Lisa Rosinsky

Finding the perfect artist for a project is one of the trickiest but most rewarding parts of creating a book–or, in this case, a deck of cards! And Mindful Kids is no ordinary publishing project. A typical picture book has 32 pages of artwork. By comparison, each of the 50 cards in this deck is lavishly illustrated with a detailed scene on the front, and several smaller pieces of artwork illustrating different steps of each activity on the back—not to mention the colorful, hand-created design elements that make this deck both beautiful and easy to use. Overall, Mindful Kids contains over 200 separate pieces of artwork!

Barefoot Books Mindful Kids Card Deck

When searching for an illustrator for this project, we knew we needed an expert at drawing facial expressions and complex postures. We were also looking for a connoisseur of pattern and texture, since it wouldn’t be a Barefoot product without that level of attention to gorgeous detail. Finally, we wanted a fresh, fun, and quirky style, to keep the cards feeling young and engaging.

Our co-founder and (now retired) editor-in-chief Tessa Strickland initially discovered Mina Braun’s work at a gallery in Edinburgh. When we looked through her portfolio, we were captivated by her bold palette and the sophisticated yet whimsical style of her prints and illustrations.

Once we signed a contract with Mina, we sent her the text for the cards, a description of the design elements we wanted to include (such as the decorative borders and color-coded corner elements), reference photos for some of the trickier poses, and specific instructions for sketching out the cast of characters.

Mina writes:

Barefoot Books | Mindful KidsMy work-process usually begins with plenty of pencils and a large sketchbook. Here I bring to paper anything that comes to my mind about the brief. I really enjoy this first stage of sketching ideas.

When starting with Mindful Kids, I drew lots of quick little doodles whilst working my way through the script. To me, those first ideas tend to be the strongest ones and in this case, most of them became the actual illustrations later on.

After deciding for a color scheme together with the production team of Mindful Kids, as well as creating a set of eight different characters for the card set, I made a rough pencil sketch for each card. Once they were approved, I then made a more detailed version of each rough by hand.

After scanning them in, I then created the final color artwork on the computer, using a digital drawing tablet to work over the drawings. I often use handmade textures and patterns as well, collaging them into the artwork in Photoshop.

Mindful Kids was created from the sunny studio I share with three other artists, which is part of a communal art-space in the heart of Berlin-Neukölln, Germany.

We also worked heavily with Alex Strick and Beth Cox, consultants at Inclusive Minds, to ensure that the artwork reflected our high standards of diversity and inclusivity. For example, we chose to depict one of the characters as a child with spina bifida who uses a wheelchair. Inclusive Minds helped us art-direct realistic and comfortable poses for this child outside of his chair on some cards as well, to combat the stereotype that children who use equipment to move are inseparable from that equipment. They also helped us find reference images for a child-friendly hearing aid for another character.

We’re thrilled that a wide range of children using these cards will be able to see themselves reflected in the illustrations. As you explore these cards with children in your life, I hope you’ll fall in love with Mina’s characters just as we did!

Learn more about Mindful Kids!

Lisa Rosinsky is Senior Editor at Barefoot Books. You can follow her at @LisaRosinsky.

How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot Books

How can you help children build empathy, manage everyday emotions and reduce stress and anxiety? With mindfulness! It’s the latest hot buzzword in education and early childhood development, for good reason: a growing body of research shows that practicing mindfulness has a direct impact on kids’ brain development and behavior. Mindfulness teaches you to focus your attention, expand your awareness, and build kindness and patience. These skills help kids become compassionate global citizens, which fits perfectly with our core mission here at Barefoot Books!


Why a deck of mindfulness cards?

Mindful Kids is the very first deck of mindfulness activity cards for ages 4 and up. Like our bestselling Yoga Pretzels, Mindful Kids is a deck of 50 activity cards packaged in a sturdy box for easy portability, so you can carry it with you and use it all day long. Each double-sided card is fully illustrated with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. The activities are divided into 5 categories designed to fit into each part of the day, from morning to night.

How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot Books

The activities and an 8-page instructional booklet include tips that make them accessible for children with a wide range of abilities. (More about that below!) And the large, laminated cards make it easy for kids to grab the cards they want and keep them close for reference as they explore the deck.


Developing Mindful Kids

We started by commissioning the text from an expert! Whitney Stewart is an award-winning children’s book author and mindfulness instructor. She has practiced meditation for over thirty years, and is certified to teach by both the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Teens Program and the Prison Mindfulness Institute. Whitney has tested each activity in this deck with children in her own classes and programs.

Next, we turned to our very own Stefanie Paige Wieder, M.S.Ed., to make sure the activities and language were developmentally appropriate for even the very young end of our target audience (ages 4 to 104!). In the process, we tested them repeatedly in the office. Ever since, I’ve been practicing these activities myself when I need to find a few moments of inner peace during the day!


Making the deck diverse and inclusive

How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot Books

We worked extensively with Beth Cox and Alex Strick at Inclusive Minds to make sure the artwork shows a diverse cast of characters, and that the activities are accessible for a wide range of children. We discussed everything from choosing the clearest term for a pointer/index finger (we chose “pointer,” because that tells you what it does!), to considering when it was appropriate to change the instruction “stand” to “stand or sit” (which makes the activities more inclusive for children who might not be able to perform them standing), to what a kid-friendly hearing aid looks like.


How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot BooksI especially loved discussing the depiction of children with disabilities in the illustrations. For example, one of the characters has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. Beth and Alex coached us through the art-direction process to make sure that we were portraying a sporty, modern-looking wheelchair, as well as showing this child outside of his wheelchair, using other supports like couch cushions, on several cards—to combat the stereotype that children who use wheelchairs are inseparable from their equipment.


Bringing the product to life

One of my favorite parts of the editorial process was working with fabulously talented illustrator Mina Braun, whose artwork brings such whimsy and humor to each activity. It’s not every artist who can take an abstract brief like “girl

pretending to be a tree” or “child sends love to the whole universe” and turn it into sweet, sophisticated artwork. Kids will love all the funny details in the illustrations…including the mindful pets!

How we're bringing mindfulness to preschoolers and beyond | Barefoot Books


When can you use Mindful Kids?

Do the kids in your life ever need to calm down? To practice patience? To think about the way someone else might be feeling? You can use these activities in any of these situations, and many more. When else do you think you’ll pull out a few Mindful Kids cards during your day? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! Or if you want to follow the conversation on Twitter, look for #mindfulkids.

Mindful Kids will be available in October 2017.


Lisa Rosinsky is Senior Editor at Barefoot Books. You can follow her at @LisaRosinsky.