Where are the toys that encourage emotional connection and empathy? The pink aisle.
Boys grow up with cultural messages about masculinity that tell them feelings and emotional connections make them weak. As boys get older, research shows that acceptance of these hyper-masculine stereotypes has a direct correlation with stress, depression and lower rates of overall mental health. Imagine a world that encourages social and emotional connections to be part and parcel of “boys being boys.” That’d be awesome, right? Well, that world starts with child’s play.
Play is how children learn about themselves and the world around them, but it’s rare to find a toy marketed to boys that fosters nurturing play. There are teddy bears and other stuffed animals that are accessible to both girls and boys, but what about a toy with a human face – one that gives the green light on connecting with another person? Very rare. What about a toy that's not only marketed to boys, but one that's designed for boys? Non-existent. The take-home message is: emotional connection is not something boys should be into and if they are, there’s something “pink” about it.
As a psychotherapist, I've witnessed many boys and men struggle to achieve impossible stereotypes of masculinity. I see that it's not easy to be male. The expectations are grueling and often contradictory. We want our boys and men to find happiness and live fulfilling lives, yet our culture tells them that in order to be a man, emotions must be checked at the door.
Despite the awareness I gained through years of client work, I was shocked when my own son came home from preschool one day and announced that “boys aren’t supposed to cry” – these messages are everywhere and affect everyone.
My work with clients and my son are the inspiration behind Wonder Crew.
It’s time to create a more expansive understanding of masculinity and I believe that if we work from the ground up and start with the youngest ones, we will create the most impact.
I founded Wonder Crew in order to bring emotional connection and empowerment into boys' play – because it needs to be there, because our boys deserve more, because our boys ARE more.
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