Of all the furniture and accessories that are available for dolls, the gymnastics equipment for American Girl of the Year McKenna has got to be my all time favorite. So, I might be a bit biased – I was a gymnastics coach for many years (26 to be exact) and my daughter has been a gymnast from the time she could walk. We got McKenna’s bar and beam as soon as they came out and the girls love them, but McKenna is missing something – her vault!
In her books, McKenna is working towards the Level 4 team. In the US, Level 4 gymnasts compete vault on a large mat system and do a vault called a handstand to flat back. In her movie, McKenna is more like a Level 8 and would not use this vault for competition, but she would use it in training for high level vaults. McKenna is wearing a retired American Girl leotard and Kit also has a retired AG leotard on, too.
In order to make a vault system for McKenna (or any of your dolls), you will need:
- A large box – I used the shipping box from McKenna – it is about 21″ long by 10.5″ wide by about 10″ tall.
- A piece of packing foam cut to 21″ x 10.5″ x 2″. You could use kitchen sponges from the Dollar Store too.
- Scrap cardboard
- Duct tape
- Wrapping paper
- Craft foam
- Tape, glue, scissors
Step 1 - Measure then cut the wrapping paper and wrap your box. I used packing tape so it would be more secure. I recommend leaving one set of flaps open so you can use the box for storage when McKenna is not working out.
Here is what the base of the vault looks like now. You could actually leave it like this and have McKenna practice her vault on this “setting.” Or you can add a mat on top like they do in gyms – they have mats they can stack on top to make it more challenging or to accommodate girls who are taller.
Step 2 - To make the mat on top, cut a piece of foam recycled from a packing box that will fit on the top of your box. You can also use sponges from the dollar store.
Step 3 - Cover the foam with duct tape.
McKenna is much happier with the mat on top. This way she can remove the mat and put it on the floor to practice her back handsprings or put it at the end of her beam to practice her dismounts.
If you want to make the mat really accurate – add a line with contrasting duct tape on one end of the vault. When Level 4 gymnasts do their vault their hands can not go past the line when they go to the handstand or they will get a deduction.
McKenna needs a springboard to go with her vault. She will be able to use the springboard at bars and beam too.
Step 4 - Cut two pieces of cardboard that are 4.5″ wide by 6″ tall.
Step 5 - Cover each piece of cardboard with fun foam and then staple one end of the stack (I recommend three staples).
Step 6 - Cover the end with the staples with contrasting duct tape.
Step 7 - Cut two small squares of foam to place in between the layers of foam to simulate the springs in a springboard. You could also use scrapbooking foam squares stacked, Model Magic or really anything that could look/act like springs in this case.
Step 8 - Add a stripe of contrasting duct tape towards the top of the springboard that wraps around to the underneath of the springboard. This line is a visual aid for the gymnast as to where the best spring is and it keeps the springs from falling out, too.
Ta-da!! I added a vault runway also made from 3 strips of duct tape side by side. Now McKenna and Kit can get on with their workout.
I have more photos of McKenna practicing her Level 4 vault and her more advanced vault, but I will post them later in a separate post.
I hope you liked this craft! If you missed the tutorial for making a beam for the dolls, visit our post Doll Craft: How to make a balance beam for your dolls and here is a video of our dolls doing a bar routine.