Opinion | Lines of communication: Supporting mental health is more important than ever

Home-schooling, social restrictions, country-wide lockdowns and increased screen time among families that propelled the conversation around children’s mental well-being into the spotlight over the last few months, as concerns rise over the impact of the pandemic on the health of our younger generations.

With this in mind, founder of the letter-writing and storytelling gifting service International Elf Service, Emily Beckloff, explores why the toy industry should be focusing on supporting children’s and parents’ mental health now more than ever.

The immense challenges of 2020, and now 2021, have highlighted more than ever the importance and fragility of a child’s mental well-being. As a mother of three, I know first-hand how children can find their emotions overwhelming and difficult to process. While some find it easy to start a conversation about how they’re feeling, others can find it really difficult. Here at International Elf Service, we believe ‘If children can talk to you about the small stuff, the bigger stuff will follow’.

I think it’s important to consider all aspects of our young customers’ well-being when designing our products. It’s not just about whether the products will be enjoyed or if they will help with the children’s development in some way … but we ask the questions: Can these products do more? Can they help children learn the emotional skills and resilience they need to move forward in life and achieve great things? Can they give something really worthwhile to the family as a whole? 

I believe we all have a duty of care to our wonderful younger generations, as well as to each other. This is why at International Elf Service; our whole focus and ethos centres around helping parents and children to enjoy meaningful times together. Whether it’s directly through our products, digital resources, our social media platforms or through direct email correspondence.

Our aim is to bring families closer together in a fun and exciting way with our uniquely designed products …and to create positive experiences that encourage open conversations between family members. Anything that strengthens family bonds ultimately helps children to feel a stronger sense of belonging and worth, to form healthy relationships with others, and to build their self-esteem and resilience as they grow. 

The toy industry plays a pivotal role in all aspect of children’s growth and development. Specialising in play, we have a unique and powerful opportunity to influence not only children’s learning about the world around us and improve their physical skills, but also to guide their emotional and mental development. 

And as a member of this amazing industry, I am honoured and humbled to be in this position.

I created International Elf Service because I wanted every child to share in the magical personalised letters I had created for my own children. What I hadn’t expected was the nature of the messages we receive from families who have enjoy our letters: a child who rarely engages with family members is suddenly connecting with their siblings, a child who usually refuses to read is spontaneously reading out an entire letter from the North Pole to the whole family, a child who was worried about something in particular is feeling better having talked it through with a parent after reading a Fairy letter… 

Our unique, handcrafted Fairy and Tooth Fairy Letters and letter bundles make brilliant, and magical, conversation starters for parents and their children. They cover childhood topics such as worrying, bad dreams, feeling cross, special needs, owning up, fear of failure and loss. And they are all specially designed to deliver ‘big messages in little letters’, helping children to deal with complex feelings and situations.

Most of all, it seems that these aren’t just letters from Magical Worlds, but rather a chance for something incredible and special to happen in the lives of every child and every family who reads them.

And that is a truly heart-warming thing.

I’d love us as an industry to talk more about how we can support children’s emotional wellness – through toys, play, literacy and imagination.

Our children. Our future.

Emily Beckloff is the founder of International Elf Service, an award-winning children’ gifting company that specialises in kids’ letter writing and storytelling. She can be contacted at emily@internationalelfservice.com

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of ToyNews and its sister title, Licensing.biz. He has worked his way from Staff Writer to Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@bizmedia.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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