Many of you know that I recently resurrected my love for working with dollhouse miniatures. It was a hobby I picked up again as an adult after seeing lots of modern dollhouse inspiration on Instagram from some very creative folks.
When most people hear about dollhouses, they tend to think of victorian reproductions. Tiny, precise, fiddly, and maybe a little boring. But miniatures can be made out of just about anything, from traditional wooden dollhouse kits to single rooms made from found objects. Did you ever make a diorama as a student? That’s just a fancy word for a one-room miniature.
My first attempt at modern doll housing (I just made that word up, in case you were wondering) was a simple renovation. I bought an old house, circa 1985, from a local friend and rehabbed it, reusing some old furniture that came with it, and making my own pieces out of cardboard boxes and butter containers.
I caught the dollhouse bug and found a couple more dollhouses to reno, this $20 Craigslist find making the most dramatic before and after:
But if I’d thought about it, I would have realized that my kids and I had been working with miniatures well before these, we just didn’t call it that. We’d been crafting pieces in conjunction with our history and geography units for years. Not to mention all the Lego building that has gone on in our home over the past decade and a half. What are Legos but miniature versions of buildings, people, and vehicles?
I had to dig deep to find photo evidence, but I present to you our wonderful cardboard castle that we created the year we spent studying the Middle Ages:
You can see that the castle is somewhat accurate, but also just fun and imaginative. We’d gone to the library to find books on medieval castles, brought them home, and then spent a couple of weeks collecting cardboard pieces and putting them all together. Not pictured are the miniature siege engines and machines we also made.
If you are not the ‘building from scrap’ type of mom, don’t worry. There are all sorts of kits available to purchase, like the one below. This was a gift that grandparents gave the kids, and it is a cardboard representation of a medieval village. The kids loved putting it all together and playing with it.
Here are a few kits I found on Amazon.
A few years ago, we were studying Westward Expansion in history and geography. My younger boys and I decided to build a miniature log cabin, so we went outside and collected lots of sticks for our walls. We glued them together and even made a chimney and fireplace out of pebbles. They found some plastic farm animals and pioneer accessories, so they decided the cabin needed an animal pen too.
So much fun.
They were pretty pround of it.
Here are just a few reasons to incorporate miniatures in your homeschooling:
- They make history come alive with dimension and fun
- They give kids a STEM experience
- They provide an alternative learning route for kids who struggle with reading and writing
- For kids who aren’t project-oriented, they can spark some creative juices
- They can make just about any subject more fun to learn
- They can be used at any age
- They can often be made with found items, keeping costs low
- They help build fine motor skills in younger children
- They are so fun to play with that your kids won’t even realize they’re learning (sneaky, right?)
Have I convinced you yet?
Seriously, we have loved making miniatures as a creative option for learning. And no matter what your child’s age, they can be a great way to bring history to life right in your own home.