American Girl, the 30-year-old doll maker, is taking another major leap into boyhood.
Earlier this year, the brand introduced its first boy doll, Logan. Now, the company is applying years of knowledge about puberty and adolescence in girls and sharing it with boys.
Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys, debuts Aug. 8. It costs $12.99 and is available at American Girl retail stores, online at americangirl.com and at national booksellers.
The book, a spinoff of The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls, helps boys understand their developing bodies and minds with straight talk about things like shaving, pubic changes, moodiness and bad breath.
The author of both books, Dr. Cara Natterson, a board-certified pediatrician and mother to a teenage son and daughter, approaches these hard-to-talk-about topics in a down-to-earth manner designed to help parents start conversations with their sons.
“Parents have asked me for years for the boy version of The Care and Keeping. I know one mom who bought it for her three sons and then pulled out the pages about breast development and periods—she told me that, since all the other information was gender-neutral, why not?,” said Dr. Natterson.
Guy Stuff offers the basic facts for boys as well as information about body parts and how they will change through the tween and teen years, she said.
Hopefully, it will offer another resource to help reduce the misinformation boys may receive from other places, Dr. Natterson said.
“When boys look up a body-related question on the internet because they are too embarrassed to ask a trusted adult, they run the risk of stumbling onto untrue answers or, worse yet, extremely graphic images. And trust me when I say, if your son is uncomfortable talking about puberty, he will be 100 times more uncomfortable talking about some of the things he comes across in an online search. An age-appropriate resource like Guy Stuff saves him from wandering down that road,” she said.
American Girl is an award-winning company founded in 1986 as a line of mail-order dolls from different periods in American history. The dolls came with books that told the girls’ stories through the perspective of each era. In the mid-1990s, the company, now owned by Mattel, began to offer more contemporary dolls and stories.
In more recent years, product extensions have included boy dolls and products for boys, but making the shift hasn’t been easy.
While most fans have been encouraged by the brand’s attempts to offer more diverse dolls — boy dolls or girl dolls of different ethnic backgrounds — others have been upset with the changes.
In Feb. 2017, when American Girl introduced Logan, the first boy doll, a pastor in North Carolina took issue saying that the move suggested the company was taking a gender-neutral approach to its toys.
“Anytime you take anything away from its original design or purpose, there is a possibility of perversion,” Ogden said in an interview with The Washington Post.
With Guy Stuff , the company is not just making dolls that are boys, it is engaging boys directly.
Boys and girls experience puberty differently and parents need to find the best way to offer information to their sons in a society that doesn’t talk as much about puberty for boys as it does for girls, said Dr. Natterson.
Unlike moody girls who laugh or cry more than they used to, mood swings in boys are more often characterized by boys becoming more quiet and withdrawn.
“We cannot change the hormonal influences in our kids’ bodies, but we can absolutely change the social norms around conversation. It’s time to include boys in discussions about puberty, health and wellness beyond what may or may not be taught in the classroom once or twice a year,” Dr. Natterson said.
Helping kids through puberty should be an ongoing experience, Dr. Natterson said, and parents who think they can get away with having “The Talk” and leaving it at that, should reconsider.
“If you plan to only discuss puberty once through “The Talk,” your kids are unlikely to hear it. Parents should aim to have many conversations over several years, slowly covering a lot of ground. And the silver lining is that it takes the pressure off parents who stress about one big “Talk,” she said.