"Miles is using his doll to role play – being a dad, being a brother, even a rockstar," Gina DeMillo Wagner tells PEOPLE

By Erin Hill
October 29, 2015 09:35 AM
Courtesy Gina Wagner

Never underestimate a mother’s determination.

When Gina DeMillo Wagner’s 6-year-old son began asking for an American Boy doll last year, she went to great lengths – at a low cost (less than $50!) – to give her boy the doll of his dreams.

And it wasn’t just any doll he was after – Miles wanted one that looked just like him since his older sister had an American Girl doll that looked just like her.

Wagner was inspired to take on the DIY project after a friend jokingly suggested she “get a girl doll and give it a haircut.” One swift makeunder later and Miles had his perfect doll, which he decided to name Fred Jones.

Miles' doll before and after
Gina DeMillo Wagner

“My daughter named her American Girl doll Daphne, so it’s kind of a Scooby-Doo theme,” Wagner tells PEOPLE.

Since sharing her special project on her blog, the writer and photographer has been overwhelmed by the positive response she’s received.

“I’ve actually been really pleasantly surprised,” Wagner says. “I know the Internet can be a very critical place, but the vast majority of people are just really supportive, they feel inspired”.

The devoted mom of two from Arizona says she’s always encouraged her kids to play with any toy they choose – regardless of gender.

“My kids notice when we go into stores that there’s pink aisles and blue aisles, but one thing that they’ve always said – and that I’ve always really encouraged – is that there’s no such thing as a boy’s toy and a girl’s toy – they’re just toys.

“When my daughter was about 3 or 4, she really loved Spider-Man and she wanted to wear a costume and we had a hard time finding it in the girls’ aisle, so we found it in the boys’ aisle.

“And my son loves superheroes and Pok mon and LEGOs, but he also really loves My Little Pony, and so it’s just kind of been common practice in our house that we don’t differentiate – toys are toys and you can play with all of them,” she shares, adding, “I’m not against traditional toys – like princesses or action figures – rather, I would love to see companies market toys in a more neutral way and not assume one is only for girls and the other for boys. Let kids play with what they love.”

And judging by Miles’ enthusiastic reaction to his new doll, it’s safe to say he isn’t putting Fred down anytime soon.

“They’re nonstop playing with them!” the proud mom says of her kids’ beloved dolls.

Now, her son’s friends want matching dolls of their own.

Courtesy Gina DeMillo Wagner

“He’s been showing it off to his friends and several of his friends want one, too,” she says, “so we’ve been talking to other parents about how to make them. It’s been fun.”

“And it’s not just boys – girls would love to see boy options for toys,” she adds. “I’m hearing about how many girls want a boys doll, too.”

As for whether her crafty endeavor has inspired her to take on more DIY toy projects in the future, Wagner says, “I don’t have any specific plans right now, but I did download some sewing patterns for 18-inch dolls, so if we want to make Fred some new T-shirts, we might do that!”

Courtesy Gina DeMillo Wagner

For now, Miles is in playtime heaven, and Wagner isn’t giving much thought to anyone who may disagree with her son’s new toy.

“I don’t really give a lot of energy to that,” she says. “If somebody says a boy shouldn’t have a doll, I wonder what they’re afraid of – what’s really at the core of that thinking?

“What I’m observing so far is Miles is using his doll to role play – being a dad, being a brother, Fred has even been a rockstar,” she says. “There’s nothing unusual about any of it. I think it helps his development and intellectual growth just as much as it does for girls.”