OWTK Toy News & Reviews

Exclusive Sneak Peek of American Girl Crafts 2012 Product Line

2011 was quite a year in the hobby world as crafts overtook golf as America’s #1 hobby-related pastime (in total sales). For reals. Seems knitting is way more relaxing than shanking yet another 4-iron into the deep rough.  Personally, I’m torn there.  Both fall on the wrong side of the aggravation spectrum for me.

American Girl, the world’s primo destination for high-quality, if not pricey dolls and doll accessories, dove headfirst into the arts-n-crafts game last year and did remarkably well thanks to high-quality products and value-added pricing.  In other words, their stuff wasn’t total shit like a lot of what is sold in the youth sections of Micheal’s and A.C. Moore and, unlike a lot of what sits on the shelves in American Girl stores, their initial crafty lineup was affordable enough for low & middle class families.  The Bear asked for and received an American Girl sewing kit for Christmas, and Santa was pleased his wallet wasn’t dented for more than $15.

Another big reason for the success of the American Girl craft line is the packaging.  Yes, it looks lovely on shelve and peg but also, and more importantly for repeat business, is what is inside the handsome boxes: everything.  This is key, especially after a misstep with their Doll Tees Kit which had great potential but did not have all the ingredients needed to, you know, ACTUALLY produce a hand-designed tee.  Each AG craft, produced in a partnership with EKSuccess Brands, contains everything soup-to-nuts a young girl or boy (yes, boy) will need to produce the craft pictured on the box; every needle, embellishment, stitch of thread, and so on.

That’s impressive.  What also impresses me is the positioning of the American Girl craft line as it enters it’s 2nd year; there exists a genuine desire for their products to advance the decidedly off-line culture of crafting.  Yeah, maybe these kids will eventually open an online Etsy shop to sell their non-American Girl wares but at the core here is an educational philosophy to arm kids with some fundamental knowledge, NOT necessarily to encourage another purchase.  Listen, I’m no dummy, I know American Girl and EKSuccess need and want to move product but the softness of the sell has won me over.  Not something easily done in a mass-marketed situation.

So what exactly is on tap for late summer 2012? Here’s a sneak peek at the next iteration of the American Girl Craft collection:

Sew & Share (August 2012)

I am particularly fond of this one for two reasons. #1 is the price; at just $5.99 for two small craft projects the Sew & Share kits are an affordable way to extend your child’s affinity for their American Girl doll directly into the world of arts-n-crafts.  The perfect entry point, in fact. Secondly is the reclaiming of the word Share to mean, you know, actually handing something to someone else in, like, real life.  This in stark contrast to the 21st century version of Sharing which typically involves pasting something onto your Facebook wall or disseminating through your Twitter feed.  Me likes this kind of throwback for young people to be social in a new old fashion way.  Okay, there’s a 3rd reason I dig Sew & Share, I mean, look at how freakin’ adorable there are!  Thanks to look, price, and packaging, the Sew & Share kits will be stuffed in many a stocking come Christmas 2012.

Birthday Party Paper Products (July 2012)

American Girl gets into the birthday party space with a set of positively charming paper products for child & doll.  I’m talking itty bitty cups and lil’ square plates, and tiny crafts for either in-party fun or as a stellar grab bag goodie for party guests.  I like that these craft/giveaways are sold in packs of 4, instead of say 12 or 16, so they work for smaller parties (like the Bear’s 8th coming up next month with just 4 gals friends) without having tons of extras, as well as for larger shindigs.

Historical Girls and their Historical Crafts (April 2012)

The popular American Girls through history will get their own themed craft projects this year, crafts that reflect the kinds of activities the historical girls might have actually been doing (way) back in the day.  This is a very clever idea; another nice and natural way to subtly steep youngsters in some American history through their toys and playthings.  Nice stuff here.

2012 American Girl of the Year McKenna (July 2012)

Standard issue American Girls get crafts and Historical Girl Dolls will soon have projects related to them, so why wouldn’t 2012’s American Girl of the Year not get in on the action?  Yep, McKenna is getting her own line of puzzles and activities tied to her role as injured-but-inspiring-in-her-determination-to-recover athlete.

The Bear’s 1st do-it-yourself craft, from Santa during Christmas 2011:

*I attended a special pre-Toy Fair event at the American Girl Cafe in New York where the new craft products were shown publicly for the first time.  Breakfast was served.  I had two mini cinnamon rolls and a water.  How’s that for full disclosure?  The opinions above are unbiased and honest, as always.

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