My daughter recently turned 3, we had the best day! She asked for a fancy dress party and we were given strict instructions as to what we needed to be. We felt a bit bad for her uncle who had to be a dinosaur - he had his work cut out in his costume making!
I try to be restrained in gift giving, she's still so young she doesn't expect much from us. I approach all present purchases with the same questions. Firstly, will it last? (I avoid plastic-y, breakable, small parts that can get lost, overtly gendered, noisy toys) Will she play with it for longer than 10 minutes... will it capture her imagination? And lastly, will there be room for it? We don't have an awful lot of space and I try to take a toy away whenever I add a new one (it either goes in the loft for our next baby, is given to cousins/friends or is donated). I also believe too many toys can be overwhelming for a child, they can get more play value from a small and focussed collection. When we have finished playing with a toy we tend to put it away then, I'm not sure if this is the right thing to do, but it's my way of teaching my daughter to respect her things, when toys are left out all over the house, things get broken or lost - I like to encourage her to tidy as she goes along.
Having shown a growing interest in role-play, giving little voices to her toys and acting out scenarios inspired by day-to-day life I decided a dolls house would be a good idea for this birthday. I found a really small, simple design in Flying Tiger for £5. Bargain!
She had a Maileg Mouse (called Hermione) so I had decided she was going to be the lucky resident on the dolls house. I love Maileg toys, I see them as toys you'd hand down to your children, the quality is great and the designs are timeless. Hermione would need some friends to live with and some furniture.
Her nana bought her the cooking set. and her granny bought her a little sofa. It soon became clear I'd need to extend the dolls house! Just a little! So I decided to add one room and make it the kitchen. We bought 5mm hardwood ply wood and made a simple box room. We added a panel across the whole base to securely attach the extension and to offer some strength to whole dolls house.
I painted the ceilings and some of the walls and designed wallpapers. I had great fun sourcing tiles (google images!) for the kitchen floor and walls, and I love the image tile of the parquet flooring I found for the hallway!
The other residents we wanted to move in were, the baby twins, the tooth fairy and the superhero, so I made beds for each mouse (the dolls house isn't big enough to hold the beautiful tins and matchboxes they came in - they will be stored and kept safely). I made a rug for the living room using scraps from bulk production of the latest Dinki Human range! Woven strips of jersey interlock worked well!
I then installed lighting, I bought a simple string light (the ones where the lights are part of the string rather than connected LEDs) that was battery powered. I used a glue gun to stick the battery pack to the back panel of the dolls house in a position where it can be easily reached by my daughter to turn the lights on and off. I bought the lights through a window at the back and placed glue gun dots in every 6-8cm apart to stick the string lights to the ceilings. The little lights really made a difference, it added some magic.
Overall I'm really happy with the project, it was a hit on her special day and she is playing with it regularly. The cost of the project was minimal in comparison to buying a ready-made item, our money went on the Maileg toys and I'm pleased as I see them as collectables that will be treasured for years to come. I also like that this is the kind of gift that can grow with my children, they can re-decorate, move things around, add and take away as their interests change and evolve.