Choosing a Doll House
For a long time now I have wanted to get Miss 2.5yo a doll house. I agonised over the decision of which one to buy. In a world of so much choice, how does one choose the perfect one? Perfect also can mean so many things: perfect price, perfect style, perfect size, perfect colour and perfect material. My perfect, may also not be your perfect.
I have such fond memories of playing with a doll house, made for me by my great uncle Michael (my mom's uncle). We had a set of Sylvanian Families characters and we (my three sisters and I) played for hours with our doll house.
Regardless if you have boys or girls, doll houses and figurines play such a vital role in childhood development. Role play helps children develop intellectual, social and emotional skills. Children are able to act out real world scenarios through play and this helps them make sense of a new and overwhelming world. A doll house allows children to play side by side one another (rather than in front of each other) and they are able to engage in a dialogue about their fantasy world and they are free to choose the details of their story and re-enact all scenarios, personalities and behaviours. Children are allowed to create order or chaos as they place their furniture where they want to, right or wrong. They will discover how the furniture fits into the space and develop spatial awareness whilst exercising their fine motor skills. Research suggests that doll houses and figurines are one the most important toy for children aged 2 and up and it is so important that both girls and boys are given the opportunity to play with one.
Going back to the decision on which doll house to choose, my most important to me that it would be suitable for either a boy or a girl. (Side note: I have no problem with giving a boy a pink doll house, but even for a mom of two girls I wanted something that wasn't overwhelmingly pink.)
Given all the criteria I wanted to tick off when buying a doll house (recap: price, size, style, colour and material) I narrowed it down to a handful of choices: The Hape Mansion, Hape All Seasons or the Tender Leaf Toys Dovetail House.
Some of the other contenders were:
Le Toy Van Sophie's House (excluded due to colour).
Le Toy Van Sophie's House
Plan Toys Victorian House (excluded due to price).
Plan Toys Victorian House
Sylvanian Famililes (excluded due to being made from plastic).
The Tender Leaf Toys Foxtail Villa and Le Toy Van Cherry Tree Hall made the shortlist, but were eventually excluded because of their size: being tall and narrow, I didn't know how easy it would be for two children (or more) to be able to play side by side with the doll house and it was important for me that there was enough space for two to play comfortably.
Weirdly, I also wanted a doll house with a staircase, which was another reason I didn't opt for the Tender Leaf Toys Foxtail Villa. Staircases provide an interesting extra dimension and play opportunity. I liked the idea that children can experiment with furniture placement on the stairs and understand how it would not be an ideal place for a couch.
I liked Hape's All Seasons and Mansion because they don't have walls and this makes it a great choice for daycares as more children are able to play around it and access it from all sides. The two Hape options are gender neutral and wins on the price criteria. The Hape doll houses also come with furniture so that makes it a double tick on the price box. But the overall colour scheme wasn't to my taste so, although great options, was not the choice I made for my girls.
Hape Mansion and Hape All Seasons
The Tender Leaf Toys Dovetail house was the ultimate winner for me (and my Instagram poll) as it looks like a traditional house. I preferred the colour and the style of the house although the price (and that the furniture was sold separately) was a slightly negative mark towards what I felt was a beautiful product overall. I also really wanted a doll house with windows and a door as I felt like there was interesting stories to be created through a window and door - a girl looks longingly out the window and spots her friend approaching the house to a visit... a knock on the door, who is it...
Tender Leaf Toys Dovetail House
The good news:
Hape and Tender Leaf Toys houses and furniture are compatible. They are both made to a 1:12 scale, as is Le Toy Van and Plan Toys.
Djeco and Sylvanian Families are a 1:16 scale but that's not to say you cannot use their furniture or figurines in a 1:12 scaled doll house. In a world of make-believe and imagination, the furniture can be of all shapes, sizes and scales.
I have ordered a few doll houses, which will be in the store soon and I'll keep adding images to this blog as we share our doll house story.
Choosing Doll House People
This is a relatively easy choice to make based on your personal preference. You could either opt for wooden figurines, including a peg person or a cut out, or you can choose figurines with flexible limbs. To be honest, I think both are awesome and have different play opportunities.
Wooden peg people or cutouts require a little more imagination and creativity when a child plays with them as a child has to work a little harder to form an identity for that "person". The peg person is also nonmalleable so again, requires imagination to pretend that the person can move, walk or sit. Peg people are safe for children of all ages as they are quite chunky and without parts that could break off and pose a choking hazard. Great options for peg people are the Grapat Nins, Grimms Friends or Flockmen. You could also opt for a wooden figurines like the Tender Leaf Toys Leaf Family and Sunny Family which have a gender and age but no moving parts. All of these options can be found in the store.
Tender Leaf Toys Sunny Family
Figurines with flexible limbs are slightly easier to play with as there is not as much imagination involved in moving them, for example getting the figurine to sit and eat at a table. The play can be more realistic as the figurine is able to move and bend how a child would like and the figurine has an assigned age and gender. These dolls are typically aimed at the 3+ age range as they would have parts which could break off and pose a choking hazard. Tender Leaf Toys and Hape both have a great range of flexible limb people and will be in the store soon.
Hape Doll House Family
Choosing Doll House Furniture
This one is also personal preference and the different options compete on price, style and contents.
Tender Leaf Toys is more pricey, but it has more contents and I personally preferred the colour scheme.
Tender Leaf Toys Dovetail House Furniture
Hape is a great, affordable option but the colour scheme lets it down and there are fewer contents in the pack for each room. The Hape Doll Houses do come with furniture though so it is not necessary to buy extra, which is a positive.
Hape All Seasons Furniture
Le Toy Van doll house furniture is beautifully bright and cheerful but is also not to my taste and has similar comments to the Hape range in terms of contents in the pack.
Le Toy Van Starter Furniture Set
I opted again for the Tender Leaf Toys furniture as I wanted a heirloom doll house for my girls and felt that the Tender Leaf Toys furniture, although more expensive, complemented the Dovetail house and offered more contents per room. The colour scheme also a little more muted and was my overall winner for the doll house furniture race.
I would love to hear your thoughts and which ones you prefer! Comment and let me know :)