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Dollhouses to Grow Up With

Updated on August 22, 2014

A Toy For Stretching the Imagination

I finished constructing Chelsea's dollhouse this past spring, but the process of furnishing and finishing it may take years. I look forward to sharing this hobby with my small niece. There is something to be said for sharing a hobby -- almost any hobby -- across generations. There's an additional reason, though, that I think the dollhouse is worth the hours it took to build. I believe a dollhouse is an especially appropriate toy for stretching a child's imagination.

Walking into a Toys R Us can be an unsettling experience: aisle after aisle of toys and gadgets intended to capitalize on some trademark or another. Besides encouraging materialism and a "Keep up with (or play like) the Joneses" attitude, I suspect some of these toys actually stifle creativity. One of the problems with them is they're not open-ended enough - they're designed to be played with in only one way.

I view dollhouses, along with blocks and dress-up clothes and model towns, as real toys. By this, I mean not so much that they're traditional as that they're open-ended, the direction coming primarily from the child's own budding imagination, and not from Disney or Nickelodeon. What's more, these toys grow with the child, nurturing artistic skills as well as storytelling. My own childhood dollhouse was a tin contraption inherited from a much older cousin, and, while I sometimes longed for something fancier, I sure did get a lot of play out of it -- enacting stories and furnishing it as best I could. (I remember turning a refrigerator magnet right side to make a pan of brownies.)

Dollhouses For All Age Groups

Choosing an Appropriate Dollhouse for your Child

For a toddler or preschooler, I recommend a sturdy dollhouse, either wood or plastic, with chunky easy-to-handle furniture and accessories. If the child is in at least kindergarten -- and if the buyer wants the house as well as the hobby to grow with the child -- then I recommend that they go ahead and invest in a realistic dollhouse. However, they should look for one that's made of a durable material like medium density fiberboard or solid wood. (Punchout pywood is more likely to break with play, and may splinter a bit.)

Remember to check the age recommendations, especially if you have young kids. Toys with small parts -- or toys that could break and become small parts -- are not appropriate for the under three set. With this age group, durability is crucial in more ways than one.

Meet a Doll House Building Dad

This dollhouse building dad describes his hobby -- and his hope that someday his grandchildren too will play with his creations.

Dollhouse Freebies

There are many fun freebies on the internet -- some for children, some appropriate for the serious collector.

Memory: Those Old Metal Dollhouses

Cousin Barbara is twelve years older than me, so that dollhouse I inherited probably dates back to the 60's. I entered "dollhouse 1960's" -- and the first picture I found... Well, it's been years since I saw its face, but I think I remember its features. This dollhouse is identical to the one I grew up with.

Something from your Childhood... in Miniature!

Miniature Betsy McCall paper dolls!

At 2, Callee Wants to Join Us... - But needs a lot of supervision!

The girls have candy bracelets.

Building A MDF Dollhouse

This MDF dollhouse is similar to Chelsea's. Watch it go up (way) faster than real time and (way, way) faster than hers did -- and see another smiling little girl..

Another Take on the Dollhouse

Here's another take on the dollhouse: a puzzle that your child (an older one!) somehow manages to piece together.

Did you grow up with a dollhouse? Do your kids have one?

Dollhouse of Your Own?

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    • profile image

      JGracey 5 years ago

      I grew up with the old metal doll houses, and one wooden designed by my uncle to fit the Barbie dolls. Today, I own two that I've built from wooden kits, but amended to suit my own design choices. Most of the interior items were also hand made. One of these days, I'll dig them out and set them up again.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      As a child I owned Barbie Dollhouse but check out a wide variety of Wooden Dollhouses at www.toysandstuff.net

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      My father built a dollhouse for my fifth birthday. I think it is time I get one for my daughters! thank you for reminding me how wonderful they are.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Yes I had one. You can see it on my Doll House Full of Memories lens, which I will lensroll this to. I loved my doll house and played with it for hours.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 7 years ago

      I agree, those "open ended toys" are best. They really allow the imagination to grow. We had one of those metal doll houses too, I believe it first came to us as a gift for my older sister, but I played with it as well.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 7 years ago

      Dollhouses are the perfect memory maker for little girls...something to always cherish! Great lens!

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 7 years ago from West Virginia

      I like the way you explained doll houses, being more imaginative. Cool lens.

    • Everyday-Miracles profile image

      Everyday-Miracles 7 years ago

      I have one right now waiting to be built. I can't wait! But at the same time, I have a two year old and it is a lot to bring out and then put away every single time you want to work on it :(

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      When my mom married my step-dad we discovered an old dollhouse in his attic. It had real working lights and beautiful antique furniture. My sister and I played with it for years. We made curtains, rugs and playdough food. We created stories about the family of dolls living there. We added miniature pets, plants and even a fireplace. No child should be without a dollhouse.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 7 years ago from Concord VA

      I love dollhouses! That old metal one looks like the one I had when I was little. I spent many hours playing with it. :-)

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I love dollhouses. An excellent little lens!