Spielwarenmesse: Emotions and feelings a great topic for designing toys

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Emotions and feelings a great topic for designing toys

from Maria Costa

In the last few years, we have seen the topic of “feelings” flourishing in the children's world, from toys and games to all sorts of educational materials. But, how can the toy industry design toys that foster Emotional Intelligence? Well, it is more complex than teaching the names of emotions.


Feelings are important, the main principles of emotional intelligence

Parents and educators consider control and management of emotions as absolutely relevant to the kids’ success in life. Some researchers even point out that Emotional Intelligence is at least as important as Cognitive Intelligence. There are three main concepts related to Emotional Intelligence that spark off ideas for designing innovative toys or games: self-awareness, self-regulation and social skills.

Playing while learning to be conscious of your own emotions

Self-awareness is key to achieving a healthy emotional intelligence. It is the skill that allows us to recognize and understand our own moods and emotions, as well as the effect they have on others.

One of the main factors in learning and improving self-awareness is to know the words that express each emotion. Analyzing the market, it is clear that most toys and games related to Emotional Intelligence are focused on teaching words and concepts related to basic emotions such as sadness, happiness, anger or fear. However, for older children it is necessary to go a step further to broaden their vocabulary on feelings. Don’t underestimate kids’ capacity to learn an extensive range of emotions through play.

Also, have in consideration that most categories of toys are susceptible to be designed in a way that they support teaching emotions, from board games, plush toys, dolls, action figures, construction sets, costumes, arts & crafts, etcetera. In the market we can already find toys and games such as Emo Park by Cayro, Emociones by Cefa Toys, Cherche et trouve les emotions by Placote, or Build & Learn Emotions by Megablocks.

Cherche et trouve les émotions (Seek & Find: Emotions) von Placote
Emociones by Cefa Toys
Seek and find emotions game
Cherche et trouve les émotions (Seek & Find: Emotions) by Placote

Play that supports children regulate their impulses and moods

Self-regulation, the ability to channel your own emotions well, is also key. Experts agree that we have to teach children there are no good or bad emotions, there are good or bad reactions to those emotions. For instance, excitement can be considered a positive emotion, however, it could be terrible if it results in an action that hurts someone, even if it was unintentional.

To self-regulate, one needs to manage their thoughts and feelings in a way that they translate into appropriate reactions towards themselves and others. What strategies can the industry consider when designing toys and games to support self-regulation practices? On one hand, there are toys that teach concepts and practices related to mindfulness (various relaxation technics; meditation, yoga, breath control,…). Be aware that there are interesting DIY toys, such as “Calm Down Kits”, that can be a great source for inspiration. 

Other strategies can be, for example, integrating activities in the game that make children aware of their own internal dialog, learn cognitive reframing and promote positive and helpful self-talk.

Yoga Puzzle Pairs by Ludilo
Yoga Puzzle Pairs by Ludilo

With the trend Body and Mind, during 2017 the Spielwarenmesse® promoted this general idea, with great examples of products shown in the TrendGallery area. Some specific products are Yoga Puzzle Pairs by Ludilo, My Sandbox by Alex toys, Yogi by Mideer, or the Beaded Raindrops by Hape.

Play that fosters social skills

Emotional Intelligence is linked to Social Emotional Learning as managing social skills are also key competences in this matter. I am talking about a big range of skills such as empathy, sharing, cooperating, respecting personal space, listening, using manners, and being polite, understanding social rules, among others.

There are many perspectives that can be taken into account when creating toys and games that foster social abilities. For instance, Team Spirit, also a trend presented in the Spielwarenmesse® TrendGallery in 2018, promoted toys that encouraged children to collaborate with each other through play.

Another important aspect to strengthen healthy social relationships is helping children gain empathy. Studies show that children have the capacity to empathize from very early years, however, to really become an empathic person it requires work throughout childhood and beyond. Experts point out that the best way to learn empathy is not by lecturing but by example as they learn by observing others show it. In this case, toys that make children play different roles from the same situation can help them recognize that there are other ways to experience things.

Emotions-Flipchart by Akros
Emotions-Flipchart „Put yourself in my shoes“ by Akros
Emotions Detective Game by Miniland
Emotions Detective byMiniland

Increasing demand for toys fostering Emotional Intelligence

Parents and educators are making a big effort to help their children cultivate Emotional Intelligence, as it is considered crucial for their well-being in several aspects of their lives. This represents an amazing opportunity for the industry, as toys and games are undoubtedly great tools to support the improvement of the skills children need to succeed in their journey to become mentally healthy people.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spielwarenmesse eG.

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Author of this article:

Maria Costa, AIJU

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