When my sister and I were little girls in the early 1960s, some of our favorite toys were the Barbie Dolls that had just come out a few years earlier. I wanted a Barbie Dream House, but it was too expensive for our budget. But that didn't stop us, however. We used our imaginations and turned our bedroom into a full-blown Barbie neighborhood.
If your daughter would like to create her own doll house, here are some ideas that may be helpful. Some projects may need parental help or supervision, depending on her age and skills.
1. Cardboard Boxes
Start with large cardboard boxes, depending on the size of the dolls who are going to live there. If you can find three or four of similar sizes, they each could be a separate room of the house. For example, there could be two boxes on the first floor, and two boxes for the upstairs floor. Or they could be rearranged to have a one-level house.
My sister and I gathered all kinds of objects to use for furniture. Again, cardboard boxes can be used here. Small ones, like the ones jewelry comes in, could be tables or beds or couches. We gathered empty dish detergent bottles, rinsed them out well, and cut the bottoms out in shapes that could be chairs for Barbies.
If your daughter wants pretty walls, scraps of wallpaper can be glued or pasted on the inside of the boxes. Pictures and frames can be drawn with markers on the wallpaper. Or, she could just paint the walls with watercolors.
4. Rugs or Carpets
Different materials can be used here, too. You want something that will stay in place, not too light and flimsy. Perhaps an old towel can be cut to the size and put on the floor. Hand-stitch around the edges to prevent fraying.
Depending on how elaborate and detailed your daughter wants to be, the windows could be drawn on the house, or cut out. I would strongly recommend the parent cutting out the windows. Since it is cardboard, you may have to use a drywall knife, and a child could be easily injured trying to use it.
The curtains can be made from little scraps of leftover fabric. Teach your child how to measure and cut these to the right size. You could even incorporate a little hand-sewing lesson here to show her how to stitch around the edges so they don't fray.
6. Bedspreads and Upholstery
Fabric scraps may be used again to make little bedspreads and upholstery covers for the couches and chairs. Your child can choose matching scraps to go with the colors of the wallpaper and rugs. Again, stitch around the edges.
Most children will not only enjoy playing with these handmade doll houses, but have hours of fun in creating and constructing them.
Kids are not underprivileged if they don't have the latest expensive or high-tech toys. On the contrary, I feel that they are privileged. They have the opportunity to develop rich, creative imaginations and problem-solving skills that don't happen with toys that do everything for them.
In the book, Dirt Roads and High Topped Shoes [http://www.amysinclair.net], my mother has written memories of her childhood in the 1920s [http://www.amysinclair.net]. There is also a growing collection of old fashioned activities for children on the site.
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