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A lot of parents started looking for alternatives to American Girl dolls after the New Year. Why? On January 1st, the 2014 American Girl of The Year was announced. Her name is Isabelle, and she is a blonde haired, hazel eyed dancer who has difficulty adjusting to a new school. Not to be confused with the blonde haired McKenna in 2012, or Lainey in 2010, or Gwen in 2009, or Nikki in 2007, or Kailey in 2003.
I was watching “Good Morning America” when they did the great reveal. I was paying attention, because I have a special place in my heart for American Girl. I had the great pleasure of singing on their two revue CDs back when Pleasant Rowland still owned the company, and the Chicago store had a stage that played a live show very week. It was a special, special time. But in 2000, Mattel bought the company, the theater was closed, the CDs sold out, and everything got just a bit more commercial and a bit less diverse.
Year by year, that divide has grown exponentially. I wanted to write about it that very day when yet another cookie cutter doll was revealed, but I had just written a post about how Disney had iced out minorities from their movie Frozen. Writing another post about the lack of diversity in this world so soon could cause people to excuse my observations as racial rants and tune me out, instead of tuning in to the real issue. It’s not that I am afraid of the backlash, I am just cognizant of what I need to do in order to keep my audience listening and discussing, instead of berating and dismissing.
Then I happened upon a Facebook post from my colleague Melanie Freehan. She wrote a blog post about the new GOTY, the very post that I had wanted to write. I was so thankful to hear her thoughts and to know that she and I are not the only ones that noticed the lack of diversity in the Girls of the Year. I was happy to see that mothers of all races are anxious to expose their children to dolls of different looks and color schemes and abilities. In researching responses, I also happened upon a Change.org petition from a young girl who is pleading with American girl to launch a GOTY with a physical disability. Her plea is extremely compelling. I was moved by her campaign. She has definitely expanded my awareness of exclusion and made me want to seek out more alternatives to American Girl dolls.
My daughter has been solely focused on Monster High Dolls of late, so I wasn’t aware of what alternatives to American Girl dolls were available these days. Curious, I got in my car and headed over to Target to see what I would find. Then to Kohl’s, Kmart, Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Toys ‘r Us, and Walmart. I went online and dug even further. I was very pleased to see so many choices — a lot more than when I was seeking options years ago when the issue for me was only about money. My issue today may have changed to race and ability, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. I believe in providing people with options, not just complaints, so here is the list I compiled of 7 diverse alternatives to American Girl Dolls.
MY LIFE AS DOLLS
The My Life As Dolls are carried at Walmart. This line is my personal favorite. I love the variety of dolls — not just the diversity of races, but the diversity of professions and situations. This line carries a full range of accessories, clothing, and furniture. They even have a wheelchair and crutch set for use with any of the dolls. The dolls themselves start at $27.97, making them a reasonably affordable collection to build with.
OUR GENERATION DOLLS
The Journey Girls are available at Toys ‘R Us for $34.99. They have doll clothes and furniture. Like the My Life As line at Walmart, they have a wheelchair and crutch set for their dolls too.
DOLLIE & ME
MADAME ALEXANDER DOLLS
A few years ago, my daughter asked for an American Girl Doll for Christmas, but unfortunately, my budget couldn’t swing it. That was when I found Madame Alexander website. I bought my daughter a favorite Friend for $49.99 on sale, and she has lived up to her name all of these years. The dolls are currently $59.95. They are a higher priced alternative compared to the others I have on the list, but the quality is unmistakeable.
The Springfield Collection from Fibre Craft is offered at Jo-Ann Fabrics for $39.99. This line offers crafts and ready-to-sew doll clothes in addition to ready made items. Their doll clothes crafts fit most 18-inch dolls. So even if you decide to buy a doll from a different doll line, you may want to take advantage of their doll crafts.
HEARTS FOR HEARTS GIRLS
Hearts for Hearts dolls aren’t 18-inch dolls; they are only 14 inches, but they pack a big diversity punch with those 14 inches. I am really impressed with their line and especially the stories behind the dolls. The international spin offers an abundance of educational opportunities. They are available at Amazon starting at $27.99.
If you know of any other alternatives to American Girl dolls that I have missed, please share them with me in a comment. The cultivation of a child’s imagination is vital, as is the development of their sense of self and other people in the world. Dolls are a great tool for parents and children to use on this journey that every child should have the ability to participate. I hope this list helps make that happen.