently at the London Tarot Festival, when one of my Tarot Circle members was considering which tarot might be appropriate to buy for one of her sons.
A greater amount of people are interested in tarot than ever before and, for that reason, practitioners are more open about their use of the cards. Everyday people from all walks of life seek out a tarot reader for advice or decide to buy a pack of cards themself, choosing from thousands of designs.
There are many readers who have brought their children up around tarot: this can only help to change the perception of tarot card reading for the better. People are now beginning to understand that tarot reading is not something to be feared, but instead, is a tool which anyone can use to inspire their creativity, to examine potential life options, or as a way of developing either an inner-awareness or to bring about comfort.
Some years ago, I bought a set of tarot cards for my friend’s daughter. She’d seen her mother and I playing with the tarot and decided she wanted a set herself. On her fourth birthday, I gifted her first deck. My search for it was more difficult than I’d expected. She’d already played with the Rider Waite (enjoying to count how many swords or cups were in a card), but I still wanted to get something age-appropriate. I was eager to buy her one she’d enjoy, but also didn’t want to dumb down the experience. After all, this kid was bright. I ended up buying her the Hanson Roberts mini edition. All of the tarot characters were amongst it, warts and all.
All editions of the Hanson Roberts are smaller than standard tarot size, so will work well for children or anyone with small hands. The images are cute in style and have enough going on in them for a young reader to weave an imaginative story between the illustrations. Did the deck freak my friend’s daughter out? No, of course not. In actual fact, she saw the darker cards in a way I couldn’t at the time. She accepted what was going on, without fear or preconception. It was refreshing and liberating to listen to her commentary.
The artist of the Hanson Roberts has created more than just that deck. One of her other illustrative tarot outings is The Whimsical Tarot, which uses fairy tales and nursery rhymes to help deliver its messages. For children who may find the skeleton in Death unsettling, Sleeping Beauty may guide them through the experience of endings and transformation more easily.
Of course, which deck a child uses is up to their parent or guardian. Where as some decks will not be suitable for a younger audience, it is worth asking our self if we really want to project our own fears about death and problematic situations onto the youngster by censoring what we buy for them. In fact, it could be the more difficult cards which help a parent address difficult day to day scenarios with their child. Could the images of a tarot deck aid sensitive conversations and provoke questions about endings, separations, sex or the passing of a loved one, rather than sweeping these issues under the carpet until a later date? If a child grows up with these concepts under their belt and the tarot around them, the exposure to both could help to eliminate potential fear around sensitive subjects. Isn’t that a good thing?
With many new titles on the market every year, beginners have more than enough styles to choose from. Not everyone will think as I do about gifting a ‘balanced deck’ to a kid, but putting that aside, the main consideration when buying a deck of cards for a child should be whether the images are attractive for the younger taroist to work with: tarot is a language, after all. There have been some decks designed especially for children, such as The Children Tarot (Lele Luzzarti, Lo Scarabeo), but while this particular deck looks as though it has been drawn by a child, the imagery may be of less interest to one. Does the deck you choose reflect the way in which a child views the world? Colours and characters need to be bold, stimulating and interesting. The Children Tarot has partially illustrated minors. Do you know of a child who likes a story without a picture on every page?
Of course, a child may not need to read tarot per se. My friend’s daughter’s second deck is one she purchased herself- the Cat Comfort Cards (Kat Lover & Kitty Wisdom, Hay House). Bright and inviting, each card offers a bitesize chunk of wisdom from an array of different kinds of cat, such as Scaredy Cat, Beaurocat or Sophisticat. While tarot is a reputable and solid system, it might not be right for every child. An oracle deck will bypass systems and there are many titles which will suit the younger spiritual customer.
Here are a few decks which I would recommend for children:
Designed as a deck to enhance spiritual growth, these cards are bright and cheery. Each card shows the same ‘fool’ but highlights a different aspect of his character. In each card, there is a play on the name – The Hope Fool, The Rest Fool and The Peace Full. With each is an observation, written at the foot of the card.
I have been using these cards for reflection over the last month. These are not only interesting for children, since the wisdom offered is effective for all users, due to its simplicity. However, it was one of my first suggestions when asked about a deck which would be good for children. As well as being brightly coloured and uplifting, it touches on subjects which might be relevant for an expanding mind (gratitude, deceit, pain, stress) and could provoke interesting questions and conversation. It’s guidance is short and sweet; as an example, in The Rest Fool, the card asks the reader to Take a Break.
Although The Fools Wisdom Oracle Cards might be geared more to comfort than divination, there is still enough going on in the illustrations for the young practitioner to create a story from. With a large accompanying manual, with deeper interpretation, it is something they will never grow out of.
The Happy Tarot is a new release from Lo Scarabeo and is already gaining a following and much praise online.
This deck is made up of confectionary and Manga-type characters. If your child enjoys bright colours, like what they see in television cartoons, then this deck might be an obvious choice. It has a bubblegum-palette and an optimistic mood throughout.
Does this deck sugarcoat the tarot experience? Actually, no. Although shown on a play rocking horse, Death is present; as is a cuddly-looking Devil and a stabbed heart (3 of Swords) which looks more like an iced donut. All of traditional tarot’s symbolism is here, but is delivered in a way which shouldn’t arouse any real anxiety in the user.
Tarot of the White Cats would suit an animal lover, but it is the style of illustration which makes this deck an equally good one for a child. It reminds me of a storybook and is a little more detailed than Happy Tarot.
This deck provides a Rider Waite structure but has been twisted in places. For those bothered by the more challenging cards within tarot, they generally look less threatening here. The stabbed figure in the 10 of Swords has been replaced by a cat who has managed to skip off and avoid the painful ending, leaving the swords behind him. The traditional bleeding heart in the 3 of Swords still exists, but a white cat below distracts the viewer and focuses on temporary upset, rather than separation and heartbreak.
Tarot and children will continue to be a much-debated topic. There will be those who wish to cover up the darker elements of both the deck and life until their child is older, but there will be others who see the advantage of acknowledging and uncovering the problems a child will eventually face, way before they actually come up against them.
Tarot reading can allow us to be armed and prepared for what life throws at us. Is there any harm in being armed just that little bit earlier?
Photography by Steven Bright