Top trends, new toys, activities and games that can help soothe fears, lower stress levels + encourage family bonding
Anxiety in children is on the rise, due to many factors like the pandemic, virtual learning and the post-election fall-out. In fact, according to a recent survey, close to 65% (63.89%) of parents with children between the ages of 0-18 reported an increase in their child’s overall anxiety since the onset of the pandemic. Additional findings support an increase in family game night (77.78%), outdoor/active play (58.33%) and a continued growing interest in sustainable products (75.93%). Parents are also interested in STEM toys (82.41%) that decrease screen time.
Giving these telling statistics, lifestyle, parenting and educational expert Amanda Mushro, who is also the writer behind the blogs www.AmandaMushro.com and www.QuestionableChoicesInParenting.com, suggests certain toys, games and products can help soothe anxiety while also reducing screen time. She adds, “During these unprecedented times, play can be a great resource for the whole family. Some of today’s hottest new toys and games can in fact help reduce our anxious children’s stress levels, encourage connection and get us away from the screen. Parents don’t need to run out and buy products specifically designed to reduce anxiety either, in fact there are many great options and play patterns that can help.”
From putty compounds, to bikes, to even plush, books, games and construction toys, Amanda Mushro has vetted out and reviewed some of the hottest toys of 2021 that can help burst the anxiety bubble and boost family bonding. Her top picks and must-have toys, games and activities are as follows:
Tactile Activity products like slime and putty stimulate the senses to help create a sense of calm and regulate big emotions. Some great examples include Angry Putty from Crazy Aaron’s. This amazing putty actually absorbs your tension, getting tenser and tenser with each stretch, leaving you feeling happy and relaxed. The company also recently released Clean with Color, a new line of soaps and sanitizers that combine Crazy Aaron’s amazing color technology with gentle and effective cleaning that is fun and less stressful for kids.
Active Play has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, and improve sleep and self-esteem. Bikes are a great activity for the entire family and the new Mobo Explorer Balance Bike is perfect for new bike riders. This balance bike features a sturdy frame and optimized geometry making it stable and easy to handle for young riders.
Plush toys promote a sense of calm, comfort and comradery, especially during times of stress. Shore Buddies, a line of adorable, stuffed animals made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, is a great plush option. The company also offers a line of adorable keychains, a book, a carbon footprint calculator and provides school curriculum about sustainability.
Screen Free Fun toys and games are especially important as many children continue to partake in virtual learning. For preschoolers who need a break, Green Toys is a great option. The company offers a complete line of US-Made, eco-friendly and socially responsible children’s products that encourages open-ended, unplugged play. The new Disney Baby Green Toys line features classic characters and classic play patterns too.
STEM Toys, such as the Candy Claw Machine from Thames & Kosmos, provides a welcomed break from screen time for older kids. With this fun option, kids can build their very own fun arcade game complete with cranks, gears, and belts, while learning about hydraulic levers and honing dexterity skills and hand-eye coordination.
Construction Toys help promote problem solving, motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Magformers magnetic building toys makes it easy for kids to build anything they can imagine. Each colorful shape easily connects as it contains rotating Rare Earth Neodymium magnets, the strongest of their kind for guaranteed connectivity. The new Magformers Camping Adventure Set and Magformers Backyard Adventure Set are fun colorful options that are also great examples of screen free fun and STEM play too.
Games and Puzzles continue to rise in popularity as they offer a fun escape, socialization and reduced screen time. Some of the best new games can help promote intergenerational play, encourage open conversations and even encourage friendly competition.
Ubongo from Thames & Kosmos is a fast-paced, addictive and easy-to-learn puzzle game that is convenient to bring along to a friend’s house too. A fun puzzle idea is Creatto also from Thames & Kosmos. This unique series of Light-Up 3D Puzzle kits is a simple yet versatile building system that consists of just two parts that can be quickly and easily pieced together to form countless 3D creations. Each Creatto kit includes a string of LED lights and language-independent assembly instructions for four different configurations.
Looking to spice up adult game night with friends? Then SOCIALLY TWISTED™ party game and video app is a great option. Simply create a twisted story and get competitive with your friends or family. It’s quick, funny, wacky and guaranteed to leave everyone cracking up!
Finally, Reading aloud together may not eradicate anxiety in your child, but powerful stories can help children relate and learn words to help them communicate their fears and/or concerns. Guion The Lion by Rebecca Wilson Macsovits is a beautiful children’s book that celebrates the differences in all children through a colorful and exciting journey. Full of themes like empathy, curiosity, and adventure, Guion The Lion shows kids that new perspectives can open the door to unexpected fun.
Mushro concludes, “There’s no question the last 12 months has placed extra stress on parents and kids. Being able to find the right approach to dealing with anxiety, and finding the right products is a key to easing this anxiety and supporting families during these difficult times.”