by Rachele Harmuth | 11 May 2023

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed

Thinkfun turns their focus to the global youth mental health crisis and how play can make all the difference in protecting and strengthening children and teens.  The company’s new initiative brings together stakeholders from all over the toys and games industry with the challenge: how do we build MESH (Mental, Emotional and Social Health) skills through play?


In this bi- weekly column for The Bloom Report, we will look into the different areas of this initiative in depth. This week we share an overview of the initiative. 


Life gets more challenging as we grow up. And for the first time ever, more teens are telling researchers they don’t want to be adults than the ones who do. “It seems hard” is basically the reason young people are giving for not wanting to get drivers’ licenses, jobs, homes of their own…


Play can help! Toys and games that provide increasing challenges over the course of play are really models for life. The very real stresses of adulthood can absolutely impact mental, emotional and social health. Young people who feel confident and competent to navigate increasing challenges are more willing to take on those opportunities and better set up for success. 


Toys and games that get harder as you go serve several key functions.


  • Teach the value of perseverance. These opportunities show that succeeding the first time isn’t a reasonable expectation, but that repetition and learning increases chances of success.
  • Build tolerance for frustration. It is easier to give up than to keep going in most every situation. Toys and games that use fun as the motivator can help players find the path forward even without a guarantee of success
  • Create the expectation of challenge. When there is no quick or easy “finish line” then players learn that success means gaining the chance to try something new and harder rather than just being done. 


In this way, perhaps more than any other, play can mimic life in ways that build amazing skills and strengthen children’s mental, emotional and social health in those moments of increased challenge.


“It’s amazing to watch the confidence of a child grow as they try (and often fail) and then try again and win at progressive challenges. We celebrate that magical moment of success (the “a-ha” moment) where the player “gets” it - their confidence grows with each challenge.” Rachele Harmuth, Head of ThinkFun.


For more information on the MESH initiative, please visit

#mental health emotional health social health MESH

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