One of my co-workers gave me a present for K today: a set of assemble-yourself balsa wood dollhouse furniture. I had been telling her earlier about a problem I've been trying to figure out lately. I brought my dollhouse back from my mother's house last month for K, but I don't have anything to put in it. The furniture I had used that was worth keeping was really nice Victorian-style furniture that's way too nice for a toddler to play with (and there's also only three rooms' worth, when the dollhouse has eight rooms - it's a gorgeous large dollhouse that my grandfather made for me). What I need to do is find some durable plastic furniture for her to use until she's old enough not to destroy what she plays with. The problem with this is that while there's plenty of dollhouse furniture, both durable wood and plastic, available for sale at the click of a mouse button, none of it is cheap, especially when you have to fill eight rooms. In one of life's more hair-pulling ironies, it would actually be considerably cheaper for me to buy an entire dollhouse that has furniture included than to buy the same furniture off the shelf. The only economically feasible solution I can see is to get some kits from a craft store and make some furniture myself, but I'm certainly not going to go to that sort of effort just to have it mauled by a three-year-old who wants to try and sit on a dollhouse-sized chair.
The furniture R gave me is unbelievably cheap and badly made, to the point that I accidentally snapped a piece in half trying to assemble it. But that's the point; she figured it wouldn't matter if K destroyed it because it was so cheap. Heck, it comes half-broken down already - the decrepitude is a built-in feature. The picture here unfortunately doesn't give a proper perspective on how drunkenly skewed the bed is, although you can see how I had to leave the tray off of the high chair because it wouldn't attach properly. But it's also clear that K doesn't care. Unfortunately, the only kit she could find was for nursery furniture, so this isn't a whole-house solution.
My current plan is that we found a Melissa and Doug wooden castle a while ago at an unbelievably fantastic, if we ever want to buy this we need to buy it now because we'll never see a price this low again sort of price. I think the current plan is to make it a Christmas present, and I think we'll get some figures and some rudimentary furniture (maybe some tables and chair, a bed and some nursery furniture) so it can fill the same play function as a dollhouse. Then when she's five or six, she can have the proper dollhouse with nicer furniture.
Of course, this is one of those occasions when the Internet contains things I would rather never have known. Because apparently a couple years ago, Ikea had a dollhouse and several rooms of dollhouse furniture, as well as dollhouse dolls. Exactly what I want. But now they're discontinued. I could look for them on Ebay, of course (and in fact I'm watching a few auctions right now), but the point of getting stuff from Ikea is that it's cheap. Paying $20 for five pieces of dollhouse furniture kind of misses the raison d'etre of going Ikea.
But it gets better. While I was surfing around, I found yet more discontinued Ikea toys that were either things I've been looking for, or things we have but were more expensive. A nice wooden garage with wood cars, a play kitchen, a toy barn that's so much better than their current toy barn that they're barely in the same phylum. Sigh. We've certainly bought more than our share of Ikea toys, so it's not like they don't still have plenty of good toys available. But the fact that if we had only had access to an Ikea a year earlier, I would have been able to get several of the toys I've spent a huge amount of time searching for the right cross-section of price and construction on, is something I would been just as happy not knowing.*
*Reading this over, I have to admit this is certainly a rather high-rent problem. But only in a sense, since part of the reason I have to search so hard for certain things is that we don't have much money, and therefore we need to find a bargain, or better yet, a dirt-cheap used version. The whole lead-paint, evil-plastic panic hasn't helped this either - handmade, non-toxic wood toys are wonderful, but expensive, which is one of the reasons I value Ikea so much. I spent a lot of time last Christmas reading blog entries on this that started out with "Goodness knows our children already have too many toys..." Except that if you subtract out the stuffed animals, K doesn't fall into that category. She's a first child, we don't have much disposable income and she lives far away from her grandparents, who aren't the type of grandparents to shower her with toys (which is fine by us, but it contributes to the not-having-too-many-toys factor). And right after we moved to Philadelphia, I realized that all of the toys she had were baby and young toddler toys, when what she really needed was preschool toys for her to grow into. So I started to make a concerted effort to start collecting them, with an eye towards toys that will have long-term appeal and be useable by multiple children. At this point, I can say that after her birthday, we'll be just about at "enough, " where "enough" is defined as "everything gets played with over the course of a month."