Gender-Bending New Toy Teaches Boys Friendship And Empathy Instead Of Butt-Kicking

Move over, Batman! There's a new doll in town.

Gender segregation of toys is on the rise and it's negatively affecting boys as well as girls.

"Where are the toys that encourage emotional connection and empathy? The pink aisle," Laurel Wider, founder of toy company Wonder Crew, writes in her blog.

During the years working as a psychotherapist, Wider says she witnessed a lot of boys and men struggling to fulfill the "impossible ideals of masculinity." The gender stereotype that classifies men as macho tough guys often has a negative boomerang effect on their self-esteem.

But even Wider wasn't aware of how pervasive these imposed norms were until one day her own son told her that "boys aren't supposed to cry."

Shocked, Wider decided to take the matter into her own hands. After working closely with teachers, parents, kids and toy industry experts, she created a new line of toys called Wonder Crew.

Wonder Crew is a line of toys specifically designed to teach boys connection and empathy and fit with their "culture."

"Research shows that relationships and the ability to connect emotionally are key to happiness, health and even career success.  Studies also show that toys have the power to influence the way kids see themselves and the world around them," Wider writes.

Driven by this idea, she came up with a concept that combines action and adventure with friendship and teamwork. Wider's initial goal was to create a toy that little boys could identify with and feel inspired to tap into their own talents and abilities.

Wonder Crew features three dolls that look more like a regular toddler and not a muscular, middle-aged man like most action figures do.

According to Wider, "Crewmates combine the adventure of an action figure, with the emotional connection of a favorite stuffed animal."

All three dolls (Rockstar, Superhero and Builder) were initially named Will, because it suggests the determination and strength to "go anywhere, be anything."

Take a look at the Wonder Crew in action:

The Wonder Crew project is currently in development. Wider is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of the first set of dolls.

If you'd like to learn more or fund the project and get your own doll, visit this Kickstarter page.

Related: Video Shows What Happens When Boys Are Told They Can't Cry.