American Girl doll summer camp at the library

The past two summers at the library where I work, I’ve done a series of American Girl Summer camps.  Each summer I have three sessions that are two hours long each and meet once a week- so three different “camp” days.

During the school year my American Girl programs each feature a different historical character and I do games and crafts based on the time period of the doll in question.  But during the summer I like to do activities that modern girls (and dolls) love to do.

Last summer the three camp themes were – camping, sleep over, and spa day.  The girls who came had so much fun and it was such a popular program that filled up supper quick each week.  I took 24 girls at each program.

At the camp program each girl made a fleece sleeping bag for their doll, a mini campfire, and a little marshmallow on a stick for their doll.  The girls also went on a scavenger hunt outside, and enjoyed a s’mores snack with lemonade inside.  We made the s’mores in the microwave.

Before the program, I pre-cut all the fleece, so that it was the right size for a doll sleeping bag when the piece was folded in half.  I also pre-cut the little tabs that the girls would knot together to make the bag.  The whole piece, including the place for tabs was about 2 feet wide (so it could be folded in half) and 18 inches high.  The tab strips I cut, while the fabric was folded, along the bottom and the side.  The top is kept open so the doll can slip inside.
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To make the fire pit, I found this great idea from this blog: but I modified it a bit to make it easier for my program.  Instead of gluing on dirt, I just cut circles from brown paper that fit the CD’s and the girls glued those on to the CD’s at the program.

We purchased very small stones at a craft store, and I collected TONS of thin sticks from my backyard, fortunately we have like a mini forest in our yard.  I also pre-cut the tissue paper into squares from about 3×3-4×4 inches.

At the program, the girls used white glue to attach the brown paper “dirt” circles to the CD.  We had a few glue gun stations set up so when each girl had picked out her stones and sticks, they would go to a glue gun station and either myself, the other librarian, or one of our teen volunteers would apply hot glue to the edge of the CD (dirt side up) and the girls would drop their stones in place to make a frame.  Then we’d add another ring of hot glue inside the stones and the girls would stand their sticks up tee-pee like, so they all met in the middle.

Once the stones and sticks were in place, the girls used white glue again to attach the yellow and orange tissue paper to the sticks to make fire.

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my daughter putting the finishing touches on her fire pit

The finishing touch for the fire pit was that each girl picked out a very thin stick and poked a hole through a piece of packing peanut to make a mini marshmallow.  Before the program I cut a bunch of packing peanuts in half.  I used the kind that look like a thin cylinder, not the ones that are S-shaped.
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close up of the packing peanut marshmallow and the fire pit

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To do the scavenger hunt, I actually just re-used a scavenger hunt I’d made for and Earth Day program a year ago or so. In this scavenger hunt, I had the kids listen and draw what kind of animal they heard (like a bird), look for something blue, green, brown, and red and draw what they found, do bark and leaf rubbings, look for a bug and draw it. Etc.
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The next week our camp theme was sleepover.  At this program the girls made pillows, decorated a little cup of lemonade, and made a teddy bear.  Then we watched a short movie (I showed them a section of a movie made by American Girl from the early 90’s when they first released Felicity that featured a play version of one of the Felicity books.  We just watched the segment that showed the play)  The VHS is called Felicity’s Elegant Tea Party and was filmed in 1991.  I was fortunate in that a library in our system had a copy.  Really any short movie would work.

To make the bears I purchased packages of three different sized pom pom balls. 2 inch for the body, 1 inch for the head, and I think half inch for the arms, ears, and legs. The girls used tacky glue to attach the pompoms together and then they added mini googlie eyes and a ribbon around the neck.
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A Julie doll shows off her bear.

A couple dolls in their jammies with their little teddy bears
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The girls also made little pillows for their dolls. Before the program the other librarian and I cut out 24 pillow cases for the dolls and then she took them home and sewed them together. (Don’t worry, she got paid for her time sewing at home!) We left one of the short sides open so the girls could stuff their pillows after decorating them. We had a bunch of iron on letters that someone had donated to the library, so we set up and iron and a teen volunteer helped the girls iron on their doll’s initials. We also had ribbon and sequins out that girls glued to their pillows with tacky glue. Once the pillows were all decorated the girls stuffed them and then we used the hot glue to seal the ends.
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The girls also decorated little cups of lemonade for their dolls.  Before the program we made the lemonade cups using that floral water that you mix together and it hardens.  We added some yellow food coloring to the mix and poured it into tiny little plastic shot glasses.  Then we added a coffee stirrer cut down to about 3 inches to be the straw and let the whole thing harden for a few days before the program.  The day of the program, the girls decorated the outside of the cups with sequins using glue dots.
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In the description of this program we said the girls and their dolls could wear pajamas to the library and that they could bring a pillow as well.
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Our last camp last summer was a spa day.  We are fortunate that our library is right down the street from a Paul Mitchell Academy where the students are learning how to be hair stylists also need a certain amount of volunteer hours to graduate.  We often have them come to our library to do events and programs.  I invited them to come to my spa day American Girl doll program and about 8-10 stylists showed up with all their gear in tow.  We had the girls go in shifts to get their hair styled in a junior prom type style.  The girls were exited to get their hair curled or straightened and put in to pretty do’s.  Some girls even used some of the silk flowers from the craft to decorate their own hair.  It was a really exciting event for them.

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My library offers a service where you can get your passports and one of the things we do is take photos for passports.  I was able to borrow the “photobooth” we use for passports for my American Girl program.  I set up a little salon chair and one of the teen volunteers brought in a pretty American Girl lounge chair and once they had their hair done, the girls took a series of three photos with their dolls.  Then the photos printed and the girls got to take them home.  The photo booth is simply a mac on wheels with a 4×6 printer attached.  We installed a photobooth program onto the computer and when you hit the space bar it automatically takes 3 quick pics and then prints them out onto the 4×6 paper.  You get two little strips printed side by side and there was space underneath for our summer reading logo.  You can see a printed strip on the table in the photo below.

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While the rest of the girls were waiting their turn for their hair style we had several crafts and activities to do.
The girls could go on a scavenger hunt to find a treasure chest that held baggies of tiny hair supplies for their dolls.
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I also had tons of fancy fabric out, as well as ribbons and lace, and the girls made little dresses for their dolls as well as purses. I was really amazed at the beautiful dresses they were able to make using just hot glue to hold everything together.

We also purchased straw hats and using some fake flowers that were donated to the library, the girls made pretty hats for their dolls.

At the very end when girl and doll alike were all fancy, I set up a table to be a simple run-way. This was totally a last minute thing I thought of during the program and had I thought of it sooner, I would have tried to rig up a little curtain or something to make it a little fancier. But the girls still had fun introducing their doll and saying a little something about what the doll liked to do and about the dress she made for the doll.

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The summer camp was so popular last year that I knew I wanted to do it again this year.  This year I picked the themes travel, interior design, and we did spa again because it was such a hit last year.

For the travel program I set up 5 “countries” that girls could travel to to make girl and/or doll sized crafts.  We also made little suitcases from Altoids tins, and the girls also got their passport photo taken with their dolls for their very own passports.

When each girl arrived they first got their passport photo taken with their doll using our photobooth-described above. Then they picked out a photo they wanted to put in their passport and cut it out. They got to keep the rest of the photos.

I made the passport on Microsoft Publisher and just designed how I wanted it to look both inside and out.  On the inside I made sure to make 5 little empty squares so girls could get their passport stamped as they visited each country.  A couple years ago our library’s summer reading theme was travel and we had some rubber stamps made up to use when kids came to any of our country related program series.  Our PR person at the time made these beautiful passport like images on photoshop and sent them to a stamp making place she found online.  They made them into stamps and sent them back to us to use. So I was happy to be able to use them again.
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my daughters completed passport after visiting all the countries

After getting their passport photos the girls each made little suitcases for their dolls.  I found a nice description on how to do these online here and I just modified it to be a little simpler for the girls.  They traced their tins around scrapbook paper, cut the pieces out and glued them on both sides.  Then they picked a ribbon they liked and I helped them measure the right amount out.  Then they took it to the other librarian who hot glued the ribbon on to be handles.

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As they visited each country the girls got stamps in their passports as well as the little country stickers for their luggage, which you can see on the suitcase above.

With their suitcases and passports made, the girls were ready to travel!

They could visit the 5 destinations in any order they liked, we just kept Europe (which was really just France- but we had a Europe passport stamp) until the end as it was the snack.

The 5 countries were:

the girls each got a strip of papyrus paper (left over from my Little Artist program the previous year). I have two sets of Egyptian Hieroglyphic stamp sets that show the English letters on the stamp along with the Hieroglyphic. So each girl can spell out her name using the pictures onto the papyrus to make a book mark. I also had some oil pastels out so the girls could color on the bookmark.
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sorry it’s so blurry 😦

Africa (again we had a continent stamp for this station):
The girls each got a section of cardboard tube. I used the really thick kind like posters come in – not paper towel tubes as those would have been too flimsy. Before the program, I used pinking shears to cut pieces of brown craft foam and fabric into squares that would fit across the top of the tubes. At the program the girls each chose a tube, craft foam and fabric. We layered the craft foam over the opening of the tube at one end and then put the fabric over the craft foam and secured in place with a rubber band to make a little drum. The fabric makes it look pretty and the foam makes it have a little thumping drum sound.
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We were inspired by the beautiful gold jewelry often worn by women in India for this craft. I purchased some gold pipe cleaners and girls decorated the pipe cleaners with beads to make bracelets for themselves and their dolls.
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The girls got to eat a fortune cookie (yes I know they were invented in San Francisco and not China- but kids love them )
and they each made a little paper fan. To make the fan, the girls each got two sheets of regular printer paper folded them in half short ways and using scissors with fun edges cut all the way across about an inch and a half from the fold (otherwise the paper is too thick and doesn’t work with the popsicle stick. Then they lined up their papers so that the fancy edge was at the top and they were side by side and taped the pieces together. They colored them with markers and then accordion folded all the way across the long way. We taped the bottom together and then tapped the popscicle sticks to the sides. Here’s a good website on how to make them.

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This was probably the most difficult craft for the kids, mostly because of the accordion folding.  I think if I were to do this again, I would just have all the paper cut, taped together, and folded ahead of time.  Then the kids could unfold it all decorate it and quickly refold it.
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We saved this one for last as it was the snack
Girls each got a slice of bread and added some Nutella to it and had a glass of grape juice. I had fruit snacks as an alternative if there were any allergies.
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Our second week of camp this summer was all about interior design.  This program was a HUGE undertaking and I really needed all the teen volunteers I had there, even my mom came to help out.  You could certainly downsize the number of girls you have at this program to make it a little more manageable.  Despite all this, the program was a complete success and the girls all went home with beautiful rooms for their dolls and had a wonderful time.
I had two hot glue gun stations set up with either one of us librarians or a teen volunteer manning the glue gun. Girls brought up their rooms or other objects they were making as they needed them glued.

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My sample room with one of the teen volunteer’s dolls and lounge chair. One mom actually asked how to make the lounge chair! I wish I was that talented 🙂

To do this program each girl got one of those cardboard science tri-fold boards.  I also collected as much wrapping paper as I could get from donations and still wound up buying quite a few rolls at the dollar store.  I also got a huge number of shoe box donations from one of the moms who’s girls were coming to the program.

Before the program, I pre-cut all the wrapping paper so that it was just slightly larger than the boards when opened up and flat.  I cut the wrapping paper so that it was just about a half inch too large on all sides.  I did this so that it would be easier to glue on the wrapping paper without having to be super careful about lining up the edges exactly.  I knew I’d be going fast the day of the program.

So that I could really utilize all my wrapping paper, I used the thin leftover piece of paper from cutting a full wall of wrapping paper to make a piece that could be used as a half wall of paper, or like when people wall paper their rooms just above the chair rail.

The day of the program as girls started to arrive they were instructed to grab a tri-fold and pick a piece of wrapping paper and to find me right outside where I would spray adhesive on the paper.  I didn’t want to do it in the room where we were working as it would have been super stinky.

Each girl had their own table to work at as they would need a lot of space for supplies and the room itself
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Once the rooms all had wall paper the girls were able to begin decorating.

We had to following suggestions for things they could add to their rooms, but they were certainly welcome to make anything they wanted to.  I always love to see where the kids’ creativity will take them 🙂

Bulletin board:
I pre-cut squares of cork board (from the craft store), and we also had some left over circle pieces from a tween program our library did last year.
The girls taped criss crossed pieces of ribbon to the backs of the board and glued frames around the edges using pieces of construction paper.

Framed picture:
I put out discarded art magazines and girls cut out pictures they liked and used popsicle sticks to make frames and glued on beads to the front. They also taped a piece of yarn to the back to hang the picture. A pony bead glued to the wall with hot glue made the perfect place to hang the picture.

We pre-cut a variety of different pretty fabrics to make curtains using the pinking shears. Once girls had picked out the fabric they liked I hot glued it on for them so that the fabric was slightly gathered. I made sure I did this and not a teen volunteer so that they wouldn’t burn their fingers. I burned mine, but they healed 🙂
I brought back out our leftover gold pipe cleaners from the previous week and the girls decorated them with beads to make little curtain tie backs.

The shelves were made with the lids to the show boxes. I cut along one edge about 2 inches from the edge to make a little bracket like piece. I hot glued this to the wall. Many of the girls decorated their shelves with pretty scrapbook paper.

I printed out a ton of pictures of American Girl dolls from their website and girls could cut these out to make little photos to put on their bulletin board to to glue to the front of their books. The books were just regular printer paper cut into little squares and stapled together.

Flowers in vase:
the vase was just a rectangle of scrapbook paper glued together in a circle (there is no base to this vase)
the flowers were green pipecleaners with small squares of tissue paper to make a flower or we also had these cool flower shaped sequins.
The girls simply poled the pipcleaner through the hole in the sequin or through the center of a tissue paper square to make a flower.

My mom and the other librarian went from girl to girl to make windows. They each had an exacto knife, and a square pattern to trace on the wall where the girl wanted the window. They also had a spare piece of cardboard to put under where they were cutting so as not to damage the tables. In retrospect I could have pre-cut all the window holes, but I wasn’t sure if everyone would want a window. Of course they all did, I mean who wouldn’t I guess?!

Bench with pillow:
The bench is the bottom of the shoe box.

the pillow was made by folding a piece of felt in half and tracing around the top of the bench and cutting out the felt and hot gluing together, turning inside out and stuffing and then gluing shut.

Some of the completed rooms.  I just loved seeing all the rooms the girls came up with!
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My last camp this summer was kind of a spa/fashion show day. A total mind, body, and spirit makeover really! As each girl arrived they were given a doll boa. I had some left over boas from my winter reading decorations where I wrapped them around pipe cleaners to make Dr. Seuss Truffula trees for my bulletin board. So I cut these boas down to about 1 foot lengths and each girl got one to wrap around her doll’s neck.

This camp was kind of a repeat of the spa day I mentioned earlier in this post, but we did a few different things in case there were any girls who also came last year, which there were. This is a dedicated crowd!

We invited the wonderful students from the Paul Mitchell Academy back again and they sent in 8 stylists to do the girls’ hair in cute simple styles.
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While the girls were getting their hair done we had a dolly spa area set up where girls could lay their dolls down on some soft fabric and the dolls got cucumbers to put on their eyes.
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As the girls took turns getting their hair done, we had a ton of other activities for them to do. I set up stations that my volunteers helped at where girls could make the following items for their dolls:


Using sparkly sticky back craft foam, I traced around an American Girl doll shoe. To make one pair of shoe you need 4 pieces (trace two around a left shoe and 2 around a right shoe) Sandwich the shoe bases, so that they line up perfectly, around a piece of ribbon that you wrap around the doll’s foot. I also added a little brad to the center of the ribbon to make it cuter.

face mask:

I cut a mask shape that would fit around a doll’s face and used a protractor point to punch a hole on each side where I threaded a piece of elastic through the hole and made a small knot. I wrapped the elastic around a doll head and secured the knot on the opposite side as well. Girls decorated the masks with permanent markers, stick on craft glitter stars, and stick on gem stones.

Salon cape:
I cut 13 inch circles out of a large white plastic table cloth and then cut a slit to the center of the circle and cut about a 3-4 inch circle in the center (for the doll’s neck), then hot glued 6 inch lengths of ribbon to the opening of the neck hole so girls could tie the cape around the doll’s neck. At the program the girls decorated the capes with permanent markers.

I found this idea on line and it was a “duh!” moment. I can’t believe I never thought of this! Using a scrapbooking brad with a cute decoration on top, you simply wrap the prongs of the brad around the doll’s finger. You can find huge lots of scrapbooking brads from, I found the star brads for the shoes from this site as well.

We did this the same as last year, only this year we had velcro as well.
I showed them a simple outfit I made, but stressed the point that they could make their outfit look however they wanted to. We had some toga style outfits, leg warmers, headbands, and bracelets, that girls also came up with.
To make my sample outfit:
Cut a rectangle to fit around a doll’s torso
add velcro with hot glue to close the top in back, then hot glue on ribbons to make straps.

for the skirt make a 13 inch circle and, just like with the salon cape, cut a slit to the center and then cut a hole large enough to fit around the waist. Secure with velcro that is hot glued on.
Just like last year, I was so impressed with the outfits the girls came up with, here are a few samples:
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As girls were done with their doll outfits and getting their hair done they could come up to our photobooth again to get their photo taken.

Once everyone was done with everything, another librarian who often does yoga classes for teens and tweens, came in and did some basic yoga moves with the girls and their dolls.  It was really cute!

Snack was an especially elegant fare!  Everyone got a little plastic champagne glass filled with ginger ale and their choice of those yummy wafer cookies.  The girls were thrilled to hear that they could take their champagne glasses home with them too.

We’re excited to be offering a couple more american Girl camps this summer at the library which I will write about after they happen later this summer.  Our summer reading theme is all about science so my two American Girl programs feature a science theme.  The first will be called American Girls Rock at Science where the girls will have fun exploring geology.  We will have 5 stations where the girls can do different rock related activities.  The second will be called American Girl’s Dig Science and will be a plant themed event.  🙂  I’ll be back with pictures and descriptions later.

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