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Equal Goods Brand Highlight: Boy Story

EG Brand Highlight Template
We’re kicking off 2017 with a series of brand highlights, focusing on socially conscious companies that promotes Equal Goods’ Guidelines. For our first highlight, we feature Boy Story, whose co-founders Kristen and Katie also have helped bring Equal Goods to life.

18" Boy Dolls to break down stereotypes

Tell our readers, what is Boy Story?

Boy Story introduces cool boy Action Dolls to the toy market. Our dolls are 18” plus and vinyl dolls with ball joints for extra poseability. We specifically want to make kids feel comfortable including boys in pretend play using dolls. That’s our basic goal really. It’s simple, but not so easy to achieve!

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What inspired you to start Boy Story?

Kristen: The initial inspiration came from my own son. I have two boys (almost 4 and almost 2), and while I was pregnant with the second one, I wanted to buy a boy doll for my first son.  Naively, perhaps, I sat down at my computer and started searching the internet for a boy doll. My requirements were pretty simple (I thought): A doll in the 15-18″ range that was cool and a similar age as my son. What did I find? Hardly anything! There were baby dolls, girl dolls, plush dolls, and some incredibly expensive special order boy dolls, but nothing under $100 and nothing that was just a basic, cool boy doll for my son. I was a little taken aback – how on earth did this not exist in the 21st Century? Then I started digging in. It seemed everyone was asking for a cool boy doll, but no one was making them. I thought to myself, I can do this!  But at the time I was working overseas as a full-time lawyer and mother. That’s where Katie came in!

Katie:  While Kristen was visiting me in January 2015, she couldn’t stop talking about the boy doll idea. She had mentioned it a few times earlier, but now she was obsessed! But I was a little bit shocked when she called me one morning and excitedly asked if I would be interested in starting up a company with her. The timing was perfect for me and the opportunity was one I couldn’t pass up. I’m a designer by trade but was working in a bar to make ends meet since the design market was struggling. Kristen suggested I put my design skills to use by designing the dolls and clothes. I’m a “figure it out” kind of person too, so I was up for the challenge. Oh, and I LOVE my nephews and kids in general, so working with toys sounded absolutely perfect. One week later, I quit my job and started up Boy Story! Kristen would give me a little direction and act as a sounding board, but for the next year, I did everything necessary to get things up and running.

What kinds of stereotypes did you see in society, perpetuated by the marketplace, that you wanted to address?

boy-story_boy-doll_gender-equality_18%22-plush-vinyl-001The blatant double standards are what really shocked me the most. There I was, a working mom, struggling with gender-related issues all the time in my own field of law, and raising two boys, and I couldn’t even find a basic boy doll. This contradicted the message that I hear everywhere, and teach my own kids, that boys and girls should be sharing the load. We all are in this life together, and we all play different roles. But we are not cast into any one role necessarily (and especially by gender), and we should have choice and flexibility in our roles. A mom might be a super-star engineer who balances her intense job with child care, dinnertimes, and exercise. A dad might teach adult education at night while he takes care of the kids during the day and qualifies as household laundry and shopping manager. We teach our kids this and aim for it ourselves. Yet as I struggled to fight very antiquated stereotypes at my own job and raise my boys in a gender-equal environment, the toy market seemed to only counteract everything I was working toward.

Specifically, the world of dolls (which are inherently little people) is completely gender and racially lopsided. How can I really teach my sons that they can be anything and should be treating other genders and races equally if the toy market teaches them from a very young age that they can’t play with dolls, and that if they do want to play with dolls, there are no dolls like them available? How can I teach my sons gender equality? Dolls of all toys should be as diverse as the world in which we live. They weren’t, so I am aiming to change that.

When you think of the phrase “equal goods,” what does that mean to you?

We believe that equal goods are ones that are not labeled as being “for” any particular human trait, such as gender or race. We make dolls for kids, not for boys or for girls as separate groups. Kids all benefit from the emotional intelligence, relational and nurturing skills they can develop through pretend play with dolls. Why exclude a kid from that on a basis not connected with play? The stereotypes in toys, we believe, can be harmful to children, impeding their growth and equality in the future. There are a whole generation of young kids now who will grow up to be parents. Why exclude boys from the type of play that can teach them to be great dads? Equal goods give all kids the chance to learn and play together.

Name three other brands you love and admire:

  1. Mitz Accessories (obviously) – they co-founded Equal Goods with us
  2. Renegade Made – another small woman-owned company that makes the cutest art projects
  3. iamelemental – a Kickstarter-backed, woman-owned company making female action figures that are SO COOL (and their owners have been incredibly helpful as we have started up)

We have also received a lot of advice and help from other emerging businesses and some even more established ones – I can’t list them all here but I thank each of them!

What is your #1 absolute favorite book for children?

This is so tough! In our house, we absolutely love Julie Donaldson’s The Snail and the Whale. It’s a great story about helping even when you are small. The main character is female (oddly so many books use male pronouns even for animals that are main characters), and the illustrations are beautiful.

Do you think companies can be both successful and socially conscious?

Absolutely. And it is good business practice to be socially conscious. Consumers are increasingly demanding that the companies they support lend a hand to improving their world beyond just providing a product. These days you can buy practically anything from anywhere. We strive to be a brand that care about the messages our toys are sending kids.

Is your approach to marketing the Boy Story dolls gender neutral

Not exactly. Our marketing is gender nboy-story_boy-doll_gender-equality_18%22-plush-vinyl-61eutral – our dolls are for anyone. But Boy Story makes boy dolls, and we present them to the market in a way that is gender equal. Dolls as a product inherently are not gender neutral because they generally are perceived to have a gender since they represent children. Our approach is to level out the market and let all kids of all backgrounds feel comfortable with doll play. The way to do this, in my view, is to first break down the harmful messages that have been sent to kids telling them that boys can’t play with dolls and girls should be playing with dolls. I started with the basic problem: Cool boy dolls and racially diverse dolls don’t exist. So let’s make them.  First part of the problem solved.  But that’s not enough. I can’t just put them into a hugely stereotyped market and expect the problem to be gone. I have to counterbalance. So Boy Story deliberately brings ethnically diverse boy dolls to the market. We do it in a way that partially caters to the current marketplace and norms so that boys who haven’t been encouraged to play with dolls feel comfortable doing so. We also expect that girls will enjoy the “boyishness” of the doll line and pick them up to include in their doll play. We don’t ignore gender at all. We believe gender is something to be embraced and recognized.  But it shouldn’t be imposed upon any kid, and gender certainly should not dictate choice in play!

I like to say that you have to break down the barriers before you can share the sandbox. Boy Story starts breaking down the barriers in the doll market. Once those barriers crumble, Boy Story’s messaging will naturally change. I could see a future major expansion that includes girl dolls as well, but first we want to balance out the market by making it diverse.

Aren’t there already dolls for boys? What about superheroes and GI Joes?

There are very few boy dolls in the market. Just to clarify, we don’t just make dolls for boys. Boy Story makes boy dolls to help balance out the market that offers a variety of 18″ girl dolls but very few boy dolls, especially of high quality and in a similar style and price point as our dolls. Our dolls are very distinct from superheroes and GI Joes. First, they are same-age toys, meaning they are similar in age to the children playing with them. Don’t get me wrong, superheroes are awesome! But they fill a different pretend play role. With dolls, we interact on a more social level. Our kids relate to dolls, they take care of dolls (compared to superheroes that are usually the ones flying in to solve problems), they cook for dolls, they use dolls as companions, and they read books to dolls. Superheroes are just that: super-human. GI Joes are full grown adults, usually accompanied by weapons and military garb. They emphasize powers, muscles, imagination, and adulthood. But they don’t really emphasize relationships. Kids sometimes just need that friend of their own to tote around and maybe take care of while daddy or mommy are busy. Maybe they need someone to talk to. Maybe they want to pretend to be a parent. There are all sorts of experiences that come with dolls that don’t necessarily come with superheroes. For all the reasons girls have been encouraged to play with dolls for years, those are the same reasons ALL kids should be encouraged to play with dolls.

 

What has the response been like from kids? And parents? 

Kids love them. They want them. They can’t stop moving their arms and legs. I had a few kids try to take the prototypes home with them! Oh, and we’ve gotten lots of requests for blue hair!

Parents are a mixed bag. Some totally get it and love them. We had a huge showing of community support on Kickstarter last month. The articles by parents that have been written completely embrace the idea. Most of our surveys have been incredibly positive and recognize the gap in the current market.

Other parents have told me “no way, I won’t buy a doll for my son, he won’t play with it.” I’ve heard that for children younger than two. Retailers are concerned that walk-in purchases will be slow. They don’t even know where to stock them – with the dolls (traditionally girls’ stuff) or somewhere else. There isn’t really a spot in the “boy aisles” for dolls. It saddens me because it means the stereotypes aren’t going away any time quickly.

Has the toy industry embraced the concept of Boy Story dolls? Do you think their response reflects wider changes in consumer expectations when it comes to toys and toy marketing?

boy-story_boy-doll_gender-equality_18%22-plush-vinyl-37We’ve been blown away at how receptive the market has been. Whether the “toy industry” has embraced us, only time will tell. Our customer base started as a Kickstarter base, but expanded quickly through our direct and boutique retailer sales over the holidays. One advantage for us of being small is that we don’t need mass market sales. We just need a strong core of customers who want to offer their kids choice in play and are willing to buy our products. We are seeing some slow shifts in the toy industry in general to be more accepting and offer more diversity, but big changes are yet to come. Perhaps Boy Story (I hope) is leading the way for a wider change.

Are there plans to expand the range of Boy Story dolls available anytime soon?

We have two more dolls in development, plus a line of accessories. Since we are small and still brand new, our development is rather slow. We can only produce more dolls and clothes when we have gained market acceptance of our current products. We are hopeful to release the next two dolls this summer. Aspen is a caucasian doll with blond hair and blue eyes and Kenji is Japanese with black hair and dark brown eyes. All our face molds are unique to capture diverse facial features, which lengthens our average development time per doll. We also are producing richly illustrated chapter books with adventure stories to accompany each doll. After we have four boy dolls, we will be taking customer polls for the next dolls, and may even include a girl doll in the mix.  We like to introduce our dolls in pairs.

Where can we buy Boy Story dolls?

Our dolls are currently available at www.boystory.com. We send our newsletter subscribers exclusive news and deals, so please  sign up for our newsletter on the website or here. Select retailers also sell our dolls, so if you want to see them in person, head to a store nearby you.

How can we follow you on social media?

Our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter handle is @boystorydolls – check us out and definitely let us know what you think.

The Best STEM Toys of 2017

Want your kids’ brains to gain a bit of STEAM in 2017? Check out the best STEM toys for 2017 to select the perfect gift to enhance skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. And for good measure, we’re adding the letter “A” for Arts! Many experts agree that art is an important aspect of creativity and the future. If you’re searching for the perfect STEM gift in 2017, here’s our list of some of the latest and greatest. We’ve checked out these companies and their products and think they’re real winners. All meet our standards as Equal Goods.

Equal Goods curates our top 20 picks:

  1. Bloxel’s Video Game Builder Starter Kit – $49.95
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    This toy is so amazing, we can’t even imagine playing it as kids! It teaches kid to use blocks in patterns to create digital video games. Each kit includes a free app where kids can view and even play the games they create. This toy is challenging and rewarding, great for building creativity and a bit of grit.


  2. GoldieBlox Invention Mansion – $59.99

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    Build, build and build some more! This is a dollhouse DREAM, fully modifiable by the creator. With over 350 pieces and a full-color booklet of idea starters, the Invention Mansion gives your budding builder the tools to get started while encouraging open-ended, exploratory play. Young engineers will dive in to discover a trap door, zipline, balconies, bridges, and secret spots. With thousands of configurations, the construction and role play possibilities are endless!


  3. National Geographic Rock Tumbler Starter Science Kit – $59.99

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    Who doesn’t love a smooth rock? I mean, this thing is so cool, I’m about to go out and buy it for my 35-year-old self right now! You take a rock, toss it in, and watch the shining begin. The results are beautiful, smooth rocks, useful for jewelry, general collections, and dragons’ lairs.


  4. Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer – $14.48

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    Books are toys, right? Right! And there was no other computer programmer like Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science! A funny and cute book that can be read night after night after night, this is sure to inspire your future scientist or computer programmer.


  5. Renegade Made Random Acts of Flowers – $19.99

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    Tee hee! Now we can stamp EVERYTHING with flowers! Follow the directions to fold paper into beautiful flowers, stick them in your homemade vase, and mark your turf with flowers. A cool new company with a cool new concept.


  6. Chibi Lights Circuit Stickers STEM Starter Kit – $30.00

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    These are worth every penny. Your kids had no idea the amazing things they could make light up until these stickers appeared. They are mini LEDs that teach basic circuitry and make one-of-a-kind cards, decor, or psychedelic art. Nifty!


  7. LUX Blox – $29.99

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    No – these aren’t just another block added to a list of STEM toys. These are AMAZINGLY and BEAUTIFULLY designed snap together “blocks” that rotate, curve, and stack in every way imaginable. We have met the owners and innovators behind this brand, and they are so into the designs they can make it’s like kids in a candy store.


  8. Perplexus Epic – $29.99

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    Who doesn’t love a good puzzle? This one has left us all scratching our heads and laughing with glee as we pass each level. Great for kids ages 8 and up and adults of all ages!


  9. Cubebot Micro – $9.99

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    STEM toys can be expensive with all their gadgetry and circuits. Get back to basics with these snapped-together blocks. They are perfect for fidgeters and can be manipulated in dozens of directions. And when you’re done, they fold back together into a block. It’s a snap.


  10. Modern Art Wall Calendar 2017 – $14.99

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    OOF! Bet your kids didn’t know that was art! A beautiful way to rotate art in their play rooms. Teach them about the modern greats and track the days of fun.


  11. Geosafari Jr. My First Telescope – $29.99

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    Twinkle twinkle little star meets reality with this telescope. Learn about all the bright points in the sky, teach them about the vast universe, and hug in wonder as you contemplate the sky nights. And wait ’til you see the next amazing item on our list…


  12. 4M Create A Night Sky Projection Kit – $17.99

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    When the dawn breaks and busy hands search for an activity, search no further than the 4M Create a Night Sky Projection Kit. Take all your newly found astrological knowledge and create your own sky, learning the intricate patterns of the stars. The kit comes with a light bulb that shines through the astrological patterns and casts them on the walls. And when the sun sets, snuggle up by the light of the night sky and watch in wonder at its beauty.


  13. I Heart Haring Activity Book – $12.99

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    Groovy and inspiring of all little makers, this I <3 Haring activity book is the perfect introduction to progressive art. Give them a marker or some crayons and let the fun begin. An open mind leads to great innovations.


  14. Seedling Make Your Own Marble Maze – $59.99

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    Seedling is one of the best new companies out there, and this kit combines design with gaming. Pretty fun stuff. Kids like the challenge of solving their own puzzle. Hand-eye coordination develops along with creativity.


  15. Koala and Kiwi Crates – $19.95 and up

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    Kiwi Crates (ages 3-4) and Koala Crates (ages 5-8) are the latest to join the subscription box craze. Yet these stand out of the crowd by leaps and bounds, encouraging future artists, creators, scientists, and makers. Each box comes with age-appropriate activities that work to expand the mind. The quality is superb, and the creativity seems never-ending.


  16. MOMA DIY Mover Kit – $79.99

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    A bright and powerful LED display leads the way of this contraption. It’s more complex than meets the eye. Kids hop online to a coding platform where they can learn how to configure blinking and moving lights for jewelry, bike lights, remote control cars, and more. A MOMA exclusive!


  17. Cubetto – $229.00

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    This price tag is steep, but we have never seen anything like this in kids coding toys before. Cubetto is a wooden robot, whose movements are programmed through different pieces attached to his base. If you’re skeptical of the price tag, check out a neighborhood toy store for a hands on demonstration.


  18. Eco-dough – $19.99

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    This is the creme-de-la-creme of doughs! Beautifully and naturally scented with essential oils, this dough contains only natural ingredients. Good for the earth and good for our kids. Vibrant colors to spark the mind and sooth the soul. Play with peace of mind that you’re supporting a sustainable business with sustainable goods.


  19. Tegu Magnetic Blocks – 42 Piece Sunset – $140.00

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    We know these Tegu magnetic blocks are on everyone’s list, but for good reason! They’re downright amazing. We’ve met the creators of this project, who traveled to South America in search of the perfect wood to use for their blocks. Sustainably made, these wooden pieces are a tactile experience every kid should have. The Sunset set gets extra points from us for its beautiful coloring.


  20. Geckobot – $51.99

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    This is exactly what it sound like. A robot. A gecko. Endless fun. Oh, and did we mention this thing climbs walls? Its suction cup feet are ingenious! If you become bored of the gecko, there are six other designs that these pieces can be made into.

A Post-Christmas Dance of The Sugar Mommy Through Barnes & Noble

Christmas over. Christmas checks cashed. Kids’ pockets have burning holes. What’s a mama to do? Take a trip to Barnes & Noble!

Post-Christmas shopping at Barnes & Noble is a bit like the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

It’s been a few years since I set foot in a Barnes & Noble’s bookstore. Our family lived overseas for the past three years, where bookstores were few and far between. But Barnes & Noble has always held a special place in my heart. It was there that I would go in my mid-teenage years to grab a pile of books and cozy up in a chair at the end of an aisle, carefully browsing to make my selection, or sometimes just reading Calvin and Hobbes for hours on end. I love everything about these stores: the smell, the coffee shop next door, the experience of seeing all the new titles.

Imagine my surprise, when I set foot into the bookstore last weekend only to discover that my favorite childhood bookstore has evolved into a trendy toy store with a book section in back! At first I was disappointed, because I really wanted my kids to sit immersed in reading, just as I used to do as a child. Instead, they let out yelps of joy and started whipping Paw Patrol figures off the shelves like they were ninja shuriken stars.

Time for a new mommy strategy. My brain went into high gear about how to triage the situation. Two boys – ages 2 and 4 – were suddenly loose in a “bookstore” maze of cars, dolls, games, and blocks.

How does one stop two child monsters with eyes green with toy greed from imposing mass destruction and chaos throughout the toy aisles? Here is my advice:

  1. Make sure you have as many adults with your party as children. This is a one-on-one job. I enlisted my husband immediately, who had wandered over to the Star Wars collectables section (of the “bookstore?!).
  2. Each mature responsible adult is paired up with a young toy-grabbing childling. The adult is responsible for any and all toy destruction by their assignee.
  3. Lay down the law. Immediately. Here is the law:
Rule #1: You have $20. It MUST buy a book. Browse and select books before embarking upon toy area (which by the way is half the store).
Rule #2: Upon selection of age-appropriate book that does not include any licensed character or movie/television promotion, any funds remaining from book purchase will be placed under consideration to be used for toy purchases. All toy purchases must be pre-approved by responsible adult. Any toy desires must be noted by child and added to Toy Purchase Wish Bucket (aka the “shopping basket”). No toys may be thrown around, played with in excess, stomped upon, crushed, opened, squashed, colored, built, or handled in any way other than to place them in the Wish Bucket. Failure to abide by these rules results in immediate removal of toys from Wish Bucket and replacement onto shelves.
Rule #3: Items must be selected from shelves and not other patrons’ Wish Buckets or hands.
Rule #4: Any whining, screaming, or similar “outside voice” utterances will void the opportunity to purchase a toy. Child will return to book section of bookstore and sit quietly for remainder of excursion, browsing books (an activity that will be vigilantly enforced by responsible adult).
For the record, my kids did great. Okay, correction: for the record, my kids did okay. We had to clean up the Paw Patrol display and nearby aisle about 10 times. There was a lot of loud exclaiming of toy names and features. Some loud and wild musical exhibitions on the toy keyboards.

But we walked out relatively unscathed, and even with some leftover money. The kids browsed books for a surprisingly long time. We emerged with a Llama Llama book (RIP Anna Dewdney), a book about colors, a car loader, and a Paw Patrol rocket. The trip lasted for about 45 minutes. Only one child had to be pulled aside for emergency quiet reading in the corner. And then we made it over to a park for an hour where they both had fun playing with their new toys, followed by goodnight stories with their new books.

Also, I need to mention some kudos to Barnes & Noble (I am not affiliated with or in communication with Barnes & Noble whatsoever, by the way). Their toy aisles were pretty amazing. It was the first “toy store” I have been to in a very long time where I am not overwhelmed by pink and blue. The toys were assorted and seemed well-curated. They were organized by activity and age, not by gender in any way. I didn’t see a pure princess section or a pure action figure section. Dolls were mixed between musical instruments and trains. Science experiments rested alongside sewing activities.

Kids actually can walk (or run) into a Barnes & Noble and have a great opportunity to choose toys or books that interest them, without outside pressure of choosing the “right” toys and books that are meant “for” them. For this, I have a little more love in my heart for the store. I know bookstores have gone through some pretty rough times in the age of all-things-digital. So I give credit to B&N for having updated their offerings, made their store a little different than I remember, but maybe a little greater too.

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Kristen Jarvis Johnson is an international lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, co-founder of Boy Story, family devotee, and social changer.  She can’t decide whether to lean in or lean back, but with two young sons, her hands always seem to be full. Her village is her rock: her husband, family, friends, and colleagues. Find her on Facebook & Instagram @kristenmjj and on Twitter @kristenmj

Boy Story is not affiliated with Barnes & Noble. We just love to shop there.

This blog post was originally published on Boystory.com. Read more by Kristen here.

Equal Goods: Hand-Selecting Toys, Clothes, and Books for the Consciencious Parent

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Equal Goods is excited to announce their brand new holiday gift guide, featuring companies which offer children’s toys, books, and clothing without limiting gender stereotypes. Created by like-minded social entrepreneurs, this holiday gift guide is the only one of its kind. The Equal Goods gift guide aims to helps socially conscious parents and gift buyers find toys, books, and kids’ clothing that support diversity and gender equality. Holiday shopping should be exciting and fun, and the Equal Goods holiday gift guide is the ultimate companion for gift-givers to wow their favorite children this holiday season.

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Equal Goods was founded by Kickstarter-funded companies Boy Story and Mitz AccessoriesThey’ve individually been featured in Upworthy, Teen Vogue, The Atlantic, Circa, The Baby Spot, theBerry, Baby Center, and others. Boy Story was also recently recognized by UN Women’s #HeForShe movement as a product that supports gender equality

Gender Equal Clothing & Accessories    18" Boy Dolls to break down stereotypes

We are a US-based organization of like-minded social entrepreneurs who are exploring new, innovative ways for shoppers to find children’s toys, books, and clothes that support gender equality. The aim of Equal Goods is tri-fold: to promote play and fun in a non-stereotyped manner, highlight and feature small companies, and to contribute to positive change for gender equality. They believe that neutral and free play will help develop acceptance and remove harmful stereotypes. The gift guide is carefully curated; Equal Goods has established the ‘Equality Certified’ company label to be designated for chosen participating products in an effort to build a diverse community of social entrepreneurs and better influence the children’s toy market away from harmful gender stereotypes.

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Each of the founders of Equal Goods looks forward to continually bringing you fresh products that are gender equal and diverse. We do this for each other, and we do it for you. Let’s #letkidsbekids and help them #playtochange the way we think about stereotypes in toys.

We look forward to this journey together.

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