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The Origin and Educational Play Benefits of Doll Houses

Educator, Author, Writer, Reading and Early Literacy Specialist.

The Origin of Doll Houses

Doll houses continue to be enchanting and popular toys valued by both children and adults. Miniature homes filled with furniture and tiny people have been around for thousands of years. The oldest examples are found in the Egyptian tombs nearly five thousand years ago. Created to represent all the cherished belongings in one's life, these miniature homes were almost certainly made for religious purposes.

The more modern doll houses that we are familiar with today, date back to the 16th century in Europe. These were built by wealthy individuals as cherished replicas of their family homes. Doll houses in this period were also a popular way to study fashion and décor. Women in Holland and Germany created miniature houses for the purpose of interior design, and it was not until the 18th century that doll houses started being created for play.

Early doll houses were all handmade, but following the Industrial Revolution, they became mass produced. This mass production made them more accessible to the average person. They also became standardized and more affordable which turned them into accessible toys for children. No longer were they only seen in the hands of collectors or wealthy citizens. Doll houses have become a well-loved addition to children’s playrooms, along with furniture and miniature toys, which are also popular.

Doll Houses Are Still Loved Today!

Handsomely crafted doll houses remain desired items in the eyes of collectors. Even the toys that are mass produced continue to delight children of all ages, both boys and girls, in countries across the world. Doll houses are available in different forms from ready-made and decorated house kits, to custom-built houses made to the customer's design.

There are trade shows held throughout the world where artisans and dealers display and sell doll houses and miniature furniture. The miniature objects, used for decoration, are desired artifacts when made by expert craftsmen. There are available internet forums, blogs and other online social media for lovers of doll houses and miniatures.

The Educational Benefits of Doll Houses

Doll houses engage children in imaginary play, which provides important educational benefits for intellectual and social development. When children are engaged in imaginary play they are able to freely investigate and learn about the world around them.

During pretend play, children use symbolic representations for the objects and actions they are exploring. When children role-play and explore dialogue it helps them develop social, emotional, and intellectual skills. According to child development experts, role-play helps children acquire confidence and a sense of self, and it is also a key component to learning.

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Learning and Play Activities for Doll Houses

The following are activity suggestions for children to extend their learning when engaged in imaginary role-play with doll houses and other toys.

  • Ask children to sequence events in a day by acting out typical routines from morning to evening.
  • Ask children to reorganize their doll house to accommodate more people.
  • Search for and use various items around the house to create doll house furniture and decorations. Cotton balls make great bed pillows.
  • Give children a scenario that needs to be solved by members of the family. Encourage them to take different roles in the family and then act out a solution to the problem. For instance, everyone in the family wants to watch television but they all want to watch something different.
  • Encourage children to retell a story by first thinking about possible topics and ideas. Children might retell a story about the family’s lost dog or a holiday gathering. Encourage them to sequence the story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Explore math concepts by having older children measure the surface area of floors in the doll house. Younger children can decorate using pattern designs to create room borders, or learn about addition and subtraction by role-playing number stories. We set the table for four people but now two more people are joining us.
  • Ask children to act out all the chores that need to be done on a daily basis for maintaining a home.

More Learning Activities for Children

  • Hand Puppets Help Children Learn Valuable Skills
    Puppets are a cherished toy that can provide many important educational benefits. Discover the value of using puppets for teaching children language skills and for supporting social/emotional development.


Kimberly Schimmel from North Carolina, USA on September 01, 2015:

Great article! So glad my kids had a dollhouse.

Sturgeonl (author) on April 11, 2012:

Doll houses were my favourite toy. I had one that I played with all the time.Thanks for sharing teaches12345!

Dianna Mendez on April 11, 2012:

I got to play with a lot of dolls houses as a teacher, and I enjoyed it much. It was my chance to play something fun and worry about what people thought. Your doll house activiites are a good learning experience. Wonderful suggestions!

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