How I created an “American Boy” doll for my son

Note: This post was written in October 2015. At that time, American Girl did not offer any 18-inch boy dolls. In February 2017 they introduced one to their product line. While I’m happy to see that, I’d like to give credit to the courageous startups like Boy Story and Wonder Crew who did the hard work of testing the market and paving the way the past couple of years ahead of American Girl. Not to mention all the resourceful parents like me who found DIY soulutions. And the Etsy sellers who create custom dolls and high quality clothing for boy dolls. You are the real rock stars!

My 6-year-old, Miles, had just two items on his birthday wish list:


American Boy doll

I wasn’t surprised to see a doll on his list. He has an older sister, and they play together every day. She loves playing superheroes and various sports with him, and he loves playing My Little Pony and American Girl with her.

A year ago, when my daughter turned 7, she received one of American Girl’s popular “Truly Me” dolls, customized to look like her. My son, naturally, wanted a doll that looks like him, too. Trouble is, there are no 18-inch “American Boy” dolls available.

Companies like Target may be moving toward gender neutrality in their toy aisles, but the trend has yet to trickle down into specific toy brands, especially dolls.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I’d give a girl doll a makeover to resemble a boy (but not just any boy…. my boy).

First, I scoured eBay and Craigslist for a used 18-inch doll. It had to be in excellent condition, and it had to resemble my son with his platinum hair and blue eyes. I searched for “American Girl” and “Pleasant Company” (American Girl’s parent company) as well as “Madame Alexander,” another company that makes quality 18-inch dolls. It didn’t take long before I found a Madame Alexander doll on eBay for $25. If I looked past the hot pink lipstick and hair bow, I saw the spitting image of my son:

When s/he arrived, I grabbed some scissors and started snipping away at the hair. Madame Alexander dolls have an advantage in that their hair is finer and easier to cut and style. American Girl dolls have wigs, which you can pry off and replace with a boy wig, available from several sellers online. (Note: You can also buy a brand new American Girl doll without hair by calling AG customer service.)

Next I used acetone to remove the doll’s lipstick and blush, and I trimmed the eyelashes. I found several Etsy sellers who make 18-inch boy doll clothes, and bought a cute Spiderman outfit that I knew my son would love.

In all, I invested less than $50 and a couple hours to give my son the doll of his dreams.

Miles named his new buddy “Fred Jones.” Sort of looks like a Fred, no?

112 replies
  1. Maria says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your ideas.. Fred looks just like him! You’ve given me the confidence to tackle my own AG & AB projects.

  2. Misty Belcher says:

    I love this! I’ve searched all over for a boy doll for my almost 3 year old, I bought him one from the cabbage patch dolls website but it doesn’t really look like him, but they only had about 3 different boy dolls to choose from

  3. Rose says:

    This is very creative. I bought my nephew a boy doll many years ago. Do you remember the “My Buddy” doll? They were very popular back then

    • Gina DeMillo Wagner (@writerGDW) says:

      I do remember “My Buddy!” My brother had one and I think I played with it more than he did. 🙂

  4. Hilary Crane says:

    This is awesome! American Girl really should get on the bandwagon, there must be a market for this and little additional cost to them really.

  5. Kristi Northcutt says:

    Thats an astonishing likeness. Well done! And is Fred Jones named after Fred Jones , member of the Scooby Doo gang, by any chance?

    • Gina Wagner says:

      Thanks, Kristi! And yes, he is named after Fred from Scooby Doo. My daughter named her AG doll Daphne, so it seemed appropriate. Ha!

  6. Kelly K says:

    I love this so very much! ☺ My son plays with his older sister’s my little ponies and dolls all the time. We have not gotten an “American Doll” yet as we feel she is still a touch to young to properly care for it. But it is a plan for the future. I hope in the next few years companies will be more aware and bring out more boy dolls. <3 Thank you for sharing your story and you found the right doll for him. They look like twins.

  7. Dale says:

    Sweet, what a fun project I always loved when my daughter would have something on her Christmas list that didn’t exist yet !

  8. Diana says:

    LOVE THIS!!! My nephew ( the only boy with 3 girl cousins) had a my buddy doll that he loved but it was so big and hard to take places with him. I wish I would have thought of this awesome idea for him.

  9. Keir says:

    I absolutely love this doll!! My son is six and this doll looks just like him, even the Spider Man shirt. Any chance you’d be willing to make another one???

  10. Evangeline B says:

    Excellent Mother!!! My brother has a boy cabbage patch (the popular doll at the time) kid when we were kids!

  11. Ann says:

    Wonderful work, Mom!
    I thought (had heard) that American Girl doll had planned to make American Boy dolls?!

  12. Francis Walmsley says:

    Amazing. What a thoughtful and creative mum. I love this story. Hopefully toy manufacturers will take note. Clearly there is a market for boy dolls.

  13. Tina Pennington says:

    I bought my son a boy bitty twin doll when he was five, he absolutely loved it, named it AJ short for Aiden Junior after his baby cousin born the same year. My sister was appalled at me buying him a doll but he still loves it to this day evem though he is ten, taking it out to play with his little brother who is 2.

  14. Lacynda Mathes says:

    Very cute! Free Jones is Fred on Scooba Doors btw., who the doll also resembles. He just needs an orange ascot.

  15. Mark Mandel says:

    This is amazing, a wondrous piece of work in the conception and the execution. I wish my dear late wife could have seen it. She was a doll collector, specializing in Madame Alexander, and sewed many costumes for her dolls. I’m going to send the link to this post to her doll club.

    • Gina Wagner says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mark. It’s nice to hear your wife would have loved it. I collected Madame Alexander dolls as a child (the small historical figures). So fun!

      I’d be honored if you shared my post with the doll club.

  16. Barbara Ashton says:

    I was already loving this article but when I discovered your son had named his doll Fred Jones, well, that made my day. You see, that was my lovely dad’s name x x x

  17. Wonder Crew says:

    Love what you created, Gina! Check out Wonder Crew, a new line of Crewmates (aka dolls) that combine the adventure of an action figure with the emotional connection of a favorite stuffed animal. Think “My Buddy” for the Z generation.

    It’s time we expand play options for all kids, regardless of gender.

  18. Charmed by Art says:

    How utterly fabulous! You gave your son more than just a doll for his birthday. And what a striking resemblance!

  19. Whitney Flower says:

    What a wonderful idea and such loving determination! My hats off to you Mom! They should most definitely make more Boy dolls for boys. I think the time has arrived for a toy market that’s gender neutral and without prejudice! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Heather says:

    My little guys played with a boy baby doll that was my brothers when he was a kid thirty five years ago. He did not want it because his wife said her boys would never play with dolls. I thought that was silly because boys grow up to be daddies a lot of the time and I never saw harm in letting them have a pal wander around with them fixing pretend broken appliances, fishing, cooking a snack in the play kitchen for the girls’ tea party, or watching them read a book. I think the idea of a male version of those dolls is great. You did a wonderful job.

    • Momo says:

      There’s a pretty big secondary market for 18 inch dolls and I’m a member, as is the woman who created some of the clothes Fred had on. If you want to know more I’ve left my link where you can message me.

      • Gina Wagner says:

        Thank you! Etsy sellers: Please feel free to link to your shops in the comments. I know a lot of people who are DIY’ing their own boy dolls who would love to see what you’re making. -GIna

  21. Jami says:

    I just saw this on the Today’s Parent Facebook page. The doll really does look so much like him, this was such a great project!

  22. Jessica says:

    I love this ! My son has a twin sister and an older sister and he loves big sister’s AG doll. His twin has been promised one for her 6th birthday and he would love one too, but would also want a boy doll. I think I’d make a mess of it trying to do this myself – I’m not at all crafty. If you ever decided to make another one I’d be happy to pay for the doll and your work!

  23. Susan Pinto Schuettenberg says:

    Nice job! I did this for my own son 15 years ago using an AG doll that was ordered to look like him. I tried to get AG to cut the hair but they would not. I cut it myself- also found that many of the AG ” girl clothes” were gender neutral. He and his sister played with their dolls for hours. I still have it!

  24. MM says:

    I’ve been a lurker for years, and thought that the little boy holding a doll in my Facebook feed really looked like Miles 😉 I love your writing, by the way!

    I have b/g twins, and I know I’ll be facing a similar situation in a few years, so thank you for this!

  25. Sandi Felch says:

    What a great idea! Lots of little girls grow up to be the Mamas of little boys, too, so this wouldn’t necessarily be for boys only.

  26. Amanda O. says:

    Hi Gina! I would love to use two of the images (the doll before and after) in a post I am writing on how awesome it is that you took the step to create this doll for your son. Please let me know if this is ok! 🙂

  27. Alison says:

    My son wept when his sister’s AG doll showed up 20 years ago. “Where is my American Girl Boy??”, he lamented.

    We ordered a doll of Today with his hair and eye colour, and a red t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. We took him to the hair dresser, who said he’d never done a sex change before.

    He got his doll, and he loved him.

    Danny used to climb the apple tree with my son, where they would spend many happy hours. The trouble was, Danny needed to be hoisted. So I went to a local outdoors store for webbing, buckles, a carabiner, etc. in order to make it possible to climb farther with Danny,

    The guy at the counter said, “Just a minute”, disappeared, and returned some time later with his manager, who told me in no uncertain terms that the improvised harness was not safe enough to use on my child. I had to promise repeatedly that this was for a doll, not a child.

    Danny is in a trunk awaiting the arrival of the next generation of towheaded tree climbers in our family,

  28. Brenda Gourlay says:

    All I can say is awesome! Fred is a a perfect resemblance for your son Miles.
    You are an awesome mom! This is something he will always remember.
    Great job, Mom!

  29. Meghan phillips says:

    Fred (great name, by the way!) and Miles are both adorable! He must have been so excited when he opened his present! Wonderful job making his dream come true!

  30. Xochitil Orona says:

    Hi Gina,

    Thank you so much for writing such a perfect article on this subject. I’m especially greatful for your brilliant and fearless idea in converting a girl doll into a boy doll! You moved me to tears. I’ve been passionately fighting for this for years, so much so, my FB friends and family saw you article and sent it to me.

    I have three boys. Twins who are now 8, and a 6 year old boy. When my twins were 2, I like you searched for custom made dolls. I figured, if they can customized a doll, they could customize it to look like a boy. Well, I discovered they couldn’t. But, I did find a set of Bity boy Twins from American Girl. (Which worked out perfect, because I had twins and needed 2 dolls.) They were the only company online that sold a boy doll. Bity Twins look like toddlers, which was fine when my boys were toddlers, but they’re now 8 and 6 and would like the larger 18″ doll. Here’s where my luck ran out.

    When my 3rd son turned 2, I bought him his own Bity Twin. The Bity twins only come as a set. So, I gifted my son’s Bity Twin to a friend.

    Like I said, my twins are now 8, and my youngest son is now 6. Making our boy dolls 6 years and 4 year, and very loved with crayons, pens and dirt marks. I went to the Palo Alto, Stanford mall American Doll store to take their dolls in the be cleaned. My boys were so excited to run through the store, and search for a new outfit for their dolls. They soon discovered there were only two outfits to select from a store the size of a large Bloomingdales. The only boy dolls in the store, were the same Bity Twin dolls they owned. My 1st twin son asked, “Why weren’t there more boy dolls?” My second twin asked, “Why can’t they call the store American Kid?”

    I wrote my boy’s complaint in their complaint department, I spoke to a manger for an extensive amount of time about our disappointment, and I wrote a letter directly to American Girl.

    I never heard a response.

    Hopefully, with your act of ingenuity, CEO’s of toy companies take a serious and quick act and remember babies are born female and male. Hopefully, by next Christmas we will see boy dolls on toy shelves.

    Xochitl Orona

  31. Terry Manes says:

    I love this idea! I have been looking for a quality brown, curly haired boy doll with green eyes for 21 years! My Moms doll cabinet has dolls representing all my children except my son. I too scoured EBay! I bet I could make my own too! Never liked the feminine boy dolls on the Internet. And curly hair is hard to find!

  32. Ed Boland says:

    You are an incredible Mom! (I know because I’m married to an incredible mom)
    My wife and I had the exact same problem, so we went ahead and made an “American Girl” for boys- the HeroBoys. They are coming soon, you can check it out at
    Great, work!!

  33. Kara Burgan says:

    I just saw the article about this doll on People mag’s website and I’m so excited to show it to my son tonight. He’s 7yo and LOVES dolls! He got the American Girl doll of the year for his recent birthday and we took him to the cafe for a birthday lunch, plus he got to spend some birthday money in the store. He was in heaven! Everyone in the store treated him well and he didn’t care that he was the only boy shopping in the store. But I wish American Girl would realize boys love dolls too and not just market to girls. It actually has confused my son – he’s at times said that he might be a girl because he likes dolls. And that’s because every piece of advertising says that girls play with dolls – not boys. It’s very frustrating. So, hats off to you for encouraging your son’s love of dolls and let him know he has a fellow doll-loving boy in the DC area. 🙂

  34. Robyn Sorensen says:

    Hi I saw your story on, just wanted to say Bravo, Gina DeMillo Wagner! Thank you for posting this story and for the helpful tips on creating a boy doll. My son is 7 and has a big sis – the same goes in our house, they play together so well, but he always asks me, “how come they don’t make boy dolls that look like me mom?”. Your ingenuity and creativity are a breath of fresh air!

  35. Kim says:

    This is fantastic! My son will be turning two in a couple weeks, and I’ve been looking for a boy doll to get him, and have been very disappointed that in 2015 its hard to find a non-girly doll. I think it is just as important for boys to embrace their nurturing side in play as it is for girls to have building block and trucks. This is so perfect, I may have to make it a DIY myself.

  36. Andrea Gardner says:

    Love this! You did a fantastic job!
    My son, whom is now 13, wanted to enter an American Girl contest and was told he wasn’t allowed because he is a boy. When told by the company that it is to empower girls he replied, “You can empower girls AND boys by treating them equal. Isn’t that the point? Equality?” They never responded.
    Ever since, and this was several years ago, he has been writing historical stories about “American Boy” in order to create an equal balance. 🙂

  37. Joanne Peirson says:

    You are an amazing mom! Thanks for doing such an awesome thing for your son. Keep up the great parenting!

  38. KK says:

    Hi Gina,

    I stumbled across this while trying to find tips on restoring the hair of my daughters AG doll. She got a restored one from a relative and was disappointed because the hair didn’t look as nice as the ones she saw in ads. Then the next day I saw the people article

    I am so impressed with the haircut you gave Fred. I spent the whole time working on my girls doll afraid I was going to ruin it You’ve given me some inspiration to be bolder about projects.

    I also love what you said about your approach to your kids toys. I was a tomboy and I had such a hard time when my oldest child who is a girl went full on for girlie culture as a preschooler. I was much more comfortable when my boy went for the same stuff when he hit preschool. I turned out that the intense period was something they went through, and they still both love to dress up, but it’s no longer a focus. I felt the same way when my daughter bought her first lego friends set, and relaxed when my son did the same. I’m coming around to see that as long as they’ve got broad choices, and we promote the idea that they can make their own choices they’re fine.

  39. Terri Williams says:

    Hi Gina! It’s Terri, your old neighbor from Erie. I always knew you were amazingly clever and creative, but you have outdone yourself this time! Fantastic! Let’s hope doll manufacturers pay attention. Btw, how did the kids get so grown-up? My love to you, Chris and the kids.

  40. Laurie Rainey says:

    My son has The twins and a girl doll. I love this Idea. I’m all in. My younger brother (now 36) had A “My Buddy Doll” and loved him so much. Ps. He is now a 6’3′ 250 lbs. and a Police officer with a huge heart. Boys need more dolls for sure!

  41. David in Toronto says:

    You Go, Mom! You’re awesome. What a wonderful think to do for your son.

    In the early 1970’s I got a boy doll as a gift from a Norwegian visitor. They’re pretty common in Scandinavia.I I absolutely loved it. I imagine the market would be very good for a start up.

  42. Mary Kuliveovski says:

    Gina I applaud you and all the parents in support of this wonderful gift you created for your son, and I am hearing your comment.. “She loves playing superheroes and various sports with him, and he loves playing My Little Pony and American Girl with her.”, as an anthem breaking through the barrier of gender associated toys.

    I run a collector’s group here in Oz that hosts our annual Halloween Doll Extravaganza in Melbourne which was just on last Sunday, where I had a great conversation with a dad who brought his 8 year old son to find dolls for him. I revere parents like you that understand children just want to play; without the stereotypes governed by company and marketing executives that brand toys as gender and age specific.

  43. Raymond Wiggins says:

    Wow, just saw this on my local news station and I had to come here and say something. This was a great story, and you Ma’am are a great mother. The look on your little boys face just says it all. As parents that is look we all want to see on our children’s faces. I can’t say this enough, well done.

  44. Haley says:

    We let our boys play with his sister dolls. So often he is taking care of his babies. I think it will help him be a better dad later on. I remember my brothers both playing with my Barbies with me and I would dig in dirt with their trucks. We all turned out okay! Thanks for being a great mom.

  45. Rebecca B says:

    That is awesome. One year my son asked for the bitty twins- both boys, one with dark hair & eyes like him, and the other blonde & blue eyed like his best friend. 😊

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