dollhouse and miniatures

Little did I know that playing with a dollhouse was actually building essential life skills, including the highly esteemed STEM skills!

For more detailed information on how dollhouses encourage a variety of skills, see the article Why Dollhouses?

Selecting a house can be very subjective, but for me the key is the simpler the better, with options for personalization. For example, a plain wood shell you can paint, add shingles to, lay carpet in and add lights. We prefer as close to nature as possible here at theplayfulmind, so wood-style is the preference.

Also to consider is age, capability, interest, and choking hazards. My first dollhouse was a cardboard box, then a few planks nailed together, then a complicated Victorian Style do-it-yourself (I loved this one and it grew with me).

1 to 10 year olds

Much depends on age, capability and budget. There are a lot of options – a little overwhelming I must admit. We sorted through a lot of options, focusing on wood (just not a fan of plastic).

Most require some assembly but are easy, and never underestimate the impact of your child seeing YOU assemble and learning STEM!

Cardboard or Shoe Boxes: Just cut some windows out of a box, or stack shoeboxes or random selection from the plethora of amazon delivery boxes. Just stack and glue them. Decorate with paint or glue construction paper. If you google “cardboard dollhouse” you will see so many ideas. But honestly, if you go this route, just give the materials to your kid and let them use their imagination. Using other people’s ideas just isn’t the same.

12 months + SPACESHIP DOLLHOUSE (Yes, that’s right, a spaceship!!)

  • Wooden spaceship by Hape, a Canadian Company
  • Products meet safety and quality standards EN71 (European norm of toys) and ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials) of the countries they are destined; lab tested.
  • Medium-Large at 35.99 x 18.01 x 57 centimeters
  • Elevator can move between four levels
  • Multiple accessories including an astronaut, radar, space rover, solar panel, bio experiment plant, and more
  • Award winning: gold and consumer choice of best baby and toddler gear awards in 2017 and 2018
small doll house

24 months + Next X Kids Dollhouse

  • Very budget friendly
  • Smaller Size at 12.4 x 6.69 x 12.99 inches
  • Wood
  • Simple to assemble
  • Comes with dollhouse furniture
  • Compatible with LOL surprise dolls, Melissa and Doug, Calico Critters, and Barbie Dream House.
  • Paint passed and has ASTM certificates and have passed safety inspections
  • Great reviews from parents & kids seem to love it.
boy;girl;imagination;children;play;pretend;skill;builder;gender;neutral;role;play;stories;acting

36 months – 6 years Melissa & Doug Hi-Rise Wooden Dollhouse

  • Well established company, partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics for early brain development
  • Medium Sized at 76 cm × 60 × 33 centimeters
  • Included 15 pieces of furniture, an elevator and garage
  • Open-sided
  • Little pricer than the two others above for same age group
  • Vibrant, gender-neutral colors
  • 1:12 inch scale (like 4″ dolls)
Hape 10 Room Wooden Family Play Mansion Doll House W/Accessories For Ages 3 & Up

36 months + Hape Kids Wooden Doll Family Mansion with Accessories

Similar to Melissa and Doug, but with a few interesting additions:

  • Features an all inclusive doll family with grandparentsAsian, African American, Caucasian, Modern bendable family
  • Includes a family and furniture
  • Larger size at 80.19 x 28.98 x 72.49 centimeters
  • Has lights for each room, an actual ringing doorbell, swimming pool
  • Sturdy and compact wood design with classic and customizable features
  • Well known, Canadian company
  • Products meet safety and quality standards EN71 (European norm of toys) and ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials) of the countries they are destined; lab tested.
  • Large at 80.19 x 28.98 x 72.49 cm
  • Wood accessories like pets with houses, car, etc
  • 1:12 inch scale (like 4″ dolls)
KidKraft KidKraft Charlotte Classic Wooden Dollhouse with EZ Kraft Assembly, 14-Piece Accessory Set, for 12-Inch Dolls ,Gift for Ages 3+

3 – 8 years: KidKraft Charlotte Dollhouse

  • 5 star reviews
  • Larger Size at 32.5 x 11.8 x 49 inches
  • Includes 14 pieces of furniture and accessories
  • Easy to assemble (download the free Bilt app from the Apple app store or Google play if needed)
  • For 12″/30cm dolls (like Barbie size)

5 years + Melissa & Doug Multi-Level Wooden Dollhouse

  • Well established company, partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics for early brain development
  • Med-Larger at 62 x 71 x 39 centimeters
  • Comes with 19 pieces of furniture, 2 moveable staircases and 5 working doors
  • Sturdy wood construction
  • Easy to assemble with just an allen key (included)
  • A little on the pricer end of the spectrum
  • 4″ (1:12) scale doll (not Barbie size)
Victorian Dollhouse

6+ years Melissa & Doug Victorian Dollhouse

PORTABLE

Just an interesting option if you want your dollhouse loving kid to be able to take this with them.

Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Wooden Dollhouse with 2 Play Figures and 11 Pieces of Furniture

DOLLS

There are so many potential families out there! Mix and match. Just keep in mind the scale:

1:6 inch scale: Barbies at 12″ or Lottie Dolls could work at 7″

Note: Lotti dolls are more ‘naturally proportionate‘ to real bodies, have age appropriate clothing, and have cool jobs like photographers (with a cochlear implant), astronauts and astronomers and fossil hunters. The boy and girls clothing is interchangeable.

Hape Toys Happy Family

1:12 inch scale, around 4″ tall. For Example:

Melissa and Doug wooden family

Calico Critters Pickleweeds Hedgehog Family, Kangaroo, Koala, Elephant, Cat (these are a little smaller than 1:12 inch scale)

Hape offers a variety of families: Asian, African American, bendable

ROOMINATE: STEM for 5-10 year old

Kickstarter.com is a company that was developed by three young women, all engineering and neuroscience majors, who noticed that throughout their educational experience, they were always outnumbered by men.  

Thinking about how to draw more women to science and technology, they thought about why they ended up in the field, despite the odds for women, and said: “We realized that our own experiences in childhood were integral in attracting us to math and science as adults.” – Kickstarter.com

These kits have wooden parts for floors, walls, and furniture. There is wallpaper and other accessories for decorating a room once it is built, and a battery pack and wires for a simple circuit that controls a light, a fan, or a buzzer. Seriously cool.

Here is the Kickstarter Page: Roominate

Just as a side note, you can purchase wiring kits for dollhouses (see the the accessories detail in the Targeting Stem or For Older Kids below)

targeting STEM or for older kids

There are so many on the market, here are just a few options after doing some research. As mentioned in the introduction, the best way to encourage STEM and creativity is by selecting a ‘shell’ of a dollhouse with endless possibilities for customization (some suggestions discussed in the ‘Accessories’ section below)

Cute Room 3D Stereo Wooden Puzzles DIY Dollhouse Miniature Kit for Adults & Teens - Wooden Model Kit Wooden Puzzle (Separate House) (DH003-CA)

Introductory: Wood Dollhouse Kit

  • Inexpensive
  • 4 rooms with stairs
  • It’s actually a 3D puzzle, and ‘only’ 40 pieces
  • The scale is 1:24 (not your typical dollhouse which is usually 1:12 – some reviews say you can still use 1:12 scale dollhouse accessories.
  • If you wanted to add furniture, perhaps try this, inexpensive DIY furniture kit, which is close at 1:20 scale.
  • Cons: you do get what you pay for, so the instructions and quality aren’t exactly superb!
  • Glue needed (this is a great glue, it’s paintable, non-toxic, water cleanup, and dries clear)
  • Paint it, add shingles, decorate with wallpaper, wire lights, anything is possible (see “Accessories” below)
Gothic House 3D Stereo Wooden Puzzles DIY Dollhouse Miniature Kit - Child Interactive Educational Toys Set

Mid-Introductory: Puzzle Dollhouse

Flever Dollhouse Miniature DIY House Kit Manual Creative with Furniture for Romantic Artwork Gift-Great Villa (Fairy Homeland)

Dollhouse DIY Villa

  • Little more complicated, not for they very young, or you can work on together
  • 19x15x14 inches
  • Lots of blank canvas to be creative: paint it, decorate with wallpaper, wire lights, anything is possible (see “Accessories” below)
  • Includes furniture (reviews indicate there are lots of nice little details)
  • Has LED lights, and a music box
  • Batteries are not included
  • Glue needed (this is a great glue, it’s paintable, non-toxic, water cleanup, and dries clear)
  • Suggestion: if you want buy “real” shingles instead of using the included red ‘paper’ shingles see “Accessories”
  • Good price for what you get

Greenleaf Fairfield Dollhouse Kit

  • Unassembled 3-story Victorian house
  • 1:24″ scale
  • 6 total rooms with 2 large hallways
  • Wrap-around porch and 2 fireplaces built in
  • Shingles included with purchase
  • Solid plywood construction
  • Very bare and plain so it will allow plenty of customization
  • Glue needed (this is a great glue, it’s paintable, non-toxic, water cleanup, and dries clear)
  • Paint it, add shingles, decorate with wallpaper, wire lights, anything is possible (see “Accessories” below)

There are some REALLY nice dollhouse kits out there, but of course with quality comes a hefty price tag. Good old google will show you what some dedicated dollhouse companies have to offer.

Architecture Style Complete Small Kits

These are more about the building process than just making a simple dollhouse like those above and then being creative with decorating. These are more like model building. More patience and expertise is required, but for the price it’s a pretty good deal to learn how to build and wire. But once done there isn’t much left to be creative with or play with.

Rylai Architecture Model Building Kits with Furniture LED Music Box Miniature Wooden Dollhouse Queenstown Holidays Series 3D Puzzle Challenge

Architecture Model: Queenstown Holiday

  • Comes with furniture
  • Assembled Size: (L) 13.0″ x (W) 12.6 x (H) 9.1″
  • More for older youths, not young children
  • Music Box
  • Lights you wire yourself
  • Comes with two dogs and a car
  • If anything is missing, reviews indicate the seller is quick to send items
  • Will need glue (Wood Glue or Gorilla fast setting), scissors, tweezers, small needle nose pliers, maybe sandpaper. You could get an inexpensive model building tool kit, just be aware it comes with some sharp objects
Architecture Model Building Kits with Furniture LED Music Box Miniature Wooden Dollhouse omantic Aegean Sea Series 3D Puzzle Challenge

Architecture Model: Sea Getaway or Romantic Cafe

  • Comes with furniture
  • For older youths, not young children
  • Music Box
  • Lights you wire yourself
  • If anything is missing, reviews indicate the seller is quick to send items
  • Will need glue (Wood Glue or Gorilla fast setting), scissors, tweezers, small needle nose pliers, maybe sandpaper. You could get an inexpensive model building tool kit, just be aware it comes with some sharp objects
ROBOTIME DIY Dollhouse Wooden Miniature Furniture Kit Mini Green House with LED Best Birthday Gifts

Architecture Model: Mini Green House

Accessories & Supplies

This is the FUN part. See my pink bathroom and bedspreads and carpets? All from leftover fabrics and even old clothes!

  • Fabric: go to your local fabric store and get fabric scraps or pre-cut quilters fabric for endless possibilities for curtains, bedspreads, clothes! Ribbon, buttons…just wander the isles.

Melody Jane Dollhouse Spanish Tile Floor Black White Cream Gloss Card Flooring Sheet

Floor tile or wood flooring, wallpaper (they typically come in sheets). I used a bunch of leftover stuff from home like carpet, paint and wallpaper. Or you can print out patterns from your computer onto paper to use as wallpaper/tile/flooring, just color and glue it up!

Siding (or use popsicle sticks, dollar store or amazon)

Cedar shingles (1:12 scale), or you can just use cut up popsicle sticks or paint, there are other varieties availble

PAINT: I remember using leftover latex paint in the house, or even white primer. Then I made my own ‘wallpaper’ by using vibrant acrylic paint on top of the primer (or metallic for some fun)

Wiring kit: NOT for children under 14. You can learn to wire your dollhouse kit or NON-WIRED LED lights are also an option if you prefer not to have your youth work with low-voltage electricity. There are so many choices – for example, check Melody Jane for wired and non-wired options. There are mostly 1:12 inch scale which is typical for dollhouses.

Dollhouse Tool Kit: great little starter kit with knives, mini saw, clamps, and so forth

NEED IDEAS?

Well, yes, there is always google. Or, paper magazines are still out there! You may be surprised to learn the miniature world is still hugely popular among a variety of age groups, which warms my heart. It’s all tactile!

Dollhouse Miniatures

Dollhouse World

The Spruce Crafts has some free plans or just some ideas

The fun about dollhouses is allowing room for creativity and growth with age. Making your own clothing, furniture, wallpaper using your own imagination gives the best satisfaction. Growing up there was no internet searching, and rarely any books or other people’s ideas – just my own imagination! We encourage allowing your kids to not rely on other peoples ideas but be inspired by their own thoughts.