Meet 4 moms who created the one toy they wish they had as kids.

Being told that girls are weak and soft and that boys are aggressive and unemotional is about as played out as the Macarena and Harlem Shake. Yet, it still happens often in our society.

We've all witnessed gender stereotyping in our daily lives, but what impact does it have on our children?

A big one.


Studies show that stereotypes can significantly limit a child's full potential and happiness by ignoring who they truly are in order to "fit in" to what society expects of them.

The world can be a confusing place for our children at times. Image via iStock.

But there is some good news, and it comes in the form of toys, which are scientifically proven to help kids learn.

Here's the story behind four cool toy companies you may not have heard of that are shattering stereotypes and helping kids believe they can be anything they want to be.

1. For mom and psychotherapist Laurel Wider, it all started when she heard her son say boys aren't supposed to cry.

The market is full of toys that encourage little girls to express empathy and emotions, but what about the boys? Wider felt she had to do her part to help little boys embrace their sensitive sides.

Enter Wonder Crew. Each 15-inch doll combines the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of a stuffed animal. Guess what? Little boys love them.

Boys can be nurturing, too. Photo from Wonder Crew, used with permission.

"Wonder Crew is a part of a new conversation about boys' potential and how feelings and connection are a valued piece of their identity," Wider told Upworthy. "I wanted to create a play experience that empowers them to go anywhere and be anything."

Even if that means being a chef or a superhero.

2. When Alice Brooks was 8 years old, she asked her dad for a doll for Christmas and received a saw instead.

She used that saw to build her own doll out of wood and nails — and 10 years later, she went on to study mechanical engineering at MIT and Stanford.

That's what led Brooks to create Roominate, a line of building sets designed for girls in order to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Once her company received funding on the hit TV show "Shark Tank," the rest was history.

News flash: Girls like to build stuff, too. Photo from Roominate, used with permission.

"I was lucky that I found my passion at such a young age, but so many girls never think about engineering as an option for them," Brooks told Upworthy. "I believe we need to give girls more options so they can find what truly interests them."

3. Julie Kerwin is a woman who loves superheroes, but she wasn't digging what was out there — especially for little girls.

"Many female action figures tend to be more hooters than heroine," Kerwin told Upworthy.

Her company IAmElemental aims to reinvent the superhero game by creating female action figures that are focused more on powers than looks. She believes that opens up a whole new form of play for little girls.

Meet the badass female superheroes from IAmElemental. Photo from IAmElemental, used with permission.

"By making females the protagonists of their own empowering stories, you can change the way they think about themselves and the world around them," Kerwin told Upworthy.

As a mom of two sons, Kerwin is also quick to point out that IAmElemental is "girl targeted, boy inclusive." That's because she understands the value of teaching boys to see (and play with) strong female action figures.

"We cannot move towards gender equality if we don't teach boys what it means to be a powerful woman," she said.

4. Jodi Norgaard never wanted to go into the toy business, but she took matters into her own hands for the sake of her young daughter.

That's when she created a line of plush sports-themed dolls for girls called Go! Go! Sports Girls to help encourage healthy and active play.

That's not to say that there's anything wrong with fashion and princesses, of course. It's just that Norgaard wanted to give girls more options than what was available.

Girls really dig these dolls. Photo from Go! Go! Sports Girls, used with permission.

"Girls are strong, smart, and adventurous — but instead, many toys geared towards them are focused on how they should look," Norgaard told Upworthy. "Girls love sports and we need more representation of that."

Because in today's world, the word "beautiful" has many definitions.

In order to truly make the world a happier place, we should teach our kids that they can be whatever they want to be — without limitations.

Thankfully, many of the larger companies are getting the memo as well. For example, Lego, usually known as a toy for boys, recently introduced Lego Friends, and little girls love them.

Even though more work needs to be done to change gender stereotypes, it's nice to know that we're heading in the right direction.

So when little Susie says she wants to be a computer programmer when she grows up while little Johnny says he wants to be a nurse, we should just smile and say, "Go for it."

True


Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

Those of us raising teenagers now didn't grow up with social media. Heck, the vast majority of us didn't even grow up with the internet. But we know how ubiquitous social media, with all of its psychological pitfalls, has become in our own lives, so it's not a big stretch to imagine the incredible impact it can have on our kids during their most self-conscious phase.

Sharing our lives on social media often means sharing the highlights. That's not bad in and of itself, but when all people are seeing is everyone else's highlight reels, it's easy to fall into unhealthy comparisons. As parents, we need to remind our teens not to do that—but we also need to remind them that other people will do that, which is why kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness are so important.

Writer and mother of three teen daughters, Whitney Fleming, shared a beautiful post on Facebook explaining what we need to teach our teenagers about empathy in the age of social media, and how we ourselves can serve as an example.

Keep Reading Show less