Child psychologists say that children need to have their own personal sanctuary-a place that they can call their own. While this doesn’t mean that they should get their own apartment (they can’t even reach the kitchen counter, much less make their own meals), they should have a place in the house where they can escape. This is their ”private space”, where they feel safe and can retreat to if they need to be alone.
Why is this so important? According to child psychologists, from the age of one, children already begin coming to terms with their sense of self: I am a separate person, different from Mommy and Daddy and the world. They start to develop their independence (even if it means saying no to everything you say). They explore their skills and test their limits, gaining satisfaction from every task they accomplish: ”Look what I did!”
Parents can give children a special Playhouse-literally a space that’s completely theirs, where they can close the door and pretend that they are in their own beautiful world. They can retreat to their playhouse whenever they want quiet time, even choose to nap here if they like. The fact that they have the freedom to do this anytime they please, and that this is their house and not Mommy’s or Daddy’s, gives an immeasurable boost to their self-esteem. ”I have control over my world. I have a safe place to go to whenever I need to.”
But playhouses are not just retreats; they are the stage for children’s wonderful imaginings. They can cart their favorite dolls and stuffed animals with them, and suddenly they’re kings and queens of their magical kingdom, or even the Mommy and Daddy of a unique family. You can even give them kitchen sets or let them ”cook” with clay food (or a small box of real cereals which they can mix with plastic spoons).
While houses were traditionally thought to be a girl’s toy, mainly because of they’re miniature precursor, the dollhouse, boys can enjoy them as well. Luckily there are several designs that will appeal to their tastes.
There are playhouses with circus themes (to complete the look, buy a stuffed clown and a stuffed lion). There are playhouses with sheriff themes (you can even make your child a special sheriff’s badge out of cardboard wrapped in gold tin foil). There are playhouses that are painted with rocket ship designs (you can stick glow-in-the-dark stars and moons on the ceiling, hang an astronomy on one wall, or make your own planet mobile from colored paper).
Of course, every girl will be proud to own a playhouse with a princess theme (make her a special tiara or crown and scepter, or buy a set from a toy store). This will be her castle, where she’ll hold court with her dolls and teddy bears.
And of course, there are playhouses that are unisex-made of bright colors that appeal to every child.
Some playhouses are meant to be kept indoors; the materials aren’t meant to hold up well against the weather, and the brightly painted designs might fade under the sun and rain. However, their décor can perfectly complement a themed room, and they will bring hours of indoor fun (after all, if they can’t go outside, they can still go somewhere).
However, some playhouses can be kept outside, and are made of materials that are easily wiped clean (shoes can get really muddy out in the yard!). You can even have a sleepover in them-your child will be proud to invite his friends over to his house). These are ideal for homes that have limited space, or for kids who love being outdoors.
There are many things that children can do in their playhouse. In fact, one of the benefits that they bring to tired, distracted parents is that you can let them play on their own without worrying if they’re getting into trouble-they’re safely indoors, in an easily-monitored area, and not running around at the risk of breaking things (or worse, breaking their necks). Here are just some of the playhouse activities your child can enjoy:
Tea parties. Let your child play host or hostess in a mini tea party with stuffed animals or friends in their playhouse. You will need a plastic tea set (or let them use plastic plates, or an inexpensive set of real plates if they’re older). Then prepare finger food like sandwiches, fruit balls, brownies or cookies. Let your child dress up as he or she would for a real party. If you will be bringing over friends, you can even print out invitations. ”Jenny’s Castle, North Bedroom, 123 Green Road.” For the invitation, use the same motif as the playhouse.
Decorating. Let your child ”decorate” the playhouse with simple crafts that you can do together. Look at the playhouse theme for inspiration. For example, you can make a star-shaped picture frame to match the stars painted on the walls, or create an animal mobile with stencils or computer print outs for a circus playhouse.
Miniature playhouses. Your child will love making a miniature version of his or her playhouse for a favorite toy. You will need cardboard boxes, paint, a cutter to make the windows (it’s best if you do this yourself), and glue. You can buy embellishments at a scrapbook or craft’s store for the windows and doors. You can also make paper dolls for this miniature playhouse to represent different members of your family.
Playhouse sign. Personalize the playhouse with a special welcome mat or sign with your child’s name. You can print the letters of the name out from the computer, or use scrapbook materials for a pretty background (also try embellishments like beads and stickers). Frame or laminate the sign and hang on the door. For the welcome mat, buy a plain mat and let the child paint on it.
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