STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math–subjects that are vital to the future of progress yet areas that only 24% of women occupy jobs in. It is estimated that by the age of 8 most girls are losing interest in these subjects and now a toy company called “Wonderhood Toys” is attempting to change those dynamics and empower girls to be the architects of their own futures.
Wonderhood building toys are designed with girls in mind, engaging both their scientific and creative sides. The company’s relatable, positive female role models show girls that STEM is for them. “We want to change that dynamic early – and create more choice in play,” say founders Solange Schipani and Andrea Wenner Hollander, “Play isn’t just fun and games – it has a powerful role in how children develop, what skills they build, and who they aspire to be.”
Wonderhood Toys is proud to produce open-ended building systems that are intended to engage girls in STEM in a fun way. A startup, the company will debut at the NYC Toy Fair–TIA–in February 2016. At present, two models are set to hit stores in the fall of 2016:
• The Grand Hotel is a deluxe building set complete with a working elevator system, stairs and beautifully illustrated design panels. The included Activity Journal introduces “Chelsea” and prompts girls with design challenges.
• The Corner Shops set allows girls to create their own storefront shops using the themed design panels, a set of stairs and one figurine. The journal insert introduces “Emmie” and has its own unique set of design challenges.
All of the modular parts are interchangeable across sets, allowing users to create even larger structures. The high-quality, creative building sets are geared toward girls ages 4-10 and engages girl’s creative and scientific sides. The sets promote STEM skills such as geometry, spatial reasoning and hands-on problem-solving. No instructions are required, and the open-ended, 3D design inspires imaginative play and creativity.
Wonderhood founders Solange Schipani and Andrea Wenner Hollander met in business school and launched Wonderhood because they were disappointed in the lack of great STEM toys on the market for their own daughters and nieces. The mission of Wonderhood is to fill that gap and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. Recently, co-founder Andrea Hollander spoke to the Examiner about her experiences working in the toy industry and her hopes for the future of their company:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): When was Wonderhood Toys started and why was that specific name chosen?
Andrea Hollander (A.H.): Wonderhood Toys was officially established in the summer of 2015, but we had been working on the concept and business strategy for almost two years. The name Wonderhood was chosen after a creative process with a group of our friends and colleagues. We feel it evokes a special state of wonder and childhood that we really value. The name also reflects how our products help kids literally build a neighborhood or community – called Wonderhood – where they can imagine themselves living.
M.M.: Right now Wonderhood Toys has two models. How many more do you plan to expand to?
A.H.: We think the possibilities are endless! We already have plans for several new products within our first line of building sets – Main Street Makers (TM). What makes this so exciting is that the building pieces are modular and can be combined with other Main Street Makers (TM) sets to create even larger, more sophisticated structures. We also have ideas for adding totally new, unique, lines of products that will further our mission and create more choice in play. We are excited about the possibilities!
M.M.: How do you think up ideas for your products? For example, do you ever work with inventors?
A.H.: At Wonderhood Toys, we know that innovation can come from absolutely anywhere. We often turn to the young girls in our lives for inspiration. We are also constantly talking with and listening to the children, parents, and gift-givers who are using our products. As two moms with business backgrounds, we know the value of collaboration, so we definitely team up with talented designers, researchers, and graphic artists to bring our ideas to life.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with Wonderhood Toys?
A.H.: When we received our most recent prototype and put it together, we were very proud and happy with how far we have come. We are so excited about all that Wonderhood Toys products will offer girls – creativity, positive female characters, and real STEM skills. We are creating the kinds of toys that we want our own daughters to have the opportunity to play with.
M.M.: Where do you hope Wonderhood Toys will be in ten years?
A.H.: We hope that in 10 years Wonderhood Toys will be a household name, known for a variety of high quality, creative, and educational children’s products. We hope that we will have helped open up a whole new area of play for girls, inspiring them to get interested in STEM and showing them that they can be great at it.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the toy industry?
A.H.: We are newcomers to the toy industry and the best advice we can give is to talk to as many people as you can. We have been tremendously lucky that so many people in the industry have been willing to share their experiences, offer guidance, and make introductions. We’ve made a point to talk with people across the spectrum – from toy designers, to retailers, to marketers, to manufacturers, and more – and every one of those conversations has taught us something.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?
A.H.: We are excited to make our debut at Toy Fair 2016, starting February 13! We will be in booth #5958 and will have our first two sets – Grand Hotel and Corner Shops – on display!
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To learn more about Wonderhood Toys visit the official website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.