The American Girl Doll has been a long-standing request on many girls’ holiday wish lists. The company has many fans due to the positive self-image and sense of inclusion that the dolls and their stories foster in young girls. A new line of accessories goes one step further in teaching girls about accepting differences with options that include wheelchairs, guide dogs, hearing aids, and allergen-free lunch kits.
The American Girl catalog recently added a section called the Doll Hospital, and despite the hefty price tags that accompany the dolls and their accessories, ranging from $14 for hearing aids to $38 for wheelchairs, it’s hard not to applaud the company for the new additions.
“We have a long history of speaking to diversity and making girls feel good about themselves, and this is just another way we are expanding on the idea,” said American Girl Doll spokeswoman Julie Parks.
Each year the company features a Doll of the Year. For 2012, the Doll of the Year was McKenna, a talented gymnast who struggles through injury and learning disabilities. With the help of her smart friend Jesse, who happens to use a wheelchair, she overcomes her challenges. The books and movies that the company produces to accompany the dolls always have these type of feel-good, inspiring messages.
According to Dr. Ari Brown, a developmental pediatrician in Austin, Texas, the company is on the right track.
“I think it’s great American Girl tries to have dolls that have the same hodgepodge of traits and features you actually see in kids,” Brown said.
The benefits aren’t limited to girls with disabilities, either. According to Brown, kids without disabilities have just as much to learn from the dolls.
“It can help kids learn to be more accepting of others who are different from them,” she said.
Other popular companies have attempted the same strategy, without the applause or success that the American Girl Doll company is receiving. For example, Barbie tried to produce a friend who uses a wheelchair for the popular doll, Share a Smile Becky. The name ruffled feathers, as did the fact the wheelchair did not even fit into Barbie’s elevator in the Dream House.
Many parents feel the benefits are worth the investment involved in collecting the dolls, which extends past accessories and often includes hair appointments and tea parties at the company’s retail locations.
“Parents realize they are investing in something that builds strong character and helps every girl reach their full potential, no matter who they are or what they look like,” she said. “It’s all about engaging them in positive experiences and helping them fit in.”