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Meet Laurel Wider of Wonder Crew

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laurel Wider.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Laurel. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
When my preschool son told me that “boys don’t cry” a few years ago, my heart sank. I remember thinking to myself: “we live in a progressive town, we talk endlessly about feelings at home and I’m a therapist for goodness sake – how did this happen?”

Then came a light bulb moment. If kids learn through play, where are the toys that encourage boys to express feelings? They didn’t exist and their absence was sending the message to many boys that this type of play or this way of being wasn’t for them.

After extensive research, I came up with the Wonder Crew concept by merging the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of a favorite stuffed. Nurturing comes in all forms — why not mix this type of play with Superheroes, Builders, Explorers, Astronauts and more. AND included with each doll and in every ‘add on’ OR ‘adventure pack’ is a matching child-sized dress-up accessory, which brings kids deeper into the imaginative play experience and adds to the crew like vibe.

I created Wonder Crew, dolls inspired by boys, to help expand the definition of masculinity; I wanted to send a new message to boys, one that said yes… you can be kind, caring, nurturing, emotional, adventurous, strong, creative and more — a message that that moved beyond gender stereotypes and encouraged all aspects of their identity.

The line grew from a successful Kickstarter campaign to national recognition: featured on PBS, ABC World News and in The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Upworthy, Parent’s Magazine, The Atlantic and more. I also had the honor of speaking on behalf of Wonder Crew at the Obama-era White House Conference: Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes in Media and Toys.

Last year Wonder Crew won Toy of Year under the doll category, this was also the first time that a doll inspired by boys won this prestigious award.

Has it been a smooth road?
I’ve definitely met some challenges and bumps along the way. Manufacturing, shipping, learning an entirely different industry. Honestly, I just wanted to stir things up and create some much-needed change and now I can’t seem to stop. My background is in psychology and gender studies. Wonder Crew has inspired me to co-chair the toy industry’s new Diversity and Inclusion committee.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Wonder Crew story. Tell us more about the business.
Wonder Crew is a line of dolls that bring nurturing, empathy and connection to boys’ play. While inspired by boys, Wonder Crew’s mission is to empower all kids to see themselves as connected, creative, strong individuals with the ability to “Go anywhere. Be anything.”

I created Wonder Crew to give boys a green light to express kindness, empathy and other characteristics that weren’t being encouraged by ‘their’ toys. I wanted to address the developmental needs of the whole child and move beyond the stereotypes. Toys have the power to teach. Want to decrease bullying? Teach kindness.

I’m proud to be a part of this new conversation about boys’ potential, one where feelings and connections are a valued piece of their identity.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I’m thrilled to see the toy industry working to become more diverse and inclusive. I believe this shift will play a huge role in cultivating a healthier, more balanced and innovative generation of kids.

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