The 10 Best American Girl Dolls

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This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in January of 2017. American Girl dolls were first released in 1986 and have become increasingly popular since then, thanks to the diverse cast of interesting characters with fascinating backstories. They have cute accessories, shiny tresses, and struggles that many kids can relate to. These top selections can inspire your children to express themselves, grow more confident, and use their imaginations. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Samantha Parkington

2. Melody Ellison

3. Courtney Moore

Editor's Notes

November 24, 2020:

For this update, we've added two of the company's newest offerings, Courtney Moore and Joss Kendrick. Courtney is a historical character from all the way back in 1986 who has spot-on 80s fashions and radical accessories that many parents will have fond memories of. Joss Kendrick is a super-cool athlete with beachy style who surfs and also struggles with hearing loss. Our hearts warm at the thought of young children who must wear hearing aids finally finding a doll that they can relate to.

We've removed Tenney Grant, who still gets high marks, but her price has gone up and she's lost a little bit of pizzazz. Logan Everett's price has also gone up substantially, but we've kept him on the list because he's one of the only boy dolls made by the company.

WellieWishers Emerson has also been removed; it's just difficult for the cheaper, smaller WellieWishers line to compete with the originals. They also wear completely different clothes, and as any parents know - shelling out for outfits and accessories is one of the most costly facets of the American Girl phenomenon. Still, if you have a child who is 5 to 7 years old, these "starter" dolls might fit the bill. Just be prepared to buy all new outfits when your child graduates to a "real" American Girl doll.

Finally, we've updated the information for several characters, including WellieWishers Willa, Maryellen Larkin, and Kit Kittredge.

November 02, 2019:

American Girl dolls are some of the most popular toys on the market today, and it's easy to see why. Care is taken to develop relatable backstories for each character and create wardrobes and accessories that are true to the doll's time period and cultural background. The brand has made sure to introduce characters that appeal to kids who may not have seen dolls that look like them before — an approach to product development that many other toy brands are only catching on to now. With regard to updates, the WellieWishers Emerson and WellieWishers Willa have been added to the list to give shoppers options at a lower price point. The Josefina Montoya and Grace Thomas dolls have been removed due to complaints about quality and/or authenticity.

4. Luciana Vega

5. Joss Kendrick

6. Gabriela McBride

7. Kit Kittredge

8. Logan Everett

This item has been flagged for editorial review and is not available.

9. WellieWishers Willa

10. Maryellen Larkin

Why You Should Give Your Child An American Girl Doll

The dolls also have trinkets you can give them, like hairbrushes, books, furniture, and all sorts of other items that help bring their world to life.

There are plenty of toys to choose from when picking out a special gift for your child, which makes the tremendous success of American Girl dolls quite impressive. (The company has sold over 10 million dolls and over 100 million copies of the accompanying books) There must be something to these life-like and charming items, and there is. More than just toys, these dolls each come with a story, and parents particularly love that their complimentary books tend to celebrate personal growth, overcoming challenges, and expressing one's self. Each character has a saga that children can follow, and through it, they learn important life lessons that most parents hope to teach their kids.

The brand's line has expanded greatly over the years, and now represents dozens of cultural backgrounds and demographics. While children can sometimes be most comfortable with what they know, you might encourage them to become familiar with other ways of life and parts of the world through these dolls. Considering that some models have various heritages, they may even inspire your little ones to learn new languages, which can be great for their communication skills. Depending on which doll you give your child, he or she may find a few foreign words in the accompanying book and be curious to learn more about that character's native tongue.

The dolls also have trinkets you can give them, like hairbrushes, books, furniture, and all sorts of other items that help bring their world to life. Since the dolls are designed in a way that helps your kids feel attached to and responsible for them, boys and girls also naturally develop a sense of ownership over their particular character's belongings. Between caring for their actual doll and keeping its things in good shape, children learn to take pride in the appearance and condition of their own bodies and valuables, too. Giving your kid an American Girl Doll might just result in her tidying up her room, and her person, more often.

The History Of American Girl Dolls

If you've ever wondered why American Girl Dolls and their books seem to speak so deeply to children, here's your answer: a school teacher and children's publisher, Pleasant Rowland, created them. Due to her former work, Rowland knew a thing or two about the minds of kids. The writer and educator felt that there weren't enough dolls that represented girlhood. After taking a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, and being struck by the vibrant living history energy of the place, she decided to make the original American Girl, Felicity Merriman, who was born during the American Revolution.

Hence, there was Kirsten, the blonde who immigrated from Sweden, Addy, an escaped slave, Molly, a child who grew up in World War II, and Samantha the orphan.

The first several models, who came out between 1986 and 1989, aimed to reflect lives and characters that, perhaps, weren't represented in popular toys at the time. Hence, there was Kirsten, the blonde who immigrated from Sweden, Addy, an escaped slave, Molly, a child who grew up in World War II, and Samantha the orphan. The year 1990 saw the introduction of the Our New Baby line, intended to help children get accustomed to the idea of having a younger sibling in the house. In 1995, the company created the American Girl Today line, which allowed customers to customize details about the dolls, from the hair and skin color to the eyes and outfits.

Rowland didn't find success quickly or easily. Focus groups didn't always like her product, and many people complained that the doll was too expensive. Rather than try to compete with popular comparable toys like Barbie, Rowland decided to take a completely different marketing approach that would set her items apart. From there came the concept of having the American Girl Doll catalog, and having the toys delivered in the mail. It added prestige and uniqueness to the experience of getting the doll. Ironically, although Rowland originally saw her doll as a direct competitor to Barbie, in 1998, Mattel acquired her company.

How To Choose The Best American Girl Doll For Your Child

While your child can, hopefully, grow her collection of these special dolls over time, if you're just picking out her first one, there are some things to consider. With models available representing people from the colonial ages, all the way up until the present day, you may want to ask yourself which one will intrigue your kid the most. If she has shown an interest in history, then one of the historical models might be best. But if she loves trends and all things new, then one from the Girl of the Year line might be the best.

While your child can, hopefully, grow her collection of these special dolls over time, if you're just picking out her first one, there are some things to consider.

Dolls have been around since about 100 C.E., so clearly, their popularity isn't declining. With that in mind, if you're hoping that your American Girl Doll will serve more as a collector's item that goes up in value, you may want one of the older, rarer characters like Felicity, Addy, or Molly. While an older version may not be the most exciting to your little boy or girl right now, it's a precious valuable he or she will thank you for later.

Think about how much your child will really interact with the doll, too. If your kid loves to brush and style her doll's hair, then you may want a model with longer locks. And if dress-up and outfit changes are one of your kid's favorite activities, consider a newer model with lots of wardrobe options. If a friend's child already has a few dolls, ask if your kid can play with them so you can see which one she responds to the most. If your child already has a lot of toys and very little room for more, you might want to choose a mini American Girl doll. If you pick out the right model for your kid, you won't only be giving her an engaging toy, but you'll also be giving her a small investment, as these dolls tend to increase in value.

Shilo Urban
Last updated by Shilo Urban

Shilo lives for adventures in far-away lands and reads books like it’s going out of style (which it is). Dogs are her co-pilots. She’s traveled to 60 countries and has lived in Austin (where she received a BA from the University of Texas), Maine, Paris, Seattle, New Zealand, Los Angeles, and now—Fort Worth. Before becoming a freelance writer over a decade ago, she had more than three dozen jobs, including high school teacher, record label manager, tour guide, and farmhand for endangered livestock breeds. She speaks fluent French and horribly mangled Spanish, which she is working every day to improve. Shilo geeks out over history and culture, and her areas of expertise include travel, art and design, music, pets, food, crafts, toys, and home furnishings. Current obsessions: Gobekli Tepe, tassels, and fresh lemonade.

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