My daughters have been into American Girl dolls for at least four years now, and while there are definitely times I roll my eyes at the over-the-top nature of some of the accessories and furniture that AG sells, overall I'm a big fan. Not only do the dolls and accessories encourage creative and imaginative play, but the AG books and movies have positive messages, and teach history as well. And let's face it...the miniature doll stuff is just really darn cute.
While we have a decent amount of official American Girl merchandise at our house, we also have lots of things from less expensive brands (such as Target's "Our Generation"), as well as things that weren't intended for an 18" doll at all, but just happen to be the right size (like the tiny bottles of tabasco sauce we scored during a hotel brunch). With a little creativity, you can find or make all kinds of fun things for your dolls that cost a fraction of what things cost at the AG store.
Which leads me to this fun little project...
Make Your Own American Girl Bakery
We just so happen to live about 10 minutes away from an American Girl store, which means a lot of "browsing" inevitably happens whenever we find ourselves at the mall. My daughter received the Grace doll for a gift last year, and she's been oohing and aahing over all of Grace's accessories, notably her French Bakery, which retailed for $500 before it was discontinued.
I kindly explained to her that there was absolutely no way she would be getting that bakery, to which she replied that if Santa brought it, it would be free. I then made up something super profound about how Santa couldn't bring that to her because it would be too fragile to transport on his sleigh. (This Santa thing gets a whole lot trickier as the kids get older.)
Anyway, as I'd stood there looking at the bakery, the small crafty voice that occasionally pops into my head spoke up: I bet you could make a version of that.
I knew we already had a doll table and chairs, as well as some doll baked goods from Target. The only issue was finding the space to create the bakery itself. At first I thought of using a large box, but then as I was working on cleaning out some cabinets in our house, the idea dawned on me...what if we transformed this hardly-used cabinet into an American Girl bakery?
It was the perfect size, AND it would mean that the bakery and all of the things in it would be contained behind a closed door instead of taking up valuable floor space in our house. Win!
The girls were super excited about this idea, and so we headed out to check out Hobby Lobby, Michaels and Jo-Ann for inspiration. A few hours and $40 later, we'd turned this:
Isn't it cute? I totally want to hang out in there.
I won't bore you with every single detail of what we bought/used (although if there's anything specific you want to know, just ask in the comments and I'll happily answer), but here are some of the details:
Table & chairs: We bought these years ago from Pottery Barn kids, and they still sell a similar version. (You can also probably find a cheaper version elsewhere.)
Carpet: dish towel
Bakery display case: We used a clear acrylic jewelry box, which we already owned. Here is a similar version.
Framed art: We found these mini green locker frames at Hobby Lobby for $1.99. We just cut out a photo of a pastry from a magazine to put inside. Michaels also had a huge display of mini frames.
"To go" bags: We picked these up at Hobby Lobby, along with the cupcake stickers to decorate them with. They're super cute, and they also helped to disguise the non-functional fireplace knob that's sticking out of the cabinet.
Menu: This chalkboard came from Hobby Lobby. I used a pink chalkboard pen to write the menu items on it. I also saw a ton of small chalkboards for sale at Michaels after we'd already bought this one.
Cafe sign: We made this from a small wood plank and letters, all of which we got at Hobby Lobby.
Lights: This is my favorite part of the cafe! We found these mini lights at Jo-Ann Fabrics. They run on batteries so you don't need to rely on an outlet.
You don't need to be an American Girl fan to do this type of project. The possibilities are endless! You could create a room for any type of doll, an action figure/ninja hangout, or any other sort of space depending on the size of your cabinets and the interests of your kids.
If you're not sure what to put in it, just wander through the aisles of any craft store and you'll discover all sorts of things you'd never even considered.
Now excuse me, but I'm off to play...I mean, watch my kids play. :)