Monday, February 6, 2023
Book of Beasties Launches the 'Home Edition'

Award-winning developer of games and educational content for children aged 5+ has announced the launch of a family edition that will be available for use by parents and carers at home, rather than just a professional setting.

Book of Beasties, co-founded in part by husband and wife team Nadia De Kuyper and Phil Tottman, is a developer of psychologist endorsed Mental Wellness Card Games and resources aimed at children aged 5+ designed to raise emotional literacy as well as normalise and de-stigmatise the open and positive conversation around mental health, wellness and emotions.

The Mental Wellness Card Game

The original game is used in schools and services across the UK supporting around 200,000 children and is endorsed by leading psychologists. And in recent weeks Book of Beaties has been working with leading organisations including Premier League Football Clubs and County Councils.

Today however the team announced the launch of their Home Edition during Children’s Mental Health Week after seeing an even greater need for the game following news on the state of mental wellness of children in 2023.

Last week, NHS England data revealed that in 2022 there was a 39% rise in referrals for mental health treatment for those under 18, taking the total to more than a million. The England-wide data includes children who are suicidal, self-harming, suffering serious depression or anxiety, and have eating disorders.

Experts say the pandemic, social inequality, austerity and online harm are all fuelling a crisis in which NHS mental health treatment referrals for under-18s have increased to more than 1.1m in 2021-22.

Yet despite this statistic, 95% of GPs say that CAMHS services are either in crisis or "very inadequate". Waiting lists for an urgent CAMHS referral can be up to 21 weeks and parents are left floundering and unsupported with no idea what they can do to re-connect with their children.

Dr Elaine Lockhart, chair of the child and adolescent psychiatry faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the rise in referrals reflected a “whole range” of illnesses. She said “specialist services are needing to respond to the most urgent and the most unwell”, including young people suffering from psychosis, suicidal thoughts and severe anxiety disorder.” She added: “…Part of that was about children themselves feeling very untethered from the day-to-day life that supports them … but also seeing their own parents struggle, and then that collective heightened sense of anxiety and loss of control we all had really affected children.”

Pressure on parents and carers is huge and in a time of financial stress it is even harder for children to be protected from the difficulties of the world around them. Parents, often both working full-time in order to support their family, are exhausted and unable to find ways to connect with their children, leading to the children losing the ability to express their own feelings adequately and suffering with the effects of suppressed emotions and high anxiety.

Awareness around children learning to navigate, recognise and understand their own feelings has become a prominent theme of 2023 with The Princess of Wales launching the Shaping Us campaign from The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, which aims to transform the issue from one of scientific interest to one of the most strategically important topics of our time. 

The Princess of Wales said: “The way we develop, through our experiences, relationships, and surroundings during our early childhood, fundamentally shapes our whole lives. It affects everything from our ability to form relationships and thrive at work, to our mental and physical well-being as adults and the way we parent our own children.”

“These are the most preventative years. By focusing our collective time, energy, and resources to build a supportive, nurturing world around the youngest members of our society and those caring for them, we can make a huge difference to the health and happiness of generations to come.”

Explaining how the game works, co-founder, Phil Tottman, said: “The idea of Book of Beasties is to help as many beasties as possible, and each beastie represents a manifestation of anxiety or depression or a collection of emotions that fall into that spectrum. Each player helps the Beasties by using special items and each item translates into a wellness exercise or a topic of discussion. We themed the games around sessions; there are ten different types of Beasties and three different versions of each type, so there are loads of activities and opportunities for discussions. The game itself is based around matching symbols, so it’s simple and aimed at kids aged six to 12.”

“As soon as someone says to a child (or even an adult) “how do you feel?”, that person can immediately put up barriers, even if they don’t intend to. If that’s how you start a conversation with a child, it may not work. That’s why we prioritised the play side of Book of Beasties' resources. We looked at what we would want to interact with as a child and focused on that.

Activities are introduced throughout that make for an enjoyable experience for any child. It’s worked really well in the professional environment and now we’re delighted that it can also be played at home.