When choosing to buy or build a dolls house for a child consider these points:
- Age of the child.
- Type of play (solitary or group)
- Other collections of toys or collections in particular sizes, collections shared with friends.
- Projected future of the toy - heirloom leading to a collection or current play.
To check child and adult responses to particular toys, you can view the online reports of The Canadian Toy Testing Council which rates toys by age and toy name. They have several dollhouses and buildings in their Best Bet Awards each year.
Generally younger children are most comfortable playing with more abstract houses and furnishings like the Guidecraft Block Play House shown. Sharing the activity with others is more important than accurate detail and scale. In these cases materials should be sturdy and withstand and encourage group play. There are a number of abstract and portable houses built of hardwood for this group, or dollhouse furniture can be combined with a set of well finished hardwood blocks. Abstract block play houses encourage young boys and girls to play together by combining the play of blocks and dollhouses. Young boys are more inclined to participate when there are creation rather than social activities involved in the play.
Price Under $100
Another house in the abstract category for younger children is the Plan Toys Contemporary Dollhouse. This open play abstract dollhouse contains recycled rubber and wood and uses non toxic finishes and vegetable dye based colors. Plan toys have several variations of this open play design which allow several children to easily use the house at one time.
Price Under $110
Less abstract structures with good play value may include toys in a range the child already collects. The highly collectible animals in the Calico Critters/Sylvanian Families lines have a range of different buildings to live in. The Sylvanian families collection in the UK includes a canal boat and a gypsy caravan as well as a selection of different sized homes for these darling families of animals. In North America, the animal families are now sold as Calico Critters, and the range of playsets is smaller than in the UK, but contains several different sized play houses, which have lots of access for small hands. Suggested age range for these toys is 3 years and up.
Price $20 - $100 Lots of furnishing sets and smaller buildings available.
If a child enjoys taking their toys to a friend's or relative's house, a portable dollhouse may be a good investment. Portable houses are available in several popular ranges, Sylvan Families /Calico Critters and Playmobil (compare prices) produce them to go with their other popular toys. There are several variants of the same portable Fold N Go wooden house linked here available from various companies under different names. Check to see that the latches operate in a manner which is easy for the child to manage, and that small fingers cannot be trapped.
Price $35 - $60.
Does the child already have a large, scale toy collection? Playmobil has two ranges for different ages in many different themes. The scale of 1:24 allows a cross between Playmobile, half scale dollhouses and garden railroad trains. The Playmobil Magic Dream Castle won the best bet award in its category from the Canadian Toy Testing Council in 2007 and the Forest Lodge won a similar award from iParenting. Playmobil houses are equally suited to boys and girls with themes of magic, knights, barbarians, pirates, modern living, and other sets. If a child enjoys other Playmobil sets, there is a wide range of dollhouses, shops, and cottages, even a tree house for dollhouse play. Playmobil is widely collected by adults.
Price $30 - $200
Lego produce a number of building sets which can be used with all other Lego. The emphasis is on producing the building here. Although Lego produce good play buildings, they do need constant adjustments to remain solid. Some children dislike this aspect of Lego buildings, others enjoy the opportunity to adapt buildings to other shapes. Hogwarts Castle allows a number of different cross themes with other Lego sets and is enjoyed by boys and girls in several different age ranges. Lego is also highly collectible (keep the box!) and there are Adult Lego collectors and Lego train clubs. A wide range of buildings in various price ranges are available in the line, including the award winning Lego Creator House Compare Prices
Price $30 - $450
Does the child play with fashion dolls? She may want a dollhouse scaled to suit her imaginary world. A one inch scale dollhouse may not be attractive to a child with a large collection of Barbie dolls who would prefer a 1:6 house scaled to her collection. A generic fashion doll house may not be as important as having a house designed especially for the particular doll you collect. There are a wide range of fashion dollhouses, including the Savannah Dollhouse from Kidcraft as well as the Fee Nix Giant Three Storey Wooden Dollhouse. The Barbie Dream Town House Compare Prices is a well known sample of the types available. A smaller more open vacation house may be fine for play as well and fits many more budgets at $30 to $50. Compare Prices. The Savannah Dollhouse Compare Prices with it's wooden furniture is closer to a traditional dollhouse style.
Price for the Savannah Dollhouse $100 - $140
Kid Craft make a dollhouse bookcase sized to fit fashion dolls, which is dual purpose. This type of furniture may suit children who are at an in between stage in their play, or who want to play with dolls in a house setting occasionally. These bookcase dollhouses are available in a range of sizes, usually for 1:12 or 1:6 scale dolls, as those sizes allow for shelves which can be dual purpose for books. Dollhouses of this type are available with or without doors. The source list of dollhouse plans has information on modifying a bookcase to become a dollshouse.
Price $80 - $100
Dollhouse kits in 1:24 or 1:12 scale can be an enjoyable project for an older child and an adult. Before you choose a kit, decide if you want a back or front opening and how many rooms worth of furniture collecting a child or their family wants to undertake. A dollhouse shop may be more interesting for play and less expensive to stock than a house. Kit dollhouses are usually built from luan plywood with tab and slot construction, or from mdf or baltic birch plywood, which is then glued and screwed together. Tab and slot dollhouses are generally less sturdy and slightly more difficult to finish than are plywood or mdf houses. Dollhouse kits can be complicated projects. Choose something you can manage.
Price $30 to several hundred.