Girls have been playing with dolls and dollhouses forever. There are different types, numerous brands, and hundreds of editions to choose from. Whether you are a serious collector or just looking for a child's toy, much of making a decision on which doll or dollhouse to buy is a matter of personal taste. There are however, certain recommendations that you might want to take into account in order to get the best item possible for the person receiving it.
Buying a Doll for a Child
If you are neither the parent of the child or a close relative, the first thing you should do is to check with the parents to see what they do and do not allow and if they have any particular suggestions. Here are other recommendations to consider when buying a doll for a child.
* '''Choose a doll that is age appropriate.'''
** High-tech dolls can be too complicated for a young child.
** Porcelain or other high quality materials are fragile and not suitable unless the child has a collection.
** Some dolls are "too old" for little girls (you might not want to promote scantily clad Barbies to a three-year old).
** Think about size. Toddlers and pre-schoolers are tiny, thus their dolls need to be small enough that they can carry them around and cuddle with them. However, Barbies are not cuddly even though they are small. Plus, Barbie's clothes are hard to put on. A small child needs to be able to dress and undress a doll without difficulty.
* '''Steer clear of advertising gimmicks.'''
** Beware of highly advertised dolls that may be poorly made or not interesting to play with.
** Kids will often say, "Gimme, gimme, gimme!" for a product they see on commercials, but it may not always be worthwhile.
** Decide how much the child wants THAT particular toy. Will it break her heart not to get her that one or will she accept a substitute?
* '''Does it require batteries?'''
** Are the batteries included? Some dolls require costly battery replacements. Consider whether this is going to be an issue or not.
** What are the batteries for? Noise, movement, or something else? Is this going to be obnoxious for the parents?
** If the batteries die will the product become useless?
* '''Is the doll high-maintenance?'''
** Dolls that emulate "real babies" are often just as time consuming as the real thing (think of messy potty dolls).
** Does the doll require a multitude of accessories and clothes or other add-ons (friends, cars, houses, etc.)?
** Does it preach consumerism? (The doll wears a particular brand shoes or clothes...)
** Can you easily wash the doll?
* '''Is it worth it?'''
** How much will the doll cost including all the extras? Will it require future investment of any sort?
** Will the doll be used every day or only on occasion?
** How quickly can a child tire of the doll? Is it versatile or does it only perform one task?
So you want to start a doll collection. Congratulations on deciding to enter the wonderfully magical world of dolls! There is no end to where your imagination can take you, but don't get too excited-- collecting takes time. With so many dolls and so many decisions, it's very easy to become enthralled to the point where you want it all at once. Take your time, consider what you REALLY want, where you have room for storage, and how much money you can afford to spend.
Porcelain and collector's dolls can cost as little as $10 or as much as $500 depending on their age, quality, and designer.
* Take the time to research and to understand what you are buying and why you want to make a certain purchase. Learn about the prices for the dolls you are looking to collect and compare and contrast in as many places as you can. Once you become familiar with the market you can be more confident in your purchases. You may even get interested in attending live auctions.
* Think twice before buying a "bargain" doll. While there are often a steal or two to be found, especially on the Internet, don't take that as an incentive to buy several cheap dolls when you could have spent the money on one very well crafted doll.
* If you are buying to invest, which many doll lovers would shy away from encouraging, keep the dolls in their boxes, otherwise they lose a portion of their value. However, if you are buying dolls because you actually like them, take advantage of it and use them, play with them, display them.
Major Doll Types
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When I was a child, I remember having several dollhouses, starting with a small plastic set, then a Barbie Dreamhouse, and finally, the wooden dollhouse that I still have to this day. It goes without saying that there is no one size fits all with dollhouses, and there is no one dollhouse that is the best of the bunch. However, choosing one might still be difficult if you have never owned one. Here are some tips and advice to help choose the best dollhouse for yourself as an adult, or for a child of any age.
Buying for Children
Buying dollhouses for little girls (or boys) is usually based on a few basic concepts. The first criteria that you will consider is the child's age. It is imperative that you keep this in mind when shopping. Either you are buying a dollhouse that will act as a toy for a short period of time, or you will buy them a potential collector's item that they will cherish for years to come. Children aged seven- to eight-years old or older are good candidates for classic wooden Victorian dollhouses. Any child younger should be given something that is more "toy-like".
For the very youngest, a basic dollhouse that fits this criteria will act as a good "first":
* Small, lightweight, and with few harsh angles.
* An open style one or two-story house, a folding dollhouse that can be moved to different locations, or a taller "mansion style" house that you can keep in one location.
* Look for a dollhouse that has a limited number of basic accessories, and check to make sure that they don't pose a choking hazard.
* The dollhouse should include (or be made to fit) pre-dressed dolls that don't require changing clothes unless this is a Barbie house of some kind.
* If you want the house to work for the child's Barbies (or other "tall" dolls), make sure that the ceiling height of the rooms will be high enough. For example, try the Giant Three Story Wooden Dollhouse.
* Plastic is a good material to look for since it won't splinter, chip, or crack despite any abuse it takes.
* Dora the Explorer Talking Dollhouse with Light and Sounds: This is a great dollhouse for the little girl who enjoys Dora's show. It folds open to reveal a home that is just as colorful and vibrant as the cartoon. Plus, it includes the whole family and all the basic furniture comes with it.
* Fisher Price My First Dollhouse: This pastel colored, open three-story is simple and sweet. You can't go wrong with this basic house.
* Fisher Price Loving Family: These are for kids who like them big! Two- and three-story fold out homes with lots of pretty furniture are their strong points.
* Sweet Streets Dollhouses: These come in choices between a cottage-style and a victorian style, complete with basic furnishings and a family of three.
Buying Collector's Dollhouses
Once a child has reached a certain age, a "real" dollhouse is a great choice. They are more expensive than plastic toy houses, thus you should make sure that the child is really interested in dolls and starting a collection. Remember that this is an investment. Alternatively, if money is an issue but you still want to purchase something of quality that a wooden dollhouse will provide, you can always opt for a smaller house in lieu of a giant three-story one. That will reduce the initial cost as well as the future costs of decorating and installing fixtures. Another basic consideration is how much space you have for storing the dollhouse.
Besides budget and size, the next thing to look at once you start shopping is the quality of the dollhouse or dollhouse kit. Because a wooden dollhouse meant for collecting is supposed to reflect how a real home looks, you want to make sure that the dimensions look accurate and seem realistic. Likewise, since you are choosing a dollhouse that looks life-like, you will need to choose a style. It can be anything you like, from Victorian to Tudor or Georgian, for example. The point is, make sure that it's a style you like so that you can easily buy all the furnishings and extras for, and of course, that you like the look of.
Finally, consider your level of ambition and craftsmanship. Are you dedicated to building a dollhouse for yourself or do you simply want to buy an assembled house for a child? If you are buying a kit, you want to make sure that it will not be overwhelming when it comes to assembling it, otherwise, chances are that you will become frustrated and quit.