Kids dig dollhouses. And parents should, too. Child development experts have long known that imaginative play can help kids develop empathy, think more creatively and even sharpen their fine motor skills (making a tiny bed is harder than it looks!). One fun, timeless way to encourage this is by setting up a dollhouse, which makes an ideal gift for any kid, regardless of age or gender.
Before choosing a dollhouse, consider the age of your children (small parts are a no-no for toddlers), how much space you have before you invest in a behemoth that needs its own room, and whether you want easy-to-clean plastic or more solid wood.
Here are some of the best ones to consider. (Note that with the exception of the Fisher-Price house, our picks are best suited for children ages three and up, due to the teeny-tiny pieces that tend to be part of dollhouse living.)
The ultimate starter dollhouse, this fold-out dwelling is suitable for little ones ages 12 months and up. The furniture throughout the six rooms is mostly built in, though it does come with a bed, two stools, and dog bowl, as well as two Little People (a boy and a girl) and a dog.
Pros: As with other Little People toys, noises are a key part of the fun: Kids can press various buttons and hear positive sayings like “we make a great team” as well as fun sounds like the toilet flushing and a dog barking. The theme here is working together to help around the house. Kids can practice doing tasks like feeding the dog and putting away toys, which flip out of sight when you hit a button (if only real life was like that).
Cons: Very few, although some Amazon reviewers said the set arrived missing some of the extra pieces.
This compact, four-room house, which stands about a foot high, can fold up when not in use. It comes with two four-inch dolls and 11 pieces of furniture, including a flat-screen television and stand.
Pros: Parents loved the substantial feel of the solid wood construction, and many said it ranked among their kids’ most beloved toys. Another bonus: It arrives fully assembled!
Cons: There were reports of the house showing up damaged and not holding up well overall. Parents also would have liked to have a side latch to keep pieces from spilling out when it is carried around. Finally, the decor is not the least bit gender-neutral, although the company does make a pricier high-rise option that doesn’t have all the pink and purple.
This classic-looking five-room dollhouse has three stories and a balcony, and comes with a full set of furniture. It fits dolls that are four inches (or shorter), such as Calico Critters.
Pros: It’s a fair price considering that it comes with so much furniture, including bunk beds, a grand piano and two staircases. And since it’s less than three feet tall, it doesn’t feel like a total behemoth in your kids’ room.
Cons: Some reviewers reported that the furniture and, in some cases, pieces of the house, arrived damaged. And because the wood is covered with sticker decals (rather than painted), some said that it was prone to peeling.
This wooden three-story house, suitable for age 3 and up, has seven rooms, a garage and two balconies. It comes with seven sets of furniture (including a barbecue grill), a two-dimensional pool area and a family of four dolls, all of which are around four inches tall.
Pros: Parents loved the gender-neutral decor and solid-wood construction. Fun extras include moveable magnetic LED lights and a working doorbell.
Cons: There were reviews about the garage door sticking and the wallpaper peeling off. Some customers also wished that the rooms weren’t so clearly defined with wall decals (such as towel bars in the bathroom), so kids could have more flexibility in laying out the furniture.
For kids into these quirky, guess-what's-inside toys, there is no substitute. This massive house is three feet tall by three feet wide and comes with more than 85 surprises to unwrap. (Spoiler alert: An L.O.L. Doll, Lil' Sister and Pet are included.)
Pros: It’s packed with extras such as a moving truck and boxes, sandbox, pool, working elevator, helipad (so posh!) and hot tub.
Cons: Some parents felt that the price didn’t reflect the quality. Also, buyer beware that the pool becomes soggy when you add water to it, some parents came up with their own hacks like adding Saran wrap to it first.
If you don't want your kid's dollhouse to be massive, plastic and heavy on the pink and magenta, Barbie's pad is not for you. This mansion comes with more than 70 accessories (but not dolls) and includes a pool that can be filled with water (not to mention a pool slide!), working elevator and garage.
Pros: Some pieces do double duty, like a desk that can be flipped around to serve as a fireplace and a couch that turns into bunk beds, giving kids more play options. Other fun features include a whistling tea kettle, toilet that makes a flushing sound and eggs that “fry” on the stove. And the open layout means several kids can gather around the structure rather than competing for space.
Cons: Some parents felt that it was overpriced, others cautioned that parts of the house arrived damaged.
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