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Imagination Stretchers for Girls Who Like 18-Inch Dolls
Creating a Doll's World
That's not my niece's doll, but it's her doll's guitar: the one that I took two buses up to the Seattle suburbs to get for her. It's one of two purchases I have made to accessorize her doll.
Chelsea caught the "American Girl" bug last fall when she was in third grade and a catalog arrived in the mail that sent her more or less into a state of rapture. For Christmas, she wanted a doll with red curly hair like her: a little alter ego.
Doll lovers this age like to create worlds for their dolls -- and there is a plethora of things out there. Today's dolls play musical instruments,cook and bake, study hard in school. Some of them go camping and riding. (Take a look around the American Girl Store -- wow!) I suppose a kid can have so many doll accessories that it takes the imagination out of doll play. Still, there are things that do develop creativity.
What I love about the American Girl guitar is that it serves two purposes. It is sized perfectly for Chelsea's doll, but she can also play it herself. It comes with a tiny chord book and chart. Don't get me wrong -- a musician would cringe at the posture and maybe the notes as well. But a fourth grader who's never held an instrument in her hands? That's another matter. My brother reports that Chelsea ( a careful child with high levels of concentration) is teaching herself the chords. Someday maybe I'll get her bigger guitar, and she'll have a pretty good idea of what to do with it.
But in the meantime, it's the 'doll years' that feel short and precious...
Images by the author of the page
Packing Guitar in a 'Niece Pack'Click thumbnail to view full-size
The guitar set is for girls in the original demographic: eight to twelve. I doubt it would be appreciated as much (or treated as gently) by girls much below eight -- or that they'd be learning the chords. A child needs good spatial understanding to figure out the chords on her own. Having watched Chelsea use a diagram to build with K'Nex last winter, I figured she'd make sense of them.
There are two places I know to buy the AG guitar online. One is through the American Girl site, where it retails for about $35. The other is through eBay, where it sometimes sells for a good deal less, but where you have to read to see if you're getting the book... and (if it's a gift) the box. If you are lucky, though, you might find a couple instruments sold together.
At the American Girl Store in Seattle - The 'My American Girl' LineClick thumbnail to view full-size
Girls in the later elementary grades (ages eight, nine, ten, eleven) are developing a sense of who they are as individuals. This is something the "My American Girl" line capitalizes on: musical instruments, sports equipment... and so many skin tones and hair styles. Walking through the store, you may want your camera.
... I also wanted a lot of play for my dollars, though. So this is the other thing I decided I needed to buy (later, for Christmas): the American Girl Doll Crafts kit. I figured a crafty kid would spend hours making the items, not just using them.The kit could center around creating a room for a doll -- something many preteen girls do.
The kit is designed for girls in third grade or older. Paper is cheap and plentiful, and there are plenty of goodies here to cut and fold. Many are things that are made of paper in real life: folders, a tissue box, postcards. The calendar my niece put together had quite the authentic look. Some items, like the shadow box, the floral arrangement, and the boom box, are of course not usually paper. These models aren't completely realistic -- oh, well, that's not the point!
Not everything in this kit is paper. There are materials like cork (for a bulletin board) and foam (for a yoga mat). Some materials are a hoot. It's not so surprising, I guess, that dollies who do yoga (and meditate?) like to listen to relaxation CDs.
This kit is something that price-wise it's better not to buy directly from American Girl. I ordered it from Amazon. (The other option would have been to go back to their store and have another go at photographing everything in sight).
Christmas 2013: My Niece's American Girl Craft Kit
Unpacking a Doll Crafts Kit... and Crafting
I wanted a good look at the contents before buying. The first video is what convinced me to opt for the Doll Crafts kit over the Doll Play book, also made by AG. Both options are nice. In fact, they would have made a good pairing. But just one it was!
There are so many goodies here, and so much step-by-step. (The Doll Play Book has lots of ideas for setting up scenes as well as crafting -- and of course, many photos of dolls enjoying themselves. It reminds me a bit of a coffee table book, though.)
The second video shows shows how to make the crafts in the Doll Crafts book -- and make them turn out well, using a few extra materials like foam core board.
Christmas 2013: My Niece's American Girl Doll Bed - A Gift from Mom and DadClick thumbnail to view full-size
There is my niece's new doll bed and bedding set. You can also catch a glimpse of her doll's dog's bath set. That was a Christmas gift from her younger sister... with some help from Dad.
They were in New York together a little before Christmas, just the two of them. It was the younger girl's turn. Her sister had had her turn at the 'Daddy and me' trip four years earlier.
My little niece wasn't reading yet, but she knew what the American Girl store was. "Let's go in there," she said, as they strolled (almost) by.
"Yes, let's," said her father.
The child picked out the dog bath set. (You can guess what her father did.)
A Doll Bed for the Doll Room
One reviewer noted that she gave the American Girl craft book to her daughter along with a doll bed which was to be the centerpiece of the doll room she created. That is not a bad idea, I thought... even before I knew my brother and sister-in-law would be purchasing a doll bed for Christmas! So my niece, too, ended up getting a doll bed and a craft kit the same Christmas.
Not only is a doll bed difficult to construct... it's also one of the most practical pieces of doll furniture a child can own. Ah, that first Christmas! I am remembering my niece having one of her regular 'slumber parties' with her five-year-old sister, the two of them under the covers with a dozen stuffed animals, the new doll, and two sippy cups of water. That, her mother told her, was not the best sleeping arrangement for her new $110 doll. So Chelsea took the doll (who was dressed in reindeer pajamas) and tucked her under a little blanket on the floor.
American Girl sells plenty of doll beds. So do other makers like Our Generation and Kid Craft. I like this bed. It matches my nieces' furniture. It has a trundle for doll accessories.
The company also makes a lovely convertible wardrobe.
Reflection: Helping a Daughter With Her Doll - (My brother doesn't really have a power outlet growing out of his back.)
Thoughts on American GirlClick thumbnail to view full-size
My nieces do not watch television with ads, so my brother was musing last fall about just how Chelsea had decided American Girl was the must-have. "Her friends must have them," he said.
"They sent her a catalog," I reminded him. "They are good at spotting members of their demographic group."
"Well, they found one!" he said, laughing. He wasn't too perturbed about Mattel's American Girl having entered the home, abetted by the U.S. postal service.
Me, I was actually delighted. It's a shared interest. It's today's girls' answer to the dollhouse (miniatures super-sized).
American Girl is not without controversy. On the one hand, the doll line represents much of what's wholesome about childhood. It's big-time fodder for the imagination.
On the other hand, it's big-time consumerism! It can get to be a competition: (How many dolls does a girl have? How fancy are her doll rooms?)
What do you think of the American Girl phenomenon?
More Goodies: Queen's Treasures
Girls like lots of things for their dolls, and not all are good at cutting and folding. American Girl can be pricey. Queen's Treasures is one of several companies that makes accessories for 18-inch dolls. The focus is on the historical and the quaint.
I really like this baking combo set. I think it's cute how the cookies' match the cookie cutters. It's also an imagination stretcher. I imagine a girl could use modeling compound to make more cookies like the ones pictured. (Acrylic paint decorations?)