How I stopped worrying and learned to love the American Girl Doll.

“Sage, where are American Girl Dolls made again?”


For weeks–years–I had resisted.

They loved their beautiful handmade rag dolls, their original baby dolls from Momsie, their freaky, eye-bulging stuffed amphibians won from carnivals, and even the Disney Barbies that had somehow sneaked in via opaque gift-wrapped box during some birthday or another. But for the most part, we had managed to avoid the Cult of American Girl Doll.

I may have hidden a few catalogs.

Admittedly the whole thing made me nervous. I had heard about these girls who owned five, ten dolls and couldn’t stop demanding more, like molded plastic crack with hair. There were horror stories about $900 doll clothing bills at the store register. Fake dolls passed off as real dolls turned away at the official salons. (Official salons?)

And then there was the classmate in Thalia’s kindergarten who threatened to have an American Girl Doll party “and you can’t come unless you own one.” That was that. I’ve never been a joiner.

(Plus: Nice, kid. Really nice.)

But several weeks ago, as we neared the 11 billionth Nutcracker rehearsal, we were hit by the freight train that could not be stopped. Dear Parents, All dancers in the party scene must bring in her own doll. An American Girl style is preferred.

I’ve been able to shhhhh the relatives, the classmates’ parents, the people on the street talking about those [American Girl Dolls]. But there was no way I was going to stop an entire roomful of children in powder blue leotards from pushing their mass-produced doll addictions on my kids. These are no ordinary children; these are children who have committed to memory the doll names and their hairbrush styles and the actual $350 retail price of the VW Bug for Happy, or Skippy, or whoever the hell the 70’s looking hippie girl is.

american girl doll VW bug

Only $350! And you can add Julie and The Eagles paperback book for another $6.95!


We managed to squeak through the performances with an alternative. But as Christmas neared, the desire for the real thing didn’t wane.

It was Sage who asked first. And much to my surprise, I found myself hard-pressed to come up with a good reason why not.

As a girl who takes care of her dolls as if they were real live babies, dressing them for bed each night and dressing them again in the morning, I thought, you know, it wouldn’t be such a bad gift for her. I’ve often found Sage at night, sound asleep with 4 to 5 favorite dolls spread across her chest and around her body. What’s one more? Albeit one super expensive one more.

Now Sage is quite the opposite of Thalia who, as a toddler, used to play tea party with stuffed animals, then put them to sleep by lying them on the floor next to their tea cups and entirely covering each one head to toe with its own small blanket–and leaving them there. Maybe for days.

We had named it Thalia’s Arsenic Tea Salon and Funeral Parlor.

But today, they were big kids. And they both wanted American Girl Dolls for Christmas. Which, when I did the math, was a lot cheaper than last Christmas’s Disney trip.

You know? The process turned out to be one of the most lovely bonding-through-absurd-consumerism experiences. I thought a lot about Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful anecdote in Happiness Project, about recognizing how the planning and imagining and fantasizing and choosing was 99% of the fun for kids. So together, we pored through the catalog and the online store, discussing the historic dolls and talking about the American Revolution, the Depression, and the post-War era “when Grandma was a girl.” We talked about hair styles and clothes and what “Native American” really means and how no, Columbus wasn’t actually here first. We cuddled under their covers together, the three of us, and we folded over corners of catalog pages, circled and crossed-off and re-circled dolls. We made our choices.

Dammit. You got us, Mattel.


Thalia was set on Kit from the start. You know, “from Annie’s era.”

Sage surprised me by wanting some bland blonde gymnast special edition 2012 doll that looks exactly like the kind of girl who, in a few years, will make fun of your clothes, torment you in the cafeteria, steal your boyfriend, and make sure every single person on the planet knows that you got your period through your pants in math that one time.

(Why do girls always want the dolls that look like the girls they will end up hating in life the most?)

Fortunately, perhaps, special edition blonde gymnast doll was sold out for the year, and so Sage picked her next favorite, Kaya, the Native American doll. Then she did something smart–she went to the custom doll section, and created a doll that looked just like Kaya. Coffee colored skin, black hair, green eyes.

“That way she can wear a gymnastics outfit or she can wear a Native American outfit and she can be anything she wants to be.”

I like Sage. I think I’ll keep her.

Christmas morning, it was pretty clear we did good.

The moment of recognition

The box is huggable too, evidently.

Kit. And beads from Ethiopia.

It’s DIY Kaya!



But mostly, love.

God help me, I am not going to start “collecting” $80 outfits and special limited edition hairbrushes or whatever. We already got some wonderful outfits from Etsy artists (thanks Grammy!) and figured out that a $2 Goody hairbrush from CVS works just fine. We’re also reading chapters of Kaya’s story over breakfast and practicing our Nez-Perce prounciations. All things being equal, I’ll take these dolls’ wholesome values (if not their overpriced pet dogs) over Bratz any day.

Plus it’s kind of nice seeing your girls utterly in love and filled with joy.

Still, Sage will still tell you she thinks it’s funny that something called American Girl Doll is made in China.


97 thoughts on “How I stopped worrying and learned to love the American Girl Doll.”

  1. Mom of four daughters I have to agree it was hard to resist…so darn hard. My 1st chose a AG doll looking like herself, the 2nd chose Molly because she looked like her and was spunky. The 3rd chose Felicity because she looked like her and the 4th p picked Kit again for the resemblance. Yes, in spite of my feet dragging it was a joy to see the girls fall in love with their dolls…how it took me back to my own beloved dolls…I have no clue where they were made but they were as loved as my girls AG dolls.
    Now they are grown and nearly grown and the dolls are tucked away in closets or hope chests.
    And now I watch the next generation, my 4 y/o grandchild begging for an AG doll because a preschool classmate has one. Seriously.
    I hope your girls enjoy making memories with their dolls.

  2. When I first had kids I was very concerned that everything I did, everywhere we went, anything they experienced, benefit them in the long run. Then at some point I realized that benefitting them in the moment was equally important…and probably led to the former.

    Here’s to many happy American Girl moments for your girls!

  3. I resisted for a long time, too, Liz. In fact, I NEVER bought them for my older girls (a fact they will remind me of often, I’m sure). I’m not a follower, loathe the whole “American Girl Made in China” business and also kind of hate teaching my kids that $100+ gifts are the norm. Like you, I caved this year, and Lucy got Kit and Lola Julie. They are in love with them, but equally as in love with the set of 8 or so books about each girl that we bought (we have voracious readers here), so that makes me even happier.

    Funny thing, though, this morning they came downstairs (after snuggling in my bed through 3 episodes of Hannah Montana)(sigh) and made straight for their Barbies. An hour later, they’ve still never been happier.

    Would life be fine without AG dolls? Absolutely. Have they quickly become their favorite thing? No. And I’m fine with that.

    A co-worker of my husband told him that they live in the suburbs of Chicago and that every year he and his daughter take the train into the city and pick out a new AG doll. It’s a Daddy-Daughter trip and something they both treasure. Not that I’m advocating buying a million AG dolls, but that kind of a specially memory with your daddy seems pretty awesome. Something I’ll think about, anyway.

    It’s hard trying to raise a generation of kids that aren’t used to getting everything they want, whenever they want it, and I think that’s also part of my struggle. I think I might institute a program whereby any clothes or accessories they want has to be on their dime. That way, they’ll have to learn to earn, and see how hard it is to work and save for what you want. That seems an appropriate lesson for a generation of American girls to learn about American Girls. Regardless of where they’re made.

    Happy New Year to you, my friend! Wishing you and your brood all the best. Always.

    1. I feel lucky that my girls were happy with the gum in their stockings. They’re just happy kids. But I’m so glad they really, truly seem to love the dolls–and they have taken them eeeeeverywhere for the last week. And the best part: They never once asked me to carry it for them.

      We’ve talked about doing chores or extra work to earn accessories they want. I think we’re going to figure that out. Because there’s a whole other lesson in that too.

      Happy New Year to you too Shelly! Hope to see you in person soon. Maybe with our girls and their matching Kit dolls.

      1. I hope you weren’t joking about the gum because um, I gave my girls packs of gum in their stockings (with a few other things like combs and brushes from CVS so they can stop using the ones for our heads on the dolls’ heads.) GUM! OMG LOOK! WE GOT GUM! OH MOMMY THANK YOU THANK YOU.

        I am winning at this parenting gig, yo.

        We don’t have any AG dolls. I simply can’t bear to part with that much money for a doll (but if someone else, say my father perhaps, who pretty much buys whatever for them, I wouldn’t say no.) The dolls that are made to look just like the kid kind of freak me out. Are those AG? I don’t think so but I can’t remember. Eh. All this is to secretly say I don’t like Bratz.

        1. Not joking. All week they’ve been like WE GOT GUM!

          It’s the same way a pair of child’s safety scissors in her stocking was Thalia’s favorite gift at 3 or so.

  4. We embraced AG. Looking around at the choices of dolls (Hi there, Monster Slut…I mean Monster High) and with an eye to teaching her history in a relatable way, we dove in. K is a fan of Felicity and Elizabeth – which AG archived last year.

    That said – read the books that go along with them. Kaya and her tribe, the Nez Perce (pronounced nay per-say) were the books K loved 2nd most. Really informative, and living near the area where the tribe comes from, we were able to bring some of the scenes to life for her.

    Here’s a tip: the “special brush” is a basic wig brush that you get get for about $2 at a beauty supply store. Also, plenty of Etsy sellers make clothes for the 18 in. dolls, so you can support a small crafter, too.

    1. Yes! That’s what we did – all our clothes (besides the one Kaya outfit) are from Etsy sellers. Hm, maybe I’ll have to do a roundup of the best ones on Cool Mom Picks…

      1. Yes! That would be terrific. My MIL bought my daughter two (??) 18″ dolls for Christmas and I would love to be able to dress her for future birthdays, etc.

      2. And in a pinch, Target sells their knock off version of AG dolls, called Our Generation. Both of my girls are the same age as yours, and they both got the Target version this year….to see if they would really play with them. I suspect my youngest will get a real AG doll, but my eldest just loves animals more…so she probably won’t. But since they were willing to receive the alternate version, my girls also got a jeep, horse, bed and a few outfits to go with theirs. The bunny slippers I bought from may be my favorite though…oh so cute.

  5. I have found that everything is what you make of it. The stories you’ve written about the asshats requiring AG dolls at events is absurd and I can see why you would have a negative view of them altogether! We, however, have found only wonderful things about the AG world! My daughter is 8 and has 4. Two from Santa, 2 she purchased herself. She has learned a lot about saving her own money for the things she wants; she is a reading nut and has read nearly every one of the chapter books; she has learned waaaaay more than I would have ever taught her at this point about various points in history through the historical character books (I’m amazed what she knows, and I’ve gotten a refresher, too!); we have learned to shop AG clothes with handmade sellers about 80% of the time, getting more of what she would like, at better prices, supporting small businesses; she loves the new dolls without hair for cancer patients, and it has opened up a discussion about what those children are experiencing vs her own healthy life. The list goes on! I honestly have been so pleasantly surprised with the whole AG experience for our daughter. I think everything takes the spin that you put on it, and what you choose to take from it. Love seeing the joy on the faces of your little ones!

    1. Thanks for that wonderful perspective Deanna.

      Interestingly, the accessories they want the most are a wheelchair and a pair of crutches. Things have come a long way since my own 70’s-era Barbie days when we mostly hoped for the pink sunglasses.

      1. My son was also very interested in having the cast and crutches because he broke his foot earlier this year and was in a cast for 6 weeks. Toys R Us sells a set for 18 in dolls with casts, crutches and a wheelchair for about $25

      2. The crutches set was one of the first things that my daughter asked for, LOL! That was 2 years ago and she still uses that set regularly. It’s really cool, I must say, and yes…a far cry from the pink novelties I always wanted for my own dolls!

  6. They look happy (and adorable). Strangely, the American Girl dolls are not a thing for my kids- or at least not yet. We’ve received a few catalogs and my 5 y.o. says she wants one (or 5) but she forgets about them as soon as the catalog disappears. I guess her classmates aren’t into them. For us, it is all about Hello Kitty and Barbie. Hello Kitty amuses me- that cat shows up on EVERYTHING. Barbie is probably karmic playback for my own Barbie love when I was little, but I still hate her.

  7. I guess I’m going to show my age here, but I have an AG doll, that I had to save up half of the (1995ish) purchase price. I was 11, but they were hot shit there for a minute for the older kid crowd. I picked Samantha, because she looked like me and had a similar name and for it, I learned about the Victorian era, child labor, and suffragettes.

    Not a bad trade off, since I wasn’t learning about that at school.

    I only got “official” stuff for my birthday, and that was one dress — I had to buy the rest myself. But my grandmother bought the patterns & sewed me outfits and my aunts looked at craft fairs and flea markets for other outfits. This was when there was only about 5 dolls in the collection, before the big stores and the modern dolls and Etsy and all of that, so the effort was super appreciated.

    I still have my doll, and all the accessories both official and not, saved (in Girl Scout bulk cookie boxes, no less) and I’m saving them for when my daughter is old enough to appreciate it (she’s two) and I look forward to bonding with her over AG and helping her pick her own doll someday.

    I don’t know. I know they cost a lot, but my entire AG experience was a positive, learning, appreciated one. And if my choices are AG vs Bratz and even Barbie, well, I’d take AG any day.

    Just my weird generational two cents.

    1. Oh, showing your age, ha ha. I got Molly for Christmas when I was 7 years old in 1989. That was back when they were made in Germany and Pleasant Company owned the line. They only had 3 dolls, Molly, Kirsten, and Samantha. My sister got Kirsten for Christmas in 1990. We read through all 3 book series before getting the dolls. I think my Mom said they cost $60 back then.

      The true value of American Girls is the rich book series. In school we learned about history from the perspective of grown-ups, usually men. Children are seldom mentioned in history class. Through the AG book series, we learned about what life was like for kids, which was much more relatable for us at age 6. Trust me, that stuck with us. Many things are different- the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the way meals are prepared, schooling, chores, and day-to-day life. But, the girls in the books have some of the same feelings and concerns as modern girls. The joys of a new friendship, the sadness of a fight with a friend, the annoyance of brothers and sisters, the longing for adventure, those things are timeless. The books bring history to life for modern kids.

      I embraced American Girl for my own little princess. Of course, it was easy for her since she inherited our dolls and she started her AG collection for free. I bought her a doll for her 8th birthday. I live close to a retail store, so we made a special day of it at the American Girl Place. It was magical! We’ve gone back to the store for a few of their free events. Other than that, we save money by buying knock-off stuff (Our Generation at Target, My Life at Walmart, Dollie & Me at Kohl’s, Generation Girls at Toys ‘R Us), buying gently used official AG stuff on ebay, or buying clothes from crafters. There are TONS of people online who sew beautiful doll clothes for a fraction of the price of the official stuff. Look up MyFroggyStuff on Youtube. She has video tutorials for making all sorts of doll accessories.

  8. love. this. post! you did an amazing job turning this into a positive experience, while most just plunk down the card. i say enjoy it while the girls are still interested in dolls and toys! this year, “just money and car gum” is all the kids wanted. gah.

  9. Considering we probably helped pollute your girls’ brains with all-things American Girl, I’m secretly thrilled that they have their own dolls too. (but, helicopter AG mom moment: Grab a cheap metal wig brush for their hair! not a plastic doll brush)

    And though we have 7-8 dolls upstairs (split between two girls, but still. . .), I do love that we have a Benetton-esque variety of dolls wearing (mostly) Etsy or small-manufacturer made clothes. I love that the girls got beds from the Mill Store and painted them with their dad. I love that the AG doll books got my oldest interested in reading and opened up discussions about everything from slavery to the American Revolution.

    I don’t like the “peer pressure” (or parent pressure) and found it REALLY weird how many moms stopped us on the streets of NYC way back when my girls got their first doll (OH, is this THEIR FIRST!?!?! they’d gush). But, now that my girls are a bit older and are starting to ask for things like an iPod Touch or DS for Christmas, I wish we could go back to those years when their “big gift” was a sweet doll they could hug, and not an electronic device.

  10. As a young girl, I remember loving the Samantha series of books (she’s a retired doll now). She was one of the originals. While joining my husband on a work trip in Chicago in 2005, I literally squealed with delight as I purchased a Samantha doll for my baby daughter…who was still in my belly. The doll resided on a stand in her nursery as part of the decor for many years but she is now a beloved companion.

    For labor day, my daughter used her own money to purchase a doll that looks like her to accompany Samantha. We now have various beds, cars, scooters (mostly the etsy and target variety) and clothing strewn across the bedroom…but she loves those dolls like they are real.

    A word of caution–be sure that the hairbrush you use for them is metal and not plastic. A “wig brush” should be fine…but a plastic one can make the hair a hot mess. And let’s face it…the hair is why they are so damned expensive to begin with! 🙂

  11. awww…I am crying.
    Mostly because when I had 2 boys, I realized I would NEVER get to go to American Girl Cafe and this was a harsh reality for a girly-girl.

    Although when you spin your story about your apprehension, I get it because with boys and now tweens, I have similar anxiety about all the pop culture type items they want – flat brim hats were a firm NO for me a few years back, and then I had a similar awakening as you. Hard to imagine doing this over hats, but I did.

    Your girls look so happy, I cant stand it….and now I am so happy.
    P.S. I recently visited the ‘store’ to purchase an outfit for my niece’s bitty baby….and after 20 minutes, I gotta say – never been happier to have boys. woosh – that place is an outer body experience.

    send me the etsy link – I will use that next time!

      1. My son wants to know this too! My mother-in-law bought my kids the “bitty twins” and a couple outfits at a yard sale because they were a blond boy and girl (like my kids are). My son truly LOVED that boy doll. He did call it his American Boy doll, and proudly brought it to the AG cafe.

          1. Santa brought my son an American Boy doll this year. It is a my Pal doll. It is an 18 in doll just like the AG dolls. He seems happy with it. The company that sells them also sells my Sibling dolls and employs autistic adults.

  12. You have stunningly described and elegantly passes an eternal parental milestone. For us, when YOU were a kid, it was GIJoe. I remember thinking that I could be ideological OR a decent parent, but not both.

    They look so adorably ecstatic! I’m thrilled for all four (now six) of you!

  13. That’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to find the right gift. Your girls are so dear and will make the most of their experience with those dolls, and they will probably remember that Christmas morning forever. Don’t you just live for those kinds of smiles?

    (That said, I feel relieved after reading your post that American Girl dolls don’t seem to be a thing among anyone I know. It sounds more expensive and complicated than anything I’m prepared to handle.)

  14. My MIL bought the girls AG dolls. First Bitty Babies, and then the doll with style-able hair. She bought outfits and toys and books. My mother bought doll beds. All of this unbidden by my girls, who largely ignored the dolls and their accoutrements.

    I recognized the generosity and love in these gifts, but I refused to make the girls play with the dolls, or make them feel guilty about not playing with the dolls.

    I love that Sage and Thalia wanted their dolls so much and were so thrilled to receive them. It’s such a joy to be able to grant those wishes, isn’t it?

  15. I got one for my girl before she even really knew what American Girl dolls were. Why? Because the AG machine got me good with their ingenious “design your own” doll feature on their site. I couldn’t resist! I wanted my daughter to have a doll that looked like her. It was so much fun to select the dark long hair, brown skin, brown eyes and cute dog sledding outfit AND $25 husky dog. I loved it! Er, I mean she loved it (too)! She exclaimed, “It’s me!” when she got it. I didn’t know about getting outfits on Etsy! Thanks, I (we) will check it out!
    Happy New Year.

    1. I think especially for girls with brown skin, it’s nice to find those (rare) dolls that look like them. Wouldn’t it be great if the brown-skinned girls had hair that didn’t look like what girl hair too? Do they make AG dolls with afros or braids yet?

      1. Not braids, but textured hair, and their newest doll is african american and has short, very curly hair kind of like an afro.

        I am a huge AG fan, and I am 15 years old! I save up to buy all of my own things. (my mom loves that I love my dolls but says as I have to buy all of my own stuff!) I have 3 dolls including Rebecca’s book set (I have Rebecca- I’m Jewish just like her and my name is also Rebecca so when I saw her I had to have her!) and I have learned a ton about the era. They are very educational for little girls, but honestly I never get tired of dressing my dolls or doing their hair!

  16. My 7-yr old got her first AG doll for Christmas (Caroline) and it is true love. She also wanted Mckenna…but we talked about the historical dolls and she said she would be happy with Caroline, after all she has blond hair like her and wears dresses all of the time. I hope your girls continue to love their dolls. I need to check out some etsy shops for more wardrobe options.

  17. I chose American girl to avoid Baby Alive, because lord knows I didn’t need another peeing/pooping baby in the house. I’m glad I did (though we made Q pay for half of it) because in that moment it was awesome. Now she sits, hair in knots, in the bin in her closet. She still reads the catalogs though, with great joy.

    The moments I remember, the good ones that is, are the amazing sneakers I found under the tree one year, the ones I wanted so desperately. Not even sure if I wore them much, actually, don’t even remember them after that one moment, but to me, the memory is worth the $100. Or however much those damn dolls cost.

    1. I love that point–and the one about the dad who took his daughter each year to the store. It is the memories, isn’t it.

  18. Maya has 4…count them, FOUR, American Girl dolls. Wow. First of all, I have two friends who badly wanted little girls of their own, who both make good money, who bought her her first 2, which I think were the ones where you make it look like you. Then she wanted Kaya. I told her Kaya cost about as much as a birthday party (we throw cheap parties), and if she wanted Kaya, I would buy her for her, but no party, no other gifts from us. She went for it, and got Kaya for her birthday. Then there’s Nellie, the now retired doll who was the best friend of the also retired Samantha. She REALLY wanted Nellie, and I said, no more. So she earned the money herself and bought her. She loves them all, though Nellie is by far her favorite. No, she doesn’t look anything at all like my daughter (she looks a lot like Kit), but that’s the one she worked for, used Christmas money and cat sitting money and pick up the neighbor’s yard money for. She’s going to be 17 this March, and doesn’t play with dolls anymore, but when I suggested she might give some of the clothes to her younger cousin, who got her AG doll last year, she said no, she was saving all of it for her own daughter. Pretty nice. We got some clothes from the auctions at my daughter’s old elementary school. You know, because California doesn’t fund the schools, so they get grandparents to sew clothes for dolls and sell them to parents for $$ to pay the teachers and so on. Sigh.

    I was never a fan of dolls growing up. Much preferred my stuffed animals. But I far prefer AG dolls, which look and dress age appropriately, to Barbie and Bratz and so on.

  19. I like Sage’s take on Kaya, too, especially since Kaya’s blue “Native” outfit reminds me of the “Western” outfit Marty McFly put on in Back to the Future 3. Ugh. It irked me so I had to look it up on the website, where I was relieved to see that they describe it at as a MODERN dance outfit, and not in fact anything pretending to be historically authentic.

    I do remember really, really wanting an AG doll myself when I was a kid, despite my very determined public presentation as a tomboy who eschewed dolls of all sorts. Part of it was peer pressure; all the girls at my private school had them, and so not having one and NEVER being able to have one was yet another status thing that separated me from them as a scholarship kid. But also I did love the idea of a doll that came with a book. A doll who comes with her own book is practically an action figure. A nerdy nerdy historical action figure. And boys do not get nearly as much flack for wanting expensive action figures as girls do for wanting AG dolls, do they?

    1. I don’t think girls get flack for wanting doll. I think parents get flack for buying their kids 37 of them…in some circles. No judging.

  20. My daughter who is 29 has two. Felicity and Molly. I did buy a few outfits for them, the clothes are very well made.Unlike the crappy Barbie clothes. I sew so I made several outfits and even matching ones for doll and daughter. They now sit in my spare room waiting for grand daughters some day. My Dad made a doll bed which now doubles as a cat bed. On one of my trips to Brooklyn to visit my son we went to the AG store and I bought an outfit for Felicity. My Russian born daughter in law thought that was weird!

    1. For her 7th birthday my daughter wanted an AG type doll and we found a cheaper version. More than the doll, she really wanted her own sewing machine after burning through 3 “kid-friendly” ones, so we got her a 2nd hand Kenmore to set up her own sewing table in my sewing room. I printed out 30+ patterns found or purchased online with good instructions and filled a tote with fabrics and she has been making dresses, nightgowns, pants, slippers, shirts, bedding, a quilt, etc for her doll. We’re having SO MUCH FUN together designing outfits and working through the sewing patterns–think a giant Lego construction kit but with fabric. Best gift ever. Glad your girls love theirs, too!

  21. I was never a doll person growing up. And I read “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” and nodded my head along and wrote a post about my ambivalence — wanting to avoid the girly girl culture and still allow my very girly daughter to follow her own star. And a preschool classmate brought an American Girl Doll to show and tell and I thought, “WHO DOES THAT?” and my daughter’s Christmas wishlist went from “fairy pencils” to a $150 doll. The very next year, her aunt, a feminist sociology professor who concentrates in gender studies but who also loved her very own AG doll as a preteen, got my 5 yo daughter a Marie-Grace. And we read all the books and I watched how happy it made my daughter and how engaged she was in all the issues and details of the books and I just surrendered. This Christmas, before I realized what was happening, I had bought a period-style Christmas dress from an Etsy artisan for A DOLL. I used to play with transformers and here I am at 35 shopping for a dress for a doll. Rational arguments just sort of fail in the face of your daughter’s joy, I guess.

    1. Oh Candace, you are me. Also, wasn’t that book just wonderful? I loved her recognition that it’s okay to allow your girl to be girlie, but also to understand that it’s not “innate” to love Disney princesses.

      Thanks for your comment. It’s reassuring–as are all of them.

  22. My 7 year old daughter has 2 bitty’s and 2 AG dolls – she has purchased all but one of her bitty’s with her own money. The first was a gift from her baby brother when he was born. It was a great sturdy doll that was much loved – at 3, my daughter kept the entire set neat and organized (yet couldn’t manage to put her sippy cup in the sink). After, she wanted the accessories and a grown up AG doll – my husband and I put our foot down and told her that she needed to save her money to buy things from the AG store and we would not spend our money on it. So at age 4, my daughter rolled $45 dollars in change to buy the baby carrier. In Kindergarten, she was the only kid who could tell the teacher how much each coin was worth and how many it took to make a dollar, and that 40 quarters made $10. I don’t like that she spends half of the money she earns (the other half has to go into savings) on AG stuff, but it could be worse – she could be buying Barbie or Monster High crap. I will also say, we could take away every other toy in her room (besides her Blockus and Mancala games and her art sets) and she wouldn’t even notice if her AG dolls were her only toys left. So there is something to be said about that – the dolls occupy most of her playtime and are the only organized chaos in her room. 🙂

  23. But there are, my son has one of the twins- and he loves it. He got it when he was four- but still loves to play with him – at seven. It would be nicer though if you could buy the big dolls in boy versions.

  24. My brother got my 6 and 3yos collector dolls dressed like 40’s Hollywood stars for Christmas. Too expensive to play with, beautiful clothes that are a bitch to put on… I’m baffled. At first, I thought they were AG dolls, and then I was kind of glad they weren’t so that we could plan them together. But I have no idea what to do with the other ones. I am not into displaying toys they can’t play with.

    1. That would be a great gift for my gay friends, actually. Let me know if they decide to trade them in for something more viable.

  25. We’ve been so lucky that our girls have never asked one of those dolls. But my niece just got her first one for Christmas this year. So I’m sure my youngest title be asking soon. Great post!

  26. I bought my then-four year old daughter a small AG doll. It looked like her, wearing glasses. She took one look at it and demanded it be taken out of her sight. I was a little angry, but secretly relieved. Now she is nearly 6 and trying very hard to stop sucking her thumb. Our school’s summer camp had AG-themed sessions last year and she was so sad she wasn’t old enough. She’s been asking for a doll ever since so we made a deal. If she goes a whole month without the thumb we will get on a plane and have a girls’ weekend in a city with an AG store. She has picked Boston so my sister can join us. I haven’t had to remind her about the thumb in a week or so. I see a trip in February. Squee?

  27. Santa brought my daughter one last year that looks like her. I cringe at the catalogues and subsequent discussions of all the things she wants ( can’t count how many times I’ve heard about that damn $350 car). But I have really enjoyed getting outfits and accessories (mostly from other vendors) that reflect my daughter’s life. Last year, Santa also brought a school uniform, karate outfit, and bathing suit and goggles for the doll. This year he brought a brownie uniform, basketball uniform/ set and wooden recorder.

  28. My girls each have two. One from each set of grandparents. Heh. They each have one historic doll and one doll of the year. I will say, while they are expensive, they have been very well played with these last few years. The smaller accessories make good birthday and Christmas gifts. Also? I had one. I was nine when they came out and I still have mine, albeit in a box in my basement somewhere.

    Saige and Thaila’s smiles are what matters. 🙂

    1. Whoops. I meant Sage. My friend Stacey’s (@anymommy) daughter is Saige and I tend to forget which spelling goes where. 😉

  29. The post made me laugh.
    The pictures made me cry! I LOVE THEM. Such joy.

    For the record, though I have boys who aren’t interested in dolls, if I had girls who were-or if my boys were, I’d go for it!

    Y’all have fun and Happy New Year!

  30. I too resisted these damn dolls for so long. And then my daughter was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. After watching her get what seemed like a half gallon of blood drawn and numerous needle sticks in one afternoon without even flinching, I drove her straight to the damn doll store and told her to have at it.

    And Julie and my daughter are still fast friends.

    Glad your daughters are enjoying the dolls. 🙂 xx

  31. i hear you. we now have three. and a horse. and i hate how expensive the stuff is, but i like that they’re wholesome, the stuff is pretty well made, the ethos is okay. and the love affair has continued for a couple of years now, so the cost per day is actually pretty good.

  32. I must not have had enough dolls to play with when I was little because I bought three AG dolls for my two girls for Christmas ’11. They were 2.5yo and 18mo. They couldn’t have cared less about those dolls, but they sure did enjoy the boxes. And I had fun brushing Kanani’s hair with the $7 AG hair brush.

    1. Give them a few years Marie…they may go crazy for them. (And they’ll still like the boxes.)

  33. All these comments are great, as usual. Liz you have the best readers!

    I have been able to stay away from AG dolls thus far. My daughter (who is 5) loves dolls, but hasn’t really asked for one. We get the catalog (how that just magically started appearing once my daughter turned 3 is amazing) and she looks through it. The neighbor girls both have them. I am not against them. I wasn’t a girlie girl and I didn’t play much with dolls when I was a kid (partly because my parents couldn’t afford dolls and partly because I preferred trucks). But I have embraced my daughter’s girlness.

    We have talked about AG dolls and I have told her how much they cost and we talk about how many other dolls she could get for that money. I am sure one day we will embark with her uncles to the AG store (they spoil her). I will enjoy that moment, for the memory and not for the doll. This year my daughter’s favorite gift was an African-American family of dolls for her doll house (I could find a dollhouse family that had 2 white parents and 2 black kids).

    I love the joy on your girls faces. That is the what matters. It is great being able to make our kids wishes come true!

  34. Yep, mom of 4 girls here, and we are elbow deep in AG, thanks mostly to grandparents. It’s been wonderful though, even the brief period where accumulation was their goal, while the dolls sat on the shelf. Once I made clear that un-used toys go to people who will use them, the AGs became their favorite toys. I still say that was a very valuable lesson since the oldest girls talk about giving their un-used toys away, or saving them for the baby. It’s actually pretty cool.

  35. I used to work for a software company that partnered with American Girl during the pre-Matel days. So I know about the care and research that went into designing those dolls, even if they are made in China. And while we avoid most of the popular licensed stuff, I wanted my daughter to have one popular thing that would help her play with other kids. (She has trouble socializing at times) So in the end getting her this doll was an easy decision. She picked one that looks like her and she loves it. I expect we’ll get a lot of years of play out of it. And I buy a new outfit or accessory every so often to keep it fresh.

  36. Blogher 2010 I trekked my very pregnant self to the NYC American Girl store and bought Lanie. The only doll that my Reagan had ever seen that looked like her and loved nature and animals like her. It was the doll of the year and we gave it to her when we brought surprise baby Avery home from the hospital. I bought it not for that reason but because for a YEAR she asked almost every day for Lanie. She still plays with Lanie every day. Dresses her, takes to her in the car, every where overnight. That doll is her prized possession. Despite my not wanting to dive in to the whole expensive venture it was worth it. I’m a sucker for using the dolls to teach history too.
    Two months ago we purchased Molly for Lucy for her birthday. She didn’t want a party or anything else just to get Molly, buy her a pet dog and pair of pajamas and so that’s what we did. We had cake at home as a family with our dolls and went to the new DC store and bought some pajamas for Molly. It was a fantastic day.
    These dolls have created tons of bonding, imaginary play and adventures for my girls that no other doll has for either of them. Even if Lucy does have her own Arsenic Tea Room and Funeral Parlor too, at least Molly seems to be the funeral director.

    1. That’s awesome Vicky! Molly was definitely the forerunner for doll #2…until “Saige” came out. Dammit.

  37. Just be very careful next time, some plastic dolls can really harm your child. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story! Happy New Year!

  38. My daughter is not yet two. She doesn’t know a thing about American Girl dolls, but I must be realistic about the fact that someday she will. Perhaps I should establish a separate savings account in preparation for that eventuality.

  39. I’m an AG OG too – devoured the book series as a kid and spent endless afternoons with Samantha and her gear. Something new for the AG was always a holiday gift for my sister and I, so special it was once per year. My daughter is a Kit gal too and I’ve kept the same tradition. And if you’re wondering about next year, dude, the scooter.

  40. Two Christmases ago, my mother wanted to get Devan (then 3 and a half) an American Girl doll. My folks are on a limited budget, and I urged her to buy the Madame Alexander knockoff at Costco instead. Thus did “Mae” (named by Devan) enter our family. A year later we were swept into the craziness on a trip to the AG store on Fifth Avenue, but I felt ok getting her a doll that, perhaps, looks a bit like her mother (freckles!). As you say, it was the fun of being in a place and having a moment together. Some months later, a friend’s older daughter tried to “out” Mae as “NOT AN AMERICAN GIRL DOLL,” because evidently the AG’s have some string coming out of their neck (eew?). I was filled with pride when Devan responded, “Well, I don’t care, Mae Mae was here first.”

    Mae still gets top bunk on the knockoff Badger Beds.

    Here’s a tip – sometimes craftspeople on Etsy make fabulous clothes for the 18 inch dolls at a very reasonable price. Can feel good by giving Kit and Kaya some new looks!

    My Christmas coup this year was responding to the pleading request for a Barbie by delightedly purchasing the “President Barbie,” who happens to be African American. Devan didn’t seem to miss the bleached hair or the Malibu-ready wardrobe.

    Happy New Year!

  41. My parents were never one for lavish things for us kids, but my sister and I each got an AG doll back where there were only 3 ( Kirsten, Molly and Samantha). In 1989. Now, I’m 32 and my doll is in my daughters closet waiting for her (she’s 17 months old).

    I sure hope they make them as well as they did 20 years ago, because you could be buying stuff your grandchildren could enjoy.

  42. Well……my girl (8) has received several AG dolls over the years as gifts. She has never asked for one, finds them fun to play with but hasn’t really been drawn in to the culture. However, she has learned to sell things on ebay with her ipad (so I’m not preaching, i sucumbed to the ipad hype). So at 8 she has figured out the “value” to others, who are more into it. Yes, i allowed her to sell her AG dolls for itune credits. To each her own!

  43. I believe American Girl Dolls aren’t just any doll. They teach valuable lessons about history and growing up. My three daughters Emma, 9, Hillary Grace, 4, and Rosie Grace, 2 have loved and cherised their American Girl Dolls always, and are not interested in any other doll. The price is worth it.

  44. Fun post – it made me smile. As a girl growing up with 3 brothers I simply ADORED my dolls. I played for hours on end with them and I still love dolls. I now have two boys!!! so didn’t manage to buy a doll for a “daughter” (read “me”! wink!). However, my 4 nieces discovered AG from all the way here in Ireland!!! and I am busy making outfits for their dolls for their birthdays. They are enjoying dolls like I did and I think that is so special. Love that your girls adore their dolls. Lots of doll patterns are free if you can sew! and they are easy (believe me – if I can make them, anyone can!). Just finishing up outfits for bitty twins!

  45. I happen to LOVE my blonde gymnast and she is not “the person you end up hating” and her name is McKenna and i also have Kaya and just to make this clear i am not the spoiled brat you think i am i earned tose dolls and i am also getting another doll this year. Lastly the 70s hippie chick id named Julie and my didter has her.

    If you dont know all of the facts then dont assume that these dolls are a torcher to a little girls life. These dolls are amazing and teach girls to celanrate being a girl.

  46. My 4 year old daughter found out about American Girl Dolls last November when her and my baby son had a playdate with their friends, who are two sisters. The ten year old girl (the older sister) brought one of her American Girl Dolls and the Holiday 2012 American Girl catalog. The ten year old showed my daughter the catalog and showed her everything about the dolls. My daughter found herself in love. Before I knew it she begged me for one. I told her to wait and I’ll think about it. For a long time I wished to resist. However maybe one would be fine. Besides at least she’ll learn from these dolls. So in December I asked her which one she wanted. We looked at the website and she chose a Bitty Baby that looked like her. Whew! Bitty Babies are only $65! I thought for sure I would be spending $105. When my daughter found the rectangular box under the Christmas tree she gasped in delight and asked for help opening the box. Now “Baby” is her constant companion. The coolest thing is now her and her friend could have playdates with their dolls, which they’ve been doing ever since. And the ten year old girl who introduced my daughter to the world of American Girl has the same Bitty Baby my daughter has! Lately my daughter has been asking for another one. I told her I’d get her another one for her birthday next month. What’s the problem? Clearly she loves these dolls.

    1. We’re still deciding one which one she wants for her birthday. So many to choose from! She says she doesn’t want another Bitty Baby since she already has one. Guess I’ll be spending $110 for my daughter’s birthday. However I see a nice future of education and exploration for my daughter and American Girl Dolls.

  47. I’m researching American Girl Doll Co. for an online business strategy class. And I’m reliving my now 22 year old daughter’s experience with her dolls. Great to scan the comments here and relive my own love/hate feelings…

    My daughter’s 3 AG dolls await her offspring someday. One of them…an American Girl doll (with a bad eye) is used for my sewing-fitting (I’m one of those people who posts free patterns…Look on Pinterest for free 18″ girl doll patterns…).

    She played with her AG dolls some, but I think I had even more fun sewing some patterns…but then making up my own. I like that the AG dolls basically have a softened rectangle for a body–the doll is still huggable.

    …but here’s an option if your little girl is Miss Destructo (like me…I chopped off the head of my mom’s Sleeping Beauty doll..and I was probably the one who destroyed her Shirley Temple doll. ).

    Get the very cheap Springfield ™ 18″ girl doll. Comes in a variety of skin/hair/ethnic versions. Lots of cheap accessories.
    First –Look online or signup for a flyer to get a 40 or 50% off coupon which regularly shows up for Joann Fabrics (Some competitor coupons can be used at Hobby Lobby–or Michaels). Our JoAnn store carries (I think both online and in the store) the Springfield 18″ girl doll. Not as good as the American Girl doll, but for Destructo Girl…who might pull off the arms & legs for fun, the Springfield dolls cam be bought full price for about $20 and with the 50% off coupon that some craft/fabrics stores put out, you can get the Springfield for $10.

    I speak as a former Destructo Girl…I did destroy some dolls when little…but fortunately my dismantling tendencies stopped at an early age and my 2 kids are alive & well.

  48. American Girl Dolls are much better then Barbies, Bratz, Monster Highs, Moxie Girls, Novi Stars, and the usual toys in the girls toy section at your local Target, Walgreens, or Walmart. My daughters have never owned any doll except for American Girl. I want my daughters to live with positive messages and not feel the need to look like Barbie. Plus they hate fashion dolls anyway (especially Barbie) so I don’t need to worry about them getting into them. American Girl Dolls have filled our home. We even renovated our playroom. Now its painted red with white stars, filled with American Girl Dolls, furniture, 18″ doll outfits, and there’s a bookshelf with all books American Girl published.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I’m glad your girls are so happy! I think that’s what we all want, right?

      I just want to point out, should it be helpful, that not all dolls need to be purchased at big box stores. There are gorgeous handmade, and often affordable dolls all over Etsy, at boutiques and craft fairs. Even while they play with the AG dolls, my girls’ very favorites are soft dolls (rag dolls?) that they love sleeping with. These Best Pals dolls among them. It’s not just a choice of AG vs Barbie…

  49. I never heard of AG until 2008 when my daughter Bella was born, I tried to resist to, but we were in downtown Chicago and stop in after a parade and then it happen, I fell in love with the store and everything in it, my daughter was only a few months old but she (I) had to get a doll. Now Bella is 5 years old and she (we) have 6 dolls, 1bed, 1sofa, 1 chair, 1 table set, 1 bathroom vanity, and tons of clothes and accessories from AG and other stores.My favoite items are AG furniture expecially Julie’s table set and we want Molly’s table set before it will be reitred. AG is addictive.

  50. Loved the article! I resisted for more than a year. My Sage 🙂 and Reese loved thier stuffed animals and waldorf type dolls but still lusted after AG dolls. This past Christmas I gave in! Sage wished for Kaya and Reese wanted the tormenting gymnast 🙂 They adore them. We have been lucky to find some decently priced accessories on Craigslist.

  51. To the comments about the boys, on Youtube, teenagers (that are still into AG dolls like I am) have bought used dolls, cleaned them up, and rewigged them. I’ve found wigs on that fit them for $20, but sadly, none of them resemble boys. One of my dolls, Kirsten, has very knotty and messed up hair from taking out the braids, no matter how hard I try to fix it. I’m thinking of saving up my money for a new wig for her. Not exactly a Kirsten wig, but similar enough. I hope you have better luck finding a boy wig! Oh, and the best bet for clothing is Build-A-Bear boys’ stuff. They are larger, so I reccomend refitting with hair ties or sewing them. Same goes for girl’s clothing,since they have some really nice clothes!

  52. I’m now 23 and have 3 AG dolls: Josephina, Kaya, and Cecile. When I was little, I was a bit hard to shop for for Christmas and birthdays. Often, people just got me books, clothes, and random toys. One year, though, I really really wanted one thing: an AG doll (specifically, Josephina). My parents relented. It was the perfect present at the time. It satisfied my love for reading, my obsession with Spanish at the time, and my want for something to hold wherever I went. On top of that, now everyone knew exactly what to get me every year, and I was happy with that without fail. Not just myself, but my whole family and extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) have fond memories of me curled up with my doll, book in hand. To this day, I revert to ten-year-old self every time the AG name is brought up. I’m so connected to the brand that my fiance bought me Cecile for one anniversary, and I was so touched that I cried in his arms! No matter the drama or horror stories within the community, AG dolls can definitely be a great gift for the right girl (or boy) done in the right way.

  53. My mother has gotten most of the books at a resale shop. There is a web site that has all ogettinge pleasant company clothes patterns for free. We are getting a look a like doll.
    Our plan had been to get the boy and girl twins for our daughter but when I inquired about getting the girl the light skin brown hair and the boy a medium skin brown eyes and black hair. I was told no that they only came the way they are in the catalog. I asked about buying a boy and a girl separately I was told no you could 9only get them as twins looking alike.
    You see we have adopted children and the two youngster are 4 months apart. So our daughter wanted a set that looked like her and her brother. I think it is horrible that only a real American Girl can go to the style shop and all the snotty attitude we are teaching our children. Not all children are “perfect” so since she doesn’t fit in in this group. She is Perfect disabilities and all. She won’t have a set of twin dolls like her and her brother or a real AG doll but she will have all the books we can find and I will make her all of the outfits and learn the history which is what brought us to AG when her oldest sister got Josephina when she was a teen, she wanted one that was similar to her.

    1. Maybe you would like to look a the AG doll website again. It looks that they have a lot of different combinations now. Maybe you can find what you are looking for, maybe even change hair if you have to. Have you looked Ebay and other places to find gently used dolls? Good luck with your search.

  54. Going to our first AG store this month in Palo Alto. My 9 year old wants Josefina. She has been saving her money for almost 2 months to shop there. She said she would ask Santa for Josefina so I wouldn’t have to spend my money on her 🙂 made me proud.

  55. Honestly, I hate how you judge the dolls by looks. That “Blonde” (It’s actually brown hair) doll you hate is not at all what you described. Especially since your an adult, you should be more mature than to judge by looks.
    I’m not trying to be mean, but it hurt me since I look like that doll, and never in a million years would act the way you described.
    I’m really sorry for bothering you, but I felt it needed to be said, since it really hurt me.

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