Toy companies are embracing a new approach to help children build emotional resilience by creating toys that focus on mental, emotional, and social health (MESH). The MESH designation aims to teach kids skills like adjusting to new challenges, resolving conflicts, advocating for themselves, and solving problems. While the MESH concept is still in its early phase, more toy marketers are starting to develop toys with emotional resilience in mind.
The Toy Association plans to certify MESH toys by mid-2024, similar to how it did for STEAM toys, which emphasize science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The MESH approach gained traction after the pandemic highlighted the importance of addressing children’s mental health.
However, some experts and analysts worry that MESH could be used as a marketing gimmick, potentially preying on parents’ concerns about their children’s mental health. They also emphasize the importance of ensuring that the toys themselves are effective in building emotional resilience, rather than just claiming to do so.
Experts have noted that childhood depression and anxiety have been on the rise for years, but the pandemic’s stress and grief have exacerbated these issues. As a result, educators have started emphasizing social emotional learning to teach children important soft skills to manage their emotions and interact positively with others.
Toy companies are exploring this new approach as a way to rejuvenate the industry following a weak year, particularly a lackluster holiday season in 2022. While there is potential for MESH toys to provide both entertainment and educational value, the ultimate test will be whether children find them fun and engaging.
In addition to toy companies, retailers like Amazon are recognizing the potential of MESH toys, indicating that they could become a significant trend in the industry. However, retailers and toy companies must be cautious not to overuse the term MESH without delivering meaningful and effective products.
The MESH approach may play a role in helping children develop important social and emotional skills while also addressing the mental health challenges they face, but it will need to strike a balance between educational and entertaining elements to be successful.