The best friend a boy could have

Four summers ago I accidentally got into the doll customizing business where I would buy people's well-loved American Girl dolls on ebay and then I would take them apart, clean them up and "refurbish" them...

A look back at the makeshift studio I set-up with all of the things that I did to take apart the dolls and then put them back together again.  It was pretty fun as much as it was creatively challenging. My daughter liked to help and watch and sometimes she would say, "Mama, can I hold the head of that one?" I know... it's both completely weird and strangely endearing. 

My inspiration and motivation for doing this sort of thing came from the fact that my daughter wanted to have brothers for her dolls as much as my nephews didn't have the joy of being able to have a "My Buddy" like what there used to be in the 80s.

I know the whole topic of boys having "dolls" is a sensitive one. Boys can have action figures but not "dolls." It's a HUGE deal for a boy to have a "doll." But why is that considering there is reasonable amount of child development focus that strongly indicates the power of play therapy as a way to help a child (no matter the gender) to develop into the strongest, most well-balanced and WHOLE version of themselves. 
Read and LEARN more about the importance of play therapy...

Play therapy and specifically doll play is even common practice for licensed clinicians to use when helping children overcome trauma of all sorts and even specifically with helping children to communicate and process what they might have experienced because they simply don't have the words or the developed maturity to deal with what they have been forced to experience. 

(There has even been new research that has shown how dolls are being used in Alzheimers treatment to help with complications of dementia. It's still being decided if it's a good idea or not but all the same? Play therapy is good for a lot of different folks it seems.)

Once I figured out that I could customize dolls, I made it a bit of a personal mission (of sorts) for just one summer to customize as many boy dolls as I could and then sell them on ebay. All told I was able to make about 17 boy dolls. They were all restyled from the once well-loved girl dolls. People "adopted" them from my etsy shop that were of all ages and for all sorts of reasons and I got the nicest messages from people with thanks that their sons (and daughters as much) LOVED being able to finally have a "best friend" (or a My Buddy, just as much) so they could pal around together or play alongside their sisters...

My own critique for myself  for all of them is this: There is not nearly enough COLOR represented in this picture.
I could have done a much better job at this. I know better now and I stand corrected if I were to ever try something like this again.

It was so much fun bringing these boy dolls to life. I gave myself a budget for each of them to be restyled in the way that seemed to make the most sense and every single one of them had their own sweet charm and personality after all was said and done. (Pro Tip: if you ever want to buy a used American Girl Doll - even if you don't want to do what I did - the best time to buy them is in the summer time on ebay)...

The last little boy to be adopted out was this guy. He was called Malcolm...
He was adopted by an adult collector who even sent me messages long after she received him telling me how appreciative she was to have him. I was so thankful that he was able to go to home to her where he was fully appreciated and obviously loved. Doing what I did gave me such appreciation for maybe what toy and doll makers used to do as a recognized profession and respected artisan.

I hope all of these boys are still being loved and appreciated, now, four summers later.

Eventually, I moved into just customizing a doll just for my own little girl to enjoy - because no other dolls existed (yet) that had textured hair to correctly and lovingly depict some of her very best friends. Now there are dolls that exist like that (I think I have seen them in Target, at least) but it took almost half a decade for that sort of thing to be readily available.

Doll customization can give pre-loved dolls all sorts of looks that they always should have had. Here is my daughter with three of some of her favorite girls. 

It is heartwarming to me that there are a lot more dolls to represent the very many underrepresented that kids (and adults) can now have. I hope that in some way, my little summer mission from years ago helped to push the market and make happen in the grand scheme of things. 

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