For quite a while now, the educational toy market has focused a lot of attention on STEM and STEAM items, getting kids interested in science, technology, engineering, art, and math, and how they all work together. This has warmed my little nerdy heart.
But since the pandemic started, priorities have shifted. Everyone’s mental health has been affected, and children’s probably most of all.
To that end, ThinkFun has devised something called the MESH scoring system, to create—and encourage other companies to create—toys and play opportunities that help kids with their mental, emotional, and social health, “to build resilience and protect their mental health.”
They have also created a task force that members of the industry can join to promote these objectives. They’ve also published a handy white paper entitled “Building Products with MESH in Mind” explaining the program in full. Here’s a brief and more digestible description from the press release:
Rachele Harmuth, Head of ThinkFun, worked with physician, professor and resilience expert Deborah Gilboa, M.D. – also known as “Dr. G” – to research and publish “Building Products with MESH in Mind.” Dr. G shares research about the state of mental health in the United States, and equally important, shares encouraging news on how to improve kids’ mental health and build resilience. Gilboa underscores the power of play in developing MESH skills, including problem-solving, self-regulation, conflict resolution and communication strategies. Learning these types of skills teach children to identify and overcome obstacles, explain what they are experiencing, and ask for help when they are stuck.
You can get a quick overview in their YouTube video:
This is pretty exciting. I’ve been a fan of ThinkFun games and logic puzzles for years, and they’ve consistently created products that straddle the educational/fun “divide” (I find education to be fun, thus the quotes). I’m sure a lot of their existing games would also promote the MESH concepts, and keeping these concepts in mind as they create new products will provide new ways to improve well-being through play.
I’m always interested in learning how play can help people (of all ages!) improve their mental and physical health. If you, too, are interested in these concepts, I also encourage you to check out my review of The Secrets of LEGO House here at GeekMom.
If you’re in a position to join ThinkFun’s task force, check out MESHhelps.org for more information.
I encourage all parents whose children have been affected by the pandemic (and who hasn’t been?) to look at some of the above resources and see how you can create more positive play experiences for you and your children, helping them adapt and heal from experiences from the past few years.