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How to Survive Your First Trip to American Girl

Since the day my daughter was born, my mother has been waiting to take her to the American Girl store to get a doll. In fact, my mom even marked the day on her calendar when my daughter would be old enough to go.

The problem for me was that I dreaded taking my daughter to American Girl, even if my mom was the one paying the bill. I anticipated tantrums on my daughter's part when she learned she couldn't take home the whole store. And I worried about opening up a world of expensive dolls and adorable but overpriced accessories that my kid wouldn't want to buy over and over again.

But I also didn't want to deny my mother the fun of going doll shopping with her only granddaughter. And I didn't want to deny my daughter the fun of having a very special doll. So while I decided my daughter could have her fabulous doll day, I also decided to manage expectations and avoid some of the American Girl meltdowns I had so dreaded.

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We went yesterday to American Girl at The Grove in Los Angeles. The day was fun and totally tantrum-free. Here's what we did to survive our first trip to American Girl.

1. I managed purchasing expectations ahead of time.

I don't like when I see kids badgering their parents for extra toys or gifts once they are in the store, and I don't want my kids to do that to me. With my mom generously buying my daughter a very expensive doll, I wanted to avoid my kiddo melting down in the store because she couldn't leave with each and every thing that caught her eye. So I asked my mom what she was comfortable getting my daughter, and then I had a conversation with my kiddo about what she could get. She stuck to it in the store and I was proud of her! If your kids are like mine, they just need to know their limits.

2. We looked at the American Girl catalog and website beforehand.

I know firsthand what it's like to walk into a store, budget in hand, and realize I don't want to stick to that budget because the store has so many wonderful things to buy. I also know that big stores can be overwhelming for both adults and kids. So my daughter and I looked at what the American Girl store had to offer ahead of time and narrowed down her choice before we went. At the store, my kiddo enjoying looking at all the dolls but already had her sights set on a specific doll.

3. We planned to go mid-day when my daughter wouldn't be tired or cranky.

My mom had a great idea to get my daughter's doll at lunchtime so we could then go to the American Girl restaurant for lunch (where we also brought her doll). The bonus was that my daughter wasn't tired or cranky, and it made the experience a lot more fun.

4. I let my daughter "girl out"!

As much as I don't want my daughter to only play with dolls, and as much as I want her to know that she can play with blue trucks too, I also know that "girling-out" can be really fun for a lot of little girls. So when my daughter wanted to name her doll, I said yes. When she wanted to sit with her doll and feed her, I said sure. When my daughter asked me to braid her doll's hair, I happily complied. She had a great time and so did I. There's nothing wrong with that.

5. We took a ton of pictures.

Even the biggest cynic will have a hard time denying the total cuteness of a little girl getting her first American Girl doll. So charge your phone battery and make sure your camera lens is clean because you'll want to take a ton of pictures. You may even want to be in some of them.

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So now that I've gotten our first trip to American Girl out of the way, I won't be as nervous the next time we go back. There's a doll hair salon, after all.

Photograph by: Meredith Gordon

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