MESH SKILLS - Post Two of Six in Series

by Rachele Harmuth | 30 Mar 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. This week, we review the 8 MESH skills more in depth.


Partnering with Dr. Deborah Gilboa, ThinkFun focused on identifying the MESH skills that lead children to build resilience.

These skills have been identified that protect children and teenagers from suicidal ideation and self-harm behaviors:

  1. Problem solving: the ability to consider possible solutions to a difficulty the child is experiencing. Building this competency decreases a child’s or teen’s sense of helplessness in the face of struggle.  
  2. Perseverance: the act of returning to an obstacle to try again to overcome it. Developing the habit and skill of perseverance strengthens confidence when that child fails the first (or tenth) time. 
  3. Adaptation: to adjust oneself to different circumstances or requirements. Young people who become more adaptable feel less estranged or alienated and better able to form connections and community in less-than-ideal circumstances
  4. Conflict resolution: identifying ways to find a peaceful resolution to a dispute. Learning strategies that extend beyond violence, avoidance or self-denial allows children and teens to express authentic emotions and continue or even strengthen relationships while remaining true to their own experience.
  5. Self-regulation: the ability to recognize and manage emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that are acceptable and healthy. When children and teens grow this skill, they are much better able to be welcome in spaces that meet their needs and receive responses that are supportive and caring. 
  6. Self-advocacy: the act of representing one’s own self, experience, and interests to others. This ability is crucial to children and teens so that they can ask for attention or help from the adults in their lives. 
  7. Cognitive skills: the abilities involved in perception, learning, memory, understanding, awareness, reasoning, judgment, intuition, and language. This large group of skills can’t be overvalued in children’s development. Each of these are key to understanding one’s own experience, determining what they want or need next and then getting that help - all crucial cognitive behavioral skills for managing and improving mental health.
  8. Communication strategies: tools for expressing and receiving information and interacting with others. All the practice children and teens get to improve how they express needs, learn about the experiences and knowledge of others’ and make their feelings known acts to strengthen their ties and skills for improved mental health. 

These skills, called SEL (Social Emotional Learning) or MESH (Mental, Emotional and Social Health) are at the core of community and school-based initiatives in almost every developed country, including $190 billion dollars of health and education funding in the next four years in the United States alone. 

 “Identifying and understanding the 8 MESH skills gives us a new way to evaluate the products we create. It allows us to see toys and games through a new lens that shows us in greater detail the impact they can have on children as they play. ” Rachele Harmuth, Head of ThinkFun.


For more information on the MESH initiative, please visit

mental health kids play resilience coping skills

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