American Girl Doll: Experiencing the hype


Historical dolls
Historical  dolls

So Reagan recently decided that she wanted to upgrade the look of her favorite American Girl Doll, Addy, with something a bit more contemporary. Since she is a historical doll, I was a slightly disappointed that she wanted her out of her “slave clothes” attire (Reagan’s terminology) and put her in some cute tennis outfit. I had read the story of Addy to her when she was a little younger and concluded that the story was definitely a bit heavy to burden such young girls with. I am sure that Addy would not have been able to enjoy a game of tennis, in her time, but in Reagan’s eyes, the history of the doll was not as significant as the way Addy looks.

Addy is chocolate brown with thick hair, and features that Reagan can identify with. Her story could have been a little more uplifting though. I know, I know, Addy does demonstrate the message of courage, but why does my daughter’s favorite come with such a bitter story?

This month as we celebrate Black history month, Addy’s story definitely comes in handy as a great tool to teach a valuable lesson. Addy’s journey is a one of utter strength. The experience of many in her time. Yet, I understand my daughter’s plight to transform Addy into a “cool girl”.

Well in our pursuit to coolify Addy, we had to spend a pretty penny to get her a great tennis outfit, racket ( I don’t think that she will ever be winning a Grand Slam, or stepping foot on a tennis court). Why did I let myself get suckered into this American Girl world?

The most enlightening part of the trip to the American Girl store was when one of the sales attendants suggested that we make an appointment for Addy to get her hair done, and that we needed special products, and she needed a special brush, which by default we had already purchased. I very quickly interrupted, before the glee had settled on Reagan’s face, and volunteered to comb Addy’s hair myself. I am quite capable, and the thought of having to spend so much to get a doll pampered, gave me an instant headache. As a matter of fact, I am in dire need for a hair appointment myself, I will leave this for another blog post.

As parents, no matter how hard we try, it is hard to resist or ignore the phenomenal that is American Girl, the impact seems to be growing tenfold.

Background on American Girl

American Girl Dolls have been around for ages – since 1986 to be exact! For the longest time, the dolls were based on eight to eleven year olds from different time periods in American history, and would come with their stories in the catalog or as novels. Little girls used to enjoy reading and following the story as much as playing with the actual doll. They used to cover issues such as slavery, poverty, racism, war and animal abuse, detailing the way the doll ‘characters’ over came or dealt with them. Over time, some of the historical dolls have been phased out, and the new dolls and their stories are based more on contemporary life, with new-age problems and hurdles to overcome. A new line that is available, My American Girl, now offers a variety of ethnicities and physical features, allowing girls to find dolls that they can identify best with.

Even with all these changes, American Girl Dolls remain extremely popular. And this popularity translates directly to a huge dollar value! I mean, these dolls are seriously expensive, and to add to that there are dresses, accessories, pets, household fixtures, food – almost anything you can think of. You can also get matching outfits for the doll’s owners! So far, Reagan has two American Girl Dolls, (one was gifted to her by a relative) which she absolutely adores. As you can see, I do try to control this, though, essentially because of the price. And I have heard a lot of mothers discussing this craze, and whether it sends the wrong message to a child when you buy her a doll that costs more than $100.

I personally feel that, as parents, we just need to find a middle ground. This is definitely an expensive toy, but it’s okay as long as we don’t over-do it and start buying them a doll every month or a new outfit to go with their new found hobby. If this is a rare treat, the child deserves it, and if you can afford it, there shouldn’t be any harm. So many parents spend the same, or more, on electronic gifts or video games. I like this also because, thinking back to my own childhood, playing with dolls taught me how to create increasingly complex social situations, and let me be as creative as I wanted to. Also, American Girl Dolls come with stories, developing the habit of reading in young girls, sad or fun stories.

There is a new American Girl Doll store that has recently opened at the Stanford Shopping Center, if you want to check out what this craze is all about! Also online at Or you can also purchase dolls and accessories on the secondary market, as the cost may be relatively less.

4 thoughts on “American Girl Doll: Experiencing the hype”

  1. Alas Mayma, a lot of us have been “suckered” to phrase it nicely, into this phase of our daughter’s lives. The only difference is we are living very far away from the closest American Girl store which would be in Orlando,Florida where we visit family at least once a year. On these visits we do try to use some amount of self restraint and not go totally overboard with the “necessities” for our doll. Lately she has been asking for a closet for Isabella (our doll) and my reply has been to ask daddy to make But I totally get it and understand the hype, the problem as usual is the price tag that usually comes along with having the “cool” stuff.

  2. Mayma I too did the American Doll. I love dolls, you are correct they inspire creative imaginations. We also did great international trips, private schools etc. A lot of money was spent…now they are older and I realize the most important and meaningful elements in their lives had absolutely nothing to do with anything material. What they see in the home is most important. Loving parents who respect one another (and them) is the of the utmost importance. What goes on behind closed doors….

    1. Sheila, you are right. The experiences trump materialism. I wish that this phase will only last a wink. The experience is not only expensive but high maintenance as well. I guess the joy of it all is to see how elated she gets playing with her dolls. These experiences are priceless.

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