Earlier today, I took my girls to McDonald’s for a “sometimes treat” – a Happy Meal, but only because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and I promised them their once-a-year Shamrock Shakes if they’d been good. I was surprised when the guy asked me if I wanted “a boy toy or a girl toy,” because I thought I’d read that McDonald’s was ending that practice ages ago. With no sign on the board indicating what the choices were, I stopped him and asked what the options were. He specifically stated, “for the boys it’s Hot Wheels, and the girls is Barbie.” Ok, so the Mattel promotion is back, but I have two girls that love both of those things. I deferred to the back seat for an answer, and with no surprise, Adalyn said “Barbie,” while her little sister Finley answered “Hot Wheels.” You’d think by now all the gender discussion with toys would be a non-issue, but it’s not – and while I’ve often spoken of letting my girls play with whatever they want regardless of what “aisle” it comes from, I’ve heard that for parents of boys (an experience I will never know), there’s issues even more challenging. Bottom line: the b.s. double-standard that some adults still push – cool for girls to play with cars and action figures/not cool for boys to play dolls and kitchen. WRONG. Kids can, and should be able to play with whatever toy they desire, but still, one mom is making strides toward making dolls “inspired by boys but truly meant for any child” under the name WONDER CREW – and it’s because she has to. While the initial hook is “dolls for boys” (a phrase that does lead the press release), these really are dolls for everyone…
I say this only after showing both of my girls pictures of the dolls by themselves – without little boys playing with them. To Addie and Finn, they were just “awwww”-worthy little “babies” that Addie was quick to rattle off as being “a superhero,” “a rock star” and “a baby builder” – all completely correct. Not just “dolls for boys,” but “boy dolls” are actually hard to find in any capacity, though neither is a new thing. I still have my 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids Doll, “Ollie,” who I’ve written about in the past. The Wonder Crew “Crewmates” actually remind me a lot of Hasbro’s MY BUDDY, which itself was controversial upon release back in 1986. If kids want a male doll that’s not an “action figure,” it’s challenging to find one – and when you do, the additional outfits are even harder to come by. I know, because I’ve looked. Dolls geared toward boys is an underserved niche, just like cars geared toward girls (which Girlmazing has been tackling).
Created by mother and psychotherapist Laurel Wider, Wonder Crew was born after Wider was “inspired by the way play influences child development and frustrated by the many gender stereotypes that toys perpetuate.” Watch her pitch video below, then read more details from the press release that landed here today…
From the Official Announcement:
Wonder Crew’s 15-inch soft-bodied dolls, referred to as Crewmates, combine the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of a favorite stuffed animal. They provide boys with the opportunity to build emotional intelligence and creativity, addressing the developmental needs of the whole boy rather than only those commonly recognized as masculine.
“Boys need more options in toys. Many of the play options offered by large toy companies are muscle-bound and even violent,” said Wider. “My goal with Wonder Crew was to show that emotional connection and kindness fit in with all types of play, including the kind that’s stereotypically masculine,” she added.
Despite having worked for years with clients who felt stifled by hyper-masculine stereotypes, Wider was shocked when her own son came home from preschool one day and announced that “boys aren’t supposed to cry.” The Grant Study, published in 2012, showed that strong relationships and the ability to connect emotionally are key to happiness, health and even career success, yet currently toys that encourage friendship and empathy are only marketed to girls, sending the message to many boys that this kind of play is not for them.
“Our culture is changing, and we’re beginning to understand the importance of kindness, connection and nurturing — even the NFL has caught on. Boys have feelings; it’s time for their toys to catch up,” said Wider.
Wonder Crew’s first Crewmate, Will, comes in three adventures: Superhero, Rockstar and Builder. Each Crewmate comes with a matching piece of child-sized adventure gear and a mini comic book. The Kickstarter campaign, which launched March 3, completes on April 2 with delivery scheduled for August 2015.
Fun Fact: Nearly every boy ages 2-10 that has ever visited Rock Father HQ (our house) has ended up playing with dolls. Most have also enjoyed our Step2 Play Kitchen and Love and Care Deluxe Nursery, and many have “fed” a baby in the high chair that’s attached to the girls’ play table.
Going forward, Wonder Crew hopes to use the boys just as the starting point, and “to ultimately create Crewmates that reflect all kids (race, gender).” They further state that “while Wonder Crew was inspired by boys,” they “plan to be an interest based brand, not gender based.”
A Note on Crowdfunding Coverage on THE ROCK FATHER: As of this writing, I have never financially backed a Kickstarter project, and generally do not consider coverage of crowdfunding projects to be “news,” but “advertorial” in nature. While this particular project caught my interest (I hope to see it successfully funded) and warranted commentary, that is a rare exception, and I ask that you please read this before pitching me any crowdfunding projects.