Many, many children have dolls. A stand-in for a friend, sibling or even a baby, dolls give children a chance to role play, to use their imaginations and to experiment with different kinds of social situations in a safe way. This may date me a bit, but as a young girl, my American Girl dolls captured me in a way that other toys couldn’t. Initially I received Samantha as a Christmas present; her brown wavy hair looked just like mine, and as an only child, I was thrilled at the idea of having a little brown-eyed companion. It also didn’t hurt that I was a major bookworm and gobbled up all of her stories as quickly as I could get my hands on them. The narrative historical fiction readers made me consider what it was like to live in the Victorian era; whether I would be as determined and strong-willed as Samantha was and do things like rip holes in the knees of my stockings. (I’m guessing yes.) But those books also sparked a curiosity about what it would have been like to be a young girl at that time, which got me thinking about social history and bigger issues in general.
This is what I love about the American Girl books – how they inspire girls to learn about history by, essentially, holding up a mirror. What would you would have done as an African-American girl living in Philadelphia during the civil war? How do you think it felt to have your family separated and to work to bring them together? These are difficult questions, but presented in a context that is developmentally appropriate and compelling for contemporary children to think about. This is why I’m leading a series of American Girl Craft Club workshops, where we’ll focus on a different American Girl at each club meeting and practice a skill or art form unique to each girl’s historical era. We’ll also enjoy a snack that was commonly eaten at the time, talking about availability of ingredients and why. Programs are two hours and drop-off; our first meeting is all about Addy and will be on Sunday, April 13, from 3-5pm. To sign your child up, click the link below.