Dollhouses are among some of the most popular toys in the world. In recent years, traditional dollhouses have given way to scenes and structures from popular movies or children’s TV shows, enabling kids around the world to bring their favorite characters to life.
However, dollhouses were not always meant to be played with. Keep reading to learn all about dollhouses and the fascinating history behind today’s popular toy.
Who Invented Dollhouses?
It is not known who invented the first dollhouse. Some wooden models were found in tombs in Egypt, but they were thought to be used for religious purposes.
In Europe, the first recorded dollhouse was commissioned by Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria. Constructed in Germany in 1558, the structure was referred to as a “baby house.”
The dollhouse did not resemble what we know as a dollhouse today.
It was a cabinet with display cases that housed each room.
The Duke purchased the baby house for his daughter, but it was so grand that it was added to his private collection of art.
Dollhouses were originally very expensive, decorated richly with expensive fabrics, silver, and furniture made of fine materials.
They served as a way to display a family’s wealth, and only the richest members of society could afford them.
Palaces and courts displayed exquisite dollhouses that cost as much as a regular citizen’s home.
Today, these early dollhouses can be found in museums or private art collections.
In the 16th century, dollhouses were built by skilled craftsmen, and each dollhouse was a custom creation.
Often, craftsmen were commissioned to create miniature replicas of a family’s actual house.
Each detail was included in the design of the dollhouse, including scaled replicas of furniture, carpets, paintings, maps, and even books.
When Were Dollhouses Invented?
Miniature replicas of homes and buildings date back to ancient Egypt. Dollhouse-like structures were found in Egyptians tombs, dating back thousands of years.
The structures were made of wood and included furniture, models of people and animals, and boats.
The dollhouses were put in the Pyramids and thought to be used for religious purposes.
Dollhouses became popular in Europe in the 16th century as a sign of wealth and class.
Referred to as baby houses, the structures were made of cabinets and included detailed decorations like furniture.
These dollhouses were trophy collections instead of toys for children.
The most sought-after dollhouses were built in Germany until World War I.
In the early 20th century, American companies began creating replicas of homes and furniture.
Companies in the U.S. and Japan copied designs originally created in Germany, and dollhouses began to be marketed for children.
When Did Dollhouses Become Popular?
Dollhouses did not become common until the 1950s. Before World War II, dollhouses were intricate structures and custom designs that cost a considerable amount of money.
Dollhouses were mass produced after World War II, and factory production helped bring down the cost.
The structures were less detailed than earlier dollhouses, and many were made of sheet metal and plastic furniture.
How Long Have Kids Played With Dollhouses?
Dollhouses were not originally designed as toys for children. Instead, they were built for adults with intricate details, architecture, and decorations.
They were considered works of art, and most dollhouses were off limits to children.
The miniature furniture and decorations were housed in expensive cabinets, and high-quality materials were used to make every item in the dollhouse.
Children were not really allowed to play with dollhouses until after World War II.
Before that time, the structures cost too much money and were strictly for decoration.
However, after World War II, companies in American started to produce dollhouses at a larger scale.
By using cheaper materials, they were able to make more dollhouses at a lower cost.
Instead of fine wood, rich fabrics, and costly glass cabinets, dollhouses were made of sheet metal that was painted and furniture was made of plastic.
Today, dollhouses range in price from affordable toys for children to high-quality materials for adult hobbyists.
Many companies and franchises also create dollhouse replicas for popular TV shows and movies, children’s characters, and more.
Why Do Dollhouses Appeal To So Many People?
Dollhouses spark creativity and imagination, providing a canvas for a game of make-believe. Children can create their own story using a dollhouse as the background.
From playing house, mimicking the family dynamic, or making up an entirely new story, the options for dollhouses are endless.
Early dollhouses in the 16th and 17th century were sometimes used as educational tools.
Children could observe the dollhouse and learn about the various rooms in the home.
They were taught family roles, expectations, and responsibility with dollhouses used as visual aids.
Today, dollhouses can serve a similar purpose while being a fun toy.
Children can learn about responsibility, including caring for a home or family, and play out everyday scenes with their dollhouse.
The miniature replicas can make household chores like cleaning or cooking seem more fun and spark interest in helping out around the house.
What Age Range Are Dollhouses For?
Dollhouses are made for all ages, from toddler to adults. Unlike early European dollhouses, today’s toys are made to be played with.
Companies around the world design dollhouses for toddlers, young children, and older children. Many adults have taken up dollhouses as a hobby, creating their own intricate designs and works of art.
Dollhouses are also designed for both boys and girls. All children can enjoy playing with a dollhouse, whether it is Barbie’s Dream House or a superhero’s headquarters.
There are dollhouses available at various sizes to accommodate different age ranges.
Toddlers can enjoy larger plastic toys while older children can play with more detailed pieces in their dollhouse.
What Are Dollhouses Made Of?
Today, dollhouses are made of all kinds of materials. The materials used for a dollhouse typically depend on its purpose.
For children’s toys, dollhouses are usually made of plastic and other safe materials for kids. These materials can easily be cleaned and stand up to wear and tear.
Larger dollhouses are often made of plywood or fiberboard. These materials are lighter in weight and sturdy.
Intricate dollhouses and items made for hobbyists tend to be made of various types of wood.
They may also include materials like Gatorboard, plywood, stripwood, scale lumber, coroplast, and metal.
Furniture and decorations for dollhouses are made of similar materials.
For small children, large plastic items are used to prevent choking.
Detailed dollhouses include a wide range of materials, including various fabrics, plastics, metals, and more.
How Much Do Dollhouses Cost?
Dollhouses range in price from inexpensive plastic toys to costly collector’s items. Small plastic dollhouse sets often feature a single room or a scene. These items can range in price from $15 to $50 on average.
Larger dollhouses or dollhouses with intricate features and designs tend to cost more.
The size and level of detail in the dollhouse will greatly impact the price. Plastic items tend to cost less than wooden dollhouses.
The price of furniture, decoration items, and dolls also varies based on the materials used.
Barbie dolls can average $10 for a single dolls, and prices increase based on accessories and theme.
Plastic furniture items without much detail will cost less than intricate items made with various materials.
For adult collectors, dollhouses can get very pricey. Large dollhouses or replicas of actual buildings cost significantly more than children’s toys.
Also, each item within the dollhouse can cost more because it is intended for display instead of playtime.
The world’s most valuable dollhouse costs more than $8 million, featuring 27 rooms and standing 9 feet tall.
What Is The Standard Scale Size For Dollhouses?
In the early days of dollhouses, there was not a standard scale for sizing. Each craftsman created their own individual pieces without a universal standard.
Items in an individual dollhouse were intricately designed and often not to scale among themselves.
More recent dollhouses intended for children are created at a 1:18 scale.
Also known as the two third inch scale, one foot is represented by 2/3rd of an inch.
Some brands choose to use 1:16 scale, also known as ¾” scale.
Large dollhouses often use 1:6 scale, which works well for dolls like Barbie and Ken.
For adults who collect dollhouses or build their own creations, 1:12 scale is common.
Also called the 1” scale, one foot is represented by an inch.
Smaller scales also tend to be popular among collectors.
Small dollhouses using 1:24 and 1:48 scales are too small for children to play with, and they are used mainly as display items.
The smallest scale, 1:144, is considered a dollhouse for a dollhouse.
There’s no doubt about it, but dollhouses have stood the test of time and remained one of the most popular toys for children, from toddlers to teenagers, even in these technological times.
Aside from the substantial developmental benefits playing with a dollhouse provides, the level of enjoyment and fun through interactive play make it a worthwhile addition to any child’s home.
And dollhouses have the excellent added benefit of being passed down from one generation to the next, locking in wonderful childhood memories and stories that won’t get lost through the annals of time.