I really wanted to hate them. The big, pink-walled stores. The mass materialism and high prices. The gender-specific nature of the whole thing. But I just can’t, because my daughter’s love for all things having to do with American Girl dolls has turned out to be a very good thing.
Certainly, when you consider some of the alternatives in the doll market — long stick-like beings that defy anything remotely human, the ones sold under a brand name that’s a noun for bad behavior, those that mimic less-than-appropriate celebrities — AG gets most of what they do right. The dolls come along with various backstories that tell of their varied history, heritage, experiences, abilities, interests and intelligence.
I’ve noticed some beneficial values and lessons my daughter has picked up as a result of playing with and learning about her dolls in the accompanying books.
Here they are:
The company is actually quite purposeful in making it a goal to instill confidence in young girls. To quote from the web site, “American Girl characters past and present show girls today that they can do great things if they believe in themselves and each other. From a Native American girl living in the Northwest in 1764 to a contemporary girl whose passions inspire action, the characters in every story illustrate the power of determination, imagination, courage, and hope—the same spirit that inspires modern American girls.”
My daughter often tells me how much she admires her dolls for their accomplishments made through having the confidence to try. Her Girl of the Year®, McKenna, for example, is disappointed when she requires a tutor for help with school. However, with the tutor’s help, McKenna’s confidence grows.
2. An Appreciation for Culture and History
American Girl historical characters give girls a glimpse into important times in America’s past. Each character’s story is told in a series of compelling books, focusing on such themes as family, school, holiday, birthday, summer, and winter adventures. There’s Josefina®, a girl living in colonial New Mexico in 1824 during the opening of the Santa Fe Trail; Marie-Grace™ and Cécile™, two girls reaching across boundaries to form a friendship in New Orleans in 1853; and Addy®, a courageous girl from 1864, determined to be free during the Civil War, just to name a few.
Even though my daughter doesn’t own any of these dolls, but she has borrowed the books from her friends and read the stories, amazed and impressed by their plights.
3. Healthy Interests
As a company, American Girl aspires to develop products and experiences that help girls grow up in a wholesome way, while encouraging them to enjoy girlhood through fun and enchanting play. It shows. And it’s refreshing.
The contemporary Girl of the Year® characters give voice to a diverse range of personalities and backgrounds. Each modern-day character doll comes to life through her own special story, plus several outfits and accessories that reflect her lifestyle, interests, and activities.
For my daughter’s doll McKenna, that means doing well in school and gymnastics. The accessories include ponytail holders, gymnastics outfits and even a cast and crutches for when she has injuries. McKenna’s persona actually inspired my daughter to begin gymnastics classes at the local recreation center. And my daughter is certainly proud of her recent report card. I can’t be certain if McKenna’s story has anything to do with my daughter’s drive to do homework and succeed. But I also know it can’t hurt.
4. The Value of Relationships and Community
When I was a kid, having dolls was about practicing for motherhood. But American Girl dolls are more about practicing for life. The dolls’ respective stories involve relationships with family and friends. To reflect on the quote noted earlier in this post, the characters “show girls that they can do great things if they believe in themselves and each other.
For example, in McKenna’s story of receiving help from a tutor, she’s too embarrassed to tell her friends. When they discover her secret, they’re hurt and angry. McKenna learns a valuable lesson about honesty and friendship. And my daughter did, too.
Not surprisingly, the dolls’ seemingly endless array of accessories dominates my daughter’s Christmas List once again this year. So, I will once again allocate some of my modest holiday budget to acquiring a few AG items as gifts for my good little girl. At least I can feel good about doing so.