When my daughter first started collecting (and pairing birthday checks with her allowance to procure) American Girl dolls, I knew the looks I’d get from some. I’d given them myself years ago, in the way that all non-moms assume that they know so much more than the mothers standing before them … only to be rudely awakened when the progeny arrive.
Yes, I allow my daughter to play with dolls that cost more than my favorite pair of sneakers, favorite pair of jeans AND my favorite top combined. Yes, I do think they’re pretty great … and not only for the myriad lessons about finance that my now 10-year-old has learned several times over each time she’s plunked down her own money, collecting checks from great-aunts, dollars and quarters from helping around the house, scrounged change from beneath the couch cushions and random 20s from birthday parties to put together her own collection of flaxen-haired dolls with fluttering eyes and petite outfits.
Why I allow my daughter to play with American Girl dolls, and why when the company sent me an email that Maryellen Larkin, the newest of the company’s “historic” dolls, was wending my way, I shrugged and said “the more the merrier.”
If we’re going to give our kids a handful of toys to let them explore their imagination with, there’s a pretty solid list of reasons to include the American Girls:
- Diversity is a priority. While every American Girl doll has the same basic face, skin tones, hair types and eye color can all be customized, allowing girls who don’t look like every other blonde-haired blue-eyed doll on the market to actually find someone who looks just like them.
- There are bald dolls for kids with cancer, dolls with hearing aids, dolls with service dogs, dolls with glasses, dolls with wheelchairs, dolls with braces, even dolls with arm crutches.
- They’ve tried to address social issues. Remember Gwen Thompson, the homeless girl doll? Or maybe you heard that this year’s doll, Grace, was introduced along with a partnership with No Kid Hungry, to raise money for the charity.
- Although these days the company is rolling out movies for their characters, each doll comes paired with a book, to encourage kids to indulge in a love of the written word in addition to doll play.
- The history matters. Speaking of those books, I’ve noticed an interesting thing among the girls in my daughter’s age group: They’re not just reading the books that come with the dolls they may or may not own. The books about Molly, Kirsten and the other historical dolls that are no longer available are also in high demand, and read cover-to-cover by kids who want to hear more about the adventures of girls their own age to truly identify with the historical stories.
Disclaimer: While American Girl did send me a Maryellen Larkin doll, all opinions expressed here are long held and most definitely my own.