A Mom’s Guide to American Girl Dolls

American Girl

As an enchanted little girl, American Girl {then called “Pleasant Company”} was a chance for me to imagine, to create and to delight in all things ‘little girl’.  Get your wallet ready, they are not cheap, but so worth the high price tag.

I am so blessed to have grandparents who could both sew & create fine woodwork. My grandmother had the official American Girl doll dress patterns and with perfection she would sew replicas of so many dresses for my doll. I have around 15 homemade dresses. Some kids wait for Santa on Christmas morning; I waited for my new doll dresses! Then one year, my Grandpa blew me away when he made me a cherry wood four-poster bed for my doll and a matching wardrobe. They were, without question, one of my most treasured childhood possessions then and now as I watch my daughters delight in those same treasures.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant with a girl, 7 years ago, I impatiently waited until the day I could pass on my treasured doll to my daughter Bella. My doll was the adventurous frontier girl from the 1850s, Kirsten. I passed Kirsten on to Bella when she was about 3 ½ years old. My other daughter Lily, now 2, carries Kirsten all over the house, she even tries to change her clothes, not super proficient at that skill yet.

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If your daughter is just starting out with American Girl dolls, begin by reading a couple of the books. They are excellent out loud reading! Our favorite book sets are about Felicity, Samantha, Kirsten & Caroline. The recommended age for American Girl books are 8+ but if you are reading aloud it’s easy to edit the content to be appropriate at any age. Since some of the stories can have heavier storylines than my 7-year-old is ready for, we “white out” parts of our books so my Bella can read them again, on her own.

A Mom’s Guide to American Girl Dolls

There are four different types of American Girl dolls:

1. Historical dolls

Currently there are nine historical dolls available, ranging from 1764 – 1974. {When I was a girl, there were only four, Samantha, Kirsten, Molly and Felicity. Sadly, those four are all “retired” now.} Historical dolls each have six captivating books that usually span a year in the life of the doll. Thank goodness the “retired” doll’s books are still available.

2. Girl of the year dolls

New every year and only available for that year, then they “retire”. It’s almost always a modern day doll and have usually 1-2 books that go with each doll.

3. My American Girl dolls

This is one that a lot of people start their daughter out with because you can create the doll to look just like them. The down side is, there are no books to go along with the “My American Girl doll”.

4. Mini Dolls 

This is probably my favorite thing AG has done in a long time!! ALL of the dolls, even the retired dolls, are now available in 6 inch MINI size. These are much more affordable and so sweet.  My daughter has three minis,  and she and her little sister enjoy playing with them all.

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There are lots of ways to choose the right historical doll for your daughter or granddaughter. Head to the AmericanGirl website and browse with your little girl and see what she likes.  All the dolls are so different; you could choose a doll based on a similar life story, family background, interest, physical appearance or perhaps a location. I think part of the reason I choose Kirsten was because she had blue eyes and I so wished I, too, had blue eyes as a child. A subscription to the free catalog is a must have. It’s a big deal when it arrives in the mailbox. We go to a coffee shop, or sit on a blanket outside or snuggle on the couch and slowly flip through each page.  The excitement and anticipation is magical.

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I was home schooled from K-12 and I home school my daughter, who is now in 1st grade. Starting last year, I created, or found on-line curriculum that goes with each historical doll. I made a timeline of the dolls as our guide, 1764-1974. We’re moving through each of the dolls chronologically. So far, we have studied Indians in 1764, Colonial/Revolutionary War in 1774, War of 1812 and New Mexicans in 1824. We are learning so much about each time period– the kinds of food they ate, the homes they lived in, the historical events of the day and the clothes they wore. Each doll takes a different amount of time based on the depth of our study. Some story lines aren’t super interesting right now for my 7 year old so we move faster through those dolls. Below are a few websites I used to organize our American Girl studies.

American Girl resource websites:

My AmericanGirl Pinterest Page

American Girl Curriculum

Printables

Games

Lapbooks

Movies

Stickers 

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My choice has always been to stick with the historical dolls, there is such a richness of history & opportunity to expound through education and play. Personally, I feel like the “modern day” world is all around us. I appreciate that my daughter is transported by the historic dolls and books to a different time and place, broadening her perspective as we are turning life into school {not to mention all the dress up, tea parties and doll birthday parties we have}!

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The “mothership” American Girl doll store is in New York City {but there are stores in many major US cities}. We are big NYC fans in my house! I have experienced the wonder of Manhattan many times, and my Bella has been multiple times also. At the top of Bella’s list every time is a trip to the American Girl doll store on 5th avenue. It’s an incredible experience for any little girl, or a grown up little girl like me. We never buy a big doll, only mini dolls and accessories. For years, I’ve been dreaming of a Mom-Daughter American Girl doll trip. This enchanting trip for Bella {& Lily in time} will be to the American Girl doll store in NYC, specifically to buy her own doll. We are just waiting for Bella to choose the right doll/storyline. We hope to take our trip around Christmas, stay at a fancy hotel, enjoy a carriage ride to and from the store, eat a fancy meal at the American Girl doll café, her Daddy will have flowers sent to the hotel, and of course Bella will buy her first American Girl doll! One that she will cherish for a lifetime, just as I have.

As imagination and delight continues, I hope you and your girls have as much fun with your American Girl dolls as we do!

Hannah Waugh

Have you introduced your daughter to American Girl dolls? What tips or advice do you have for moms looking to introduce their child to the world of American Girl?

{Photo Credit}

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Comments

  1. 1

    Megan D. says

    I love this post! I adored Kirsten as a little girl–I made my mom do my hair in those looped braids she wore, reread the books constantly, and even went as her for Halloween one year complete with a bonnet and apron my grandmother made for me. I still remember offhandedly telling my mother one morning that it was June 6th, Kirsten’s birthday. When I got back from school that day, my mom had hung birthday banners and pictures of Kirsten and even made cupcakes! It’s still one of my fondest memories of my mom.

    What a treat those historical dolls were. I’m disappointed their focus seems to be more modern now and also that my old favorites are all retired. What a fabulous idea to build a homeschool unit around them! I have a son and would be thrilled with more boys, but reading about your dream mother-daughter AG trip makes me yearn for girls as well! :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2

    says

    I have a Kirsten doll (my sister has Samantha). Kirsten and Molly were definitely my favorite books. I regret, at least a little bit, that I gave all of my books to friends of mine when I was in collage (they were 10 at the time). I mostly regret that I don’t have them to pass along to my daughter since some of the original ones are harder to find. I haven’t introduced my daughter to them yet, though she would probably do really well it her (she’s 4). The doll is hanging out in her closet though. I may have to pull her down soon. I am definitely excited about the mini dolls and may need to pick up a couple for my daughter.

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