Pandemic Playtime: Toys Focus On Mental Health

As children struggle with the emotional impact of the COVID-19, the popularity of toys designed with mental health in mind is increasing. NBC's Liz McLaughlin reports.

(NBC News) — THE COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on Americans of all ages, especially children.

“The kids are suffering,” says pediatrician Dr. Peter Shulman. “All the way up from kindergarten to college.”

Dr. Shulman and other pediatricians have seen the mental health impact firsthand. Cases of anxiety and depression are on the rise.

“It’s been a year now, and I see it every day,” Dr. Shulman says.

Play may offer one way to help. Mental health toys, with tactile tools that aim to help kids cope, are becoming more popular.

“We’re seeing more products that are designed to promote that social-emotional learning and mental wellness,” says Toy Insider’s Maddie Michalik.

Some, like the “Big Feelings Pineapple” aim to introduce Social Emotional Learning or “SEL” skills, with interchangeable pieces that form different expressions.

“They can even communicate their feelings onto the pineapple to show their parents how they’re feeling that day,” Michalik notes.

Others, such as the Mindful Maze Set, teach self-management skills.

Mental health tools are also featured in a growing number of free apps.

Many offer wellness practices that could be beneficial for the whole family.

“It’s near impossible for the stress that the parents are experiencing to not overlap with what the kids are experiencing,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Danielle Roeske.

Read more here.