Why Children Should Try Cardistry

Posted by Will Roya on

by BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame

I work with a lot of youth, so I have many opportunities to share some of my passions with children and teenagers. As part of that, I've enjoyed volunteering and teaching kids some simple card tricks and card flourishes. Many of them have never had any exposure to these things, besides seeing some magic on television. For the majority of them it was even their first experience with a custom deck and with quality USPCC printed playing cards.

What especially amazed me was the positive response I had from these kids to cardistry. Most of them had only ever used playing cards for social card games like President. Some had toyed with some card magic, but typically nothing beyond the 21 Card Trick or another simple (and usually boring) mathematical self-worker. Seeing the possibilities of card magic made them super-keen to learn more, and they made rapid progress over several months, quickly mastering intermediate sleights and performing some solid card tricks for me.

But their excitement for card magic paled besides their enthusiasm for cardistry. Card flourishing proved to be a massive hit with these kids, and it was incredible how keen they were to learn and practice different card flourishes. They would happily spend hours watching video tutorials at home, practicing different moves, and learning new flourishes. I even started getting positive feedback from their parents, who were thrilled that their children were developing new interests and hobbies!

Today cardistry is still very much a niche performing art, but slowly more people around the world are being exposed to this phenomenon, and the ranks of cardists are growing rapidly. I'm thrilled about this, because I've seen first hand the joy that cardistry can bring to the lives of children and teenagers. There are some terrific reasons why kids should try cardistry, and here are some reasons why you should consider introducing the children in your life to this exciting art-form:

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1. Cardistry gets them interested instantly!

There's something about cardistry that immediately inspires. Like few other hobbies or art-forms, it has the ability to energize and generate instant enthusiasm and excitement. I can't tell you how often I've seen kids and teenagers watch some cardistry videos online, and very quickly get passionate about trying cardistry for themselves. Before you know it, a complete beginner that had previously never even heard of cardistry, is a new convert, spending hours with his playing cards. One of the great things about cardistry is that you will rarely need to twist kids arms to get them to try it, because they'll usually be keen to give it a go, simply after seeing some videos.

2. Cardistry gets them excited about a new hobby!

One of the challenges of being a parent is to keep coming up with interesting things for your children to do. Some kids naturally find things to do all the time, but others constantly need a helping hand to keep them busy, and get bored very easily. It's all to easy to use movies, TV, or the internet as a babysitter, but what about finding something constructive to do? That's where cardistry can really help. Very few teenagers have ever come across it before, so when they first see card flourishing in action, it quickly captures their enthusiasm and excitement. With a brand new deck in hand, it won't take much for them to get hooked, and before you know it they have a whole new hobby that they are passionate about and spending time with. Often they'll be so keen, they'll drag their friends into it too!

3. Cardistry gets them unplugged from their phones!

Most parents will readily admit that kids today get too much screen time, and don't spend enough time in the outdoors or doing things creatively. In today's era of technology, too many teenagers are glued to their phones, and seem wired permanently to their favourite social media platform and to the internet. Anything that helps them get away from their screens is a good thing, because it will assist them develop a healthier balance to life. Cardistry will do exactly that, and I've seen many parents thrilled that their children and teenagers were developing new interests outside of their phones and computers. Admittedly they will also spend time watching video tutorials online. But cardistry is especially about having a deck of cards in your hand, and doing a physical activity with those cards. Manual dexterity and skill is required, and it's refreshing to see kids spending hours practicing tossing around playing cards instead of being on their phones.

4. Cardistry gets them exploring their creative side!

There are no limits to what can be done in cardistry, because it has no fixed rules or boundaries. That's why we're seeing constant innovations, as creative individuals try new things that haven't been tried before. Untapping this element of creativity is just what many children need. Rather than being forced into learning a fixed system, cardistry gives kids the opportunity to explore all kinds of unfamiliar territory, including creating routines of their own. It's an art-form that encourages creativity and experimentation, and treading the path less travelled. As such it means that you're engaging in a creative activity where the new and unusual is seen as a good thing, and where there are ample opportunities to develop new skills and routines.

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5. Cardistry can be enjoyed by anyone!

Unlike many other hobbies and activities, there's not only a low cost to enter the world of cardistry, but the bar is also very low in terms of the abilities required. You can begin with next to no knowledge of playing cards, and yet be having fun flicking and tossing cards very quickly. Granted, those who have experience with shuffling and handling cards, and who have a good sense of manual dexterity, will progress more quickly. But there's no barrier to entry, and you can be a genuine novice and have fun learning card flourishes. This draws many people to give cardistry a whirl, because it is quite simple for anyone to get started with it.

6. Cardistry can be enjoyed anywhere!

If you enjoy playing soccer, then aside from your backyard perhaps, you're really only going to be happy when you're chasing around a soccer ball along with 21 other people on a soccer field. Let's be honest, the amount of time you'll find yourself in that ideal setting won't be that often, perhaps once or twice a week at most. But with cardistry, there is no such limitation. You can be sitting on your bed, standing by the road waiting for a bus, or killing time at school, and these are equally ideal moments for doing cardistry. Aside perhaps from being outdoors on a windy or rainy day, or a sober moment like being at a funeral or in the middle of an exam, there's no bad time to be doing cardistry. As long as you have a deck of playing cards in your pocket, you are ready to go, no matter where you are.

7. Cardistry can be enjoyed independently!

What about if you don't have friends or family to do something with? Many activities require the active involvement of other people. And without another willing party, you're stuck, because there's nobody to catch the football you kick, or to hit the baseball you're throwing. Cardistry has the real advantage that it doesn't need other people. While you certainly can perform it for others, it can be enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of learning and performing the moves on your own. It's very much a solitaire activity, and this frees it of many of the restrictions that make it difficult at times to get into other hobbies or activities. Some people have even found cardistry a great way to keep their hands busy instead of doing less constructive things like biting their nails or smoking.

8. Cardistry can be enjoyed cheaply!

Cardistry is very inexpensive to get into, and you don't have to break the bank to enjoy it. I know that some people reading this will look at their growing collection of cardistry decks, and say: "You've got to be kidding, right?" Sure, you can spend money on expensive cardistry decks, but you certainly don't have to. In fact, to enjoy cardistry what's of foremost importance is a deck that handles well. A standard Bicycle rider-back deck or similar branded deck from USPCC like Tally Ho is generally very inexpensive and easily available. Compare that for a moment with other hobbies and activities, like horse riding, ice hockey, or piano lessons. All of those tend to involve specialized equipment, and the costs will quickly become very expensive. In contrast, you can get a lot of mileage out of a few decks of playing cards, and that's really the only expense there is. All the learning happens via online videos and tutorials, the majority of which are free. In the final analysis, cardistry is a very cheap hobby, compared to most others.

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9. Cardistry is as fun to watch as it is to do!

The greatest thrill in cardistry is mastering a move and doing it yourself. But it's also a real thrill to watch other cardists at the top of their game. Not only will you get ideas of flourishes to try yourself, but it can be tremendously exciting to watch experts in cardistry who have put together an outstanding video, that leaves you completely gob-smacked as to how they could possibly accomplish what you're seeing. When seeing other cardists in action performing difficult maneuvers, you are well aware of the significant time they've invested to achieve what you're seeing. Some of the videos of the best cardists in the world doing their thing are just amazing to watch, and kids won't quickly grow tired of it. What other activity lets you produce beauty out of small rectangular pieces of paper?

10. Cardistry is flexible and varied!

One of the wonderful things about cardistry is that it doesn't have any fixed rules. There is no right or wrong way to go about learning it, and you can simply learn whatever you want to. If there are certain moves that you don't enjoy, then there's no need to learn them. Admittedly, there are certain foundational skills that can become important to master in order to do more complicated flourishes. But for the most part, there's a lot of different directions that you can go in, and it's totally up to you which way you want to go. This free-thinking and free-flowing approach is ideal for children, because they can learn at their own pace, and just go along the path that interests them, rather than being constrained or forced into a particular direction which might not appeal to them.

11. Cardistry helps them become good at something!

There's no doubt that once you start with cardistry, you can become genuinely good at it. It's definitely possible to learn new techniques and moves, and progress from simple card flourishes to more advanced ones. Once you've learned a particular card flourish, it tends to stick with you, and you won't quickly lose the ability to do it. Some moves are knacky, and require persistence and practice to master. But once you've mastered something like the faro shuffle and cascade, you won't easily forget how to perform it. Instead, you'll build on the moves you already know, adding new flourishes to your repertoire, and developing techniques that rely on more basic moves as prerequisites. This makes it a rewarding hobby that teenagers can become genuinely skilled at, the more time they spend with it. They will quickly learn to impress people with simple flourishes when they start out, but over time they will be able to perform some truly eye-popping moves that will amaze.

12. Cardistry helps them develop other life-skills!

I can already hear some people saying: "You've got to be kidding, right? Do you really believe that cardistry helps develop life-skills?" Absolutely! This may come as a surprise to some, but I believe it's true. Granted, this may not be the biggest outcome from a hobby in card flourishing, but it certainly is one outcome. Because to become successful at cardistry, you need to practice - and practice some more. When learning moves from video tutorials, you have to process what you're being taught, follow instructions, and remember the moves that are shown, in the right order. And then you have to practice some more. All this requires real self-discipline and commitment, and those are important character traits and life-skills that all children need to develop! Seeing yourself progress is very rewarding, and will teach kids the value of applying yourself to something, and what you can achieve in this way.

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13. Cardistry is a trendy art-form!

Kids love things that are trendy and "current". There's no doubt that cardistry meets that requirement. Even though card flourishing has a long history as something closely related to card magic, its emergence as a separate art-form with the sheer popularity it enjoys today is only a recent phenomenon. One only has to consider the rapid growth of online cardistry communities and online forums, which are increasing in size and numbers all the time, and the increasing presence of cardistry videos on social media. The very first international Cardistry Convention only date back a few years, and yet it's quickly become an annual event, with increased participation every year. There are many factors that account for this, among them the ability to share ideas quickly and easily via online videos and communities, another being the advent of crowd-funding which has helped fuel a growing custom playing card market where cardistry decks play a big role. But one thing is for sure: cardistry is an exciting new kid on the block, and is definitely the cool kid that everyone wants as their friend right now, and that's not likely to change any time soon.

14. Cardistry is an evolving art-form!

Because cardistry is a quickly growing field, we are constantly seeing new ideas being explored, and frequent innovations, as cardists stretch beyond the boundaries of what has been done previously. This makes it a very exciting hobby to be part of, because there are regular new developments. Part of this includes the commercial side of new cardistry decks, but let's just ignore that for a moment. More importantly, we are seeing people building on each other's ideas, and coming up with new things all the time. Children and teenagers love this, because there are constantly new things to learn and discover. There's no single website where you can go, to learn there is to know about cardistry, and now you know it all. Instead, there's new things coming out all the time, and this constant sense of evolution and innovation gives it a feel of freshness and excitement that helps keep the passion for it alive.

15. Cardistry is a unique art-form!

Even though cardistry is a growing art-form, it is still not something that is so main-stream, that everyone has seen it or given it a shot. When a teenager is good at cardistry, they will immediately attract attention and interest. Most people watching them do some simple card flourishes have never seen anything remotely like this before. A simple card spring can often generate more oohs and aahs than some magic tricks. So it's something that is attention-getting and novel. For kids, it's important to have something about themselves that helps them stand out from others, and makes them feel unique and respected. Cardistry can help them do that. It produces something that is visually beautiful, and this accounts for much of its appeal.

16. Cardistry is a positive art-form!

The online communities for some hobbies and interests are very toxic, full of trolls and constant arguments, and parents would rightly be concerned about their kids being immersed in a poisonous environment like that. My experience with the cardistry community has been very different. These are often filled with teenagers and young people who are super enthusiastic about their art, and just love to share videos of their performances with others, and to encourage fellow enthusiasts and even beginners in what they are doing. They also tend to be very respectful of the fact that there is no "one path" to doing cardistry, so it's totally fine to enjoy one type of cardistry and not another, and be at different levels. And if you're stuck learning a move, someone will usually be happy to jump in and give you tips to help you progress. They've likely walked this road themselves and had someone help them, and they know the feeling of satisfaction that comes with mastering a move, and want others to enjoy that too. You are certain to make many great friends with others around the world who share your passion.

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17. Cardistry makes the most of their custom decks!

Today's market of custom playing cards has grown enormously over the last decade, largely with the help of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter. But cardistry has become an explosive catalyst that has really caused the market to boom, because many decks are being designed especially for card flourishing. A custom deck can already be something special to use for playing card games, or for card magic, but such decks still have to be somewhat familiar and functional. But cardistry focuses on aesthetics rather than function, and this means that a whole new set of criteria becomes important for designing playing cards. Many decks have been made purely to show-off the beautiful visuals that can be created with fans, spreads, twirls, cuts, and other cardistry moves. Fiddling with my playing cards has always been enjoyable, but that's taken to a whole new level with card flourishing. It's hard to think of a better way to enjoy the gorgeous artwork and visuals of a lovely custom deck, especially if its design has been optimized for cardistry. There are so many stunning decks appearing on the market today, that this injects a whole new element of excitement to the cardistry hobby.

18. Cardistry makes the most of their technology!

This may seem to contradict another point on this list, namely that cardistry can help kids get unplugged from their mobile devices and get busy doing something active in the real world. That's still true. But the fact is that kids will still use technology, and we can't expect them to throw away their phones and computers completely. As far as that goes, cardistry is a hobby that makes very good use of all the technology that they are already using and will keep using. There is a lot of garbage on the internet and on social media, but in comparison cardistry videos and online forums are refreshingly positive for the most part. This community thrives on making good use of the possibilities afforded by sharing videos and ideas online, maximizing the positive potential of sharing good things with fellow enthusiasts.

19. Cardistry makes the most of their free time!

Young people have a lot of free time which they won't have later in life. When you're an adult, life will usually keep you busy with the responsibilities of looking after a family and a home, alongside completing your daily job at the office or factory. Quite frankly, once you reach this stage of life, you won't usually have a whole lot of free time. Starting a new hobby like cardistry isn't impossible by any means, but the ideal time to begin is when you're young. Kids and teenagers often have a ton of free time, something that will often be at a premium later on in life. So what better thing to do with all that free time that something positive, like cardistry? Some flourishes can require a lot of practice in order to master, and that makes the time of youth the perfect time to learn them, because often you have all the time in the world, and just don't know what to do with it. Kids won't have quite that amount of free time later in life, so why not put it to good use when you can - when you're older and learning cardistry, you'll just wish that you had the amount of time that most children have for it!

20. Cardistry is enormously enjoyable!

Like card magic, card flourishing is genuinely fun, and can be enjoyed as a rewarding activity for its own sake. It's very rewarding to finally master a new flourish that you've been working on, and especially if it is visually appealing, it will remain satisfying to do, even if you've done it hundreds and hundreds of times before. There's simply something about doing cardistry that captures the imagination. Almost every child that I've taught some elementary cardistry moves has found it exciting and entertaining, and found it captivating and thrilling. As a hobby, it quickly becomes self-motivating for them. You don't have to force them to practice, like you might need to do with a youngster learning how to play the violin or piano. Because it's something that most kids love, they'll find it incredibly enjoyable, and just want to experience the fun of playing with their cards in this way, because it's so much fun. To me, that says it all - case closed!

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Where can you begin? We have several articles which will get your kids going, with some inspiring videos that will immediately fire up their enthusiasm and get them excited about cardistry, as well as links to some great free tutorials for beginner card flourishes. These related articles elsewhere on our site should give you all the information you need to get started:
● What Is Cardistry?
● Some Big Names in Cardistry
● How To Get Started in Cardistry
● Top Moves and Flourishes That Beginners in Cardistry Should Learn (our next article, forthcoming next week!)

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About the writerEndersGame is a well-known and respected reviewer of board games and playing cards. He loves card games, card magic, cardistry, and card collecting, and has reviewed several hundred boardgames and hundreds of different decks of playing cards. You can see a complete list of his game reviews here, and his playing card reviews here. He is considered an authority on playing cards and has written extensively about their design, history, and function, and has many contacts within the playing card and board game industries. You can view his previous articles about playing cards here. In his spare time he also volunteers with local youth to teach them the art of cardistry and card magic.

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Last update date: 2/11/20

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