The 10 Best American Girl Dolls

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Since the initial publication of this wiki in January of 2017, we've made 17 edits to this page. American Girl Dolls were first released in 1986 and have only grown in popularity since then because the brand has developed a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. We found selections that will inspire your children to express themselves, be confident, and use their imagination. You'll want to hold onto these long after your kids outgrow them. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best american girl doll on Amazon.

10. Grace Thomas

9. Josefina Montoya

8. Tenney Grant

7. Gabriela McBride

6. Maryellen Larkin

5. Luciana Vega

4. Kit Kittredge

3. Logan Everett

2. Melody Ellison's

1. Samantha Parkington

Why You Should Give Your Child An American Girl Doll

Giving your kid an American Girl Doll might just result in her tidying up her room, and her person, more often.

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 to 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.

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.

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 (originally around $82) 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 a 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.

If she has shown an interest in history, then one of the historical models might be best.

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. These, by the way, retail for anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 today — sometimes more, if several original accessories are included. 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.

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Tina Morna Freitas
Last updated on August 02, 2018 by Tina Morna Freitas

Tina Morna Freitas is a writer who lives in Chicago with her family and three cats. She has a B.A. in anthropology with a minor in English, and has built a freelance career over the years in writing and digital marketing. Her passions for cooking, decorating and home improvement contribute to her extensive knowledge of all things kitchen and home goods. In addition, her 20 years as a parent inform her expertise in the endless stream of toys and equipment that inevitably takes over the homes of most parents. She also enjoys gardening, making and sipping margaritas, and aspires to be a crazy cat lady once all the children are grown.

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