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."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
True

Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

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