Why Can’t American Girl Create Limb Difference Dolls?

by Jen Lee Reeves on November 27, 2012 · 64 comments

in 2012, american girl

Four years ago, we bought Jordan’s first American Girl doll. It was a Bitty Baby and I even let her pick out an outfit that matched her baby. She loved it SO much. But the very first time she put on the outfit that matched, she told me she wished she had two hands like her doll. Since then, I’ve tried to come up with ways that won’t destroy her American Girl doll but would give her a chance to enjoy a doll that really is just like her. Last year, Jordan got her first My American Doll. She loves her very much and loves finding matching outfits. We even have a Christmas outfit planned to match her doll this year.

I started sending email four years ago to American Girl’s media relations department to find out what it would take to create a limb different doll but I’ve been ignored each time I’ve sent a note. Other readers of Born Just Right tell me they’ve been told flat out that American Girl will not make limb different dolls. There just aren’t many options for our kids. There’s actual research from 1992 that found amputee dolls really help kids in communicating and sharing details about limb differences.

I’ve found a few sites that sell limb different dolls. It includes Karens Kids special needs dolls and there are Sew Able dolls with leg limb differences. When Jordan was a baby, we bought her an AmpuTeddy. It came with a teddy bear with an arm difference and a teddy bear prosthetic that slipped on top of the little arm. It is super cute… but the website says they don’t make the bears anymore.

So… What do we need to do to convince a major doll maker to help support the small set of kids with limb differences? I’m willing to pay extra. I could purposefully alter a doll on my own, but I am the least crafty mom out there and I’d hate to actually break a doll in an attempt to create a limb difference. Would a letter campaign help? A “Bald and Beautiful” Facebook campaign to create bald Barbie gained HUGE steam earlier this year. After a national campaign and hundreds and thousands of supporters, there’s a True Hope line of Moxy and Bratz dolls available at Toys R Us.

UPDATE: I was given the heads up on another teddy bear that is for sale. It’s the Sarah Bear – but for now, there is only a lower limb difference bear. The owner of a Sarah Bear and Born Just Right reader, Shauna, tells me they’ve discussed limb different bears with and without prosthetics but there hasn’t been enough interest so far. If you are interested, let the folks at Sarah Bear know!

I’d love your thoughts. Wouldnt it be amazing if limb differences were mainstream enough to create limb different dolls available for purchase at a mainstream store? That would be remarkable.

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

sally wallis November 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

Maybe an email campaign could be launched.

Jen Lee Reeves November 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

That’s worth a try!

MelissaD November 27, 2012 at 11:08 am

I’m with you on this one Jen. I was very disappointed when they told me no earlier this year. Ella loves her American Girl doll and I agree with you that I would be willing to pay more if necessary to get something like this made for her. You have my support with whatever way you try to make this change happen.

Jen Lee Reeves November 27, 2012 at 11:08 am

Thanks Melissa!

jen November 27, 2012 at 11:41 am

I am on board. Let’s do an email campaign. I have a limb difference play group here we could all write in!

CarrieS November 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

I’m with you on this. It’s hard, because we want our children to be confident in their skin, but manufacturers are making all dolls in one mold. I was slightly encouraged when I saw on AG that you could order a doll with no hair, if your child is battling Cancer, but still no limb differences. If it really is MY AMERICAN GIRL DOLL, then you should be able to do this modification to make my daughter feel special!!

Jen Lee Reeves November 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

@Jen – A limb difference play group? Oh my gosh. I want one of those!

Jen Lee Reeves November 27, 2012 at 11:47 am

I’m with you there, Carrie! There are very few things I do to modify Jordan’s life. But wow, it would be special to have a doll that is really just like her.

sally wallis November 27, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I have a great niece with Amniotic Band syndrome, and she has some missing and incomplete fingers and toes, and I am certain that she would be amazed to have a doll like her.

Patty Moak November 27, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Our family is on board! I know there are times when one of the girls barbie’s arms fall off, and my youngest, Kimee, who does not have a limb difference, automatically starts telling me “she’s ok mommy, she’s like Bettany” (She’s 4 and LOVES the movie soul surfer.) Seeing just pictures of other kids who are like Caitlin, 6, affected by limb differences, doesn’t only help Caitlin, it helps her sister too. A doll, would be amazing! Considering the American Girl Doll company stresses (I just received a catalog with it on the entire cover) their hospitals, I don’t see why they can’t easily alter one of the dolls arms/hands/legs/toes to match a REAL American girl.

cassy November 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I agree. I would be interested in doing something!

Megan November 27, 2012 at 4:18 pm

My husband and I discussed this recently. We would be willing to pay extra for our little girl to have one doll in the world like her. I would join in any campaign to make this happen.

Jen Lee Reeves November 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Okay everyone! I’ll investigate an email and a mailing address. I can’t launch a new Facebook page just because I have a job that’s pretty time consuming but I’m totally willing to back someone who wants to launch a Limb Difference Doll Facebook campaign!

Penni Yontz November 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Hi, My granddaughter has a lucky fin for her left hand. Small little hand w/nubbins. She calls it her baby hand. My daughters friends mom made her a doll from an old pattern like the cabbage patch that she made w/a baby hand like hers. My granddaughter is Gracie and she names her doll Macie. Gracie is 4 yrs old. I dont know how to post a picture here or I would post one. She is a cute little doll.

Nina November 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I love this idea and our kids would greatly benefit from this as would other kids by being exposed to it. I tried this a few years ago with Vermont Teddy Bear after I found out AmpuTeddy didn’t exist anymore…. I don’t want to be pesimistic but you’ll likely get the same disgusting response I received, that is if they ever respond…. But in all the toy companies sort-of-defense if they create a LBE doll, then they need a LAE doll, and right side, legs etc etc. So to just cover amputations they’re looking at between 4 to 8 different dolls. And that’s not including if you wanna get real crazy and have multiple appendages. So at this point the company has a pile of different types of limb different dolls, and then someone wants a doll with downs or a wheelchair or a back brace or whatever. The company isn’t going to make dozens of different dolls to make all of us different consumers happy and they aren’t going to make one group happy without trying to make others happy too and then not-in-their-defence: it’s simply not ‘cost effective’ for them.

Nina November 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Another option, take a deep breath and alter the dolls arm. AG claims they’ll fix or replace the doll if anything happens to it……. Make it have a limb difference and if Jordan ever wants it to have 10 fingers again, or if your craftiness is really, really bad, then just send it into the doll hospital to get ‘fixed’. (just don’t tell them you purposely amputated it……that conversation will not go well)

Jen Lee Reeves November 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

Penni – that’s such a great idea. Feel free to post a picture to the Born Just Right Facebook page: http://facebook.com/bornjustright or email me: jen@bornjustright.com

Tiaras & Tantrums December 1, 2012 at 9:19 am

with so many difference in our great country – I see this perspective well. But I also see AG’s point, they only create dolls based on their books. You need to locate a writer who writes about the differences children have and push them to work with AG

Sarah Parisi December 1, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Great idea. I hope American Girl will listen because I think it’s fantastic.

Jen Lee Reeves December 2, 2012 at 9:11 am

American Girl also has the My American Girl collection that is supposed to look like the girl who owns the dolls. If American Girl just made dolls for its books, I’d totally understand!

Meg December 4, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I recently repaired my old AG doll using a tutorial I found online. Molly’s leg had fallen off and her other limbs were loose. Their limbs are hollow, or, at least my old 1989 Molly’s limbs are hollow. If you cut off part of your daughter’s doll’s arm, there would be a hole. You might be able to put a baby sock or other tight material on the remaining portion of the arm, sort of like a cast. And then tell your daughter to leave the sock on so that dirt and junk doesn’t get into the hollow part. It would be hard to clean out.

You could also just take the entire arm off. That way it wouldn’t be damaged & you could put it back on again if you ever wanted to sell the doll when she’s older.

A third option would be to go to a craft store and buy that putty stuff that people who make dolls use. I can’t remember the brand name. It’s for people who get the “ball” doll head and sculpt the facial featured with the putty stuff and it hardens like vinyl. Then, you could cut off part of the doll’s arm and use the putty to fill it in & give the end a nice, rounded look and you wouldn’t have to worry about a hole or hollow arm. That doesn’t take much crafty skill. If you can make a ball out of play-doh, you can do this.

Jen Lee Reeves December 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Thans for the ideas, Meg!

Megan December 6, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Thanks for this post and the discussion . . . even if AG doesn’t make any changes, I’m thankful for the ideas here. Perhaps a niche business for someone out there to do customized alterations for dolls and animals, in order to accomodate the many differences that Nina mentioned above. I think there could be fairly wide appeal there, even reaching into the far more commonplace (broken arms and legs, casts, crutches, etc.)
As for me, this discussion has made me think about how I might be able to alter a small bear or animal to be a friend for our little guy. (Our son’s left arm stops at his wrist.) We’re bringing him home through adoption in a month or so, and this website has been an AWESOME resource as we wait and prepare our home and hearts. Thanks so much.

Jen Lee Reeves December 6, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I’m so glad. Megan! I agree… we can at least open the conversation. I’ve already gotten so many more ideas since I wrote this post.

Penni Yontz December 8, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Congrats Megan on your son !! My granddaughter Gracie has what we call a baby hand. You will see that he will lead a normal happy life. Maybe a few bumps on the way…but hey we all have them don’t we !!!

Shelley December 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm

I was just thinking something like this a couple of months ago, however since Mighty Z is vent dependent I was think along the thoughts of a trached American girl doll.

Jen Lee Reeves December 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Wouldn’t that be remarkable? It would be so cool if a mainstream doll company thought of the many different challenges kids face and creating ways to customize to match our kids.

Shanan Schmidt January 10, 2013 at 9:51 pm

There is a doll company which i beleve is still in business called My Twinn. Very si
ilar to AG. For an extra charge they will custo
ize a doll. My daughter was born with a partial arm and has a Twinn
Doll just like her!

Jen Lee Reeves January 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

Shanan – that’s so super cool. I’ll have to investigate.

MelissaD January 11, 2013 at 11:41 am

I just went on a live chat with someone at this company and asked. She said that they used to do this but don’t do limb different dolls any longer.

Jen Lee Reeves January 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Rats.

Kimberly Walker April 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

KarensKottage website sells special angel dolls that include limb different and prosthetic. They are soft dolls. She also has a line similar to the AG dolls so might be amenable to adapting those.

Jen Lee Reeves April 17, 2013 at 10:52 am

Thanks Kimberly!

tkrei April 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I just emailed American Girl today. I was told very nicely they can’t make them for children who have differences. It is disappointing and sad that we can’t get them made. My daughter wanted one until she realized it won’t look just like her. I wish there was something that we could do. They also said they get requests like that all the time. I wish they would do something about it then.

Jen Lee Reeves April 25, 2013 at 10:04 am

It really stinks.

Jen Lee Reeves July 21, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Thanks for sharing this note. It will help us as we continue this crusade!

Catherine August 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm

My grandson was born without his left hand and I would love to get him a doll that reflects his disability. Karen’s Kids is the only website I’ve found so far. Anyone know of another?

Jen Lee Reeves August 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm

I haven’t found anything mass produced. But I have learned some people take doll patterns from a craft shop and alter the designs for limb differences.

Burgandy August 20, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I know I’m just a kid (13) and this site is probably for adults and I don’t understand what I’d be like to be those girls but I saw this story and it broke my heart. I don’t understand why ag can’t customize dolls for kids who are “different” it’s sad that kids may feel different because they aren’t like everyone else or like their doll. They should feel safe and normal around thier dolls who become thier best friends. I think this is a great idea. I wish American girl would do this, if they make dolls for girls who have cancer why would this be any different. I hope I hear more about this and I hope you and your child’s doll dreams become a reality.

Jen Lee Reeves August 21, 2013 at 9:32 am

Thanks for your thoughts, Burgandy.

Deanna McCammon August 28, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Very interesting. Yes I totally agree, toy makers only aim to make mass sales for money and don’t consider this type of market as profitable. Sad!! That is why I started my own, HALLE LULU TOY FACTORY where HAIR IS OPTIONAL & FUN IS ENDLESS. I make Rag Dolls with removable hair for kids with cancer. I have found out though that all kids love my dolls. Great for mix and match play. Also have a head band that allows kids to wear the hair themselves. My next thought for a doll is one with removable limbs. After reading what you all wrote, I will have to start thinking how to proceed. I just started marketing and welcome you all to visit my website http://www.hallelulu.com and feed back is always welcomed. Also more likes of Facebook the better.

Jen Lee Reeves August 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Thanks so much, Deanna! I look forward to hearing some of your ideas!

Deanna McCammon August 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Cool – I will appreciate insight on this doll so I will brainstorm – make proto-type and let you know. Thanks!

Deanna McCammon August 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Posted your site on my Halle LuLu facebook page – so many likes its crazy. I hear you all and will be sewing all weekend long:) Think the best way to do this is special request. PLEASE if you have a special request go to my website and email me. If I can do the request I will and better yet will do the first 5 for no charge:) I am sure my dolls will be LOVED!!

Deanna McCammon September 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Hey Jen – I was wondering if I could make a doll special for one of these angels and send – no charge? If so, could you email a pic of a child that you know and I can try to make the limbs match? Also an address. Send direct to my email on this account.

I can only do 1 for now, but would love the feedback. I’m sure Halle LuLu will not disappoint..

Thanks!!

Jen Lee Reeves September 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Hi Deanna. I’ll email you and see what we can do!

Patricia A. Kelly October 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Hi,
Tomorrow at 6 am my dear, sweet little friend Jessica (4 yrs old) will have her entire left leg amputated. Thank God, I say as this will save her life!
As an Early Childhood Educator, I know how important it is for Jessica to have a doll (at least one) that reflects HER!! Actually these dolls should be available for all children for home play. Educational catalogs offer molded plastic figures sitting in wheelchairs or on crutches. Because of most state laws they have to be made from very durable materials that can withstand the constant daily washing / sanitizing routines for germ control, also very important. These “toys are included most likely in a block play area. Unfortunately, it took many years of begging and complaining etc to get even that. All in the name of diversity. Another huge example would be art materials available in “skin tones”. More years of begging and explaining etc to our very famous crayon company how important it is to be able to present to young children a box of crayons, paints, markers, paper etc that are in all flesh tones. We’ve won that battle and certainly they do benefit from that. However, you can’t walk into Wal-Mart and purchase such items! They have a tremendous amount of different 8 packs of crayons that are labeled “princess colors” or “soccer colors” but skin colors? Not available to the general public. Of course if you purchase the ever popular 64 count box most likely all of the skin tones are contained within the collection. I t may sound silly or trivial but presenting the boxes of skin tone crayons to a small group of children may make them stop and think about ways we are all different but still the same!
(I am extremely tired and have a horrible toothache which is causing me to ramble… I apologize!)
Back to my point. It is so very important that a doll company take the time and make the effort to give our children the toys they actually need! But let’s hope that with time and consumer interest someone with step up to bat and comply with our wishes. Then we can sit back and watch as the many toy companies start “knocking off” each other’s limb difference” dolls. I know the day will come when we will actually have a choice from which company we choose to purchase!
Deanna, many kudos to you for rising to the challenge! Your kind offering to make these dolls… you are a trailblazer!! You are special and kind hearted! You will change the lives of the children that are blessed to receive your dolls!
Sew Able also has risen to the occasion and addressed this need. I have visited their website several times and know that they too are paving the way!
Thank you for letting me have my “painkillers for my toothache” rant!!
My best wishes to all … Patty

Jen Lee Reeves October 15, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Thank you, Patty. And I hope you feel better. I’ll have Jessica in my thoughts tomorrow as her life will change… but it is not the end of her life. Thank goodness! Please let her parents know about Camp No Limits: http://nolimitsfoundation.org It’s a special place and it will help Jessica learn to get strong while having fun!

Deanna McCammon October 15, 2013 at 10:37 pm

A really appreciate the acknowledgement!! I have been invited to do a presentation for the Rotary Club on Friday. They are having a special meeting to companies/people that are trying to do good for society. Really Nervous. But will show my doll…. Will post pics. I am really into this!! Kids will love my dolls. My family owns a fence business that is my real job so not trying to make millions doing what I love to do.

Deanna McCammon October 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Can I please send one – no charge???

Patricia A. Kelly October 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

An update! Jess is out of surgery and the doctors were able to save her growth plate which was totally up in the air! She is in Philadelphia, PA at a great hospital.
@ Jen, thank you for your kind words AND information. I have written it in my calendar so it won’t get lost.
@ Deanna. You sound incredibly passionate about your dolls and serving those in need. That passion is going take a hold of you during that presentation. You won’t really be doing the presentation. Your passion is going to do it for you. (Believe me. I have presented hundreds of workshops. I was nervous the 1st time. After that, it was nothing!) Plus you are speaking to folks from the Rotary Club. These are thoughtful, kind, generous and nurturing people! Just like you! So be a tiny bit nervous and hugely excited! You, too, are starting a new adventure!!
Also, if your note and offer were for me on behalf of Jessica, I say yes! Absolutely! And many, many thanks!

Deanna McCammon October 16, 2013 at 10:59 am

Patricia, no one took me up on that offer so I would love to send one to Jessica!! Just e-mail me where to mail her and she will have her Halle LuLu doll soon.

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement! I just try to keep kids in my thoughts when doing this, oh and my Grandma as she was my inspiration. Long story for another day.

heather November 19, 2013 at 5:02 pm

My little girl is a double amputee of her legs and she is almost 3 and I wish there was a doll like the American girl dolls for her.not all children are made the same God makes usaall different

Jen Lee Reeves November 20, 2013 at 8:38 am

I totally agree, Heather!

Patricia A. Kelly November 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Heather,
Contact Deanna McCmmon. She is the creator of the Halle Lulu dolls. I believe that she will customize to your specifications. She just sent a beautiful amputee doll to my best friends niece who just lost her left leg to Osteosarcoma. She will be five years old in two weeks.
Anyway you can find the dolls on Amazon or through her website. Also, she has a Facebook page as “Halle Lulu”.
I wish you, your precious daughter and entire family the very best.
Patty Kelly

Jen Lee Reeves December 1, 2013 at 11:36 pm

That’s great to hear, Patty!

Rebecca December 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I stumbled on your site while looking for accessories for my nieces American Girl dolls. I had just been to this site which has dolls like you are requesting. I am not affiliated with them it was just a fluke I was looking at their site before yours. I think they may just do leg differences but maybe you could ask about arms. Their dolls look just like AG dolls. They also have all sorts of therapy equipment. My prayers are with you and your family. Rebecca

http://www.sew-dolling.com/dollys_friends.htm

Rebecca December 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm

sorry I just reread your blog and saw that you knew about Sew Able dolls. Happy holidays.

Jen Lee Reeves December 3, 2013 at 6:56 am

Thanks so much, Rebecca!

Gabi Moench Ford March 11, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Hi my Name is Gabi and I created a doll with a prosthetic arm I would like to do a auction of the doll and hope to bring some money for your organization you can see her on Facebook on my page Her name is Emma Hugalot

Alan September 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm

How about buying a cheap Our Generation doll and practicing on her first?

Jen Lee Reeves September 8, 2014 at 9:58 am

Good point! That may be worth the try.

MarieB November 11, 2014 at 9:19 pm

My 4 year old niece lost her leg last Christmas because of childhood cancer. I thought a matching doll would be nice this Christmas, little did I know it’s almost impossible to find! I was hoping American Girl had one :(

Jen Lee Reeves November 12, 2014 at 10:09 am

Marie – There is a dollmaker who just started making very, very sweet dolls. You can find out more at her Facebook page, A Doll Like Me: https://www.facebook.com/nannysbabiestoodollslikeme

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