A new toy company can be a game-changer for young boys.
When mom and psychotherapist Laurel Wider heard her young son say boys aren't supposed to cry, she knew she had to do something.
It's no secret that the way we use our emotions to empathize, solve problems, and relate to others is extremely important in terms of living a happy and successful life.
Our daughters have received that message for generations, but what about our sons? How can we teach boys to empathize, solve problems, and relate to others in a healthy way while they're young?
Wider thought we should start with the things they spend the most time with: toys. She wondered why toys that encourage friendship and empathy are usually marketed to girls.
"The lack of dolls for boys sends the message to our sons that this kind of play isn't for them," Wider said.
So Wider created a company to smash stereotypes about boys and dolls. And people are loving it.
Enter Wonder Crew, a new line of dolls inspired by boys. The premise is simple: Each 15-inch soft-bodied doll, known as a Crewmate, combines the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of a stuffed animal.
When playing with Crewmates, the goal is to have boys realize that the dolls are just like them instead of idolizing action figures for superhuman strength and other unattainable abilities. A successful Kickstarter campaign proved the idea had merit.
"Kickstarter not only funded our first production, but it's proven that there is public interest," Wider said. "We're thrilled to get the opportunity to make a difference."
Parents can purchase a Crewmate and various interchangeable packs for different adventures. The cool part? Each pack includes gear that a child can wear to be a part of the action.
"That helps form the teamwork vibe and brings kids further into the imaginative play experience," Wider said.
This is a cool concept, and all — but will boys really want to play with dolls? Is society ready for this?
We just might be.
Recently, a Super Bowl commercial featuring grown, muscular men who violently run into other on a football field for a living, used their hands to style the hair of their young daughters.
The response to the ad was overwhelmingly positive. Why? Because people love seeing men with a sensitive side.
In order to grow into a man with a sensitive side, it helps if our boys start by embracing theirs at a young age.
"Boys have feelings, and it's time for their toys to catch up," Wider said. "Why wouldn't a boy want a friend or little one to take care of, nurture, adventure out with?"
Having boys who learn to embrace their emotions properly is serious business — especially since a recent study found that over 80% of men were uncomfortable sharing their emotions and problems with others. Surely it's not a coincidence that 3 out of 4 suicides are committed by men. It's hard to seek help if you're not willing to talk about it.
And if you think this is another toy company that lacks diversity, think again.
An African-American Crewmate named Theo is in production this year, and there are female Crewmates on the horizon as well. Wider and her team want to ensure every child feels represented.
Girls can join in on the fun too.
But to start, she wants to focus on boys.
"Let's give boys the option to create a play experience that resonates," Wider said. "Human connection is not gender-specific."
From the looks of it, Wonder Crew is delivering on that message.