Historically, one’s gender impacts how they are perceived by society and this, in turn, affects how they believe they are “supposed” to act. Even from a young age, many boys are taught to that feelings and emotional connection make them weak. Laurel Wider, a psychotherapist, deeply disputes this belief.
Aside from being a psychotherapist, Laurel Wider is a mother who was shocked when her preschool-aged son came home with the message that “boys aren’t supposed to cry.” In response, Laurel decided to start a toy company that creates products which aim to fill a gap in the toy market by empowering boys and girls to be leaders, teachers, caretakers, problem solvers and dreamers of their own adventures. She called her creation “Wonder Crew.”
In October 2015 a new line of Crewmates was announced. These are characters that combine the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of a child’s favorite stuffed animal and are subsequently poised to shatter traditional gender stereotypes in the toy aisle and beyond just in time for the holiday rush.
Wonder Crew gives boys the opportunity to build emotional intelligence and creativity while addressing the developmental needs of the whole child. While inspired by boys, Wonder Crew is committed to empowering all children to see themselves as connected, creative, strong people with the ability to “Go Anywhere. Be Anything.”
“As a psychotherapist, I’ve worked with many individuals who felt stifled by hyper-masculine stereotypes; I was shocked when my own son came home from preschool one day with the message that boys aren’t supposed to cry,” says Wider. “Frustrated by the lack of toys on the market for boys that encourage empathy, connection or nurturing type play, I decided to develop Wonder Crew to fill this gap in a fun and engaging way.”
Studies show that strong relationships and the ability to connect are key to happiness, health and even career success. Yet boys grow up with cultural messages that tell them feelings and relationships make them weak. Wonder Crew brings emotional connection into boys’ play because it’s time to address the developmental needs of the whole child and move beyond stereotypes – and parents agree. “Play influences children’s development; the idea that boys were limited to ‘blue aisle’ activities felt so limiting,” Wider explains. “I wanted to offer a toy that encouraged a fuller set of possibilities.”
This past April, Wonder Crew completed a successful Kickstarter campaign, with backers from 35 states and five continents. This initiative launched the line into production with its first Crewmate, “Will” Superhero Adventure, now available for purchase. Will comes complete with a superhero cape, mask and a matching piece of adventure gear for the child to wear. Standing at 15 inches tall, Will brings adventure through friendship and sparks imaginative play. This adventurous crewmate features a smooth vinyl head and limbs and a soft yet durable thermal body.
Wonder Crew’s initial wave of success is indicative of a new wave of toys coming into the marketplace, ones that eschew limits and stereotypes about what boys and girls are supposed to be like or to become. “Wonder Crew’s more inclusive message plants seeds for imagination and emotional intelligence. By inviting children to experience play as the open-ended activity it’s meant to be, the values of self-confidence, creativity, kindness, nurturing and flexibility flourish,” Wider concludes.
Recently, Laurel Wider spoke to the Examiner about her experiences developing this brand and entering into the toy industry:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): When was Wonder Crew started and why was that specific name chosen?
Laurel Wider (L.W.): Last April Wonder Crew officially launched thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, we received over 500 pre-orders from 35 states and 5 continents. We chose the name Wonder Crew because our brand is all about adventure and friendship; more specifically our formula is Child +Crewmate = Wonder Crew.
M.M.: What kinds of products does Wonder Crew offer?
L.W.: Wonder Crew is a line of Crewmates (aka dolls) that bring emotional intelligence and creativity to boys’ play. Think the adventure of an action figure meets the emotional connection of the favorite stuffed animal. Right now we have “Will” our first Crewmate who comes in our Superhero Adventure along with a matching child-sized cape and mask. We also have a Builder Adventure Pack, which offers the opportunity to keep the same Crewmate, but have a new adventure. Our Builder Adventure Pack comes with a builder Crewmate outfit and a matching child-sized hard hat.
M.M.: How do you think up ideas for your products? For example, do you ever work with inventors?
L.W.: We dream up ideas and then test them with kids and retailers.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with Wonder Crew?
L.W.: The images and testimonials that our customers have posted on our Facebook page.
M.M.: Where do you hope Wonder Crew will be in ten years?
L.W.: Our mission is to empower all kids to children to see themselves as connected, creative, strong people with the ability to “Go anywhere, Be anything.” We want to see Wonder Crew reach as many kids as possible. Right now we’re exploring the potential of a TV show.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the toy industry?
L.W.: Do your research, test your product/make sure it speaks to kids and don’t be afraid to ask more established companies for advice — I can’t believe the help I’ve received from more established companies like Roominate, I am Elemental and Goldieblox.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?
L.W.: We’re excited to be in Toy Fair 2016.
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Wonder Crew is available online at the official website for $49.99. For more information, please visit the Wonder Crew Facebook and follow them on Twitter via @WonderCrewToys