Holy Feels, Batman! These Dolls Are Designed to Nurture Empathy in Boys

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Much has been written about how boys are not taught the language of emotion. In an effort to turn them into “strong” men, they are, in fact, deprived of it. They’re instructed in ways both subtle and overt, sometimes by their dads and often by each other, to bury, be ashamed of and flat-out avoid their feelings. And, according to an extensive study by Stanford Human Biology professor Judy Chu, they start to “disconnect emotionally and relationally” at age four or five. That’s kindergarten. Let’s all freak out together, boy moms.

Thankfully, at least one of us, psychotherapist Laurel Wider, is doing something about it. She was inspired to design Wonder Crew Dolls after a teacher told her preschool-age son, “Boys aren’t supposed to cry.” As she explains to The New York Times: “There was a wave of toys coming out around that time, toys that were encouraging girls to get involved with STEM, changing the way girls see themselves, and I thought to myself, ‘What about boys?’”

She knows her audience: Wonder Crew Dolls can be dressed up as firefighters, construction workers, astronauts, rock stars and superheroes—with matching capes, masks and other accessories for their owners. According to the website, the dolls “combine the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of the favorite stuffed animal.”

And experts say their cuddly qualities tap into boys’ nurturing instincts and empathy in a way that perhaps a Transformer or a Star Wars figurine wouldn’t. You can’t really hug a Ninjago Lego dragon (not that my son doesn’t try). 

In the end, Wider’s product speaks for itself. And for those who might miss the message, she created this tagline: “Boys have feelings. It's time for their toys to catch up." 

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